Do Not Be Deceived

Bible Book: James  1 : 13-20
Subject: Sin; Deception; Satan
Series: James - Believing and Behaving
Introduction

Being deceived is a real bummer! It happens to everyone at one time or another. We buy the product advertised on television to remove any stain, on anything, instantly. When it arrives, it not only removes the stain but burns a hole in your favorite blouse or shirt. Sadly, before you waited to see what it would do to your shirt, you put in on a stained portion of your carpet. Now it looks as though a firecracker was set off on your floor!

The saddest kind of deception is called temptation. Satan is a master at using temptation to lure us into to buying a false product. Of course, God warns us about this over and over in the Bible, but we see Satan's ads and it simply seems to good to miss. There was a song that Elvis Presley sang years ago that went like this:

"If it feels so right,

How can it be wrong?" (Weisman, Benjamin and Wise, Fred, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.)

Now doesn't that sound just like something Satan would whisper to your heart? Sure it does! You see, it is possible for a Christian to be deceived regarding actions and decisions. After all, Satan is the master of deception:

i. He deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden (2 Corinthians 11:3).

ii. He is referred to as the Father of Lies (John 8:44).

iii. In the New Testament Church at Jerusalem, Ananias and Sapphira lied to the church about a gift they had given. Peter stated that Satan had prompted them to lie to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3).

In other words, Satan not only lies, he prompts others to lie. He was a liar from the beginning (John 8:44). We could look at many examples in the Bible of those believers and unbelievers who were deceived.

Life is filled with decisions, so Satan has plenty of opportunities to lure us into a false narrative. If we let down our guard, or allow him to get his foot in the door before we close it - BOOM! We are in trouble!

What is important for us today is for us to know how to avoid deception in our spiritual lives. Today we are going to discover what God told us in James 1:13-20 regarding this important issue. After all, there is not a person under the sound of my voice who hasn't made a poor, sinful, and harmful decision in life; and, you can be sure the temptations are out there to take you down that same road again.

James shares this in James 1:13-20.

I. The Deadly Power Of Temptation 1:13-15

Be sure of this, the deceptive power of temptation is deadly. It has killed the marriages of many couples. It has destroyed the integrity of many Christians. It has ruined careers, bankrupt families, and destroyed many lives. It has weighted down people with guilt, led many to corruption, and ripped apart people's lives. For some it has led to physical death and eternal separation from God. So this is an extremely serious subject.

A. The Force of Temptation 13-14a

The Scripture states that everyone is drawn away by his own lusts. Note that everyone is tempted and sins! It is a force so mighty that everyone, with the exception of Jesus Christ, has succumbed to it. One actor is quoted as saying, "I can withstand anything but temptation." Temptation is not something to toy with. We are told to "flee" temptation. We are to run from it as if our lives depended on it - because our lives do depend on it. You can't fight temptation, you can only run from it. If your are an alcoholic, don't walk by the ABC store - choose another route. If you are addicted to pornography, put your computer in a room where everyone in your family can see what you are watching. If you are a shopaholic, cut up your credit cards and use only cash - on don't carry much of that either! In other words, don't put yourself in a place where temptation can lure you in. Be sure of this, you will lose the battle if you flirt with temptation! 

B. The Source of Temptation 14b

Where does temptation come from? This is a great question. Through the centuries people have debated the nature of evil within man. Some have wanted to argue that temptation is the work of Satan and, thus, we are not responsible for our immoral actions. What does the Word of God say about this?

Note that the source of temptation begins with our own lusts. In other words, Satan cannot tempt us to do that which is beyond our ability. Temptation always runs along the path of our personal desires for pleasure, power, possessions and pride. Satan cannot be blamed for our sins. He deceives us, yes! But, he can only tempt us in areas where we already have a desire. Oswald Chambers wrote saying, "A man's disposition on the inside, i.e., what he possesses in his personality, determines what he is tempted by on the outside. The temptation fits the nature of the one tempted, and reveals the possibilities of that nature. Every man has the setting of this own temptation, and the temptation will come along the line of the ruling disposition. Temptation yielded to... is a proof that it was timidity that prevented the sin before."

In a moment we are going to look at how natural desires given to us by God are corrupted into sinful acts because of our own corrupted hearts. The important thing here is to see that sin is your own fault. You cannot exonerate yourself from guilt by saying, "The devil made me do it!" We are without excuse when we sin against God. Though Satan is a master deceiver, he can only work in areas where we already have a compunction to act. The lust is inside our hearts before he puts the hook in the water.

C. The Course of Temptation 15

The path of temptation and sin is dangerous because it leads to death. The course of sin is lust, sin and death! That forms the LSD of man's soul. Lust leads to sin, which when fully conceived leads to death. This refers to both spiritual and physical death. The course of sin leads to death and hell!

For the natural, unsaved person, sin has created a separation between that person and God. This is referred to in the Bible as "death". In essence, the unsaved person is dead spiritually. A great wall, a huge gulf, exists between that person and God. This gulf is not God's fault but is father the fault of the sinner. In fact, God wants to tear down that wall. In the early 1990s, President Ronald Reagan spoke in West Germany. He said, without equivocation, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." He was speaking of the wall that the Russians had set between East Berlin and West Berlin. Indeed, the wall was removed and the East German people found liberty for the first time in almost 50 years. God wants the wall of death removed from you. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for you so that you can leave the shackles of sin and death and come to life eternal. You can accept His gift of life, freedom and forgiveness this very day by turning from your sin and receiving His Son.

For the Christian, temptation can lead to sin that kills your marriage, destroys your career, or empties you bank account. Sin can rob you of your testimony. Ten minutes of sin can stain years of godly living. Temptation and sin lead to death!

II. The Divine Provision Against Temptation 1:16-18

Does God have a way, a path, for us to avoid allowing temptation to turn into sin? The answer is that He certainly does. It is not a well traveled path, but it is available for those willing to take it.

A. The Light of God 16-17

God is called the Father of Lights. God created the lights in the heavens which begin with the sun rising in the east and growing ever brighter. Then that same sun sets in the west with shadows developing till darkness covers the land. Then the moon and stars provide diminished light through the night.

James wants to be sure that we do not misunderstand God's nature. God is not like the lights He created. He is not a light that changes with the passing day of life. He is ever shining in brightness and glory. He has light to provide for us to keep us from falling prey to the shadowy darkness of Satanic deception. We need not slip and fall on unseen temptation when the light of God will serve as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. The light of God reveals the hidden pitfalls that are set in our path. He will never fail to warn us of impending danger, if we are walking with Him.

Temptation is not sin. Even our precious Lord was tempted to sin, and the Bible declares clearly that He was tempted in all points just we are. Yet, He did not sin. So, we can know that temptation in and of itself is not sin. The immediate desire to do something which is sinful is not evil. It is only when we entertain the thought that sins creeps in. That is why we are told to "flee" temptation. God has light to reveal exactly what is happening in our hearts when we are tempted. He can show us to the true nature of that which is being dangled before us. If every Christian knew the sorrow, pain, misery and hurt that will evolve from sinful actions, he or she would quickly run away. We can only have a chance of seeing the true nature of sin's result only when we allow God to throw the light of His truth on any given situation. This means that we must walk close to the Lord and keep our eyes fixed on Him and His will for us. You see, our task is not so much to avoid sin as it is to adore and follow Jesus closely. You must be near enough to hear His warning.

I read some years ago of a sailor who had recently completed his training. He was on the deck of a ship carrying out some task when he heard the captain yell, "Hit the deck." The sailor knew that he was to immediately drop face down on the surface of the ship. He didn't look around to see what was meant by the order and he didn't delay. He fell quickly down upon the deck of the ship. At that very moment, a line snapped and crossed over his body just a few inches away. He heard the awful sound as it passed by him. If he had not been in close enough proximity to his leader to hear his words, or had it not been willing to immediately obey, he would have been sliced in two by the racing cable that had snapped.

Are we walking close enough to Jesus to hear Him warning us of that which we cannot see? The Lord knows what is out there beyond our vision, and He can warn us, but He can only do that to those who walk close enough to hear His voice and our willing to obey Him instantly!

B. The Love of God 17

God's love is shown in the fact that He is the giver of every good gift. You don't have to find some cheap, sinful way to gratify your desires when God has a legitimate way to provide for your every pleasure. Food can be eaten in moderation. Sex is permissible in marriage. Adoration from others is available in a loving family and/or a church family. You do not have to accommodate your flesh or emotions with pleasures that are prohibited. God always provides a correct way for us to receive that which we need.

In the Garden of Eden, God had provided for every pleasure that Adam and Eve needed. They had many trees bearing luscious fruit for them to eat. They likely had some things to eat that we have never tasted. Yet, they were not satisfied. They turned to the very thing God had forbidden in order to satisfy their lives. It led to all the sickness, death, tears and sorrow this world knows today.

You see, God loves you! God wants you to be happy. God does not deny pleasures to us because he wants to hurt us, but does so because He wants to protect and help us. He knows what is good for you and what is not good for you! He set up a way of life to protect us from the things that can harm or ruin our lives. He established a moral behavior that is right and warned us against that which is wrong. He knew that many other sorrows would come attached to sinful behavior, including death and eternal separation from Him.

As humans we are essentially short-sighted and can only see the immediate thing before us. That is why advertisers use the most graphic images to tempt us to buy their product. Have you ever noticed that the largest, most calorie laden hamburgers on earth are always advertised using a slim, lovely, Miss America type lady eating one? In fact, the lady in the ad is usually scantily clad so that you don't see the burger but just see her. If you looked at the burger and saw your arteries shutting down, you might choose a different lunch. Look at the beer commercials. The people at the party or in the bar are always happy, well dressed, young and attractive people. You never seen the teenager who drank too much, wrecked his car and killed his best friend who was in the passenger seat! You don't see the man sleeping in the street who started out innocently drinking a beer with his friends and ending up years later losing his job, his family and his home. And, yes, Satan whispers to you saying, "Don't worry about ending up like that poor fellow; that will never happen to you." Sure! That is exactly what that poor fellow thought as well.

God loves you. He desires a happy life for you. He has a plan for your life that will result in blessing, honor and an eternity with Him. We must accept and live in that love.

C. The Life of God 18

As I have said, God loved us so much that even when we had sinned He made available the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, His Son. How can we overcome sin? We overcome through Christ. Then, He helps us as we walk in the Light of God to keep ourselves from sin. Only He resisted sin, overcame sin and can sympathize with us in our sins. He promises to give us a way of escape from temptation (1 Corinthians 11:3). He lives in us in the power of the Holy Spirit and He can help us to stand against the wiles of the devil.

The Bible, however, calls on us to do our part. We are to be clothed in the armor of God and to take our stand! That is only possible in and through Jesus Christ.

III. The Dangerous Pattern In Temptation 1:19-20

Knowing the pattern that temptation takes can help us. There is a methodology within temptation - one we can understand and overcome through our Lord.

A. Laziness 19a

In verse 19 of our text today, we are told to be "quick to listen". The word quick signifies a tendency on our part to be lazy and indifferent. We must not let down our guard. Paul said, "Let him that thinketh that he standeth take heed lest he fall." We must stay alert and active for Christ. Let me add, that this also speaks to us about judging others. It is easy to see someone fall into sin and say, "I would never do that!" Be careful, my friend, for without God's light, power and protection, there is no sin that we will not commit. Be quick to listen. Be quick to observe and learn. Do not be arrogant or proud of your spiritual life. Always give credit to the Lord for all the good that is in you.

Satan does His greatest work through those who are spiritually lethargic. A man in Finland some years ago did the unthinkable; he left his entire estate to Satan. The courts did not know what to do with the home, barn and large farm which the man had owned. Finally, they decided to leave it alone, unworked and uncared for. Weeds grew in the field. The barn began to rot. The house paint pealed and termites began the work of eating away at its foundation. Left to itself, the farm became a haven for rats, spiders and snakes.

That is a life without discipline! That is a life left to Satan. We must be quick to listen to God. One man some years ago had an interesting thought. What would it be like to hear an angel? He read the Bible to see what angels said in the Bible when they spoke. The results astounded him. When angels talked in the Bible they almost always gave the command to arise and to go.

Peter was told to arise and go from the jail.

Gideon was told to arise and go forth in God's strength.

Elijah was told by an angel to arise and eat.

Joseph was told to arise and flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus.

Philip was told to arise and go.

If we are listening to God, He will likely be telling you to rise up rather than to sit down and do nothing. If we are not active for the Lord, we are likely a bigger target for temptation. Now, don't misunderstand what I'm saying. I am not saying that just being busy will keep you from sin. My grandmother used to say, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop." Well, we've all known of situations where active Christians fell into sin. What I mean by being active is that we must be close to the Lord and we must listen to Him. In every situation where a Christian falls into sin, there was a time when God said, "Run! Run for your life!" But, when we fail to truly walk with Him and listen carefully when He speaks, we will walk right into a trap. When God says, "Arise and Go," we must arise and go!

B. Talkativeness 19b

James has much to say about the tongue. We will look at that subject in a later message, but it is interesting to note here that he links the loose use of the tongue to falling into temptation. He is saying that we were given two ears and one tongue to teach us that we are supposed to use our ears twice as much as our tongue. One preacher of another generation once said that the average Christian is like a pair of worn out shoes - all run down except for the tongue!

"I'm careful of the words I say,

To keep them soft and sweet.

I never know from day to day,

Which ones I'll have to eat!

One young man came to Socrates and asked for speech lessons. Socrates talked to the young man awhile and told him he would be glad to teach him but he would have to charge him twice. When asked why, Socrates stated that the man needed two lessons: one lesson on how to hold his tongue and the other on how to use it! Hardly any sin begins that does not involve us saying something we had no business saying to start with. Remember, human beings even think in words. What do you say to yourself? Be sure that you speak what God says to speak.

C. Selfishness 20

The basic flaw in all of us is selfishness. James equates self-centeredness to anger. Indeed, almost all human anger is a result of selfish ambitions. In essence, we want our needs met first and foremost. We want our way and that often leads to hostility in our hearts and in our lives. The reason most little children fight with friends is because each wants something the other has. The reason many children kick and scream in the home is because something has been denied to them that they think they must have. Our selfish desires are a trap that ensnares us in a pit of our own making.

Temptation finds its way into our lives through our own lusts. We are drawn away by enticements much the same way a fish is drawn to a hook by bait. Our self-centeredness causes us to plunge forward toward our own gratification without stopping to listen to what God says. We find ourselves on the hook of sin being hauled into the boat of death!

Satan works in the night; God works in the light.

Satan works in the darkness; God works in the daylight.

We must walk in the Light in order to avoid the deeds of darkness.

Don't be deceived - keep your heart in the full, burning light of God's Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

In his book, Creation and Fall, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote regarding temptation, "At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real; the only reality is the devil. Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God ... The lust thus aroused envelops the mind and will of man in deepest darkness. The powers of clear discrimination and of decision are taken from us."

I expect that every person in this room has been right where Bonhoeffer described in his book at one time or another. My friends, we must recommit ourselves always and ever to walk in God's light. Anyone need strength today to be more faithful? Do you find yourself at times thinking, speaking and acting in ways you know are not God's will? Let us return to Him. Somehow, I think today that if an angel could come and speak to many of us in this service, during this invitation, that angel would say, "Rise and go!" Will you rise up during this invitation and come to the Lord of light who loves you and can see every pitfall out there before you? Come to Him now.