Let's Talk About Temptation

Series: Hooked: Resisting Temptation

Good morning, my name is Wally and I am on the Pastoral leadership team here at Jericho Ridge.

  • Today, we take a bit of a break from our “This We Believe” series in the Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith.
  • Last weekend, we explored Article 4 of our Confession of Faith on Sin & Evil, and we are going to use that as a springboard for a 4-week sub-series on “Temptation”.
  • What does temptation look like as it inserts itself between God’s desires for us and our own desires?
  • How do we live with the daily reality of temptation and not give into it?
  • It’s a question that has plagued humanity from the onset.
  • As was said by one of his personal tutors about the great Roman General, Mark Antony, “Oh, Marcus, oh, colossal child! Able to conquer the whole world, but unable to resist temptation.”

 Friends, that reality applies not only to a historical figure, but to each of us today.

  • We all face temptation and we all succumb to it.
  • So let’s talk about temptation and how we can plan to stand against its destructive intentions in our lives.

I think it’s important that we begin with a basic understanding of the difference between trials and temptations.

  • The two are often wrongly interchanged: trials and temptations are actually two very different things.
  • Trials are ordeals, circumstances that test our faith with the intention of growing it and drawing us closer to God.
  • Normally there’s nothing immoral about experiencing a trial.
  • A trial is usually a hardship/trouble that most of the time, is not inherently evil.
  • Turn with me to the first chapter of the book of James in your Bible, where he addresses both trials and temptations.
  • In James 1:2-3, the author addresses the issue of trials:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles/trials of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 

  • And then through to verse 12, James talks about trials and their connection to God, and how we are to persevere and grow in our faith through our trials.

We have examples in the Bible of people being tested (not tempted) so that they could grow in their relationship with God:

  • Job has everything taken from him including his children;
  • The prophet Elijah experiences great depression;
  • The Apostle John was banished to a secluded island...
  • These men were not experiencing punishment for sin/immoral wrong-doing.
  • Rather their understanding of God was being deconstructed and reconstructed...
  • They went through a process of losing parts of God they misunderstood, or didn’t fully understand, in order to gain a more complete understanding of who God is.
  • So God can/does use trials/testing as a normal part of life.

Temptations are also a normal part of life.

  • But when we get to temptation, there’s a difference from trials.
  • Back to James 1 ... in vss. 2-12 he’s talking about trials, but then in vs.13 he starts to talk about temptation:

13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 

  • The concept has changed from the idea of an ordeal to work through, to the idea of something that solicits evil.
  • Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, hung by the Nazis in 1945, wrote a lengthy but excellent description of temptation:

In our members there is a slumbering inclination towards desire, which is both sudden and fierce. With irresistible power, desire seizes mastery over the flesh. All at once a secret smouldering fire is kindled. The flesh burns and is in flames. It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, or love of fame and power, or greed for money... Joy in God is extinguished in us as we seek all our joy in the creature.

At this moment God is quite unreal to us ... and only desire for the creature is real... Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God... (how insightful).  The lust thus aroused envelopes the mind and will of a person in deepest darkness.

The questions present themselves as, “Is what my flesh desires really sin in this case?” And, “Is it really not permitted me, yes, expected of me now, here in my particular situation to appease this desire?” It’s here that everything within me rises up against God..."

Friends, there’s not a person in this room or on this earth that has not experienced this solicitation/invitation toward sinful desire, including Jesus when he walked on earth as a human.

  • Webster’s describes it as being enticed to do wrong by a promise of pleasure or gain.
  • And there is not a human, except Jesus, that hasn’t yielded to temptation’s deceptive call for pleasure or gain.
  • Temptation is part of being human ... every day.


So what do we need to know about temptation if we are going to recognize it and then be able to stand against it?

First, 4 facts toward understanding temptation:

  1.  First, as I just said, temptation is inevitable... James 1,

13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 

  • James did not say, “IF you are being tempted...”
  • He said, “WHEN you are being tempted.”

 The simple fact is that we will never live without temptation.

  • You will never get to the place in life where you will no longer be tempted ... never!
  • If you think that is somehow attainable ... the moment you get to that fabled place, you bring with you the capacity for temptation.
  • Wherever you go, you take your thoughts with you and your thoughts are the avenue for temptation.
  • Satan targets your thinking no matter where you are.
  • The monk living behind cloistered walls wrestles with temptation as real as the plumber living in Langley.
  • Every one of us faces temptations... it’s inevitable... a normal part of being human.


  1. Second, temptation is never directed by God.
  • God permits temptation, but he never directs it.
  • God never leads us toward/into sin.
  • Notice in James 1:13 that God cannot be tempted to do evil and God does not tempt.

13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 

  • Hebrews 4:15 says that Satan attacked/tempted Jesus, but Jesus would not follow through and sin because he knew the temptations were not coming from God the Father.
  • 1 John 1:5 says,
    This is the message we heard from Jesusand now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 
  • What that means is that God can’t commune with evil intent.
  • And nor does he direct us into it.

When temptation is presented to us by the evil one, the choice to follow through and sin, is our choice.

  • As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, the focus of temptation is to separate us from God, to have us forget about God, so our focus turns solely on ourselves.
  • So when you are faced with sin, don’t pull an Adam and try putting the blame on Eve with the implication that God was trying to trick you and somehow set you up for failure.
  • That thought is exactly what James is trying to contradict.
  • God is not even indirectly engaged in bringing us into sin.
  • God permits evil and temptation to exist, but he is holy other and has no part in the process that leads to sin.
  • God never authors or directs temptation.


  1. The third characteristic of temptation is that it’s an individual matter.
  • So temptation cannot be blamed on God... and it cannot be blamed on other people.
  • Temptation is directed at the self, myself, yourself.
  • James 1:14,

13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 

  • Whenever we choose to engage temptation, it’s an individual matter ... it’s on me ... it’s my issue.
  • I cannot point the finger at anyone else.
  • Sin takes place when I agree to a temptation and follow it.
  • It takes a willful agreement on my part.
  • Not until I give consent to myself, and actively involve myself, does temptation succeed and sin occur.

 And friends, the process has a normal and recognizable process, which is the 4th fact in understanding temptation.

  1. Temptation that leads to sin follows the same general process.
  • Remember, being tempted is not a sin!
  • Jesus was tempted and was sinless.
  • However, yielding to temptation is sinful and destructive.
  • James 1:14 describes the start of the process and in v.15 the culmination of the process.
  • Let’s use a fishing analogy:
    • Step 1: The bait is dropped.
    • Step 2: My inner desire is attracted to the bait.
    • Step 3: Sin occurs when I yield first in my thoughts and also when I actually take the bait.
    • Step 4: Sin results in tragic consequences... we end up hooked and fried. 

James 1:14-15 says it like this,

14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

  • The word “entice” continues in the fishing analogy.
  • When you fish, you’ve got to provide bait that entices.
  • Present the right bait and you will eventually catch fish.
  • Same with us humans... the bait is presented to lure us.


  • Now, does that mean you have to take the bait?
  • When you are tempted, do you have a choice? Or is sin always the final outcome?
  • None of us here is perfect ... we will yield and sin.
  • However, we can become increasingly consistent in saying no to our temptations.
  • Let’s conclude on this front.


Temptation can be counteracted by a particular act... and that act is one of the fruits/gifts of the Holy Spirit.

  • In Galatians 5:22-23 we read,

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control.

  • The word we are looking for is “self-control”.
  • The word means “in strength”, which is what the Holy Spirit is gifting us with, inner strength/mastery of self.
  • One of the things that the Holy Spirit does for Christians is enable us to master self, particularly when tempted.
  • Temptation is counteracted by self-control that the Holy Spirit imparts to us.

Now, the “temptation” here is to say that this process is all on God... it’s not something I do, but the Holy Spirit does it all.

  • Which leads to thinking that there’s nothing I can do to resist temptation ... the Holy Spirit has to give me self-control, so it’s all on him whether I succeed or fail.
  • That rationale is unbiblical ... and will not work.
  • If you try to passively deal with temptation, it will conquer you every time.
  • Yes, the fruit and the power of the Holy Spirit are available ... self-control does come from God...
  • BUT, we have to receive it, activate it, and grow it!

How do we do this?

Briefly, 4 concluding applications:

  1. Our natural inclinations must be counteracted.
  • Namely, openly understand and name your weaknesses.
  • Do a deep personal dive and hide nothing in terms of your humanity, your weaknesses.
  • Then use the Scriptures, prayer and accountability to counteract tempting thoughts with truth. 

2. Guard your time.

  • Cultivate a plan for how you use your time, both active and down-time/leisure.
  • When you understand how/where/when you are tempted, you can anticipate it and avoid being in those spaces.
  • Remember that temptation begins in our thought process long before it ever presents itself in reality.
  • So plan ahead, choose wisely how you will spend your time and where you will place yourself in the day.
  1. Avoid isolation, but also screen your companions.
  • It’s always easier to yield to temptation when no else is looking or around to hold us accountable.
  • So be careful of idle isolation... but at the same time, evaluate who you are spending your time with.
  • Take an inventory of how you spend your time and who you spend your time with.
  • Are you spending time with God? Are the people around you spending time with God and maturing in their faith?
  • Are they encouraging/challenging you toward Jesus, or are they influencing you toward earthly desires.
  • The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4,

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

  1. Fourth, accept personal responsibility.
  • You chose to live in a relationship with Jesus, so take responsibility when you don’t live up to your role in the relationship.
  • Take initiative by planning and implementing the first 3 steps...
  • Put in the effort to engage self-control...
  • But when temptation wins the moment, take responsibility!
  • Confess your sin, to yourself, to God, and to another person whom you trust to be spiritually mature.
  •  James also says in chapter 5 of his book,

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.... 16 ...confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

  • Confession takes the power of sin and eradicates it.
  • It enters into the dark playground of evil and draws us into the light, where God does his work of grace.
  • But it’s always our choice/responsibility to engage in that process, as incredibly humbling as it is.
  • Just as I choose to give in to temptation, I also have the choice to ask for forgiveness through confession.


Friends, this is not some mystical, unattainable talent reserved for the very experienced or the very pious.

  • Understanding and resisting temptation is something that anyone who follows Jesus can do.
  • When Paul says in Philippians 4:13 that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength, that includes recognizing and resisting temptation.
  • But ... it doesn’t just automatically happen.
  • We need to engage: we need to learn, to act and to take responsibility in conjunction with the Holy Spirit.

 As the worship team comes forward and our prayer team goes to the back, we are going to move into a time of response.

  • Perhaps today you are tired of living in a repeating cycle of temptation that leads to sin...
  • Perhaps today you want to strengthen your stance against temptation and become even more proactive...
  • Perhaps today you want to take responsibility and confess what’s happening with respect to temptation in your life...
  • We invite you to engage God, talk to him as you worship.
  • And we welcome you to speak/pray with one of our trusted prayer team members or email
Temptation inserts itself between the Kingdom of God and our kingdom of self. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that in that moment, temptation doesn't elicit within us a hatred of God, but a forgetfulness of God that focuses us on our own desires. How can we recognize the deceptive intent of temptation and steer clear of the evil one's intention to destroy our character and faith?

Speaker: Wally Nickel

March 6, 2022
James 1:2-15

Wally Nickel

Transitional Pastor

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