Bible Study Theology

James 1:12-15 The Nature of Temptation

Here’s a difficult question that’s worth thinking about:   What is the difference between the temptation that Jesus experienced and the temptation that we experience?  A good answer to this question will help us deal with the temptation that we experience.  Here are some of the biblical texts that we must consider in order to think this through:

Hebrews 4:14-16

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devilAnd after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’


“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

James 1:12-15

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Here are some of the questions that make this issue difficult.  

1) Jesus was clearly tempted by Satan, and it was a real temptation.  The Hebrews passage makes this crystal clear.   But Jesus is God and the James passage says that God cannot be tempted by evil.  How can those two passages be reconciled?

2) The James passage says that each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Some versions, like the NIV and KJV translate “desire” with “evil desire” or “lust” (respectively).  The word in Greek is epithymia and almost always refers to evil desires, so these translations are accurate.  But Jesus, being sinless, would have had no evil, lustful desires luring him and enticing him.  Does James then point at a kind of temptation that affects us, but that did not affect Christ.  If so, how can this be reconciled with the Hebrews passage that says that Jesus was tempted in every respect… as we are?

Please note that I am not trying to pit any one scripture against the other.   I am trying to look at what God is telling us in these diverse passages to get at a more complete understanding of what temptation is and how Jesus, our great high priest, is able to help us with it.

I have some thoughts on this that I want to share in a future post, but I thought it would be interesting to pose the question first to see if anyone who may come across this blog would have some thoughts.  Feel free to leave comments.  Note that I must approve the comments before they will appear.  Our family is currently in the middle of a big move, so I may not get back to this right away.

Bible Study Cross-Centered Life Sermons Theology Uncategorized

Isaiah 1-2 How God sees sin (part 2)

This post is based on a SERMON that is available by clicking here.

In an earlier post I talked about how God sees our sin, and that if we want to be victorious in our battle with sin, we need to see it from God’s perspective.  When God sees our sin, he sees the pervasiveness of our sin, and in his holiness, he rejects us in our sin.  The way Jesus saves us is by being rejected for us.  When Jesus declared on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” he was being rejected in our place, so that we might be accepted by the Father.  Understanding this perspective on sin is the crucial first step to living in victory over sin.

In this post, I want to talk about what we can do to make our perspective on sin more in line with God’s.


1.  We must humble ourselves by confessing the truth about ourselves

In our struggle with sin, we have to come to the point where we admit the truth of what God has shown us in Isaiah 1:5-6  the whole body is sick.  

The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.  From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds…

 I think we have an amazing ability to accept our total depravity as a theological proposition, and yet fail to ever make it a personal affirmation.  

When was the last time you saw yourself in this way?  If you look at your life and your behavior, chances are that you will not come to this conclusion about yourself.  Oh, after a big failure, you may see it a little more clearly than you do at other times, but even then you will be likely to say, “but at least I’m not as bad as I could be.  At least there are some others out there who have done worse than I have.” 

We are like a soccer player who has fallen down on a muddy field.  And the whole left side of our uniform is covered with mud.  And yet we look at the other player, who fell on his right side, and we somehow think we are better because we haven’t dirtied the same part of our uniform as he has.  Or we look at him and say, “yeah, but at least my mud is cleaner than your mud!”

We fight to save our reputation, in our own eyes, before God, and before others.  But if we want to experience victory, there must be a humbling of ourselves.  Several times in Isaiah, pride is pointed to as what will ultimately bring us under the judgement of God.  

Twice in chapter 2, God’s judgement is spoken of as being against the pride of man.  Isaiah 2:11-12

The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.  For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up–and it shall be brought low.  (see also verse 17)

This is why both the Apostle James and the Apostle Peter quote Prov. 3:34 God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  And James adds in 4:10 Humble yourselves, before the Lord, and he will exalt you.  And how do we humble ourselves?  James goes on to tell us in 5:16:  Confess your sins to each other.

We humble ourselves by CONFESSING the truth about ourselves.  

 I have been amazed at how many times I have heard since coming back to the U.S., “Bryan, I just don’t have anyone I feel that I can open up to”  I’ve heard this so often its becoming a theme.  Even pastor-friends have told me this:  there is no one I can be honest with.  Brothers and sisters, together as a church we should be on our faces before God begging his forgiveness for the pride in our hearts that keeps us from confessing our sins to one another.  Do we want to see victory and blessing in our lives and in our churches?  Then let us humble ourselves before God, and confess our state of spiritual destitution before him and before one another!

I have found that when the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin, he almost always shows me to whom I should confess that sin.  There have been times that it has taken me days or even weeks to submit to his voice. (“Lord, there is no way that I can confess that to him!”) 

I can point to a turning point in my spiritual life as as teenager, when I confessed sin to my father that the Lord had been putting his finger on for a long time.  I have humbled myself on multiple occasions and gone to my sons and said, “I was wrong, will you forgive me.”  Countless are the times that I have confessed my sin to my wife, or to Christian brothers.  Confession of sin within the Body is an integral part of our lives as Christians, and it flows from our acceptance of the fact that we really have no reputation to uphold.  We are completely and totally depraved.  We are sinners of the worst kind, and nothing we can confess could make us seem worse that we actually are.  If we want to walk in victory, we need to rediscover this discipline of confession of sin.

2.  We look to Jesus and find our acceptance with God only in Him.

There is something extremely freeing in the fact that God rejects us as sinners.  When God forgives us and saves us, it is not as if he is just giving us a second chance.  It is not as if we have another opportunity to prove to him that we really can do it this time.  We no longer have to prove to him and to ourselves that we really aren’t that bad.  We are free to admit the truth, that we really *are* that bad.  We are free to reject our sinful flesh as totally unable to do anything that is pleasing to God.  And we turn in faith to the Lord Jesus, and trust him to do what we cannot do.

Your sinful flesh isn’t getting any better.  You are just as much in need of God’s grace today as you ever have been in your life.  When you fall flat on your face in your sin, God is showing you once again how much you need Jesus.  In Christ, he has rejected that sinful you, and He has given you a new identity in Christ.  So you need to reject that sinful you as well, and turn your eyes to Jesus and confess to him, It is only through your cross, Lord Jesus, that I can be acceptable to God.  Thank you for your grace!

It is only when we look at sin from God’s perspective that we can be victorious over it.

And what is God’s perspective on sin?

He sees the pervasiveness of our sin.  Our total depravity.  Will you agree with him about that, and confess your sin before him and before the Body?  

He sees that the sinner must be rejected.  And so his very Son was forsaken on the cross in your place.  Jesus died so that your sinful self might be forever and completely rejected.  Will you now live that out, by refusing to look for anything good in you apart from Christ?  Will you live that out by admitting that you are just as much in need of God’s grace today as you ever have been?

This post is based on a SERMON that is available by clicking here.

Bible Study Cross-Centered Life Sermons Theology

Isaiah 1-2 How God Sees Sin

This post is based on a SERMON that is available by clicking here.

One of the keys to being victorious in our struggle with sin, is to see it from God’s perspective.  From our perspective, we may see sin as either a regrettable occurrence, or a nagging problem, or even just a simple nuisance.  But how does God see our sin?  I believe Isaiah 1-2  gives us three answers to that question.


1.  God sees the PERVASIVENESS of our sin. 

In Isaiah 1:1-8, Isaiah the prophet describes a vision he has concerning Judah and Jerusalem.  In verses 2-4 God makes various statements about Israel that I believe prophetically refer to all of us,

“Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me, The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly!  They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.

We need to hear these words as spoken to us.  God is revealing to us who we are.  Like the doctor who examines his patient, God is examining us, and he not only sees our sin, he sees the pervasiveness of our sin. 

Listen again to what he says in v. 5b-6

“The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint.  From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.”

God is showing us that we are not just mostly good people who have made a few mistakes.  We are not healthy people who have a problem in one area of our body.  We are not injured people, who are recovering from a few unfortunate wounds.  We don’t just have the occasional arrhythmia in the heart, or a few troublesome blood clots in our brain.  The whole head is sick.  The whole heart is faint.  From the sole of your foot to the crown of your head, there is no soundness, no health.

What does it matter if you are dying of cancer or dying of heart disease, or dying of old age?  You’re dying!  And what God is saying here is that we have cancer and heart disease and old age.  “There is no soundness in us, from the sole of the foot even to the head.”   We are completely and totally sinful.

God is describing, through his prophet, the pervasiveness of our sin!  With vivid word pictures, he reveals our utter depravity as sinners.  Twice in verse 7, he describes Israel as desolate.  The word means, “a wasteland”.  It paints a picture of a desert, where there is no life, no water.  Just dry, empty, and devoid of life.

We may be tempted to think, “yeah, but that is describing what we were before Jesus saved us.  In Christ, we are saints!”  Yes, its true that the Bible teaches that, in Christ, we are saints, but I think it is rather obvious that just believing that we are saints doesn’t automatically free us from a very real struggle with sin that if we are honest, all of us as believers still deal with…

Does a saint lie?  Does a saint bite the head off her kids?  Does a saint watch questionable things on TV?  Does a saint go to God-dishonoring websites? Is a saint drawn toward sin like a moth is drawn to a flame?  Does a saint feel deep-seated bitterness and lack of forgiveness welling up inside like an uncontrollable flood?  Does a saint callously disregard the needs of those around him in order to focus on his own petty desires? Do saints get impatient over a 3 minute wait at the McDonald’s drive through?

Make no mistake about it.  You and I are sinners!  We may be sinners saved by grace, and there is more that remains to be said about our identity, but the fact that this is describing who we are is beyond dispute.  God is speaking to his people here.  He is not just describing the pagan nations around them.  This is his people who have been established in the Promised Land, who have been redeemed from slavery in Egypt, who have been given the sacrifices and the blood of atonement, and yet God says to them, I see only bruises and sores and raw wounds.  God sees the pervasiveness of our sin.

2.  God sees that the sinner must be REJECTED.

Jump ahead to Isaiah 2:6

For you have rejected your people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of things from the east and of fortune tellers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with the children of foreigners.  

As I reflected on that verse, I asked the Lord, “How can you say that?  How can you say that you reject your covenant people?  The ones to whom you have promised redemption and forgiveness and an eternal inheritance?  

But it’s not just here that we read verses like this.  The are several places in the Old Testament prophets showing that this is indeed how a just and holy God responds to sin.  He rejects the sinner. Listen to just two:

2 Kings 21:14

And I will forsake the remnant of my heritage and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, because they have done what is evil in my sight and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day.

Jeremiah 7:29

Cut off your hair and cast it away; raise a lamentation on the bare heights, for the Lord has rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath.

You may have noticed that I did not say God sees that sin must be rejected, but that the sinner must be rejected  We’re so used to saying, “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.”  And that is profoundly true, when rightly explained,

But it is also profoundly true that sin cannot be separated from the one who commits it.  Without sinners there would *be* no sin.  Can we really separate sinful deeds from the sinners who commit those sinful deeds? To speak of judging and condemning a sinful act is meaningless if there is no judgement of the one who committed that act.   If a murder has been committed, there is no justice done in condemning the act of murder, if the murderer himself is not declared guilty and required to pay the penalty for his sin.

So when we talk about sin from God’s perspective, we have to understand that God always rejects the sinner!  Even when the sinner is his covenant people Israel.  Even when the sinner is you and me.  

Now that statement might seem to present a problem to you, just as it did to me!  How can God reject his own children as it says here in v. 6, “You have rejected your people, the house of Jacob.” That brings us to the third answer  to the question, “How does God see sin.” 

3.  God sees the SOLUTION to our sin

Going back to chapter 1 of Isaiah we find some very good news.  Isaiah 1:18

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Praise God that Isaiah doesn’t speak of sin without also speaking of grace!  God has a solution to this problem of sin.  And let me just point out that I am using the word “problem” here from our perspective.  Our God is not a God who has to confront “problems”.  God never has to solve anything, as if something could come up that he wasn’t expecting.  But from our perspective, we have a problem:  Our sin is pervasive.  The whole body is sick!  We are absolute sinners, and God will reject the sinner from his presence.

And yet at the same time that he says to his people, “I will reject you”, he also says, I will never forsake you.  Listen to these verses:  Both using the exact same hebrew word translated “reject” in Isaiah 2:6

1 Sam. 12:22

For the Lord will not forsake (reject) his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.

Psalm 94:14

For the Lord will not forsake (reject) his people; he will not abandon his heritage;

How is it that God can keep his word and reject the sinner in his sin, and yet also say that he will never forsake him?      Here’s the answer from the lips of Jesus, our Savior:

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!”

Jesus was rejected in our place.  Let this sink in!  You and I are sinners, together we have become worthless (says Romans 3:12).  We are worthy of being eternally and finally rejected in our sins, and yet Jesus was rejected in our place.  Jesus, the suffering servant described in such detail later in Isaiah, is our salvation.  He is our victory.  Jesus is the answer to our struggle with sin, because he was rejected for us.

So how does God see sin?  He sees the pervasiveness of our sin (theologians call it “total depravity”).  He sees that the sinner must be rejected.  And so his very Son was forsaken on the cross in your place.  Jesus died so that your sinful self might be forever and completely rejected.   Only when you see sin from this perspective will you begin to experience victory over it.  In a future post, I want to apply this a bit more and talk about some practical things we can do to see sin from God’s perspective.

This post is based on a SERMON that is available by clicking here.