series graphic image

May 14, 2023

Just Take the Next Step: Week 9

I do want to take one minute. Usually, somebody says something to the effect of, “Other than Christmas and Easter, Chip, you seem to be unaware of what's going on with any of the special holidays.”

Happy Mother's Day to everybody. we honor you, and we celebrate you. Seriously. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Can we give a big, huge applause for all the mothers? We do mean that. I tried to dress up. My mom, who passed away several years back, always liked it when I dressed up. Go figure, because I never dress up. You all know that if you come here regularly. But I dressed up. I think I'm going to wear a jacket tomorrow. But that being said, we're glad you're here, and I hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day weekend, and I hope you feel celebrated.

I know we've got some things for you. Some gifts. We’ve got a little photo booth and all of that good stuff. It's raining outside, so just hang out and get your picture taken because it's a beautiful thing.

Anyway, all is good, but I want to ask you a question. You probably will recall this, as I say this. There are certain things in life where getting the right information is critical. It’s super critical. Typically, those critical messages are on signs, they're in red, or they're somehow presented in a way that tries to get our attention. You know as well as I do that if you didn't get the critical information, sometimes it can be super, super, super adverse in the way that it affects our lives. If you're putting something together for Christmas or for a birthday, and you get the instructions out, if there's something in red that says, “Warning: Don't put these two pieces together or it ruins the whole thing,” you tend to pay attention to that. That is a very important thing to know in doing this. Or if you went out and decided, “I'm going to go swim in this pond,” and there are posts all around that say, “Do not swim, there are alligators in the pond,” that's pretty important information to know. Right? If you didn't see it, it could be catastrophic.

There are all kinds of other areas where getting the information that helps you and I to avoid something that we would not want to see happen in our lives is critical. You may ask why I am saying all of this. Well, because we're in a series called “Just Take the Next Step,” I've been talking for quite a while, in the series, about things we can do to take the next step forward in our relationship with God. Several weeks ago, I started to talk about taking our step forward in maturity. I had planned on doing one message, as you all know if you've been here. It was out of James 1. Then I decided that I needed to go to the second week because I didn't get through it all. Then I went to the third week. Now we're in the fourth week. Well, I'm going to tell you there's not going to be a fifth week. We’ll get onto something, next weekend, again. But that being said, we're going to get to the place in James 1 where James gives us, like, “Hey, pay attention.”

This is the meat and potato place that he's got us to. If we don't see these things, it could be critical to our lives. So, just to do a little summary of what we've been doing, James is writing to a bunch of Christians who are going through some really, really difficult times. Critical times. Probably worse situations than many of us could understand. They’re being abused. They’re being taken advantage of. They’re not being paid their fair wages. Some of them have been killed. Some of them have been thrown in prison. It’s not a great time. James writes to them and tells them that the trials that they're going through, they need to figure out a way to count them joy. For most of us, that's counterintuitive. It's James 1:2. When you fall into various trials, count it joy. We go, “Well, hold on.”

Then he tells us why we can do that. It’s because in the process of life, all of us have trials, and all of us have difficulties. If we can hold up underneath it — he uses the word “steadfastness,” which is a compound word that means to hold up. You know as well as I do that when life comes our way, and stuff's really going on, if we can hold up underneath it, it's better than when we fall apart. It’s also better for our witness to God. So, he tells them, “Hey, understand that you can count it joy because God is at work, He’s building character in you, and He's building steadfastness in you.”

Then he tells them that if they lack the proper way of understanding how to live underneath all of that stuff — which he calls wisdom, which is going back to the Old Testament. The way wisdom is used is it's a path, it's a journey, and it’s following God's plans. He says, “Ask God. He’ll give you what you need to get through the difficulties that you're going through.”

Then he tells them about this mindset that they should have, that even though they're lowly, they're the ones who are going to be exalted. He starts to push them towards eternity and realizing what eternity is.

We ended in James 1:12 where he said, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for he will receive the crown of life.”

So, we've sort of gone through these first 12 verses, and it appears, many times, when people are reading James, and they get to James 1:13, they think that James probably made a diversion. All of a sudden, he's talking about something else. He's not. He’s still following the whole flow of all of this because he's trying to get his congregation to live in maturity. He's trying to get them to live in the wisdom of God. We’re talking about taking this next step, so we're going to look at the last few verses that we're going to look at in James. I'm telling you, if we can understand these verses, it will significantly change the way you and I live. I'm telling you that. I’m not overpromising here. This is really some great stuff. So, let's get into the Word of God. Have y’all enjoyed the last couple of weeks in James? Has it been a good? Good. We will, one day, come back and continue on. James is a great book. I enjoy James.

So, now we've come out of, “Blessed is the one who remains steadfast under trial, and they’ll receive the crown of life, which God has prepared for those who love Him,” and then we read this:

“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.’”

That may seem like, “Hold on. We were just talking about trials, and now we're talking about temptation. What's going on?”

Well, remember, when you’re reading Scripture, you cannot separate what you're reading from what has come before. What he's telling you — and we all know this to be true — is that when we're going through difficulties and we're going through problems, what is the one thing that we want to do? We want to get out from underneath them. That's just a human, common thing. So, James is primarily talking about the temptation for his congregation he’s writing to, to get out from underneath the difficulties that are going on, which is exactly what they're doing. Because in James 1, they're parading the wealthy landowners in front of the church and putting the poor people in the back. In James 3, they're getting teachers who will have a tongue that will tell them what they want to hear, which James says is wisdom that’s not from above, but it’s actually wisdom from below. It’s worldly wisdom. In James 4, we realize that what they've done is they've decided to take it on their own, they’ve become selfish, and they've done all kinds of stuff. In fact, they've actually killed people. You can read that in James 4. In James 5, they're not being patient, and they're not being people of prayer. So, they've decided to do it their own way, and James says, “Time out. God knows what He’s doing. When you follow God's Word, it's better.”

This doesn't mean that this wouldn't also, in some way, apply to other temptations, but the primary context of what this is is trying to get out of difficulty where God is working in us the things that He needs to work in us.

So, he says, “Let no one say when he is tempted,”

So, this should not come out of our mouths when we say that we're tempted. The temptation here, primarily, is to get out from under God.

“God wants us to bring these people up front. God wants us to get some teachers who will tell us what we want to hear.

No, no. He says, “When you're tempted, don't say, ‘I am being tempted by God.’”

This is some critical information because God is sovereign. To know that we're counting it joy when we're going through trials, we have to know that God is sovereign. So, some people can say, “Well then, that's just God sort of speaking to me to get out.”

He says, “No, no, no. Hold on. We're going to talk a little bit about God here. Let's make sure that we understand who God is.”

He says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’”

He says you can't say that because God cannot be tempted with evil. He doesn't have some sort of predisposition, like He sees evil and He decides that He wants good. It’s just not who He is. I mean, to even speak for God is somewhat — I take pause because God is so beyond, and sometimes we talk about God as if we’ve got Him in our little box. Trust me, He doesn't fit in a box. I've spent most of my life doing theology, trying to get God in my box, and there's always an arm or a leg hanging out that I just can't get in there. I'm sure you all don't do that. It’s just me.

Anyway, he says, “…for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”

He’s making a difference between temptation and trial. We're going to come back to that when we do our takeaways. He says, “Don’t give into that. Don't think that God is somehow trying to get you out from something, something He's trying to build steadfastness in.”

Then he gives us — I mean, this is such good, practical stuff. Lean in here. This is life changing.

He says, “But each person…” — that's you and me — “…is tempted…”

Listen to what he says.


This is when we're tempted. Do you want to know how we're tempted?

“Oh, the devil made me do it.”

No. Do you want to know how we’re tempted?

“It’s my spouse.”

Nope, nope, nope. Do you want to know how we're tempted? He says we're tempted, and this is when.

“…when [we are] lured and enticed by [our] own desire.”

We’ve got two choices here. The way of wisdom. God says, “Ask me. I'll tell you exactly what to do. I won't even give you a hard time. I'll lay it out for you. Do you want to know how to live? I’ve got it for you. Do you want to know how to treat somebody? I’ve got it for you. Do you want to know how to raise your kids? I’ve got it for you. Do you want to know about how to run your finances? I’ve got it for you. Do you want to know how to treat enemies? I’ve got it for you. Do you want to know how to — I’ve got it for you. I’ve got everything. You just ask me. I’ve got the path of wisdom.”

Or you can decide to do it your way. If you look around our world today, everybody's doing it their way. Nobody really cares that much about what God has to say anymore. It's sad. It's sad because God's ways are better. They just are. They're better. It's not like we're up here trying to give you a hard time. We're just saying, “Don’t do that. It's going to mess you up.”

It's like your kids. Have you ever sat with your kid and said, “You can't eat chocolate chip cookies every single day, all day long?”

And they look at you and go, “Why?”

Right? Maybe your kids aren't like mine, but my kids, they want to eat everything that they shouldn't eat. Do any parents have — you don't have to raise your hand. Does anybody have trouble getting your kids to brush their teeth? It’s a shame because my dad's a dentist. Like, you’ve got to brush your teeth. But my thing is, though, he says that we're enticed. We’re lured, like the shiny object that the fish goes after, and then, all of a sudden, it's got a hook in it, and it’s dead. Filleted on the table. He says, “We're enticed when we want to do it our way.”

Listen because this is, I'm telling you, great information.

He says, “Then desire when it has conceived…”

See, so many of us, we see something, we think something — “Oh, nobody will see this. Oh, they're good looking. Oh, I think I — nobody will know I'm doing this on the internet.”

There's a desire. The desire is not the sin because sin is a process. This is so important. I'm telling you, somebody needs to hear what I'm saying, right now. Listen to me. When desire has conceived. He uses a birthing term. When it has conceived, it gives birth to sin. When you say, “I'm not going to follow God's way. I'm not going to do God's way of wisdom. I'm going to do it my way,” that desire to do it your way, to do it my way — the longer that desire is there, the more it festers.

You probably haven't had this issue. I do. Has anybody ever gone to a Mexican restaurant, and they bring out these things called tortilla chips? Have you been there? Okay. You’re telling yourself, “I'm not going to eat these,” and then they're done. They bring you out another one, and you don't say, “Yeah, you know…” — yeah. Great. They’re warm, they’re sitting there, and then the third one comes out. You’re going, “I’m not…”

I have never in my life completely been a glutton on tortilla chips when they weren't in front of me. Do you follow what I'm saying here? I put myself there. They’re there. Then the food comes out, and you're like, “Ah.”

Have you ever been rolled out of Mi Pueblo? Then, at two o'clock in the morning, you're down at the refrigerator drinking water because you've got those tortilla chips in your stomach, and you can't even get hydrated. He says, “Desire, when it's conceived, gives birth to sin.”

Listen, though. Listen.

“…and sin when it is fully grown…”

In other words, when you've given in to your desire, you've hatched sin. When sin has hatched and sin has grown, it brings forth death. Do you want to know why guys like me preach against sin? It's not because I want to try to tell you what to do. It's not because I just want to get up here and holler at people or give you a hard time. It's because they care about your soul. Sin leads to death. It leads to death in your family.

It leads to death in your marriage. It leads to death in your finances. It leads to death in relationships. It's vicious. It’s ugly. The reason we talk about sin, as preachers, is not — and maybe we don't do it the right way all the time. I’ve not always been perfect. I've probably said things in a way I shouldn't have said it. I've been snarky at times when I shouldn't have been snarky. But the reason is because I care about your soul, and sin brings death. When we decide to do it our way, our desire, and we follow our desire, it hatches, it conceives, and it brings forth sin. And when sin is fully grown, it brings forth death.

Here’s what James says: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.”

Then he tells us probably one of the most important things we need to know about God.

He says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift…”

And folks, let me tell you something. We don't always know what the good and perfect gifts are. In the context here, this whole passage is the difficulties that they're enduring that God is working in them. They are good and perfect gifts that God has given to them. They don't see it that way. They're trying to get out from underneath it. They're trying to run. They’re trying to handle their own life, and God says, “Do it my way. Follow my way. Do it the way I've told you to do it. We’re not playing for this world. We're playing for the world to come. If you understood how much I love you, if you understood how much I care about you, you would understand my word and my commands are not there to be burdens. They're there to help you and give you life. They're there to give you an abundant life. They're there to lead you in the right way so that your paths aren't all over the road. Your path is straight, you walk straight, and you minimize all the collateral junk that could go on in your life, and others, if you'll follow what I say.”

“Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

In other words, He doesn't change. He's who He is all the time. Now, let's take that bit of information, let's step back, and let's unplug here. Let’s take some practical take-homes and see if we can hear some things here that might really help us in our lives. First of all, taking the next step in Christian maturity means realizing that trials and temptations are not the same things. They're not. We're told to count it joy, in James 1:2, when we fall into trials, but we're told that when we're tempted, don't act like God's tempting you because God doesn't do that. I want you to hear me here. Some of y'all like taking pictures of your phone, or you like writing this down. I'm telling you, listen to me. This is important. A trial is an opportunity to endure so that God can build steadfastness. God is building in you and me. When we're going through difficulties, we don't ask God why, but we ask God what.

“What are You trying to teach me? What are You trying to show me? What are You trying to do in me? How are You trying to shape me here?”

But a temptation is different than a trial. A temptation is an occasion to flee or to reject so that God can build character in you and I. He wants to build character, and the way He builds character in you and I is when these things come that challenge us — “Am I going to do it my way or do it God's way? — we have to sit there and decide what we're going to do. What that does is that builds character.

Why do I care about you being steadfast? Why do I care about your character, as your pastor? Why do I care about those things? I want you to listen to me. I want you to see this, because this is important. Talent and ability can take us places that our current levels of steadfastness and character will not allow us to stay. We see it all the time. We see people get a platform, and then they fall. We see people get something, and then their demise. We see people shooting stars, they run up the ranks of business, and then they fall apart. What happened? Well, their talent and their ability got them places that the steadfastness and character that God wants to build in you and I weren't there. I can't tell you how many times, as a pastor, over almost 13 years that I've pastored this church, people have wanted the promotion, the dream, and all the things that they wanted so fast that when they pushed themselves into those areas, they fell apart because what they had not done is allowed God to build in them the steadfastness and character that they needed to be and hold themselves at those places.

The reason I say all this, and the reason I take the time to preach out of the Word of God, to teach you, to equip, and all of these things is because what I want for you is I want you to be able to walk in all of the things that God has for you, that no matter where you go, no matter what promotions He gives you, no matter where He leads you, you don't find yourself going backwards because you didn't have the steadfastness and the character that would hold you there. I want to build people who are deep, that if God decides to promote, they're not going to go backwards, but they’re going to keep going forward. I want to see Daniels raised up out of here. The higher they go, the higher they go, the higher they go because they're committed to God, they're committed to His ways, and they've allowed God to build steadfastness and character in them. So, no matter what comes their way, whether good or bad, they are rock solid. That’s what we want to build. Rock solid followers of Jesus.

Second thing: Taking the next step in Christian maturity necessitates us understanding the nature and relationship of temptation and sin. Please lean in here. Please, please, please listen to me. Sin is not an event. It's a multi-step process. Listen to me. We don't fall into sin. We don't go, “Oh, I don’t know how that happened.

I just sinned.”

No, no, no. There are all kinds of things that go on before you and I get to that place. Sometimes we don't even realize that they're going on in our lives. It looks like maybe we fell into sin, it looked like maybe it was an event, but it wasn't. We weren't prepared. We weren't ready. We didn't understand how this works. Listen to what James says. The very first step in doing the things that are wrong is being lured by our desire, what we want, and not asking the question “What does God want?”

I always say that when you have to make decisions, you’d better make the decisions before you have to make decisions. You’d better think about what you're going to do before you have to make that decision. You’d better think about the decisions that you need to make before you have to make the decisions. What are you going to do?

Our desire. We want something. It looks good. We hang out. We shouldn't have been there. We shouldn't have talked to them. We should have put safeguards on the computer. We shouldn't have spent, but we’re lured by desire. This word “lured” means to be dragged away. See, it's not an event, but it's a process. It starts with saying, “I want what I want. I don't really care what God says, right now. I want what I want.”

We’re told that when we're lured by desire, desire conceives, and it gives birth. What it gives birth to is sin. Listen to me. The sin, when it's fully grown, brings death. I don't want to give anybody a hard time, I surely don't want to make anybody feel bad, but I want to say that so many of us can sit back and say, “Yes, I can show you in my life where when I sinned, boy, it cost me.”

Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you get away with it. For whatever reason, God, in His grace — but oftentimes it's not the case. You say, “Why do we talk about the Word of God? Why do we talk about these things?”

Is it because I want to manage your life? No, I don't want to. I have a hard time managing my own life. It's not any of that at all. The deal is, as your pastor, I care about your soul. I'm telling you, listen to me, that doing it God's way is better. It's just better. It’s not that I'm trying to give you a hard time. It’s just better for you. It's better for your family. It's better for your kids. It's better for your neighbors. It's better for everybody. So, understanding how that works.

Third, taking the next step in Christian maturity embraces the goodness of God. I want you to really hear me here because this is so important. He says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.”

The problem is when we define good, we often don't know what we're saying. So, what does it mean that God is good? What does that mean? I can tell you this: I’ve talked to a lot of people who have deconverted, or people who have given up on their faith. Almost invariably, when I talk with them, it's because at some level, in some way, they stopped thinking that God was good. Maybe they thought the Old Testament God was this butcher, that He did all this stuff, and doesn't look like Jesus, so they say, “This doesn't make any sense. I'm giving up.”

Or maybe something happened to them, they lost something, or whatever, and they say, “If God was good, He wouldn't…”

Or they look around the world and see stuff going on, and go, “How could God, if He was good…”

The problem is we don't know, oftentimes, when we talk about God being good — I want to try to help you out here. When we say the word “good,” oftentimes what we mean is approval. Is that the goodness? Is that what we should talk about? Example: That is good enough to work. Is it something that we approve of? That’s subjective? So, when we're talking about God being good, and we're talking about approval and not realizing that we're talking about approval, what we're saying is that we, subjectively, get to determine whether or not God is good based on how we approve it. That's not the goodness of God. That's you and I putting on top of God what we think good is.

Another way we talk about good is, is it useful? Is that what it means for God to be good? Like, “That's a good hammer.”

Oftentimes, you see this. People come to faith, they're jazzed, they're excited, and life is good. Not long after that, they run into somebody who they like, they get a job, and they're like, “Man, this is great. God's like the self-help coach that I was looking for.”

Then, all of a sudden, life falls apart, and guess what?

“Well, God's not useful anymore because He’s not doing what I want Him to do, so He's not good.”

That's not the goodness of God. That's the way we are defining good. Or how about this? When we’re talking about “good,” are we talking about morally? Are we talking about that He's so good that He wouldn't lie? Are we talking about moral, as if we know morality that well? We just look at our own lives and realize, sometimes, “I don't know.”

Have you ever been in that position where you're given two choices, and you're like, “Man, they both are terrible.”

Really, if you want to know what pastoring's all about, it's making two bad choices, and figuring out which one is better for the congregation, sometimes. You’re like, “I don't know. This is a bad one. This is not a good one here. I don't know. I don't know.”

It's just tough because life doesn't usually come on a silver platter with, “Here's the answer that you're supposed to do.”

Sometimes you're just like, “I don't know.”

I remember sitting in Israel, going, “Okay. We’re trying to build this building.”

We’re in Israel during COVID.

I’m like, “Don’t build the second story, and don’t build the balcony because we're probably not ever going to build this building. Nobody's going to give to a church that doesn't show…”

There you go. Dumb pastor. I should have had faith. We wouldn't be talking about a balcony and a second floor.

We wouldn’t be talking about all this stuff. But the point is, you know, I thought I made the best decision. I didn't want to put the church in any type of debt. So, we talk about morality and the right things. Sometimes you can't. So then, what we do is when God doesn't live up to whatever we think is morally right, He’s no longer good, and we're out. The reality is, in Scripture, God's goodness is His overflowing, generous, and benevolent character given to His entire creation. It flows from who He is. Look at the way Scripture talks about the goodness of God. The Lord is good to all. His mercy is over all that He’s made. He's just good. It's not moral or useful. It may contain some of those things, but that's not what it means that God is good. He's just good. You and I sometimes don't know what's good, but He’s good.

Everything He does is good, every single time, 24/7. God is good all the time, every time. Even when we don't see it, even when we don't understand it, He’s good. Not only that, but He's good to His people. Surely, God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. He's good to His people, too. He's also good to those who aren't His people because, not knowing that, God's kindness — and some translations use “goodness” — is meant to lead you to repentance. His goodness and His kindness leads people to repent. In fact, He's so good that He's good and not only to the just, but He's good to the evil. He makes His Son to rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. When we say God is good, He’s good. He's not good in the way that we define Him. He's good.

I want you to hear me here because this is so important that we get this. Whatever we seek in life that we label as good, whether that's right or wrong, is simply us trying to find God because He’s good. That's who He is. He's good. He blesses. He does it not just to you, but to your family, to your family's family, and to a thousand generations because He's good. I want you to process this here. As you take that next step into Christian maturity, we’ve got to sit back and realize sin is not an event. I’ve got to look at it the way I look at my life. I’ve got to look at my own desires. I’ve got to look at the way of wisdom and the way of God. I’ve got to figure this out. Am I going to align myself with God or am I going to play 50/50 and hedge my bets? And then when things don't go right or whatever else, am I somehow going to think that maybe God isn't good?

I think that's why James wrote that there. It’s because I think they're going through a lot of difficult times, and they need to hear that God is good. Maybe you do, too. Maybe, right now, you need to hear that God is good. Maybe you're a mom here on Mother's Day, maybe you're watching online, and maybe need to hear that God is good. Maybe you need to know that He’s good. Maybe you're not. Maybe you’re a dad, maybe you're a son, or maybe you're whatever. You need to hear that God is good. He is good. I'm telling you, when you realize how good God is, you want to take those steps towards Him.

We're going to sing a song here, at the end, that talks about just how good God is and how He blesses us as people. I pray that as we sing it — it’s been a song that has ministered to so many people over the last several years — it will be a blessing to you.

In this series

Keep learning

Learn about our Discover Classes and Grace University. Browse through topical short video series, view interviews with Christian thought leaders, or take an in-depth systematic theology video class with Pastor Chip.