How do you prepare for the temptation to speed past God's law and his will for your life? How do you get ready for it? By understanding how speeding occurs. II Corinthians 2:11 "In order that Satan might not outwit us, we are not unaware of his schemes." God wants you to know how the devil operates, how he tempts. The only thing you can say about the devil that's good is that he's consistent. He's been using the same old stuff to get us to speed past God's law since the beginning. It's very easy to discover his process. Temptation is a process, never just a one-time act. James outlines the four steps that the devil uses in order to tempt you to speed toward your own demise.
1. The first gear of temptation is desire. "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desires..." The desire to put the pedal to the metal begins on the inside of us with our desires. Most desires are OK. You couldn't live without desires: a desire to eat, drink, sleep... God gives us these desires. Those are good desires. But any desire out of control and over the limit becomes destructive. Satan loves to take routine desires and turn them into runaway desires. You become consumed, obsessed by it: food, work, having fun, sex, money. Legitimate desires but when they are out of control they become a problem. We can quickly speed to destinations that we know are not God's desire for our lives.
2. The second gear is deception. "He is dragged away and enticed ..." Companies market cars by enticement. They attempt to lure us into buying something that we can't afford by using specials sales, speed and sex. What does the devil use to entice you and I? He knows our buttons, he knows what will get our attention. When the devil entices us, he desires to drag down the road to destruction. His goal is deception. Satan drags us to deception. Temptation always looks better than it really is. Desire turns to deception and deception turns to disobedience.
3. The third gear is disobedience. "Then after desire has conceived it gives birth to sin." What begins in your mind results in an action. It starts in your imagination. The battle starts with your thoughts. It moves from your thoughts into actions. First the devil gets your attention, then he gets you to have an attitude, then he gets you to commit the action. He knows if he can get your attention he will eventually get you to commit the action. The Bible says what starts in your mind eventually comes out in your lifestyle. Desire leads to deception, deception leads to disobedience. Disobedience leads to death. Just like that, the race is over.
4. The end of the race is Death. "Sin, when full grown gives birth to death." That's the tragic consequence of giving in. That's what losing the battle causes -- devastating results. That's what happens when we speed past God's law, death. What is death? The exact opposite of living. If you overcome temptation you get the crown of life, but the wages of sin are death -- spiritual separation from God. James says we are free to choose any way we want to live. We can obey or speed down our own way. God gave me the freedom of choice. I could choose to live any way I want to. But I am not free to choose the consequences of those choices.
In order to overcome temptation, in order to break a bad habit, first I've got to be realistic, and admit I have a problem. Then I've got to be responsible and not blame anybody else and quit making excuses. Then I get ready by understanding what happens during temptation so I can learn how to avoid it.
All of a sudden in verse 17, James switches gears. He starts talking about the goodness of God. It looks like he forgot what he was talking about -- at first. v. 17 "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows."
James is talking about temptation then all of a sudden he redirects our thoughts to the goodness of God. First he's talking about something negative then he's talking about something positive. He's refocusing our attention on something else. Why? Because that's the next step in overcoming temptation. Be realistic, be responsible, be ready, be refocused.