The Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

James 1:13-14

Sin Begins with Evil Desire

In this passage we have the troubling truth about how sin bears its ugly fruit in our lives.  Indeed, I begin this devotion with another verse that buttresses what is before us: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).  Yes, even the regenerate still suffer from this condition when we are not guarding our hearts, and guarding our hearts means setting them on matters of the Spirit.

James begins by letting us know in no uncertain terms who is responsible for sin—and it’s not God.  Now some may balk for just a moment, “Don’t the Scriptures say that God tested Abraham, and did we not read yesterday that God chastens us?” (Genesis 22:1; Hebrews 12:5-11).  Yes, but God tests us for a different purpose, namely, our growth in godliness and virtue.  Temptation to sin is another matter.  So let us take this passage line by line:

First, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”  So, it all begins with our own sinful desires which are laden deep in our own hearts.  That’s why I began with Jeremiah 17:9. James even gets more graphic in chapter four: “What causes fights among you?  Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder” (4:1-2).  It is the war within, our passions, those desires over which we suffer because we desperately want what we cannot have without transgressing the law.  Now that which enticed us was probably something in the world; however, it never would have lured us away had the evil desire not been tucked away in some dark corner of our hearts in the first place.  Be careful little eyes what you see and little ears what you hear.

This is all to say that if the battle is to be won, it will be won here or not at all.  Step two where desire conceives sin is already too late—which is all to say that we must be about the task of purifying our hearts and minds in the here and now, and it must be a proactive work.  Minds set in neutral will naturally gravitate to sinful thinking.  This is why Paul says, “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  (Colossians 3:1-4).  And John adds that if we know that we shall be like him when he appears, then we shall seek to purify ourselves as he is pure (1 John 3:3).  It is the filling of the heart and mind with matters of the Spirit that kills the evil desires which lurk in the hidden recesses of the heart.  Set your mind on things above, Christian, else you shall lose the battle.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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