This article is excerpted from Content from Matt Carter’s Prodigal Son: Discovering the Fullness of Life in the Love of The Father.
We all make mistakes. We might seem to be making right choices, but then things can start to happen. We slip, and we begin to fall. How? How do we go from strongly walking in the Lord to being tempted and pulled into sin? Matt Carter, in his newly released Bible study Prodigal Son: Discovering the Fullness of Life in the Love of The Father describes just this (partially excerpted and adapted below):
The Anatomy of a Fall
So far we’ve talked about how the prodigal son has become convinced there is a better life for him outside of the love of his father. But before we continue on our journey with the prodigal, let’s take a closer look at what causes us to make the decision to turn our backs on our heavenly Father and walk away. Every sin starts with a first step. We’ve already seen how Satan loves to deceive us into believing there is happiness outside of the love of the Father. Now let’s dig a little deeper into the deceptive nature of sin by turning to the letter of James where he urges us to overcome temptation by remembering the goodness of God.
Blessed is the one who endures trials, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God[a] has promised to those who love him. No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God,” since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. – JAMES 1:12-15
According to James, where does temptation come from? Where does it not come from? Why are these important distinctions to make?
James connects temptations to trials. How do our temptations often come out of our trials?
We can’t see inside the mind of the prodigal, so we can’t know for certain what made him decide to walk away from his father’s house. Jesus doesn’t tell us. However, James teaches us that our temptations are often related to our trials. For instance, if you are experiencing financial difficulty, you might be tempted to steal. If you are lonely, you might struggle with seeking company in inappropriate relationships. Yet, James is clear on one point; God never tempts us. God is never at fault when The Step we walk away from Him and choose sin. While it’s true that God does test us, He always does so to strengthen our faith, never to tempt us to sin. Sin is always our choice. We fall into the allure of sin, because sin is enticing.
The Allure of Sin
Why is it helpful for us to realize sin is “alluring”?
What does it mean to be “carried away” or “enticed” by our own lust (v 14)? When have you seen this process play out in your own experience?
“Alluring” isn’t a word you hear very often. It means “powerfully and mysteriously attractive or fascinating; seductive.”1 James is creating a picture of a fish who is attracted to a lure in the water, but the fish is unaware that the lure will actually kill it. Temptation becomes a problem when it entices us into sin, because just like the fish, when sin reels us in, death is always waiting at the other end of the line.
What lies must we believe before we give in to temptation?
How has experience taught you that temptation is misleading and never delivers on its promise?
A fish wouldn’t take the bait if it realized the inevitable outcome. When Christians embrace temptation, they have forgotten that sin leads to death. They were enticed by the promise of life where there was only death. God is the only One who can deliver on every promise, and He does every time. We’ve already seen that God doesn’t tempt us, now let’s look at what God does.
Grace in Temptation
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. By his own choice, he gave us birth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. – JAMES 1:16-18
According to these verses, what can God give us that temptation and sin never can?
Why should this be an encouragement to not succumb to temptation?
James contrasts the emptiness of temptation with the goodness of God. When Satan tempts us, he is hoping that we believe the lie that embracing temptation leads to blessing. But temptation is always a bait and switch. James tells us every good thing comes from God. Paul stated it more directly.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ROMANS 6:23
Sin always brings death and God always brings life—the kind of full and abundant life that is worth having. With Jesus there is no bait and switch, but only grace, love, and life. Jesus delivers on every promise
How did James refer to the people he was writing to in verse 16? How can we prevent ourselves from being deceived?
n verse 16, James addresses the church. In fact, the entire New Testament was written to the church—a group of people seeking to follow Jesus together. Temptation and sin isolates us from God and from other people. And that is exactly what Satan wants. God intends for His children to live in biblical community. We’re meant to wrestle with our temptations together. Imagine what might have been different for the prodigal if he had a wise friend able to provide good advice.
With which friends can you be honest about your temptations and struggles?
Look up James 5:16. Why should we desire the kind of relationships where we can share our struggles and sins with one another?
End your time today being honest about your temptations. Write them down below. Then make time to talk to someone about your struggles.
End today by asking God to deliver you from your temptations, knowing that He will provide a way out.
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. – 1 CORINTHIANS 10:13