12.25.2009

joyful temptations

I am going through the book of James from now until the end of the year until I begin a read the Bible in a year plan. Here are my notes and thoughts.
Oh, I would like to know who my readers are! Hint, hint: drop a comment! I do enjoy blogging, and one of the reasons why I do it is that others may be strengthened in their faith and Christ be magnified like with a telescope as Piper rightfully says - taking something that we perceive as small to the naked eye, but when magnified (Christ) is shown as it truly is: mindblowingly glorious and magnificent.

1. To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: James wrote to a scattered, Jewish audience. James was the brother of our Lord Jesus and the leader of the congregation in Jerusalem. He begins his letter to the scattered flock by identifying as a servant, literally meaning "slave" in Greek. A definition is offered here: one who gives himself up to another's will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men .
James wrote to a scattered audience; it seems that he is either writing to the whole of the nation Israel with respect to the scattered tribes, which is certainly a large audience, or perhaps he is writing to his congregation which is indeed composed of members of the twelve tribes. The Dispersion references Israel as a whole after they were scattered after Assyrian and Babylonian rule.

2. trials of various kinds John Calvin speaks of these trials:
"When he bids us to count it all joy, it is the same as though he had said, that temptations ought to be so deemed as gain, as to be regarded as occasions of joy. He means, in short, that there is nothing in afflictions which ought to disturb our joy."
This is terribly striking! How often in my life have I been terribly grieved when temptations to sin have come? When the ugly face of temptation has come upon me I typically trembled in fear and felt as though I had already sinned. Yes, often with that perspective I do falter and give in to evil - when I should be taking that temptation and doing a few specific things with it:
- acknowledging it as a temptation, and not yet borne into a committed sin
- seizing it by the proverbial throat and demand that this temptation will ultimately end up as something that I will count as "all joy"
- rightly taking the Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17) and cutting the head off of this deceitful beast
- treasuring this temptation, this trial, as a final gain for my joy

Now the question may arise, "How does one do battle with temptation?" First, it should be noted that temptation ultimately is the occasion when something is placed before you of lesser value than Christ and it demands that you take satisfaction in it, and this is sin (Jer. 2:13). Battle is done with this temptation to a lesser joy, the fleeting pleasures of evil (Heb. 11:24-26) primarily through use of the Bible.

"What?! The Bible? I thought I had to be super-spiritual and/or muster up feelings in myself that will help me fight temptations to sin - of my own strength!" Well my misinformed theoretical friend, you are wrong. Might I commend to you Psalm 119. Yes, the longest "chapter" in the Bible. Might I specifically point to these verses:
v. 9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
v. 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
v. 165 Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

Ok, now where in the world was I? Fighting through temptations for joy, ah yes. A final interesting note on what the ESV translates as "meet", but other translations give "encounter" (NASB) and "fall into" (NKJV): the Greek word is peripiptō (περιπίπτω )which Strong defines as "so to fall into as to be encompassed". Temptation can seem like we have fallen into a circle of enemies and we are encompassed with no hope of victory!

In sum, don't be robbed of the joy an experience of temptation may present. Hold fast to the greater promises that Christ through his Spirit-inspired Word gives and fight for joy!
Verse 3? Maybe next time, it's late.

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