Sin is a real battle every follower of Christ faces. In part 1, we discovered why the battle with sin is so hard, and that hope arises from Christ. Today, we will go deeper together to discover a battle that rages in the heart of every person.
Battle rages in the heart with desires.
After identifying the thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors that need to change, as discussed in part 1, there is an additional step toward long-term change. The real war takes place in the heart where the process of sin begins. James writes, “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…” (James 1:14-15). Notice how he described the process. What you want, crave, or desire creates a trap which leads to sin. He uses a fishing and hunting metaphor to describe how your own desire captures you. He then transitions to a pregnancy metaphor where desire conceived leads inevitably to the birth of sin.
The biblical principle is clear: whatever you live for (your momentary desire) will influence everything else in your life. Jesus used the example of fruit trees to explain this process (Luke 6:43-45). No one would ever expect to get apples from a peach tree or peaches from an apple tree. The fruit always matches the root. So whatever it is you desire in your heart – that thing which exercises functional control over your heart – determines what you do. Your desire is the root; your response is the fruit. It becomes imperative then to identify what rules you at the desire level since that alone determines whether you honor God in your thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions. As Jesus said, “From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
As a way to understand this principle better, think of your life as a kingdom and your heart as the throne room. Whatever it is that you desire essentially sits on the throne of your heart. For the Christian that desire should be to love and honor the Lord in everything. But in many instances (possibly even seasons of life), instead of desiring to glorify God, something or someone else occupies the throne. Life is lived then not from love worshipping God; rather, life is lived worshipping and serving a God-replacement, an idol, an imposter on the throne of the heart.
Change becomes likely then as the believer recognizes what it is that he or she is living for at the desire level. Once identified, confession is made to God and commitments are made to live for something different. But committing to change alone is not enough. As mentioned in part 1, the hard work of determining the “put on” of righteousness with specificity is essential.
What is the process of temptation?
James connects temptations with desire. Whenever there is a particular pressure-filled circumstance in my life, my desire in that moment will determine whether or not I will sin. This is the way the process works:
You are in a particular circumstance.
You desire something.
You respond to that circumstance from your desire –
based upon what you want in, through, from, or out of it.
Your circumstance never makes you sin.
It is important here to understand that your circumstance or situation, which we referred to above as pressure, never makes you sin. The pressure is just the occasion from which your desire operates. However, many times we blame the pressure we are under rather than correctly identify our desire as the real culprit.
A few clarifying questions:
Have you ever blamed the way you felt as the reason behind your actions?
Have you ever blamed being tired?
Have you ever thought, “Had you not said that, then I wouldn’t have…”?
Have you ever blamed the other person’s driving as the reason for an outburst?
What about blamed a boss, co-worker, spouse, child, parent, neighbor, enemy, etc.?
We could go on and on.
Did the way you felt, lack of sleep, someone else’s words, another’s driving, a boss, co-worker, spouse, child, parent, neighbor, enemy, or whatever else make you sin? No, according to James.
Were any or all of those things influences on you? Yes
Were you in a favorable condition to sin? Yes
Did they make you sin though? No
Consider this example:
If I arrive at Panera Bakery with only a couple of minutes to spare and the line extends out the door, I may become grumpy, complain about the service, or be unkind to someone ahead of me in line. However, if I had two hours before my next scheduled appointment, with the same line, I may in fact be disappointed in having to wait in line but not become grumpy, irritable, and unkind.
Why? Because with the pressure of only a few minutes to spare, my desire for coffee may drive my attitude and behavior more than my desire to honor God, be kind to a neighbor, or live consistently with the gospel. When I have long enough to stay in line to get my coffee, my desire for coffee is not threatened. When I possibly do not have enough time, my desire for coffee is threatened. My desire rules in both instances and just responds to the immediate circumstance at hand. So when threatened, I sin because of my desire. When not threatened, I do not sin outwardly. Although there is no outward sin, the desire for coffee in that moment still rules me.
If, however, the desire to love Jesus and serve my neighbor ruled me, then in both instances I would not sin. Would there be disappointment? Yes. Would there be inconvenience? Yes. Would I sin though against neighbors, employees, and the company? No. Why? Because a desire to honor Christ ruled my heart – not living for a cup of coffee.
In part 3, you will learn that help begins with the Word of God and that victory is possible.
Join the Conversation
What have you typically blamed when you sin? Are yours listed here or is it something else?