“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” (James 1:14)
“Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15)
The flaw in fallen man is that, until regeneration by the Spirit of God, his soul (or his seat of emotions) is in control of the man. In turn, the soul in fallen man is controlled by his fleshly desires, which the Bible calls his “lusts.”
Lust in itself is not evil. Lust is defined in the Greek word “epithumia.” This word denotes, or describes, “strong desire” of any kind. The kind of lust (good or evil) is specified by the adjective describing the desire. There are only three places in the New Testament that “epithumia” (lust) is used in describing a “good” desire (Luke 22:15; Philippians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:17). Everywhere else this word is used in the New Testament, it is defining an evil desire.
How sin reigns in the unregenerated man’s body is through “lust” (Romans 6:12). Paul calls lust, “the lusts of the flesh” (Romans 13:14; Galatians 5:16, 24; Ephesians 2:3); as do Peter and John (2 Peter 2:18; 1 John 2:16). “This phrase describes the emotions of the soul, the natural tendency towards things evil.” A man’s lusts become evil when his desires are not in line with God’s will.
The Bible is very clear in describing what happened to man’s spirit when he sinned against God in Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. (See Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-21.) God told Adam, in the day you break My law (or sin, overstep the boundary), then you shall die. Paul clarifies this death (Romans 5:12; 6:23; Ephesians 2:1) as a spiritual death (meaning a separation from God). Paul also reveals, in Hebrews 4:12, that in sin, in man’s dead position in sins and trespasses, the soul and spirit became one.
When this happened in Adam and all of his posterity (1 Corinthians 15:21); man fell under the law of sin and of death. His will then was to follow the lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, and pride of life. (See Ephesians 2:1-3; 1 John 2:15-17.) From that moment until the man is regenerated by the Spirit of God, his will is to be ruled by the flesh, or by his soul; his soul is dead and void of the love of God, and therefore fills itself with sin. Until regeneration, there is no way that man can endure temptation. The soul, or the flesh, is in control and his will is to fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
However, James wrote to regenerated people, or what we call “saved people”; people who have been born again, or born from above (John 3:3-8); people who have been given, not the spirit of fear, but of adoption, whereby they cry “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:14-16; Galatians 4:5-6). James gives the explanation in James 1:12-13. The saved man has no excuse; for the problem is not God, but the individual; for God cannot tempt man to evil. What James has done in our text verses (1:14-15) is to alert the child of God; to give him knowledge and make him responsible for daily sins committed. The problem is still the same with both the lost and the saved, inward lusts. “But every man is tempted, when…
- “he is drawn away of his own lust,”
- “and enticed.”
Even though the Spirit had divided the soul and the spirit (Hebrews 4:12) in the work of regeneration; and the saved man has been given a new nature, with a will to follow God and not sin (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:20-24); and even though the saved man has been raised from spiritual death (Romans 6:4), and been made free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2) – he still has a soul. The soul is still the seat of his emotions, or desires. But the difference is that he is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ in his spirit; and now his spirit controls his soul; whereas before regeneration, his soul controlled his spirit.
The soul is present in the saved man, but is controlled by the new man. When a saved man sins, James gives the reason why (James 1:14); he allows his lusts to be drawn away by being enticed; and he entertains that enticement. The story of David’s most noted sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah, is a prime example.
The first step of defeat is in the word “saw” (see Genesis 3:6 and 2 Samuel 11:2). So it was with Eve and David; and not only them, but all of God’s people. The first step in defeat is when we look at the sin and its fleshly pleasure. What happens as we “look” is we begin to entertain sin and start justifying sin. (See Romans 6:11-13.) We yield ourselves to be taken by the flesh. When this happens, James 1:15a takes place:
- “Then when lust (evil desire) hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin:”
- The problem began when we “saw” or “looked” on the pleasures of sin as King David did.
- The next step is “justification” of why God would allow me to sin.
- Then these two ingredients come together in the work of the flesh, and sin is conceived; that is, it takes on life.
Then comes the second step of defeat, the action of sin; it is an actual performance of the body working out sin in the flesh:
- “It bringeth forth sin”
- Which is the transgression of God’s law;
- It is rebellion to God.
- It brings about an actual performance in the body (action).
Then the final step of defeat is defeat itself, the result, or the consequences:
- “And sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
- That is, death to your fellowship with God (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
- God will not hear your prayer (Isaiah 59:1-2).
- When sin is finished, it means you have actually worked out your lusts. It points to the results of your sin. See King David’s life (2 Samuel 11 – 1 Kings 1 – 2), the consequences were great in David’s physical and spiritual life; for the sword never left his house (2 Samuel 12:10).
What do I do if I have followed King David’s example and yielded to my own lust? You do what King David did. (Read Psalm 51:1-17.) You go to God and confess your sins, and turn from your wicked ways. God will forgive and restore.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)