“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 1:13, NLT).
Much has been written about temptation, from sermons on how to resist or avoid it, to jokes about how the devil made me do it. And then there’s Oscar Wilde’s famous quotation, “I can resist anything but temptation.” We know temptation is a problem, even though to most people it probably seems a bit old fashioned to even talk about it. As we can see from this verse, it doesn’t come from God.
God doesn’t need to test us to see if we’ll resist—he already knows we are weak and prone to give in to sin and our desire for everything bad for us. God is love and love doesn’t set up anyone for failure. Love wants good for others, to be encouraging and to see success. Love does everything possible to see the light of achievement in someone’s eyes and to give inspiration to keep going. God is our champion and cheerleader and we know his heart is always for us. With the guidance, strength and help of the Holy Spirit, the temptations of this world fade to black and our desire changes to wanting to see the look of love in his eyes beaming back at us.
“He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession” (James 1:18, NLT).
We are social creatures, made for relationship and our desire to be loved and accepted is strong. A sad fact of life for some is knowing they came into this world unwanted. We all struggle with this in some degree, don’t we? The effects of being unwanted and unloved become evident as we try to find acceptance and a place to belong, ironically and often in socially unacceptable and sometimes devastating ways.
One thing we can always count on is knowing we are wanted by God. He chose to create humanity and chose us to be his before time began. We are wanted and loved more than we can imagine, so much that we are God’s prized possession. For us, having something we prize can warp our personalities and cause us to act a little crazy, trying to hold onto it. To be God’s prized possession means we are cherished and treasured, valued beyond price. He has already shown how much by giving his own cherished son, his life for our life. A little crazy? Maybe from our point of view, but thankfully he loves us that much.
“Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3, NLT).
A friend of mine recently acquired a puppy. She quickly found out what a big responsibility dog ownership is. She feeds and cares for the dog, takes her to obedience classes, and must be home every night after work to walk and play with her. If she didn’t love the dog, all of this might be a burden for a young woman with lots of interests and activities. But it’s not—her actions reflect her love for the dog and she happily does it all.
Some think of obedience to God as a huge burden, which would keep them from enjoying life. Obeying him can be a burden when it’s done out of feelings of duty or as legalistic requirements in exchange for blessings. When we understand that he first loved us, so much he gave his only son for us, and realize all he’s done for us, we can’t help but love him back and want to obey his commands—to love him and love others as we love ourselves. Our actions reflect our love for him just as his actions reflect his love for us.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6, NLT).
When my daughter was born, I began a cross stitch sampler with the names of all the grandkids on my husband’s side of the family. My daughter is almost 24 and the sampler is finished but still hasn’t been framed. At this rate, I will have to start adding great-grandchildren. Sometimes I don’t finish what I start. Does anyone else have that problem?
If God were like us, we would be in big trouble. But as I like to say here, God isn’t like us. Fortunately for us, he does finish what he starts. What he has started in us, the good work this verse speaks of, is our transformation from weak, sinful, mortal human beings into completely new creatures, who will one day be like Jesus. Just as a caterpillar awaits its transformation, totally dependent on forces outside itself, so we await our change, inside the chrysalis of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are fed, nurtured and matured by his love and grace. He won’t let anything happen to abort the process—he always finishes what he starts.
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, NLT).
Many churches see the whole world as living under a black cloud of judgment. They shake their heads and feel sorry for the poor condemned souls. Because of an outright or implied quota, some will then put a lot of time, money and effort into warning them of the dangers of unbelief and try to “save” them. Does God really place that much responsibility on Christians? If so, what is the consequence of failure? Must we carry the burden of guilt if one or more don’t respond?
Only one person is capable of saving souls and that is Jesus, the Savior of the whole world. That is why he came and he didn’t leave before it was done. On the cross, he declared his goal accomplished. He has not left that responsibility in our hands, but he does want us to participate in helping others see who he is and learn to follow him together. The world is not under condemnation, but under the umbrella of his love and forgiveness. Believers need merely to link arms with their neighbors and point out who is holding the umbrella.
“God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17, NLT).
Most people know the verse before this one. It’s memorized by every Sunday school child, put on plaques, cross stitched on samplers and featured on church signs everywhere. You don’t usually see verse 17 on those plaques or signs, but what it says is equally important and they should go together.
The Amplified Bible adds these clarifying words after judge: to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on. Jesus came to save the world, not to weigh, measure and find wanting. We are no longer under condemnation, but saved by his life, death and resurrection. This verse tells us Jesus is the Savior of everyone, though many don’t know or believe. Not believing doesn’t change who he is or what verse 16 beautifully expresses—God so loved the world.
“And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself” (Acts 20:32, NLT).
The world seems to be in the business of tearing down. It happens on every level, from governments that don’t care about their people, to businesses that take advantage of employees and customers, to family members who insult and denigrate each other, or worse.
God’s way is to build up, through grace and the loving guidance of the Holy Spirit. Grace teaches us the way of peace and gentleness. Grace shows us that even though we are deserving of death, we are forgiven, loved and valued simply because of who God is. Every spiritual gift is for the purpose of lifting up the church. Rainbows, sunsets and sunrises remind us of our merciful Creator. Everything he does and everything he’s given us encourages us to keep going and builds our faith in Jesus, our faithful Savior.