A repost with minor edits: enjoy!
With all the of the CSI programs on TV today, not to mention the old medical shows like Quincy M.E., it seems that people have an interest in autopsies. An Autopsy is the procedure performed on the body after death to see what killed it. (So I suppose my title should really be something like “An Autopsy of a spiritually dead person”) Today’s post is going to look back and see what kills us, spiritually speaking, from James’ book.
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. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (Jas 1:13-16)
Who Tempts us?
First, off it is important to note that he instructs us not to blame God for the temptations you are going through. Not only is He not tempted, he does not tempt anyone. Flip Wilson, a comic from way back was famous for his phrase “The Devil made me do it!” James is going to show that the devil doesn’t MAKE you do anything. From early on in our life we learn to blame others. Even Adam tried to blame both God and his wife in one shot: “The woman YOU gave me….” is why I ate. We will look everywhere and at everyone else that we can except at ourselves.
It is true that Satan tempts us but James is going to show us the limits on his ability to tempt us. It not true that God tempts us and Paul says that God protects us from being tempted above what we can handle. In other words, he reins Satan in so that he is not able to overpower us. (I cor 10:13)
What is a temptation?
James says that each of us is tempted when we are drawn away and enticed by our own desires. The word ‘desire’ is an appropriate word here. The meaning in this context is ‘illicit desires’ which is why some versions use the word “lusts”. At its core, a lust is a desire but it passes beyond the boundaries that God has set. An example is our desire for food. It is a perfectly normal desire to feed ourselves and satisfy our desire for food, but when turned into lust, it results in gluttony. Our natural sexual desires when taken in to the category of lusts results in fornication. Basically ‘desire’ is fine when kept within the boundaries God has established.
Temptation is the enticement to take a desire beyond its boundaries. So to be tempted means you must have some desire to begin with. It would be useless to tempt me with liver. I do not like it, can’t stand it and so if I were guarding the ACME liver factory, there would be no temptation, to take any home with me. The same would not be said if I were guarding the See’s chocolate factory or the Blue Bell factory. It could become a temptation. The desire is for chocolate not to steal. Theft would be the result of letting the enticement go too far.
What if I like my sin?
Once the lustful desire has been conceived and accomplished it brings forth sin. Then when the sin becomes fully grown, it brings forth death. Since Scripture teaches that ONE sin is enough to result in death, I asked myself why sin would have to become full grown in order to kill. (“Self”, I asked…..)
Keeping in mind that James is writing to Christians, already cleansed in the blood of Christ, the lesson James teaches has to apply to our current temptations and desires. Christians are not prevented from sinning mechanically. God does not make it impossible for us to sin or the first chapter of First John wouldn’t make much sense. The blood of his Son cleanses us from our sin….if we walk in the light as he in in the light.
But what if we like our lust and desire? What if the sin conceived is enjoyable to us and we do not wish to stop? Well, it grows. Cain had already sinned in not offering an appropriate sacrifice. God warned him that sin was ready to take control and urged him to do right so that he would be accepted. As we know, he didn’t listen, held on to his own sin and let it grow.
You see, if you could blame God for all this then there should be no fault attributed to your account. If you can blame Satan for making you do it, then again no fault is yours. But, if, just what if, that sin you are doing and giving into actually started from your own heart, your own desires that you fanned into lust and then into sin and then decided you liked enough to live in it. Well, that would be a horse of a different color.
So on our autopsy death certificate it should read:
Cause of death:
Sin caused by an acute desire.
(we could have saved this one if he had repented)
Today’s morning sermon dealt with the similarities of Joseph to Jesus. It was not a full look at these similarities but there are so many that one could preach several lessons on such a topic.
Just look at a few of the things that Jesus had happen in his life. He was with his father before coming to his people. His father sent him on His mission. His people did not receive him, sold him for a small amount of money. He was condemned for something and yet he was innocent of the charges. The condemnation might have been the end of the story except that God had other plans and raised him up and exalted him to sit on his throne. Jesus also suffered temptations that would have thrown him off his path.
If you are familiar with the story of Joseph you will easily pick out the similarities to Jesus. Joseph suffering his own family problems and being sold and condemned, though innocent, and yet, in the end, God was with him and raised him up to sit on his throne and rule.
It is interesting to me that the book of Genesis, is in a way, a summary of the world and the whole Bible message. You start in the beginning and end with someone on the throne and by that person, many lives are saved. The whole Bible, of course starts with Creation and ends with Jesus on the throne with many lives saved.
Today’s lesson focused on the temptation of Joseph however, because such temptations are common even today. We may think of people in the “olden days” as being more moral but it is apparent when you read passages like this that not everyone was a moral person. Potiphar’s wife tempted Joseph, pestered him, hounded him, and finally framed him. Joseph, on the other hand did everything he could to avoid her. Look at the passage and a couple thoughts I shared.
And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her. (Gen 39:7-10)
I have emphasized some interesting phrasing in these verses. I admit that it may not have been in the intent of the text but it does fit a common problem today when someone is in a predatory mode.
The first request of Potiphar’s wife was to “lie with her” which is a clear invitation to commit adultery and violate the marriage covenant that she had with Potiphar. Many implications of this relationship could be made by such an invitation but Joseph was much more concerned about avoided a great wickedness and not sinning against God.
But she was not finished. She kept at it. Notice verse 10 and see what else Joseph was avoiding. He also did not listen to her to “lie by her” OR to “be with her”. I have to admit that this sounds an awful lot like “oh, let’s just lay here on the bed, nothing will happen” or “well, let’s just spend a little private time alone, just talk with me”. Now, I grant you that “spending time with someone” is a good way to get to know a person better, but you have no business “getting to know” someone else’s wife in such a setting much less either of the other two options.
Jesus provides us a perfect example of doing the Lord’s Will. Joseph, being human, undoubtedly was not perfect but his story is still an example for us to follow and serves as a mold or type/anti-type of Christ. I would encourage all of us to strive to do the best we can to follow the footsteps of the author of our Faith and those, like Joseph, who followed those same steps even before they were made.
The sermon, if you would like to listen, is here.