In this episode, we look at the drastic progression of sin and the increasing effect it has on our lives. Our flesh often believes the enticing promises of the world, but their end is death. Goodness comes from God alone; he is the steward of all good gifts. Life is about a choice between two Kingdoms: will we follow God and his offerings or the way of the world?
Giving birth to sin and death
So we’ll go into that now. Verse 13.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
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; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
So now we’re going to have a pregnancy and a delivery and then raise a child. That’s what this analogy is.
How does the pregnancy happen? There’s a conception. How does the conception happen? You have a temptation. And where does the seed come from? The temptation you see, but where’s the seed? Where’s the fundamental problem? Is it from outside? It’s already in there. The basic problem we have is already within us, and it’s our sin nature.
So, the temptation gives us nothing but opportunity. All it does is show us an opportunity. So we have the opportunity, and we receive that opportunity and then sin is conceived.
So now we have the baby growing in us. At any time, we can set that aside. But we can’t say, “I’m going to ungrow that baby.” Or we can’t say, “I don’t have that nature anymore.” We can say that; it doesn’t work. And we can’t just say, “I’m going to get rid of that nature.” That nature’s always there.
So what do we do? Well, we’ll get to that.
We’re tempted when we’re drawn away by his own desires and enticed. That’s where the conception happens.
And then sin grows up. We harbor this sin. We allow it to continue on. We probably defend it. We spiritualize it. You know, “I’m not angry, I’m just righteously indignant.” “I’m not creating divisiveness; I’m just standing for truth.” Which can be true. You know, truth is divisive. But we will use good things to justify bad things. That’s what we do as humans.
And we’ll probably blame others. You know, “This isn’t my fault. My parents dropped me on my head,” or something like that.
We cultivate the sin and now we get nice and pregnant. And then we give birth. And now the sin is out in the world. And now we’re in full-scale growing it up, nurturing it. And then it grows up and becomes death because the result of, the wages of, the consequences of sin is always death.
What kind of death? Could be physical death. It was spiritual death with Adam and Eve. We inherited that. We get new life spiritually when we believe in Jesus; but the experience of the new life depends on walking by faith.
And our salvation, if you will, our deliverance from that death has three distinctive phases. It has a phase of being born which is a new nature. And then the experience daily of walking in the wisdom of God, walking by faith in the daily life. And then ultimately getting shed of our rotten flesh and getting a new spiritual body in the new earth.
That process is what we’re in the middle of at this point in time.
Don’t be deceived
—when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Verse 16. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
Why do we usually see something that’s tempting and say, “Wow. I would like to have that!” What’s usually our thought process? “What can I do to get it?”
Why do I want it? Well, maybe because someone else has it. I need it. It looks good. This is good for me. This will help me. This is where fun is. This is really living. This is where happiness happens. This is where security comes from. This is what will give me freedom.
Advertisers get this really well, don’t they? I talked to a guy who was a Marlboro advertiser long ago, back when they were able to advertise. And he told me what they sold was freedom and ruggedness.
Will cigarettes actually make you free? Aren’t they addictive? Isn’t that kind of the opposite of what they do? Like, “I have to have this right now!”
Well, but they’re selling something that’s the opposite of what they do.
Does a 401K actually make you secure? Does putting your money with this money manager actually make you secure?
Does charging a baseball ticket and a $40 hotdog, does that actually make your life enjoyable? Or does paying that out with 20 percent interest actually make you more miserable over time?
Is going to Vegas really living it up? Does everything you do actually stay there, and there’s no consequences that follow you anywhere else? Really? Is that really what happens?
Well, that’s what’s sold, and that’s what we say to ourselves. “This is great! And I can get away with it. I can get away with it! Other people have been caught, but I can get away with it.”
The Bible calls this lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and boastful pride of life.
And interestingly enough that John verse, when it goes into this, it says, “Do not love the world,” agape.
We tend to think of agape love as only good love. But it’s actually devoted love, a love of choice where you’re devoted to something. And, I’m going to do this because of the mission, not because of my feelings.
And in order to really get into the world, you have to push past all the negative effects. I’ve got a terrible hangover the next morning but I can push through there and do it again tonight.
Don’t love the world! Don’t be devoted to the world. And that’s our two choices. We can be devoted to the kingdom of God and light, and we can be devoted to the kingdom of darkness.
But he says, don’t be deceived. If you want something good, if you want security, if you want freedom, if you want positive outcomes, it comes from God. It comes from the kingdom of light.
And don’t be deceived. Everything the world’s telling you is wonderful is false. It’s not!
That imaginary relationship you have with a pretend person on the internet, that’s not real. It’s false. It will not bring you relational fulfillment. It’s a lie. Don’t do it.
Good comes from God
So that’s where our basic problem is. We have a perception of what’s true and what’s not true. And if we don’t see that if something’s good, it’s going to line up with what the truth of the scripture is, we’re going to have a problem because, with God, there’s no variation or shadow of turning. And he’s the Father of lights.
So if something makes sense, if something’s true and light, it’s going to come from God. It’s not going to come from the world. There’s not going to be anything from the world’s system that’s worth following.
And he doesn’t change. It’s not like, “Well, that was good in a past era but this is different. My era’s different. We’ve got beyond that. We now understand things that weren’t understood before. So this is—” No! What’s good is good today, and it was always good before. And what’s evil is evil today, and it always was before.
Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
Now this is interesting because he’s talking to brethren again. He’s talking to believers. And we got here, we were born because of God’s word. Isn’t that interesting?
How did God create the world? He spoke it, right? And interestingly, how did he create us? He spoke us too. He spoke humanity into existence. But his word is also what recreates us, is what it sounds like here. The word of truth. He brought us forth.
Look at James 4:4. We’re peeking ahead some.
You have to choose which kingdom you going to follow
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?
See, there are these two kingdoms: There’s light and dark. And if we want to play footsies with the kingdom of darkness, then we are not being loyal to our marital relationship that we have with God. We’re the bride.
And when we leave the fidelity of our relationship with God and go play footsies with the world, we’re actually committing spiritual adultery.
Now, does that mean that we don’t go to heaven? No, it means we’re going to lose all the benefits of that phenomenal relationship that we have with Christ.
Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?
So he is a husband, and should a husband be jealous for his wife? Want to possess an exclusive relationship with his wife? Or should that husband say, “Why don’t you go start dating some? You look like you’re a little bored to me.”?
No! You want a husband that says, “You and me,” right? “We’re exclusive.” That’s what you want. Well, that’s the kind of husband we have. We’re the bride of Christ. And what he wants us to be is a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
We’re Christ’s first fruits
So the first fruits is the best of the harvest. Now this is a concept that runs all the way through scripture. It’s the first part of the harvest.
Now think about it where you don’t live in society where everything is frozen, and you have grapes from Chile in the winter; and there’s always fresh produce, and stuff’s grown in greenhouses, and trucking, and everything’s fresh.
Think about it if you’re in a society where you live off of stuff that was canned or salted or precooked all year long, and now the harvest comes in, and you get that first taste of something fresh again.
That’s what you need to be thinking about with first fruits.
That was a pretty cool time of year. Fresh tomatoes again instead of canned tomatoes all year long, or whatever. Fresh figs.
This is like the best part. The best part of his creation.
That’s God’s goal for us is to be a kind of first fruit of his creation because humanity is the part that’s made in the image of God. We fell. And this restoration that we can experience through this new life, new birth, and then, subsequently, this walk of faith is something that’s a first fruit. It’s the best part of creation. This is the part that God really likes.
So when we go through these difficulties, these tests, and we pass, the teacher’s really happy. When we are doing what God asks us to do, it’s just like the first orange of the year to God. This first fruits idea is something that God called the whole creation in Romans 8:29.
We have another birth here. Verse 18. Same idea James has.
Romans 8:18. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
This is the same idea that difficulty in training or being a soldier or something results in winning.
So, the sufferings I’m going through—And Paul’s sufferings were pretty gruesome. He was beaten and jailed and shipwrecked and all kinds of stuff. And he said, “I don’t even think that’s comparable to the glory that I’m aiming for.”
The whole creation groans with birth pains
And then he expands that idea to what the whole creation’s going to go through.
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
Now this idea of sons of God is those who have endured. The approved workman not ashamed. Those who reign. That’s sonship. It’s the idea of a potentate that comes and says, “This ruler that works for me, here, he’s been so good and so faithful, I’m adopting him as my son.” This is the sonship of Jesus.
Jesus was obviously already the Son from eternity, but he was granted sonship as the human king of the world in Hebrews 1, which is a quote of Psalms 110.
So the sons of God. The creation is like, “What’s wrong with you people? Why won’t you take care of us like you’re supposed to? What’s wrong? Hurry up and get right! Hurry up and get well.” Eagerly waiting.
For the creation was subjected to futility—
How are we doing ruling the earth?
—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;
This whole adventure that we’re in is preparing us for something much greater.
because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
See, this new earth that we’re going to go to, it’s an earth of freedom. It’s an earth of liberty. It’s a place where choices are going to be more, not less.
We have this crazy idea that the new earth is going to be some Alzheimer’s clinic where people just sit around drooling. You know, there’s nothing to do. I already know everything. So, I’m just going to sit here and drool and listen to bad hymns all day. That’s not the new earth at all. It’s going to be full of choosing.
For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
So, there we’ve got another birth going on. The creation is saying, “Man, I hurt, and I want this baby out.” We have somebody here who can kind of identify with that.
This is our hope. This is what we want.
Brandon makes a great point here. This, actually, if we just go up a few verses here, in 8:15, we actually get a repeat of 2 Timothy 2, which is also echoing what James is saying that this childhood, being in God’s family, is totally unconditional because look at what it says here.
Children and heirs
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God—
That’s an unconditional statement.
—and if children, then heirs—heirs of God—
That is unconditional. We cannot lose God as an inheritance. That’s a very comforting thought, don’t you think? We cannot lose God as an inheritance. No matter how prodigal we are, that Father still loves us and wants us to come home. Can’t lose that.
—and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if—
So unconditional heir with God. Conditional that we’re joint heirs with Christ. We share his throne; we share the reign if we suffer with Christ. And how do we suffer? We endure temptation like a soldier. We endure hardship like an athlete in training. We finish the farming even when you have to go out at dark-30 and all those kinds of things to get the crop in.
So the whole creation—go back to the creation thing—We’ve got these birth pangs until now. But not only that, but we have the first fruits of the Spirit.
So the Spirit is like the first manifestation of Christ on earth. Because that’s where the new earth actually ends up is heaven comes to earth. We don’t actually go to heaven as a permanent thing. That’s just a waystation. We go there waiting for the earth to be re-created so we can come back to the new earth. And then God comes to earth. It’s actually heaven that comes to earth. That’s the real culmination of history. It’s not us going to Alzheimer’s U., or whatever it is.
So, we have this first fruits of the Spirit, and then we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
Anybody feel that? Anybody ready for a new body? Anybody like to say, man, this one is kind of wearing out! I’d like to have another one!” And this is our hope. This is our hope. This is what we live for.
How do we get there? Well, we follow the three Ws in James. Keep an eye on winning like a soldier. You don’t want to be a soldier and end up with the other side winning, and you’re in the POW camp. That’s not a happy thought.
You want to be like an athlete. You don’t want to even not get to compete because you didn’t do the training regimen right. That’s the worst thing possible. You have to sit in the stands and watch. You don’t even get to be out there. You don’t want that.
And you don’t want to be, like, at the end of the harvest watching the harvest come in, and you don’t get to participate because you got halfway through.
We want to be the people who endure till the end with faithfulness, and we walk in faith and walk in the wisdom of God rather than the wisdom of the world. Because you can’t have it both ways. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. You can’t have it both ways.