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Stepping Out of the Straight and Narrow Way and Getting Into Trouble, Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #39)

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TEXT: James 1:12-16

12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

13 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:

14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.

Jesus Christ said in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

Stepping Out of the Straight and Narrow Way and Getting Into Trouble, Part 2 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #39)

The temptation to sin is a recurring problem for all people, Christian and non-Christian alike. The great American statesman, Benjamin Franklin, who is considered by many to be a very wise man, once set out to live in moral perfection. He stated that if he knew right from wrong, he saw no reason why he ought not to be able to always do what was right and always avoid doing what was wrong. However, he remarked in his autobiography that after attempting to do this, “I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my care was employed in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes too strong for reason.”

As Christians in the world, we also face the same dilemma as Benjamin Franklin. The temptation to do something that is displeasing to God is always present. As Paul said, “Evil is present with me.” Last week, we looked at the “Why” behind Christians who fall into sin and begin to stray from the straight and narrow path. There are two main reasons for this: the devil and the flesh. The devil wants to destroy a Christian’s testimony and make him or her an ineffective witness for Christ. And when we speak of the “flesh,” we are talking about our human nature which is naturally sinful. The pull of these two forces often leads many Christians to go astray and to leave the straight and narrow way.

Today, we are going to look at the consequences of such action so that we will be fortified against temptation and encouraged to not give in to temptation. Our passage states, “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust [his fleshly desires], and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

In this passage, James gives us appropriate and vivid biological imagery. Dr. Walvoord and Dr. Zuck state, “The lust or desire conceives and from this conception sin is born. The unmentioned father is most certainly Satan. The grotesque child, sin, then matures and produces its own offspring, death. The steps are all too clear: unchecked lust yields sin, and unconfessed sin brings death.”

Remember: our lust is our fleshly desire, our sinful yearning for that which we should not have. In the Garden of Eden, Satan awakened this lust in our ancient mother Eve. She desired the knowledge of good and evil — and the power to choose between the two — which she should not have had. Nearly everything evil in the world can be traced back to “lust” or fleshly desire — the desire for power, the desire for prominence, the desire for possessions. The Jewish philosopher Philo [PHY-LOW] said all wars “are sprung from one source — desire, the desire for money or glory or pleasure. These it is that bring disaster to the human race.”

Each of us must contend with fleshly desires. Men and women are tempted to have sexual relations with someone they are not married to. Children often desire to rebel against their parents’ authority. Some have the desire to steal, to kill, or to slander. Others struggle with the desire to eat or drink excessively. We are all familiar with carnal desire or fleshly lust.

If we yield to these desires, what happens? James says our desires conceive and bring forth sin. Because of our sinful nature, it is natural to desire things that we cannot have. However, only when we give in to these desires do we actually sin. Dr. Douglas Moo states the following: “James implies that temptation, in and of itself, is not sinful. Only when desire ‘conceives’ — when it is allowed to produce offspring — does sin come into being. The point is an important one, for some extremely sensitive Christians may feel that the fact of their continuing to experience temptation demonstrates that they are out of fellowship with the Lord. To be sure, as one develops more and more of a Christian ‘mind,’ the frequency and power of temptation should grow less. But temptation will be part of our experience, as it was the experience of the Lord himself, throughout his time on earth. Christian maturity is not indicated by the infrequency of temptation but by the infrequency of succumbing to temptation.”

The older you grow in the Lord, the easier it should become to say “no” to your fleshly desires and “yes” to God’s will. In a recent Barna survey, people were asked why they give in to temptation. 20% admitted that it is because they enjoy the sin. 20% said they do it to escape reality or to get away from real life. 8% said they do it to feel less pain. 7% said they do it to satisfy other people’s expectations. 2% said they do it because it is a shortcut to what they want. But, the largest percentage — 50% — said they don’t know why they give in to temptation. I think most of us probably fall into that category. After we give in to temptation and see the results of it, we look back with remorse and say, “Why on earth did I do that?” No matter how we rationalized and justified it beforehand, after it is all said and done, we realize the stupidity of our actions and admit (at least to ourselves) that there is no real reason why we had to go and do what we did.

If we allow our temptations to lead us into sin, James tells us that “sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” The Greek word for “finished” means “to bring to an end or to accomplish.” In this sense, sin is viewed as an active force; once it is released in your life, it will wreak havoc especially if it is not confessed and dealt with. Sometimes, the consequences of sin come about swiftly. Other times, sin festers slowly and the consequences come years or months down the road. Whatever the case, the result of sin — death — will come about.

This death that James talks about is the death of the spiritual life of the believer. If you continue in sin, you will eventually begin to drift away from the straight and narrow path. A Christian whose life is infused with sin that they do not want to get rid of will eventually cease praying, cease reading the Bible, cease attending church, and cease fellowshipping with other Christians. Their relationship with God will begin to falter. Why? Because inside of every believer is two forces — the force of the sinful flesh and the force of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:17 tells us that “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other.” Only one of these forces can have control over your life. If you let sin take over your life, it will be almost as if the Spirit of God has died within you.

That is where temptation leads — to sin and eventually to death.

Nothing is more tragic than a spiritually dead Christian — someone who once experienced the life of God within them, but who has now forfeited that blessing to partake of the pleasures of sin.

Ladies and gentlemen, you probably are being tempted with something right now. There is some forbidden fruit that the devil dangles in front of you on a regular basis. Perhaps you have considered stretching forth your hand to touch it and taste it. Don’t do it. Maybe you have easy access to some money on your job that doesn’t belong to you but that would solve a lot of your financial problems. Say no! Maybe there is a beautiful woman on the job showing you attention. Say no! Maybe there is a handsome man on the job showing you attention. Say no! Maybe you see an opportunity to get ahead without doing things the right way. Say no! Maybe you see how easy it would be to tear down somebody who has wronged you with slanderous, negative words. Say no!

Let this message be a warning to you. Temptation leads to sin and sin leads to death. Say “no!” Stay on the straight and narrow way. Don’t let temptation get you off the straight and narrow way and get you into trouble.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to share with you briefly how you can be saved from your sins and be guaranteed a home in Heaven with God today.

First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Please understand that because of your sins, you deserve eternal punishment in hell. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death…This is both physical death and spiritual death in hell. That is the bad news.

But here is the good news. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.

If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.” Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.