LeRoy Eims on the importance of Scripture memory: "I think two of the master strokes of the devil have been to convince people he doesn't exist, and that Scripture memory is only for children. He remembers the humility of defeat when Jesus Christ, who was tempted in all points like as we are, met him with the Word of God." (What Every Christian Should Know About Growing; p. 26-27)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

James 1:16

Today is Wednesday so begin by reviewing 1 Corinthians 13.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. (NIV)

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.  (ESV)

Today's verse is a short, but powerful one.

We saw yesterday that sin is a process.  It begins in the emotions when we desire something, maybe even something good, but we desire it to excess or in a twisted way.  It then moves into our minds when we rationalize the sin.  It then moves into our will as we design a plan to carry out our sin.  And then it ends in the actual act of sin.

What's the most effective way to deal with our sin?  The earlier the better, of course!

MacArthur again:

At what point then in our lives do we deal with sin? Out here at the level of behavior? No. Way back at the level of what? Of desire. It is the person who is able to control their emotional responses that is going to deal effectively with sin. Or, the person who if feeling those emotional responses has a mind that is sanctified. And when it gets from the emotions to the mind, it is halted at that point. If it makes it to the will and something is conceived, it will be born. A child conceived is a child born. That child's got to come out.
And so, in dealing with sin in our lives, we don't just deal on the end of the line effectively, we've got to go way back to the beginning. If the emotions are allowed to be exposed to the baited hook, you've got problems. And, you know, everything in our evil society will work on your emotions. All the dramatic things, all the movies and television and books and music and clothing and all the alluring sights and sounds and things that attract our attention are all designed first to capture the emotion. There's all a facade that is intended to allure us....
A woman puts on perfume and leaves a trail. That is not for your intellect. We need to guard at the level of emotion and secondly, at the level of mind. And so the mind is to be brought into captivity to Christ. Isn't that a great truth? Bringing everything in the mind into captivity to Christ. An unprotected, uncontrolled, unyielded mind is going to be filled with evil images. So I have to control my emotions. I have to control my mind because that's where the thing gets started. So I want to be sure that my emotions are given over to the things of God....
You cannot expose your emotions continually to things which lure you away from the things of God. You can't do that without paying a dear price.
And the mind, it's very simple, you need the mind of Christ. You need a renewed mind. You need a mind that is set on things above and not on things on the earth. You need a mind that is saturated with the Word of Christ dwelling in it richly. You need a mind, Paul says in Romans 12:2, that is transformed and not conformed to the world. You need to, can I put it simply? love the Lord your God with all your mind. What's in your mind? What's in your mind? If your mind feeds on the Word of God, then you're going to stop sin way back. If your emotions are under the control of the Spirit of God, and your feelings have been brought captive to Him, you're going to stop sin back where it starts. If you let your emotions go and expose them to everything the world is throwing out and you let your mind be an open door for everything to fly in and out and it's not cultivated and plowed deeply with the Word of God, then you will conceive sin and you will bring forth the child....and the child turns out to be a killer. Sin is a killer. The wages of sin is what? death. Spiritual death separating the soul from God, physical death separating the soul from the body, eternal death separating the soul and body from God.
And he's not here particularly talking about Christians or non-Christians, he's just saying all sin ever produces is death. Even for a believer, can be physical death, as 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 John 5:16 demonstrate. All kinds of death flows out of sin. So the idea that you're bringing some satisfying behavior to life is a lie. All you bring is sin and all sin brings is death...
Stop being deceived....Know where the trouble is, he's saying, don't be deceived. Stop blaming God and start blaming yourself. And start looking within and don't go blindly through life just accepting what is and then blaming God. Realize that you have within you an enemy and that enemy is your own fallenness and your own lust and that enemy must be dealt with. You cannot expose your emotion to everything that lures you. You cannot let your mind become captive to those things. You've got to know where the problem is, not be deceived about it, go back there and deal with it at that level. Stop it at the start. Fill your mind with the things of God so that they can never mate with your feelings and conceive sin in your will.
If your emotions are controlled or if your mind is controlled, either one, leaves the other without a mate to conceive sin. 

Even as believers - perhaps, especially as believers, we need to take sin seriously.  We serve a holy God.  Yes, we serve a merciful God.  Yes, we serve a gracious God.  Yes, we serve a loving God.  But we serve a holy God.  And that makes His mercy, grace and love even more amazing.  We need to take sin as seriously as God takes it.

We need to deal with it at a grass roots level.  We need to be proactive.  We cannot expose our emotions to the things we know lure us - and only you know what that is for you.  It's not the same for everyone.  And then, we cannot allow our mind to become captive to those things.

The best way to deal with it is both positively and negatively.  Yes, remove the evil temptations, and don't allow yourself to be exposed to the things you are susceptible to.  But also purposefully fill your emotions and mind with things that are pure.

A great companion verse would be Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Think about these things.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

James 1:15

Today is Tuesday so begin by reviewing the Book of Titus, then James 1:1-14, the move on to today's verse.

15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (NIV)

15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (ESV)

I'm going to quote from MacArthur's sermon again:
James shifts metaphors away from hunting and fishing to childbirth, as he comes to verse 15 and discusses the nature of lust.....Most people think of sin as a solitary act or a series of acts or behaviors. God is saying here that sin is not an act, sin is the result of a process....

Sin begins with the desire.  An emotionally longing after something that you think will satisfy you.

Then it moves from the emotion of desire to the deception of your mind, as you justify and rationalize going after the object of your desire, and you convince yourself that it will be fulfilling.

It moves from emotion, to the mind, and then to the will - you begin to design (MacArthur's going with "D's"!) how you're going to pull the sin off, and sin is conceived.

And then we have disobedience, where the actual act of sin occurs.  We've moved from the emotion to the mind to the will and then to the behaviour, and we have given birth to sin, a child that turns out to be a killer.  Death.

The wages of sin is what? death. Spiritual death separating the soul from God, physical death separating the soul from the body, eternal death separating the soul and body from God.....

The emotions lead the mind to rationalize. The rationalized mind leads the will to plan. And now the baby is born and the deed is done and it all began with the desire.

Sin is a process.  In order to effectively deal with sin, we've got to fight it at the beginning.  More on that tomorrow.

Monday, April 22, 2013

James 1:14

Today is Monday, so begin by reviewing all the Psalms you've memorized.

Review v 1-13 of James 1 and then move on to verse 14.

14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. (NIV)

14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (ESV)

We saw last week that God cannot be tempted by evil, and He does not tempt any one. And we need to review that because today's verse starts with "but"

John MacArthur:  God tempts no one. He allows temptation to go on and men like David can make a choice. But God does not tempt. He allows us to be tested, even as He allowed Christ to be tested. But never more than we are able to bear and always giving the resource for victory if we choose that resource. And when we cry, "Lead us not trial or temptation," we are simply saying, "God, we ask You to do what You've promised to do and never give us more than we can bear."

So, the nature of evil says that God cannot be tempted. He can't even experience evil, therefore He can't tempt anybody else. As I said, in order to tempt someone else, He would have to delight Himself in temptation and sin which He is incapable of. His delight is only in that which is pure and holy. 
God cannot be tempted.  God cannot tempt anyone.  BUT every single person can be. Everyone.  No exception.

When are we tempted?  When we are lured or baited by our own lust and trapped into sin.

Just think about that imagery. The reason animals are baited and trapped and fish are baited and trapped is because the bait looks good. It looks attractive. It looks inviting. And all they see is the bait. And instead of the anticipated pleasure, when they grab the bait comes the pain of capture and death. So it is with temptation. It dangles out there and it promises a tasty indulgence, it promises a satisfying morsel, it promises greater pleasure, fun, reward and it lures the suckered victim into its trap and hook in a deadly way.
Now what does that? What does that? Whose fault is that? What pulls us so strongly to the bait? Is it God? No. Is it Satan? No, Satan baits the hook and the world baits the hook and demons bait the hook and men bait the hook and a lot of folks bait the hook but what pulls us to the hook? What pulls us to the trap? What is it? Lust. And that's the nature of man. Our fallenness has, as a part of its entity, desire for evil.
Would you notice it doesn't say he is drawn away by lust, but of his own lust? Very emphatic. "His own" emphasizes that we're not talking about some generic term only that everyone possess commonly with everyone else in just the same way. But each individual, “hekastos,” each individual has his own particular bent of lust which is really the thing that lures him to the bait. And is it not true that one person's passion is another's person's repulsion? Sure it is. I see people who are literally by their lust driven into homosexuality. That absolutely repulses me. You can bait that hook all you want in front of me and you'll see me go the other direction. We all have a certain, I wouldn't want to use the word character, but we all have certain characteristics of our lust which makes some baited traps and baited hooks more alluring to us than others. And that's why he is individualizing this by saying "his own" lust....
the problem in our sinning is not God, the problem is not even the devil, the problem is not even demons, the problem is not even the world or wicked men, listen, the world, wicked men, demons and the devil all surrounded Jesus Christ through His entire life and yet He never sinned because there was never in Him any “epithumia.” There was no lust. There was no pull. Nothing put on the hook attracted Him in any way.....The problem is not the tempter without, the problem is the traitor within, that's the problem. Our temptability is because of the nature of man and his own peculiar desires. And each person's soul has its own patterns of fleshly desire as a result of his environment and his upbringing and his personal choices....The issue is that in the nature of man, there is a propensity to desire things that satisfy. And if lured to those things outside the will of God, there is the capacity to bite the hook...
Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and the enemy is us." That's right. That's profound. The enemy is us....
The problem is that even though we've been redeemed and even though we've received a new nature and even though we are created in Christ Jesus, we still have an enemy within. And it is passion. It is that longing to be satisfied with something which in and of itself may be a good thing.
In fact, most all lust is simply God's good gift twisted and perverted. God, for example, gives us the blessing of sleep. And some people lust after it until they become lazy, indolent sluggards....
There's nothing wrong with thirst. God's given us that as a desire which leads us to do things beneficial to our body. But some people drink themselves into the gutter. There's nothing wrong with food, but some people become gluttonous. There's nothing wrong with wanting our needs supplied but it's easy to pervert your needs and get way beyond what they really are. Even sex is given by God as a wonderful glorious gift, but when perverted and sought for beyond the will of God, becomes the baited hook to trap the person who is driven by lust for those things.

Sorry, that got a little long, but I thought it was such an excellent explanation of this verse.

God is not responsible for our tempting.  Our own lust is responsible.  We are responsible.  Every. single. one. of. us.

Doesn't that make you so thankful for the grace and mercy of God lavished on us in Christ Jesus?!  Meditate on that as you hide this verse in your heart today.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

James 1:13

Today is Tuesday, so begin by reviewing the Book of Titus, then the first 12 verses of James 1, before moving on to today's verse.  At one verse a week, this is going to take forever!  Sorry about the delay in moving on, but here we go.

Quick note: the NIV 1984 has been removed from online resources, so I have switched one translation to the NIV.  I'm disappointed that it's not available anymore, even though I'm using the ESV.

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; (NIV)

13 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. (ESV)

This may seem like a sudden transition - from trials to temptations.  But it's not really.  Trials can become temptations.

John MacArthurEvery difficult thing that comes into my life either strengthens me because I obey God and stay confident in His care and trusting His power, and so I grow. Or I am tempted to doubt God, deny His Word, disobey, do what is expedient and thus I have fallen to the solicitation to do evil.
The same word that means an enticement to evil is also used to speak of a trial. The difference is how you respond to it. If you respond to a trial with obedience, then you find it a means of spiritual growth. If you respond to a trial with disobedience it has turned into a temptation and you have fallen prey to it. Every trial has the potential to become a temptation, depending on our response.
So, James makes this shift from trials, which lead to growth and blessing, to temptations which lead to sin and death. Every circumstance of life that we face then provides us with a decision. In fact, it requires a decision. Will I persevere? Will I move ahead in faith in God by obedience to His Word? Or will I listen to the voice that suggests the easy way out is disobedience and fall into sin?
Now if I fall into sin, whose fault is it? Is it God's fault who brings the trials or allows them? Is it the fault of my circumstances? Is it the fault of my being created by God the way I am and I can't help it? Whose fault is it?
We have a tendency to blame anyone but ourselves for our own sin, don't we?  Started with Adam - when God questioned him, he blamed both Eve and God!  Eve blamed the snakes, and God since He created the snake.  And we do the same - even if only subconsciously.  God made me, He orchestrated my circumstances, He's sovereign - so it must be His fault.

In this verse, James makes it absolutely clear that temptation is absolutely not God's fault.  We cannot blame Him or excuse ourselves.  God cannot be tempted, and He tempts no one.  Black and white.

Monday, April 8, 2013

James 1:12

Today is Monday so begin your day by reviewing the Psalms you've memorized.

Review James 1:1-11 and then move on to today's verse.

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (NIV)

12 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.  (ESV)

From one of MacArthur's sermons on the book of James.....
Trials cannot destroy faith. I want you to know that, I want to keep emphasizing that. Trials do not destroy faith, they only put it to the test. And the faith that stands the test is proven to be genuine and the faith that fails the test is proven to be false. Trials cannot destroy faith, they can only test it.

When believers remain steadfast under a trial, their faith is proved genuine and they will be rewarded with the crown of life.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

James 1:11

Today is Tuesday, so begin by reviewing the book of Titus before going on to our passage in James.

11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. (NIV)

11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. (ESV)

From my MacArthur commentary....
James draws... a picture of Palestine's flowers and flowering grasses, which colorfully flourish in February and dry up by May. This is a clear allusion to Isaiah 40:6-8, which speaks of the scorching sirocco wind that burns and destroys plants in its path. This picture from nature illustrates how divinely wrought death and judgment can quickly end the wealthy person's dependence on material possessions.

Today's verse is pretty long, so I'm taking the liberty of deciding that we will take 2 days to learn this one. You can divide it into two parts if you like, or just go over the whole thing for two days, it's up to you.