James 1:13-15 – The Battle Within

In James 1:13-15, James deals with temptation. Where does temptation come from? What is the origin of evil? Did evil originate with God? Satan? The fallen angels?

Background

The Jews had a problem with the origin of evil. Where did it come from? They saw each person as having a civil war going on inside of them, two natures contending with one another simultaneously pulling him in opposite directions. They said, these two natures were like two dogs, a good one and a bad one constantly at one another’s throats.

As the attempted to solve the problem of the origin of evil several theories developed: 1. Evil originated with Satan. 2. Fallen Angels were responsible. 3. Man himself alone was responsible. They were close to the truth here, however, they examined these theories they decided none were correct. They took a bold and irrational step and said that God alone could have created the evil tendency within man. By so doing they made God Who is absolute purity the author of evil.

Thus, James rebuttal to their conclusion, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13). Man’s tendency is to blame everyone but himself, even God for his sin. Instead, we ought to take personal responsibility for our sin. That’s why John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God is incapable of evil of any kind, including enticement to sin.

When Tempted

“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14). Temptation is faced by all. “When he is tempted” (James 1:13). It’s not a matter of if we will be tempted or not but “when.” Temptation will come, you can depend on it. Each of us will face times of temptation. “Every man is tempted.” The question is, how will we respond to temptation when it comes our way?

All temptation falls under one of three areas:

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).

  1. The lust of the flesh
  2. The lust of the eyes
  3. The pride of life

Every temptation we will ever face will fall under one of these categories. That’s how Jesus “was in all points tempted like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). Adam and Eve, Jesus, and all of us, when tempted were tempted in one of the areas. Eve, when tempted, “saw that the tree was good for food – lust of the flesh, and that it was pleasant to the eyes – lust of the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise – pride of life” (Genesis 3:6). Jesus also was tempted in each of these three areas (Matthew 4:1-11).

The Source of Temptation

The devil is the tempter but his tempting would have no effect on us if our want to or desire was not in the wrong place. Man is tempted when he is “drawn away of his own lust (desire), and enticed.” This can be likened to a fish swimming in a definite direction and is led out of the way to something that’s inviting, he’s drawn away by desire and enticed. Only to find that the very thing that looked good and inviting led to its demise. The shiny object had a hook in it.

Temptation’s Fruit

“Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15). Temptation comes, we are drawn away by our own lustful or sinful desire and enticed, sin is the result, and the result of sin is death. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekial 18:20). “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Four-fold aspect of death:

  1. Physical death. Before the fall death never existed. Had Adam and Eve never sinned man would have lived forever in blissful paradise. Since original sin, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
  2. The second death. At the White Throne Judgement everyone who have rejected Christ will be judged for their sin (Revelation 20:11-15). This is an eternal judgment. “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
  3. Separation from God. Adam and Eve had enjoyed God’s presence prior to the fall. This is in part because of our shame. When they heard God approaching, “Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God” (Genesis 3:8).

    Ultimately, man was thrust out of God’s presence because of his sin. “So He drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24). This was actually an act of mercy to keep man from eating of the tree of life and living forever in his sinful state.

    Because of sin, man will be eternally separated from the presence of the Lord. This began in the garden. Every since that time man has been running from God and trying to fill the void that was left in his life. He was left with a hole in his soul that can only be satisfied with God Himself. He attempts to fill this void with everything imaginable, but nothing satisfies.

    Jesus came to bridge the gap between God and man and reconcile the two. He, being very God and man, could lay his hand upon God and lay His hand upon man and bring the two together again. It’s possible to have this void filled but it can only be filled through the person of Christ. You can be reconciled to the Father through the substitutionary sacrifice of His Son. Our sins have been atoned for. A relationship with God can now be restored.

    “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

    “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:9-11).

  4. Death in life’s experience. Sin can and will bring death into our experience in this life whether we are lost or saved. Death is its sure fruit. You can “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). But be assured it won’t last. There is a price tag for sin! We will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). It does pay wages (Romans 6:23). It will bring for the fruit of death in life. It might be enjoyable for a time but it will bring forth death in our experience.

Battle with Two Natures

The Jews had at least part of it right. A civil war going on inside of us, two natures contending with one another simultaneously pulling him in opposite directions, two dogs, a good one and a bad one constantly at one another’s throats. This part they had correct.

“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not (Romans 7:15-18).

“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17).

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9)?

I have discovered that the closer I seem to get to the Lord the more my flesh fights me. There is a battle going on inside each of us. The Spirit is warring against the flesh and the flesh against the Spirit. I can honestly say, “I’m one of the most spiritual men you will ever meet and at the same time the most carnal man you will ever meet.” The older I get the more this seems to be a reality in my life. When I first got saved this battle didn’t appear to be nearly as strong as it is now. The closer we draw near to God the greater the battle within us rages.

When we first get saved the Holy Spirit unites with our human spirit that was dead in trespasses and sin and it is brought to life (Ephesians 2:1). We are born again or have receive a birth from above (John 3:3). We have become partakers of the divine nature and the Holy Ghost indwells us (2 Peter 1:3-4; 1 Corinthians 3:16) and the battle begins. Just because we’ve been born again doesn’t mean our sinful nature has been eradicated, on the contrary, it now begins to fight.

We actually have two natures within us contending with each other, the old sinful nature inherited from Adam (Romans 5:12-19) and God’s divine nature, the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:3-4). When tempted we have a choice, we can yield our will to the old nature and sin or we can yield our will to our new divine nature (the Holy Spirit) and overcome. From one life ensues and from the other death ensues (Deuteronomy 30:15 and 19; 2 Peter 1:3-4).

Dealing With Temptation and Sin

  1. Be on your guard (1 Corinthians 1:12-1). Temptation will come. Foolish is the one who thinks he’s beyond being tempted.
  2. Deal with it in the heart before becoming an outward reality (Luke 6:45; Proverbs 23:7; Matthew 5:28).
  3. Resist (James 4:7).
  4. Flee (2 Timothy 2:22).
  5. Run to God not away from Him (Genesis 3:8).
  6. Take personal responsibility (1 John 1:9).
  7. Confession (James 5:16).
  8. No condemnation (Romans 8:1; Revelation 12:10).
  9. Cover (Proverbs 17:9).
  10. Reconcile and restore (2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Galatians 6:1).
  11. Don’t give up (Philippians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 12:2).

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

With over 40 years of church planting and ministry experience, and doctorate degrees in apologetics, theology, and church development, Dr. Linton’s passion is to equip, encourage and strengthen pastors and their churches. Watch his latest messages on YouTube.