One of the funniest memories of fishing that I recall was one time when Jason's hat blew off into the water. I don't remember how old he was--perhaps 6 or 7. It would have been impossible to reach it from where we were without swimming out to it, but Grandpa snagged it and reeled it in. He then proceeded to place the sopping wet hat firmly on Jason's head. Jason was thrilled to have it back and didn't seem to mind the water! But, I digress...
Take a look at the picture below. It sums up what this lesson is all about today. The lesson is not really about fishing but about temptation. But, fishing provides a wonderful analogy that most can relate to.
Satan has so many avenues through which to tempt us. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about temptation. "Lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices" (II Cor. 2:11). That's what fishing is all about--humans trying to take advantage of fish (via their appetite and ignorance). There are all kinds of fishing lures out there intended to give the advantage to the fisherman. We have many "devices" you might say.
I read recently about a type of lure that has an LED light that blinks red periodically to simulate blood. Evidently the fish can't hardly keep from biting it and it's not legal in some areas. The fisherman then has too much of an advantage (and the number of fish would perhaps become depleted too quickly). If it weren't for God's protection in limiting Satan, he would overpower us. But, God will not allow this! He has provided the tools (like a shield of faith, for instance) so we can put out the "fiery darts" of the devil (cf. Eph. 6:16).
Let's spend time now in James 1. In verse 13, James wrote - "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." A significant change has occurred here in the text. Previously, James had been talking primarily about trials; that is, afflictions that provide outward opportunities to sin. But, now he starts talking about temptations; that is, the inner desire to sin.
Evidently, some people in the first century had a tendency to blame God for their sins. They would make excuses for their transgressions by saying: "God put me in this difficult situation; He allowed this to happen to me. Basically, He made me sin." People haven't changed much, have they? Adam tried to blame God for his own sin in Genesis 3:12, when he said - "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate." Even today people blame God and others for their sins. For example, how many homosexuals claim: "God made me this way!"? Friends, it is simply not true. God would not forbid homosexuality in the Scriptures and then force certain men and women to practice it!
I Corinthians 10:13 is an excellent passage to complement James' thoughts here - "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." There is no such thing as being forced into committing sin. There is always a way out of temptation. God has given His word on this matter.
So, James 1:13 basically teaches that God is beyond temptation. He is not susceptible to evil, and He doesn't tempt us in any way. Yes, He does test us, as He did Abraham (cf. Heb. 11:17). He does allow us to suffer afflictions and difficulties in order for us to mature, but that is much different than saying God tries to seduce us to sin!
James 1:14 reveals the primary causes of temptation - "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed." It is incorrect and downright blasphemous to say that God makes us sin; I believe it is also incorrect to say that Satan makes us sin! Now listen carefully. I'm not saying that Satan doesn't play a role in our temptations, clearly He does. What I am saying is that even though Satan may tempt us to sin, he can't force us to do anything against our will. James 4:7 proves that point - "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Perhaps you're wondering: "How does Satan tempt us to sin?" It appears that he merely uses our own desires to draw us away from the path of righteousness and entice us to sin! That's what James 1:14 states!
Let's talk about human desire for a minute. Human desire, in and of itself, is not wrong. Even the sexual desire that is a part of humanity is not intrinsically sinful. You see, God created us with certain desires (e.g., to eat and drink). When you're hungry that is your body desiring to be fed. There is certainly nothing sinful about that desire! But, if you go out and steal from the grocery store in order to satisfy your hunger, then you've sinned. God wants us to work for our food--that is a lawful way in which we can satisfy our hunger. The same could be said about sexual desires. God created them, but He has also established a lawful way in order to fulfill those desires--He calls it the marriage relationship (cf. Heb. 13:4). To go out and have sex before or outside of marriage is wrong. Lust, therefore, in the Biblical sense, is simply unlawful desire, and that is what James is talking about here.
All of the general desires that God has given us have correct ways to be fulfilled or satisfied. But, Satan will try to tempt us to fulfill our desires in ways that God doesn't approve of. In some ways, this reminds me of fishing. Fishing is basically deception--humans deceiving fish. When you throw your baited hook in the water, the fish don't see the hook. They see the big, juicy worm dancing around as you tug the line and try to tease them into biting. If they do bite, did you force them to do so? Of course not. You simply used their own desires against them. They have a desire for food, and that worm has really got them excited! They expect the sweetest satisfaction when they bite down on the bait, but they soon learn that it wasn't what they thought it would be.
Isn't this the same way Satan works on humans? In order for us to sin, Satan will first try to draw us away from safety by our own desires. We must all strive to avoid going to places where Satan could easily hook us. He'll try to deceive us; don't let him do it! Once he's got our attention he'll try to get us to bite into something we shouldn't. We must be strong and not give in--God will provide a way of escape! But, we have to want to escape the temptation or we never will!
Think about it--God, through James, is telling us how temptation works so we can be smart enough not to give in to it! If fish knew about hooks what James tells us about the devil's enticements, there'd probably be a lot fewer fish dinners!
Perhaps all this talk about temptation and unlawful desire has got you wondering about Jesus. Did He have the desire to commit sin? Yes, He did. Hebrews 4:15 states - "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses; but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." Jesus was tempted like you and I are. The difference is that He never gave in to those temptations. There is an important lesson here for everyone. Just because you are tempted to do something doesn't necessarily mean that you've sinned. If I'm in the checkout line at Wal-Mart and I see someone drop a $100 bill when they get money out of their purse or wallet, I might be tempted to pick that money up and put it in my pocket. However, just because that thought pops into my head doesn't mean that I've sinned. I need to have the strength to say, "No, that money is not mine; I will return it to its owner."
Likewise, if I'm checking my e-mail and I find a message from some woman I don't even know, and she tries to entice me to click on a link to go to her web cam, I might be tempted to do it. But, I'm sure it's something I should not be seeing. Now, just because I may be tempted does not mean that I have sinned--at least not yet. In this case, if I give in to my desire and go to the website and fill my mind with its filth, then I have undoubtedly sinned by lusting (Matt. 5:28). Do you see the difference? If I lust after her, then I've sinned, but if I quickly delete her immoral invitation and think on other things, then I have not sinned.
"Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:15). Simply because a person is tempted doesn't mean that they've sinned; it's only when that desire conceives that sin is committed. When a person gives in to temptation, then their desire has conceived and sin is the result.
It takes two people to conceive a baby, and it takes two elements to conceive sin: (1) our desire and (2) Satan's enticement. And, just as babies grow up and mature into adults, sin grows up and ultimately leads to spiritual death; that is, eternal separation from God! Romans 6:23 teaches - "For the wages of sin is death". The only time in which sin doesn't lead to spiritual death is when one comes to the Lord on His terms (which includes repentance; cf. Luke 13:3) and is forgiven.
James 1:16 reads - "Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren." James issued a warning here because of his love; he doesn't want Christians to give birth to sin. We need to beware because it is so easy to be deceived. The little fish that has been told by its mother not to leave the group sees the worm dancing about and thinks: "Why shouldn't I dart over there and gobble up that worm and then get back in place? Will anyone ever know?" That is how little fish get drawn off course and deceived. Humans deceive themselves in the same way. We think that no one will ever know if we do a particular thing and then quickly slip back into place. How many think each day: "What harm would it cause for me to gamble? Or lie? Or cheat on my spouse? Or drink alcohol?" Friends, don't be deceived! Our "evil desires" draw us into sin and then sin enslaves us (cf. Rom. 6:16-18)! No alcoholic ever wanted to be addicted; no drug addict ever wanted to be hooked. But, the fact is that they gave in to their temptations originally because they wanted to. When we sin, we can't blame anyone but ourselves! Therefore, don't be deceived by sin and don't fool yourself into thinking that God is at fault!
Dear listeners, we can overcome temptations. We don't have to yield to them. We need to pray to overcome temptation. Matthew 26:41 - "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." God's word will help us overcome according to Psalm 119:11 - "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You." Jesus used the word of God to resist the devil (cf. Matt. 4:1-11). Jesus knows about temptation and will help us according to II Peter 2:9 - "the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations" and also Hebrews 2:18 - "For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted."
Dear listeners, Satan is continually after us to sin. He's "like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Pet. 5:8). We must not yield! If we do yield, we can be forgiven through the grace of God and our obedient faith. But, it is always better to avoid the hook to begin with! Sin always leaves a mark, even after it has been forgiven.
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.