God isn't trying to rip us off, but rather set us free. He desire to lead us, but often we pursue our own desires despite his wisdom. When we live and abide with the Father, we know his character. We know of his goodness and well-intent for us. Apart from him, we can be tempted by the things of this world, leading us astray from the fullness of joy in him.
Truth About Prayer and Healing
The Truth About Suffering and the Believer
The Truth About Wealth and the Joneses
The Truth About Slander and Silence
The Truth About Conflict in Our Lives and Communities
The Truth About Transformed People
The Truth About the Tongue
The Truth About Genuine Faith
The Truth About How to Treat People
The Truth About the Believer and the Word
The Truth About Temptation and How True Believers Respond
The Truth about Troubles and Trials
The book of James! We started it last week. James dives right in, and I'm going to do the same thing this morning. Even with that little bumper that goes there you see some things that almost make you bristle. "Do what it says." Don't be deluded. If you're not careful you might think all you're here to do is take a bunch of orders and a bunch of commands from a very stern God, and you're going to want to bow up and want to resist, and it would be tragic. We don't want to make that mistake.
What James is going to do to the early church… The very first letter written to the church was the book of James, just a dozen or so years after the resurrection. The church in Israel is suffering, so this is a letter that was written to the church and the people who said they believed in the resurrected Lord, and he is going to tell them, "This is how you can know you, in fact, have a relationship with God. You will live this way. If you don't live this way it should cause you to question whose child you are."
What James is going to do is snap the little chalk line. He's going to hang a plumb line. He's going to let you know, "This is the way to build a life correctly in the Spirit." In other words, if the Holy Spirit dwells in you, if the Spirit of God is leading you, this is what your life will look like." By the way, it will be good. It will bless you. It is the path to life.
He is not saying, "Do this or you will not go to heaven." He's saying, "If heaven is in you, you will do this, and because God is good it will be good for you. If heaven is not in you you'll say certain things and do something else. If heaven is not in you you'll experience good feelings, but they will lead to death." God loves you and isn't trying to rip you off; he's trying to set you free.
Before I read what we looked at last week and specifically focus on what we're going to focus on this week, I'm going to start today with a story I told here almost 10 years ago. It is one of my favorite stories. It continues to inform my life, and it is one God used deeply in my life. It is a story of me as a young dad taking my two little girls, who are now about to be a senior in college and a sophomore in college, on a little bike ride.
I had behind my bike one of those great little trailers you can throw your little kids in. I put the girls in there and said, "Here we go! We're going to go on a little ride together, and we are going to go someplace you have never been with your dad. I'm going to take you to a place of great gladness."
We rode for a while, and I took them into a big ol' 7-Eleven that had a wall of candy. I'd bought them stuff from candy shops before, and they'd had a little taste before, but that day was the day of great freedom. I got them outside that 7-Eleven and said, "I'm about to take you in and show you a wall of candy.
You can have whatever you want. It is yours. You get one thing. So I'm just going to tell you, when you go in there just take a look, be careful in your choosing, and get ready to enjoy. By the way, your daddy knows candy, your daddy loves candy, and I'm here to help you." So off we go.
They went firing in there. My little 5-year-old grabbed my hand, and my little 3-year-old ran ahead of me. She was just looking at all the candy she could. My 5-year-old said, "Daddy, what should I get?" I go, "That's a great question." I scooped her up, I held her, and I walked with her. Now what happens when you get lifted up in a candy store? You get up there where the big bags of candy are.
So I brought her up, and I'm talking to her about the wonders of M&M's…Plain and Peanut M&M's. I talked to her about Skittles. I taught her about Sprees. My little 3-year-old is down there. She has already made her selection and is pulling my leg, saying, "Let's go. I'm ready. I've made my choice." I looked at her and said, "No, no, no. Kirby. No, no. That's not what you want to do. Just wait for Daddy."
Now you have to remember my little 3-year-old is down there at 3-year-old eye level. What kind of candy do they put down there knee-high to a grasshopper? The penny candy. Individual candy. That's all she could see. She didn't know much about candy; she was just a 3-year-old. The 5-year-old knew more, not just about candy but also about her daddy. She had lived with her daddy longer, and she knew when her daddy said he wanted to bless her, her daddy was good.
Her daddy just told her he was an expert on candy. She had seen me eat candy, enjoy candy, delight in candy, celebrate candy, and have an abundance of candy. So I walked her through, and I had Kirby kind of with me. I said, "Ally, right here. This is a pound bag of Starbursts. There is not just one Starburst in there, Kirby. There are all kinds of Starbursts up here. If you get one of these it'll last you for a week."
I walked her through all this different stuff. Kirby keeps pulling my hand. I said, "Kirby, I'm coming. Just a second." I put Ally down. Ally looked at her younger sister and said, "Kirby, listen to Dad. He loves candy. He knows candy." I heard her say it. I said, "That is good, child. You preach the word that is true."
Anyway, to make a long story short, Ally grabbed the pound bag of Skittles, full of bright colors of wonderful delight. We talked about the regular flavor, the tropical flavor. We went with the regular Skittles, just to introduce her slowly to the Skittles wonderfulness. I said, "Kirby, what do you have?" She said, "I got what I want." I said, "No, no, no. What do you have?" She had one little piece of candy in her hand.
I pried that little hand open, and it was a big ol' red piece of candy. It was wonderfully wrapped. It was bright red. On the outside of the package there was a bright yellow cool-looking set of flames. I mean, it was a really good-looking piece of candy. I said, "No, no, no. Kirby, you don't want that. Believe me. I know candy, and that's not the one you want. It's just one of those things, and you're not going to like…"
"You said I could have whatever I want."
"Yeah, I know. But…"
"You said I could have whatever I want. Daddy I can have this piece of candy."
"All right. Are you sure you don't want what Ally's getting? Ok. Let's go."
So we walk up and slap it down. Ally buys a pound bag of Skittles. Kirby buys an Atomic Fireball. We walk outside. We sit down on a little curb. I go, "Okay. It's time to enjoy the candy." I rip Ally's bag open and just let one little red Skittle come out. Kirby looks at that and laughs at her. One red Skittle. Look at my big ol' knot.
She fires that Atomic Fireball in her mouth, pops it right in there and just starts sucking, looking at me with great pleasure, mocking Ally. Now, what happens when you put an Atomic Fireball in your mouth? Yes. At first it is wonderful. There is a thin layer of sugar on an Atomic Fireball, and she is sucking on that thing, proud of herself. Ally is over there. She chewed her one Skittle, and it's gone. Kirby is still working inside her mouth.
I dump out another color for Ally and give it to her, just waiting for truth to set in. All of a sudden Kirby's eyes got about this big, and she goes, "Oh no!" and spit it out. I was waiting. I caught that thing, and I said, "No, no, no. We said we get to eat our candy," and I put it right back in her mouth, and I put my hand over her lips.
Then I went to preaching, like any wise father of a 3-year-old would do with a fire inside their mouth. "Now, Kirby. This is why you listen to your father. What's going on inside your mouth right now is a chemical reaction that's causing a lot of pain. That's because you did not listen to your father. Your father is very wise. He's a good dad. If you'll follow his ways he will bless you."
She is looking at me. Little tears are welling up. Right? She spits it out. I just put her back in the little trailer. We went home. Ally had her pound bag of candy. I saved Kirby's little Atomic Fireball. I said, "Kirbs, you can have the rest of your candy anytime you want." It became a metaphor in our lives as a family.
What was really interesting is, as I laid in bed that night that night replaying that, all proud of myself because of what we had learned as a family that day about the wisdom of following the Father, God was saying, "Hey, you know what, Todd? That's kind of our story. You keep looking down there on your little 35-year-old level.
You see what you can see, and you're pretty convinced that some things look really good. Sometimes, even when you start to taste them there's a thin layer of sweetness there that convinces you that's the direction you should go, but the truth is you don't let me scoop you up, and I love goodness.
It is said of me that in my right hand is fullness of joy and in my presence are pleasures forever. You don't want to have your daddy scoop you up sometimes and walk you and show you where life and blessing is. You just want to grab what you can see and take it. Hasn't it done more than burn your mouth for a few seconds?"
What the book of James is going to do today is he's going to tell individuals who are believing in God and have trusted in Jesus, who has reconciled them to God, who has shown God's incredible goodness by offering his life to them that they might be reconciled. He's going to say, "Don't let trials outside of you… I told you why they're here. It's because the world has long ago left me and they no longer live in the candy store and in the sweetness of the life I intended. There are now all kinds of troubles in the world, so don't be surprised at the troubles in this world."
He said, "Don't be surprised you're going to be tempted in the midst of those troubles to meet your needs in some other way than waiting on me to restore things as they should be. You have to trust in your Father who is good, who has overcome this world, but don't you go grabbing what seems right to you, because it will do more than burn your mouth for a moment. It will expose you as somebody who doesn't have a Father or doesn't know the Father, and it will cause you pain." That's James 1.
James 1 says there are going to be trials without, temptations within, and you'd better know the Word of the Father. That's what we're going to look at extensively next week. We're going to look at the role the Word of God plays in our lives. But I want to talk to you this morning a little bit about the big picture of God. You have to hold onto that. James is diving right in. He knows folks are struggling.
He began by telling us last week, "Consider…in other words, govern yourselves…with all joy, remembering that Jesus has overcome the world." He said, "Take heart. I've overcome the world." Peter, when he was writing a little bit later, said, "Don't be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you." Why should that surprise you? It comes among you for your testing, it says. Don't act like some strange thing is happening. No, you're just being approved."
That's exactly what James says here. James is going to say you have to consider it joy when you encounter, and you will encounter, various trials. Now you need to hear this. The word for trials and the word for temptation and the word for tempting you're going to hear the rest of today are the exact same word. They're translated differently because of their application to our lives. Trials are what hit us from the outside. Temptations are what pull us from within.
How we respond to outward persecution, outward trouble, and inward pulls away from God is what verifies whether or not we are God's people. Have you ever met people who say they love God… By the way, this is why I have no patience for health, wealth, and prosperity teachers. They tell you if you love God it's going to always be easy. God tells you if you love him you will always consider him good, even if you're not healthy, wealthy, and wise.
In fact, he says, "The more I trust you the more I'm going to show the world what real faith looks like." If anything, you ought to be concerned that you don't experience trials if you have a relationship with God. The Bible says, "…all [those] who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."
If nobody has a problem with your righteousness, your holiness, your theological correctness done winsomely and kindly, but your strong conviction of truth and your loving way of communicating that… If the world never has a problem with your presence and leadership it might be an indication that you're of the world and not in the world to serve the world.
God is telling you, "This is not going to be an easy row to hoe, and the way you're going to know you're mine is you're going to stand up against the pulls away from me inside and the persecutions on you from the outside." Govern yourselves with this understanding that God is good. That was last week. He says, "Just remember the testing of your faith will produce something in you that is complete. I will conform you to the image of my Son, who knew I was good and said, 'Not my will but your will be done.'"
"I don't know what you're doing, God. I have humbled myself. I've become like a man so I don't see right now with Sovereign purview out apart from your revelation. You've told me the cross is where I should go. You told me that's the way we're going to reconcile man to us. I wish there was another way, but not my will but your will be done." That's exactly what God would have you do in the midst of your trials.
"Father, your ways are not my ways. My ways are to grab what I can see. Things that are wrapped well and taste good for a moment. Your thoughts are not my thoughts. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so are your ways above my ways and your thoughts above my thoughts." That is the attitude of a person who knows they are finite and God is infinite, that they are flawed and God is perfect. Are you that person?
James is saying as a church we'd better be, because if we're not those people how's the world going to know who God is? That's why we're here. Watch where we're going to pick up this week. I'll start in verse 12. We read that last week. "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved [tested, confirmed, verified] , he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him."
It doesn't mean this is what you need to do in order to have eternal life; it means if God is in you this is what you will do, and that's how we'll know God is in you. This is why he's going to say in James 2 this little verse that just shakes us all: that faith without works is dead. That's all he's saying in chapter 1. "If God is in you you'll be able to handle what's going on in this world because God's told you what's going on in this world and he's told you he's going to overcome this world. You should be people of faith, hope, love, and joy."
That's not the way of the world. It's insecurity, fear, anxiety, desperation, and constant grabbing after things that give no life at all. We've said it before here. I'll say it again. Worry and anxiety are us believing God is not going to get it right. That's all that is. That's why God says, "Don't be anxious. I'm going to get it right. I don't make any mistakes." Bitterness is believing God got it wrong. How many of you are bitter? "God didn't make me the way I was supposed to be made. God didn't bring me the person in my life when he was supposed to bring me that person in my life." We get bitter at God, and when we're bitter at God we start to be susceptible to somebody else who tells us there's a better way, a better God, and someone else we should serve.
We're going to hear the voice, "You should do what seems right to you," and that voice is not the voice that leads to life; it's the voice that leads to death. Verse 12 is saying you're going to receive life now, the blessed life, and you're going to receive life without any trouble later. If you walk with God now you will be a blessed man, and being a blessed man now is an indication you are one who will receive the blessing to come.
I'm going to read verses 13-18 and then teach you something. "Let no one say when he is tempted…" That's the same word as trial, but it's internal now. "'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures."
Let's go. Are y'all ready to learn something? Watch this. I'm going to teach you about inward temptation and how believers respond. I'm going to say this right now lest you miss it a little bit later. We are not perfect. Every now and then all of us will reach out and grab an Atomic Fireball. There are moments when we think God isn't all there for us. We will have moments of imperfection. Now what you do in those moments…
Do you confess, forsake, and find compassion or do you harden your heart, deny, justify, rationalize, and give yourself permission? Do you say, "God made me this way; he wouldn't want me not to do it if I didn't feel this strongly"? Do you say, "You don't understand my story"? Do you create this impression that you're terminally unique and the temptation that's facing you is not common to man? In other words, you call God a liar.
God says that no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common, so if you're one of those people who think, "No, no. You don't understand. I'm different. My pull, my temptation, my urges, my upbringing, my…whatever it might be…gives me permission to do this," that is a lie, and in the spirit of the Antichrist. It's the spirit of the Devil. It's not the Holy Spirit, and it does not verify you for you to say, "I know what God says," or "I'm going to twist what that says to make it fit what I want." That is a major red flag and should cause you great concern. Okay?
But you will not necessarily go through life… In fact, if any of us say we don't ever sin we make God out to be a liar. We are sinners. That's why we're not here to worship me as your pastor, or any other believer in this church. We worship Jesus Christ. I am like you. I am on a journey toward perfection. I am learning to persevere and endure under trial and temptation.
I do it in a way that allows me to maintain my leadership. In other words, when I deviate off what God wants it's not a deviation that brings great horror and suffering to others in an ongoing manner, either in an initial traumatic way (i.e., I'm not sleeping my way through the congregation) or in an enduring, unrepentant way.
Look, all sin is sin that separates us from God, but we do understand here there's a difference between rolling a stop sign and cracking somebody over the head with a lead pipe. I have to deal with every stop sign I roll. I have to deal with everything I do. There are certain things we do where it violates our ability to continue to serve.
If the chief of police in Dallas rolls a stop sign we don't say, "You have to step down as the chief of police." If the chief of police starts to murder individuals, we're going to say, "That might mean we shouldn't have you lead us in this area anymore." And so it is with sin. All sin is sin. We have to deal with it with a repentant heart, confess it, and forsake it. But, like Abraham…
Let me just give you this out of Romans, chapter 4, verses 20 and 21. Abraham, it says, with respect to the promise of God, did not waver in unbelief. Now, let me ask you a question. If you've read your Bible, you know right now that Paul wasn't paying attention, because Abraham did waver in unbelief.
God said, "Abraham, I'm going to make you a great nation, and I'm going to do it through your wife Sarah." Sarah heard that and cracked up. Abraham goes, "No, I think God can do it," but after about 15 years when God didn't do it he said, "Hey, Hagar. Come on over here. Let's shack up. I'll have a child through you, and that'll be how God does it." That seems to be a bit of wavering and unbelief.
God said, "Abraham, I'm going to make you a father of a great nation. I'm going to do it in this land. There's a drought. Rather than stay in that land and persevere he runs down to Egypt. He knows God is going to do it through Sarah. Yet, in that moment he thinks, "You know, if I don't tell them I'm Sarah's brother they'll kill me, because they want to marry Sarah, but if I'm her brother they'll treat me kindly because they're going to want Sarah to be their wife." So he lied about Sarah, not once but twice.
Those are just three small examples of Abraham wavering in unbelief, but what did Abraham do every time? He lied every time. He panicked. He confessed. He acknowledged. He dealt with it. He honored God. It says, "…yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God…" This is what James is going to say to you: you have to grow strong in your faith.
When you're under various trials and temptations, don't eject, don't bail out, or you will not mature. I want to say this to you, because Abraham is a hero of the faith, but he wasn't perfect, and nobody here is going to be perfect. That's why we don't shoot our wounded. We also don't leave our wounded on the front lines. We bring them back, we get them well, we encourage them, and we make sure they respond appropriately, and then we put them back in a place of leadership.
Have you noticed some of what happened to your staff before they were put in a position of leadership? These are not people who were incubated in Billy Graham's nursery. These people were saved from the depths of every kind of sin this world is entangled by, and they have shown now a persevering faith that allows them to lead. That's the whole church in the book of James. James is going to say, "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 one." God is not tempting you.
It's so interesting when you go back and look at what happens when people are tempted. They'll say, "God shouldn't have made me this way. I mean, how can it be so wrong if it feels so right?" God's going to tell you why it feels right. Because your flesh has rebelled against God your flesh is fallen, your flesh is not informed by the spirit of truth, and your flesh needs to be crucified. It's not going to feel very dead, so you must discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.
It doesn't bother me when people say, "I don't want this kind of physical relationship; I want this kind of physical relationship," because here's the truth: I don't want a monogamous physical relationship when you just consult my flesh. I want a hetero, immoral series of physical relationships, but I also know my flesh is going to lead me to death, and whether it's hetero or homo is indifferent.
What matters is what you're going to do. Are you going to say, "My flesh is God and my flesh is king," or, "I'm going to follow my King?" Who's your king? That's what James is asking. God doesn't tempt you. How about this? Let's just go back. The very first time man was tempted God comes to Adam and says, "Adam, what's going on?"
He says, "I'll tell you what's going on. You screwed up. I went to sleep. You did a little surgery. I woke up. I lost a rib. I had a wife. That's my problem. The woman you gave me screwed the deal." All right. Let's just move on to the woman. "Woman, what did you do?" "Well, it really isn't my fault. That thing you let roam around the garden was flapping his little hissy lips, and I listened to it. By the way, why'd you make the apple look so good? It appealed to my eyes. What it offered me sounded good to my desires."
By the way, Eve was the closest. "I listened to a liar. That's my problem. And that man you gave me who was supposed to lead me was passive and watched the whole thing. He didn't speak up one time. In fact, he told me if I touched it I'd die. I touched it, and I didn't die, so I thought all he said was a lie."
How about this. Aaron, in Exodus 32, is making a golden calf. Moses shows up and goes, "What are you doing?" He goes, "Well, I told the people to bring me all their gold. I threw it in the fire, and out of the fire came the golden calf. It's not my fault. It was just a cosmic series of events and circumstances." No. James is going to tell you where sin comes from. He's going to tell you it's not God's fault.
Don't blame God when you're tempted. God does not tempt. God will allow you to be tested. He'll walk you into a candy shop and say, "Don't eat that one that's really well wrapped and will taste good for just a moment if you eat it. Trust me. Because there's more inside some of those wrappings than just a burning of your mouth. There's poison, death, and destruction there. I'm walking you into this world. I made this world. I love good things. I'm the Father of lights. I'm the Father of candy. Trust me."
How you walk into the candy shop that is this world and how you shop says everything about who you follow. That's what James is about to say right here. Don't blame God that the baited worm looks like a real worm. He's going to say, "Don't bite it. I'll show you where the real worm is. Don't be impulsive."
Now here he goes. "But each one is tempted when he is carried away…" That is the word lured. When the trap seduces him. "…and enticed…" In other words, the word there is the word of a hidden punishment. "…by his own lust." Now when we think lust we almost always, in our society, run to sex, and we shouldn't. The word there is just desire.
I want to just say this about why there's so much struggle with sexual sin. Sexual sin is all of our issues. By the way, maybe some of you gals are out there saying, "Well, I don't really struggle so much with sex." Well, you struggle with what sex brings you. It is a fact that men will give love to get sex and women will give sex in order to be loved. Not that women don't greatly enjoy sex as well.
God made sex. God is not against sex. Sex is good. God made hunger. He is not against you eating. God made you for glory. God is not against you wanting to be a person who is glorious. God made bodies that need rest. Wanting to rest is not a problem. Getting your sexual needs met through immorality is a problem. Having your hunger needs met through self-love and gluttony is a problem.
Having your desire to find some rest transfer over to laziness and sluggardness is a problem. Desiring glory and using selfishness and oppression of others to be glorified is a problem. God wants you to enjoy sex, he wants you to be glorious, he wants you to be satisfied, he wants you to get rest. See, here's the deal. All sin is is meeting a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. A worm isn't a bad thing; a worm with a hook in it is a bad thing if you're a bass fish. Don't be carried away.
James is going to say sometimes you can start to buy the lie that God is not there and is not good, and that is exactly what happened when Adam and Eve were called to live in faith relationship with God. God said, "I want you to know me and love me. I've put you in a place that's filled with perfection. It is the candy store. But I'm going to tell you, there's one thing here that looks good. I don't want you to eat it though because it will not lead to life. It is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
You don't need to know good and evil; you need to know me. I am good. You don't want to know evil. Evil will not be good for you. If you know, by the way, good and evil, and I leave you to your own devices, you will know good and evil, you just won't be able to choose good all the time, because you are not intrinsically good. You are good because you are related to me. What will happen is you will rationalize and justify why that which is evil is really good, and it will bring destruction and death to you. I love you. Don't go there."
So what Satan said is, "Look. God just wants you to know good and evil." Right then we should have said, "That is a lie. God wants us to know nothing but good. We have no reason to know evil. Evil is nothing but that which brings death and darkness. We don't want death and darkness. I don't need to know anything more about it. I am satisfied with God alone."
But we weren't. We wanted to be God. We wanted to be king. So we bought the lie. We were tempted. We were carried away by our own desire to not need God. "I just want me. I think I know better than God."
"I don't need you, Dad, in this little candy shop of life. I know I'm 3. I see knee-high to a grasshopper. I have no way of climbing to, buying, or affording all the good stuff. I don't need it though. I'll just keep grabbing that," and our own little rebellious desire that is innate to humanity leads us to all kinds of trouble.
The Bible says in 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verse 22, "Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord…" We have to run away and say, "Look. Here's what I need to do." If you're a little Kirby and you see this stuff and it looks really good to you, "No. I have to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace." At that age my kids had seen their daddy be righteous, care for them from the moment they were born, love them from the moment they were born.
I was worthy of their faith. There was peace in their lives. What Kirby should have done was say, "I'm going to pursue what Dad says with others who know that Dad is good. I'm going to find people who are two years older than me, who know two more years of God's goodness, and I'm going to run after Dad with that little girl." Ally said to Kirby, "Hey, Dad knows candy. Dad's good. Listen to him."
Some of you are really young in your faith. That's why you cannot isolate. That's why we call you to be involved here. By the way, if you're in community and nobody in community has any clue how good God is, raise your hand to us and say, "Look, we're in community. None of us know the Father very well. Can you insert somebody into our community?" We will come, and we will teach you, and we will help you pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart.
Here's the deal. If your parents are Satan and sin or Satan and desire, your flesh and the Liar, it will give birth to a child, and that child is sin. Sin always increases, and that child will grow up, and it will destroy you. That child is death. We always think we can manage it. Years ago I taught a series called Way of Escape. Go back and listen to it. I got a white Siberian tiger cub. He was 8 weeks old.
I talked about the analogy that all sin is like that. Right? We get it… It's just one drink. It's just a little hit of dope. (There's a reason all those things are called gateway drugs.) It's just a little bit of anger. It's just a little bit of porn. It's just a little bit of selfishness. It's just a little bit of excessive material comfort. It never stays there. Sin will increase.
I told all kinds of stories that I knew of individuals who bought tiger cubs. I wanted a tiger cub when I was a kid. But tiger cubs don't stay tiger cubs. The problem with man-cubs, they said in Jungle Book, is they don't stay cubs. "They grow to be men, and men hunt us, men kill us." They said, "That's why we've got to get him out of the jungle."
What I'm telling you is that little sin you're playing with right now that you think you can control… You name it, you like it, you love it. "Awww. Look how cute he is. I'm going to call him Simba. Come here Simba. Oh, look at the paw. It's just a big kitty!"
Okay, I brought this little tiger cub out here, and when I brought it out, do you know what everybody did? That little tiger cub was sucking on my finger, and everybody…thousands of people…went, "Awwwww. I wish I had Calypso." Eighteen months later, Calypso weighed 400 pounds and was in a zoo. Ask Siegfried and Roy if you can control your tigers all the time.
Here's the thing. It gives birth to sin, and sin will increase. It's death. It's death the moment it's there; you just can't always tell. Verse 15: "When lust is conceived it gives birth to sin. When sin is accomplished it brings forth death…"
"Be warned,"James is saying. Don't buy the lie that God's not good, that he's not there, that he doesn't care, that you need to meet your legitimate needs in an illegitimate way. Verse 16 says, "Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren," because he's always offering gifts to you. "Here. Take this gift. You have sexual needs. Just take this gift. It's called porn. It doesn't hurt anybody."
Here's the deal. Satan never gives gifts, because there's always a price to be paid. It always ends up costing you something. It is never free. Gluttony is not free. Immorality is not free. Laziness is not free. But just like a little tiger cub… "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil."
James is saying, "Don't be deceived by that little cub. That is a tiger, and it will destroy you," and, "That is not a gift. You will end up paying dearly for anything you take from him." The only way to keep it from growing is to kill it. Here's the thing: Most of us love our sins. "It's my Simba. Simba would never bite me." You have to bring somebody in who will say, "That isn't Simba. That's a lion, and I'm going to kill it."
You have to give it to them. You have to tell people, "I have lion cubs. I play with them. I have a whole house full of them. I'm like a 40-year-old woman with 30 cats. I have 40 Simbas in my life. I have this website. I have this dysfunctional dream. I have to invite people in, and they have to remind me what those things are. They are illegitimate ways to meet legitimate needs, and they are owning me. I can't even kill them while they're cubs because I love them. They appear life-giving even though they are death-bringing."
Here's the truth. Verse 17: "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above…" That's the truth. If you want gifts, you get them from God. "…coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." What do we call lights in the heavenly realm? We call them stars. The sun is the light.
Here's the thing. The sun… You guys do know this, right? The sun doesn't move. We move. If there is increasing darkness in your life it's because you have turned in your world away from the Son. The Father is anchored there, and he's saying, "Don't you turn to the dark side." God doesn't move and create shadows in your life. God brings only good things.
This world has shadows because this world is not the world God intended. It's the world God will one day remake, but right now he's trying to save people from the world and he's leaving you in the world as a bright and shining star in the world. This is what Philippians, chapter 2, says. "Do all things without grumbling or disputing…" For you are to be shining stars living in the middle of a wicked, dark, and perverse generation, that where you go even in the midst of trials there is still light and hope.
People go, "Where are you from? What do you know that I don't know?" Your answer is, "I have asked for wisdom, and I have received wisdom from God. Here's what I know about why trials are here, why cancer is here, why betrayal is here, why 4-year-olds die, what sin leads to, and why it's foolish to take little promises that eventually will cause great pain."
Children always follow their desires. Adults…mature, wise people…follow wisdom. You put something in front of a child and they can't not take it, but you put truth in front of a wise man and then he gets it. He understands. "I'm going to delay gratification because there's ultimately not life here."
Watch what it says. "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow." This is your pastor talking to you. This is Elder James. He's saying, "Don't you forget that God is good." That's always the source of every problem. We don't deny the source of God's existence.
You guys are not, this week, probably going to convert to Islam or even atheism, but what will happen is in this room there are probably thousands of people who, because of a great pull, are going to doubt God is good. You're going to say, "If God was good he'd give me this thing I really want."
You're going to be like a spoiled little 4- or 5-year-old who's going to throw a fit right there in the grocery story aisle, saying, "If you don't buy that for me you're not a good parent," and that parent is good, so he or she doesn't load up your cart with things that taste good for a moment but will rot your teeth and make your body weak, so you just have to trust him. "Does God love me? Does he care about me? Is he good?"
Again. Let me just say this. The problem with the church is not that they began to deny God's existence. It's that they began to deny God's goodness. God is always good. He doesn't tempt anybody. He can't be tempted by evil, but he will let you be tested to see if you know that's real. Here's what he's going to say in verse 18.
"In the exercise of His will…" Do you know how Satan and your flesh came together and gave birth to sin? Watch this. God and your flesh are going to come together. Guess what's going to happen. God is going to come in and impregnate your little flesh with truth and not with lies.
Did you see the analogy up there earlier in James, chapter 1, where it said in verse 15, "…when lust has conceived…" In other worse, when your desires get impregnated by statements that are false and give death. Guess what happens when your flesh is impregnated by truth, by the Spirit of God and the preaching of the Word, when that seed, the Word of God, comes and takes root in your heart it will give birth to new life.
God came to deliver you from the darkness and deception that will increase to death. That's verse 18. "In the exercise of His will He [God, in all his kindness] brought us forth by the word of truth…" We didn't come to God; God came to us. Remember, Jesus? He came to us. The living Word of Truth.
Now the Word of truth is being preached "…so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures." What should blossom forth from us is the fruit of God's presence: "…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." There is no darkness. We don't ever make a law that says, "You're not allowed to love after 5 o'clock. Kindness? You're only allowed to have this much kindness in New York City."
We don't do that. There is no law against those things. We go, "May those things increase. May your tribe increase. Bring more of that kind of person here." It should make people long for God. You are shining stars. People want more light. "Who are you? What do you know?" That's when you tell them, "I know God, who in his kindness brought me to him." They're going to say, "Aren't you sometimes really tempted to do what we're doing?"
"Oh, all the time. But what I do is I don't sit there and think about how good it would be to taste those things; I keep reminding myself of who God is." That's exactly what we're told to do in James, chapter 4, verse 7. "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." James 4:8. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded."
See, James is going to come back to this same idea. You have to understand the goodness of God. When you understand the goodness of God you won't be tempted to think he's forgotten you in the midst of your cancer, you won't be tempted to think he's forgotten you in the midst of an abusive person in your life, you won't be tempted to think he's forgotten you because you're 37 and single or because you're 28, married, and can't have children.
You just go, "You know what, Lord? I don't know what you're doing. Your ways aren't my ways. Your thoughts aren't my thoughts. But you are good, and you are the Father of lights. There is no shifting shadow, and all I have to do is stay with you. I have to lean not on my own understanding, and I have to make sure you impregnate my flesh with truth continually.
By the way, this is where we're headed next week. Don't get angry at God. This is why the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. Next week you're going to hear me say, in verse 19 that what you have to do is be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. I know what you think. I know what you want. But what does what you want have to do with it, because what you're saying is, "Christ died for me. I'm going to live for him. The life which I now live in the flesh I life by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered himself up for me."
So I'm going to be slow to speak, and I'm going to make sure I don't say God does not love me. I'm going to make sure I don't say God has forgotten me. I'm going to say God is good, and he never sleeps. He gave himself for me and rescued me. He took me out of darkness into his marvelous light.
This week I was with some friends in Haiti. We were loving on some different folks and down there with some guys and women who are medical professionals. I had a chance to teach some pastors and do some things in different communities. There was a gentleman there from California who was just put in our group to come with us. He and his son had gone down there. They put them in our group to help love some of the people who we were ministering to.
As we got to know Al over the course of the week we heard more and more about his story. Specifically, Al's son Chris had showed up down there. He had brought with him a guitar. Right when he got there he said he knew God wanted him to give that guitar to somebody. He ended up giving it to one of the gals who worked at Mission of Hope. It was a pretty amazing story about how she had been desiring to use her life…
Her dad was a worship leader. She had wandered away from the faith. She had come back. She knew she had the gift of song. She knew she needed to develop it and use it. Anyway, the way the Spirit of God worked it out is she was the one who received the guitar. We were just trying to understand more about this young man who was in college and was down there with his father, trying to understand why he would come, not knowing who the guitar belonged to but knowing it belonged to somebody, and it wasn't him. They told us their story.
Al was a pastor for 30 years in California, and he loved music. He was a pastor, but he also led music for his rather small congregation. He had a guy make a guitar for him. It was a really renowned guitar maker, and the guitar was worth five figures. It was a very nice guitar. He had serenaded his wife with that guitar. He had written songs for each of his four kids with that guitar.
He loved that guitar, but ministry wasn't going so well, and he was a little bit discouraged in general. It was time for another Wednesday night service to roll around, so Al went up to his church and was going to get his guitar out and prepare for that evening's service, already discouraged at how things were going.
He opened up his guitar case, and it was empty, so he shut it and went to look for it. He walked around looking for it but didn't find it. He thought it must have been in the case but he just hadn't seen it, so he opened up his guitar case again, but his guitar was gone. It just absolutely devastated him. He just shook his fist at God. He said, "God, what are you doing?"
One of his friends came up, and he said to him, "Look, I cannot minister tonight. I'm just discouraged. I don't know what I'm going to do, but you have to lead tonight." He just took off. The other guy tried to lead the service. They obviously prayed for Al. Al went home, and he said for a number of weeks he just believed that God got it wrong, and bitterness was flooding into his heart.
As he prayed and as, by the grace of God, he pursued righteousness, love, faith, and peace with those who seek God with a pure heart, eventually as he sat there he said, "God, I know you're good even though I'm discouraged by ministry and even though the guitar I loved and can't replace is gone. I know you're good."
He said he knew at that moment that he needed to release something he didn't even have yet. He had just started, himself, to learn to make guitars. He said, "I'll tell you what I'm going to do. You're not going to win, Satan. You're not going to win, Enemy. I'm going to make two guitars I don't even own yet, and I'm going to give them away to two people. And, if you ever steal another guitar from me I'll make four and give them away."
He said the moment he did that, where he was going to meet evil and hatred with love and goodness, he felt the weight come off of his heart and he felt joy flood into his life. The first guitar he made was for a guy named Bob Kilpatrick, who wrote the song "In My Life Lord Be Glorified." He's now a guitar maker of some renown. You can to go www.ARCGuitar.com. I hope you sell a few today, Al!
He gave one to another guy who was a worship pastor. He gave to other people. He does this periodically just as an expression of the goodness of God and wanting to be an example of that to others. That, my friends, is a genuine faith that in the midst of trials and temptation was tested and was pure and beautiful, and that's what James calls you to.
Do you know the goodness of God or do you think you know what candy to grab in this life? If you're being bombarded by bitterness on the outside, do you know God is in the midst of that and is going to do something through your guitar being stolen that's going to cause his name to be glorified, and all you have to do is hold on to him and trust him. That's a pure faith, and James is saying to the church, "This is not going to be easy. It's just our time. He is our God, and he is more than enough."
Father, I pray that we would take our turn in this journey. I thank you that you're a good God, you love us, and you don't mind giving us bags of candy. In fact, what you tell us often leads to blessing and leads us to times of incredible joy in our families. It allows us to have relationships that aren't wracked with insecurity and bitterness. It allows us to not need more for us but to have more to bless others.
You want us to have glorious lives, and we see when we give our lives away that you multiply joy in them. You want us, Father, to hunger and thirst after righteousness so we can truly be satisfied. You want us to find rest in you so we can sleep well and be people defined by peace. You want us to have good sex, so you tell us that happens when you do it with one person, before God, in a loving, nurturing, and mutually respectful relationship.
Father, I thank you that you don't want to have us deny any desire; you just want us to meet our desires with wisdom because you're good. That's what a good God would do, what a good Father would do. He'd say, "Hey! Those desires. They're good. Use them this way. They'll bless you. But those desires won't be blessings to you if you do this."
So, Father, we thank you that you've called us out of the stupidity, rebellion, self-love, self‑exaltation, self-dependence, and self-wisdom that have led to all kinds of scars and destruction so we could live in blessing. I thank you that you've given us a community of faith filled with people who know what righteousness, love, faith, and purity look like and who seek after you with a pure heart so that we might be encouraged day after day and not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
If there's somebody here who doesn't know you're more than enough, would you just woo them to you today? If there are people here who are going at it alone, would you have them raise their hand so they can get in the way of your people? We pray you would be glorified as we remind ourselves now that you're more than enough. Amen.