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Insights #3 October 18, 2014
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Fourth Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
Enduring Temptation
For the week of October 18, 2014

 
Last week we considered the "temptation" James addresses in our memory verse this week, what he earlier called "the trying of your faith" (James 1:3). We examined this in the context of the faith of God, revealed to us through the faith of Jesus (Rom. 3:3, 22). God has poured out in His love "the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." (Eph. 2:7). The goal of faith and love and grace is the reproduction of those very principles in us. And the necessary process is learning the receiving and giving of those dynamics. The "trying" and "temptation" are but situations of life that give opportunities for us to pass on faith and love and grace, to make decisions based on them. Cooperating with God in this process James calls "enduring." The outcome is "the crown of life." Those who endure are "them that love Him," the ones Jesus said will be saved, whose love does not wax cold. Those who do that at the end give the final witness (Matt. 24:12-14).

Our lesson this week (James 1:12-21) addresses more the process of this circuit, how love flows in a reciprocal manner, and the problem of breaking the circuit. Let's examine the details James leads us through. Look for the steps in the process of breaking God's plan (italicized).

What James describes that Paul calls "the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2) is what we will initially consider. And the first point to explore is where a human's temptation originates, which James tells us is not "of God" but "of his own lust" (James 1:13, 14). The key here is not the word "lust" which is but a strong desire. What makes something not "of God" is whatever is "of his own." And this also is not simply "God" versus "self." It is unselfishness versus selfishness, for God Himself is unselfish. So Jesus could have a strong "desire" (Luke 22:15; same word as "lust") and actually choose to follow it, because it was not "His own"--it was always unselfish, "of the Father." Remember Jesus' repeated words regarding "mine own":

I can of mine own self do nothing: ... I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me (John 5:30).
I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me (John 6:38).
I seek not mine own glory (John 8:50).

Jesus described this origin of sin (before Genesis 3) in these words, "When he [the devil] speaketh a [literally, the] lie, he speaketh of his own." (John 8:44; compare also 5:43; 7:18; these use the exact adjective James uses, translated "his own"). So "of his own" is equivalent to "not of faith" (Rom. 14:23). This is the root of sin. The devil originated acting on "his own" (his "self-seeking"; see Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 21). It was a rejection of faith working by love. Through Adam and Eve this has infected our very nature, which we must confess.

The second point is defining temptation, which is simply the drawing or enticing (James 1:14) of self-seeking. Satan became fully immersed in this dynamic, but to convey that principle to perfect beings which God had created with unselfishness, in other words, to tempt them, Satan had to use subtlety and guile. He had to deceive them into thinking that to live for self was actually good, that the results would be improvement. So Eve had to begin to "see" something that was not there (Gen. 3:6), something that was false--that "her own" interests were not being met by God, but would be if she herself ate the fruit. Thus temptation is the deceptive pull of sin.

Was Jesus really tempted? The evidence is that He "was in all points tempted like as we are" (Heb. 4:15). Then He must have felt the pull of "His own." We see that clearly in His words in Gethsemane, "not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). His earlier words imply He had a daily decision of this nature. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Luke 9:23). The implication of this verse is that Jesus was daily denying Himself, "His own." Jesus' faith and love, received daily from the Father (Isa. 50:4, 5), enabled Him to reject the deception of "his own" and overcome each temptation.

The third point is that only when the desire for "his own" unites with the will, what James calls "when [his own] desire has conceived," does sin come forth (James 1:15). The will must permit, agree, and nurture the desire to live for self. Only then does sin come into being. This could be in the mind alone, but usually is expressed in outward actions. We could call this the conception of sin. Only here does personal guilt begin. (The corporate dimensions are not addressed by James.)

James' fourth point is the implication that sin is not static. It, in fact, is a parasitic dynamic that grows. But its growth is an abounding of lawlessness (Matt. 24:12), living more and more for self, less and less in the way God Himself lives, and how He designed ("the law") all to function. This is the growth of sin. If it is not stopped between temptation and conception, it grows.

The final point is that the deception that "his own" is good is unmasked when sin is finished. The result is not good. What the growth produces in the end is death (James 1:15). Breaking "the law of life" destroys. This is the result of sin. Paul summarized the process in one verse, tracing from death backward. "The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law." (1 Cor. 15:56).

The lesson of Romans 7 is important to note here. Self must die (7:9). The law must be appreciated (7:10-13, 22). The will must choose the good (7:15-20). But even then there remains an unchanged part that is identified fully with sin (7:14, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23). This dimension of our being not only produces a battle unknown by someone not experiencing the changes described (7:23), but also blocks the ability in oneself (one aspect of "his own") to find deliverance from sin (7:25). Victory is found only by dependence on a power outside of self. It comes only from "God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (7:25). The Spirit must dwell where sin dwells (Rom. 8:9, 11; compare 7:17, 18, 20). Only then can Paul's freedom be realized. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2).

Jesus came under the law of sin and death (Gal. 4:4), taking our nature of sin and our guilt of sin ("made ... sin for us"; 2 Cor. 5:21; compare Rom. 8:3).1 His identity with us enabled His suffering (Heb. 2:9, 10, 18). His identity was complete, but because He rejected the will of sin (its conception), He avoided the failure of sin (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5). His death was thus not His but ours (2 Cor. 5:14). His unselfish life and death overcame sin. His victory is ours.

James concludes our passage by an appeal--to avoid the deception of sin (1:16) by acknowledging the universal gifts from "the Father of lights" (1:17; compare John 1:9), to see that God's will for all produces, not sin and death, but creatures of righteousness (1:18-20; same verb "produce" as verse 15; see 2 Pet. 3:9, same verb "will"), to lay aside all that "his own" produces and to receive "with meekness the engrafted word" (1:21) by which the Spirit works.
-Fred Bischoff
 

1.  See Ellen White, Testimonies to Ministers, p. 190; Manuscript Releases, Vol. 13, p. 369.