Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Difference Between Trials and Temptations

I would like to begin today by reading to you an apt description of what sin is by the Scottish preacher Thomas Guthrie:

“Who is the hoary sexton that digs man a grave? Who is the painted temptress that steals his virtue? Who is the murderess that destroys his life? Who is the sorceress who first deceives and then damns his soul?- Sin. Who with icy breath blights the fair blossoms of youth? Who breaks the hearts of parents? Who brings old men's grey hairs with sorrow to the grave?- Sin. Who by a more hideous metamorphosis than Ovid ever fancied, changes gentle children into vipers, tender mothers into monsters, and their fathers into worse than Herods- the murderers of their own innocents?- Sin. Who cast the apple of discord on household hearths? Who lights the torch of war and bears it blazing over trembling lands? Who by divisions in the church rends Christ's seamless robe?- Sin. Who is this Delilah that sings the Nazarite asleep, and delivers up the strength of God into the hands of the uncircumcised? ....Who turns the soft and gentle heart to stone? Who hurls reason from her lofty throne, and impels sinners, mad as Gadarene swine, down the precipice into a lake of fire?- Sin."

Sin is the savage beast that preys on every heart. It is the “monarch of man and the Lord of the soul from whom nobody ever escapes” (John MacArthur, The Consequences of Sin 81). Sin disturbs every relationship that exists in the human realm. It attacks everyone at birth and before it’s done it degrades, debases, and destroys in an eternal hell. Every broken marriage can be attributed to sin. So can every disrupted home, every shattered friendship, every argument, every disagreement, every pain, and every tear. It is referred to in Joshua 7:13 as “the accursed thing.” It is compared to the “venom of snakes and the stench of death” (MacArthur). And I agree with John MacArthur, when he says, “Anything that is sinister and powerful must be faced and dealt with–and sin is such. We cannot ignore it, gloss it over, or change the label–we must face the reality of sin” (82). As we come to our next section in our study of the epistle of James, we must understand the deadliness of sin. And in understanding sin we must understand how we are tempted to sin.

James has just completed his discussion of trials and now he turns his attention to the subject of temptation. The trials that are to test and refine us and reveal the strength and genuineness of our faith can also become a solicitation to sin. The key for both is found in how you respond. If you respond to trials with a joyous attitude, an understanding mind, a submissive will, a believing heart, and a humble spirit, then the trail remains only a test. But when you fail to respond to the trial you’re experiencing with what James says in verses 2-12, then the trial now has become an opportunity for sin. That’s where James begins his discussion in verse 13. In verses 13-18, James will not only answer the question, “Who is the blame for temptation?” but will also show you the process of temptation and how to overcome it.

James 1:13-18 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

Verse 14 points out a reality for every person: “each one is tempted.” Temptation is a common experience of every human being, whether he is a Christian or not. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that temptations are “common to man.” One ancient writer said that even when we are saved, we must remember that our baptism did not drown our flesh. How we deal with the battle of temptation is another mark of the genuineness of our faith or the lack of it.

In verse 3 and verse 12 James uses the Greek word peirasmos for the word trials. In verse 13 he uses the same word but its verbal form when referring to temptations. “Instead of the noun peirasmos combined with adjectives suggesting thought of anticipated approval (vv.3, 12), James now uses the verbal form (peirazo) and combines it with the thought of sin” (D. Edmond Hiebert, James 101). “Every difficult thing that comes into my life either strengthens me because I obey God and stay confident in His care and power, or it leads me to doubt God and disobey His Word. The difference between a trial and a temptation is how you respond to it. Every trial has the potential to become a temptation” (John MacArthur, Benefitting from Life’s Trials 72).

This week we will begin to look at what happens when you fail the test and see three truths that James gives about temptation. But for now realize that trials are tests and when you fail them they become temptation. Don’t fail the test today!

1 comment:

georgebarghout said...

It's established that a temptation cannot be from God. If the difference between a temptation and a trial is one's response, and thus the trying act is one in the same, does this mean that a trial also cannot be from God? Your response is appreciated.