I. A restatement of the Blessings in the Thorns (v. 12)
A. One of the reasons for being able to have joy in the midst of trials is that we know God will work it out to His glory. (Romans 8:28)
B. Another reason for being able to have joy is that the ultimate end result will be us being made more like Christ, until that day when we get to heaven, and we are just like Him. (“...And when you have been approved, you shall receive the crown of life.”)
- “...been approved...” – the idea: Passed the test- when we have endured all that God has asked of us to endure for this life
- The crown of life: when we shall see Christ with our own eyes and shall see the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise of eternal life and fellowship with Him.
II. Where do the trials and temptations come from? (v.13-15)
A. In this context, James is not talking about chastisement from God because of sin. God has specifically said that in those moments, He will try us and that we will know it is of Him, so if, as James tells us, God will not send temptation and trials, he must be using the words to mean something different. Consider the holiness of God and whether or not this would go against His nature to actually put that trial or temptation there Himself (vs. allowing it to happen).
B. These trials and temptations come from either within us (lust of the flesh) or from the world (the lust of the eyes and the pride of life).
C. It is not the temptation that is wrong, but what we choose to do when the temptation is before us.
- “...When he is carried away of his own lusts....” This is the part where we allow temptation to gain a ground hold and a solid foundation within our hearts, allowing for the beginning of going down that path towards sin. This is the part where we generally think to ourselves, “A little bit can’t hurt” or “I can control this” or “This shouldn’t be a problem since I know I can walk away whenever I want.” These are lies of our own hearts and the devil to ensnare us.
- “When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin”-this is where we actually begin to act out those thoughts of, “A little bit can’t hurt” and we find ourselves doing the things that we promised to God we would never do.
- The result of that choice of sin: “...and when sin is finished, sin brings forth death.” Whether it is our relationship with God, or our relationships with others (which is effected by our relationship with God), when we sin, we kill those relationships. Often times, those sins will in a small way physically kill us over time (smoking, drinking, drugs, stress from the guilt of what we’ve done or the stress from the bitterness, anger, hate, depression, etc.). According to God, if man had not sinned in the garden, he would not have to physically die. It is because of sin that we age and die. Some sins speed up the process faster than others do.
A. James uses this verse as a transition into his next thought.
B. First, he says, “Do not be deceived” in that we should not be deceived by sin.
C. “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”-James is pleading that we would not fall back into the deception that sin once had over us before we were Christians; He is pleading that we not fall back into the snare of the devil.
D. He also uses deceive to tell us how we can know what truth really is as he goes into verse 17. (hence the phrase, “My beloved brethren”- agape)
IV. What is truth then and how will it help us to see the blessings in the midst of the trials of our faith? (v. 17-18)
A. First, variation or shifting of shadow = God’s Immutability-He cannot change his nature, which plays into the context of this along with God’s Holiness from v. 13
B. This verse is the “Why?” to what James says in v. 16.
C. “Every good gift is from above....” We can know what is truth and what is not based upon its comparison to Scripture. We have to take each moment of our lives as we are living it and filter it through the Biblical Grid.
V. The Gift of God (v. 18)
A. The exercise of His Will
- “He brought us forth....”- We are only who we are because of Christ. “But for the grace of God, go I....”
- “...By the Word of Truth....”-It is God’s Word that is this gift to us, for without His Word, we could not have salvation (John 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:16).
- First fruits = unique, set apart, sanctified, made holy and pure
- God gave us the gift of His truth so that we would be unique in that as we have fellowship with Him we can withstand the trials of life as they come. We can, through that gift of His truth, trust and depend on Him for strength and have something to stand on when those trials and temptations come.
1) Do you see the blessings in the thorns? Are you allowing the temptations and trials of this life to help you become more like Christ?
2) When the temptations come, are you fighting against sin, or are you simply giving place to it? Are you deceiving yourself or are you trusting in God’s Immutable Truth to help you in times of struggle?
3) Are you living the separated life from sin and allowing yourself to be set apart for God? Are you that unique fruit that He wants you to be?