James 1:12-17 “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. 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. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived give birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
Humanistic psychology maintains that man is essentially good, and that it is an evil society that makes us do bad things. That’s why proponents push for social reform, trying to address crime, poverty and lack of education. The Bible tells us differently. We sin because we’re sinners. Our flesh is corrupted by the fall that took place with Adam and Eve, giving us the potential, ability and inclination to sin. Jesus came to redeem or rescue us from this condition. When we turn to Jesus to fix our sin condition, He cancels out the sin debt, breathes life into our spirit man, and we then serve Him instead of Satan. We are free to say no to sin and yes to God.
Practically speaking, we still struggle with sin. James writes that we are not to blame God. Instead we are to see that it our own desire, our flesh that causes us to blow it. Romans 8:22-23 tells us that all creation groans waiting for God to abolish sin–that’s in verse 22. Then in verse 23, we see that those who have the Holy Spirit (Christians) groan as well, waiting for the redemption of our bodies.
Do you groan? I do. I groan at my weak flesh, my tendency to take the easy way out or to lose patience and get snappy. I groan at my lack of self control and other failings. I need Jesus each day to keep me from myself, to protect me from my own weaknesses and to pull me along God’s path instead of my own. I need Him more than a good cup of coffee, more than a healthy retirement portfolio, more than a new outfit, and more than a little down time. Aren’t those things what we run to when we start to feel a gnawing inside? Grab a Snickers. No, run to Jesus.
I heard a sermon once where the pastor said, “Jesus hasn’t redeemed our flesh yet, only our souls.” I think that’s true. That’s what Romans 8:23 points to. Our flesh will be redeemed from the fall when creation is, when Jesus returns. In the meantime we have to check in with God each day to keep our flesh in check.
The other thoughts that this section of James makes me think about are Old Testament examples that make you go “hmmm.” They point to God’s character just like James 1 does. Passages like 1 Samuel 16:14-15 where it tells us a harmful spirit from God tormented Saul. Or 2 Samuel 24 where we read that God incited David against Israel because He was angry with Israel and had David take a census. In 1 Chronicles 21:1 it instead tells us that Satan incited David because he stood against Israel. So which one is it? And doesn’t James 1 say that God doesn’t do that?
It was Saul’s bitterness and disobedience that opened a door for Satan to torment him. And it was David’s pride that led him to take the census, his own flesh. Oh no, we’re back to our flesh again. Satan does God’s bidding, as Colossians 1:16 and 2:15 declare. God created Satan for His purposes. Jesus triumphed over Satan at the cross. One day He will throw him into the lake of fire, when Jesus finishes him off. God uses Satan to bring Him glory and He has way more power than Satan. We can’t ever forget that.
That is our human condition. Satan is a prowling lion, wanting to devour us. God sits on the throne in Heaven, with Jesus at His right hand. God uses all things to bring glory to Himself and has plans and ways that go way beyond our comprehension. I need Jesus every hour of every day to keep fighting that flesh battle. I need the Holy Spirit’s power to stand and to endure. My body and flesh groans waiting for the final redemption. Does yours?