Do you ever reread a passage in the Bible and see it in a completely different light? That recently happened to me. It was such a facepalm moment for me. I can’t believe that I had been reading this one passage so wrong for so long.
Here are the verses that I’ve come to see in a whole new light.
“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. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” James 1:13-15 (ESV)
What comes to your mind when you read these verses?
For years, I had always thought the word “desire” referred to something sexual. I’ve seen how an inappropriate sexual desire can lead to all kinds of destruction. Someone has a desire for someone they shouldn’t; they give in to it, end up sinning, and causing a great deal of destruction in the wake. Thankfully, God’s grace and forgiveness are endless, and I’ve even seen the restoration of relationships that were destroyed by this type of desire.
While sexual desire is one type of desire, that’s not the only type. But because I didn’t realize that, I thought that these verses were for someone else who struggled with a certain kind of sin. I subconsciously wrote these verses off because my desires look different.
Boy, was I wrong!
We have loads of different desires! For example, I desire things that run contrary to the Kingdom of God but are culturally celebrated. My desires are things like ambition and “workaholism”. I long to be perfect so that I don’t have to rely upon anyone else. I desire to be in control and in charge—I don’t want to have to trust others.
Just as these verses in James 1 say, my ambitious desires are so tempting. When I give into them, they lead me to put myself or my work or my preferences above God, which is the sin of idolatry. Then, those sins always lead to me pulling away from God and those closest to me—a form of relational death. When I give into my perfectionist desires, I allow emotional death to happen in my heart. I have learned that I can’t be fully alive while also trying to control everyone and everything.
Everyone Falls Into Temptation and Desire
It’s no wonder James writes that “each person” can fall into this progression of temptation, desire, sin, and death. It’s not just for some people. Everyone can and does fall into this, it just looks different from person to person.
Once the Lord reframed these verses for me, it made me all the more grateful for all that Jesus did for us. I’m thankful for what Jesus did for me. He knew what I would be tempted by. Jesus knew that I would desire to control and be self-sufficient. He was aware of my penchant for putting me above Him. And The Lord was so conscious of the death that sin causes in my life. Still, He chose me and continues to choose me. Jesus chose you and continues to choose you.
The temptations, desires, sin, and death in our lives don’t disqualify us from receiving the freeing and restoring grace of God. In fact, it’s our penchant for sin that qualifies us to receive His love and forgiveness. We just have to run to Him and receive.
God Doesn’t Leave Us There
Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us there but gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit so that our desires can be rewritten. He’s given us the gift of His Word to fight temptation. And the gift of His people to help us continue to fix our eyes on Jesus, though temptation, distractions, and desires are everywhere.
For years, I thought that James 1:14-15 was for someone else. For those people with that type of sin. But I was so very wrong. These verses describe all of us—none of us are perfect or blameless (as much as I’d like to paint myself that way). Knowing that James was talking about me makes me appreciate the goodness of our great God. I don’t deserve the forgiveness He provides, but He lavishes it upon me anyway. And the same is true for you.
No matter what your temptations, desires, or sins look like, God’s grace is sufficient. No desire or sin is too great for His love and forgiveness. Let’s run to Him with open arms and receive from Him today!