It’s Not My Fault, part 1 (James 1:13-18)


IT’S NOT MY FAULT–part 1

Genuine Christians accept responsibility for their own sin, James 1:13-18

A classic Mueller family moment. When I was three or four, my brother was seven or eight, and all of us had been given the ultimate set of crayons. With this huge box of colors came some big instructions, and one of them was this–no marking on the walls. Well, this was too great a temptation for my high-IQ brother, and he came up with another devious plan. During this season, he was a genius when it came to doing bad things and blaming them on his younger brother or sister, and this would be no different.

He took his favorite crayon, then wrote my name on the bricks inside the fireplace–foolproof. My name meant I wrote it. My name meant I would get the blame. And as usual, once discovered, my parents lined us all up and asked who wrote my name on the inside wall of the fireplace with a crayon? Because I had been blamed for pretty much everything and I was the baby, I had only one recourse–I started to cry. This of course made things worse. I couldn’t help but think a spanking was coming my way because now I was crying, which was tantamount to an admission of guilt.

I thought, “Well now that I am crying, they will think it is me and not the real criminal.” I didn’t quite understand the smirk on my father’s face. But in just a moment, he revealed its meaning. Mom and Dad actually already knew who was guilty–they were actually trying to get the guilty one to confess and expose him as the master blamer and manipulator in the family. How did they know it was my brother, Mark? They knew at three or four years of age I could not yet write, and my sister was just learning to write. The only one who could have pulled off my autograph in the soot was my older brother, Mark. Even though a genius, my brother neglected an obvious truth and his blame days were numbered.

Mark knows I love to celebrate his crimes with this story, so at our last big family reunion, he made up T-shirts with a brick on them with my name on the brick. At the time of the reunion, 55 years later, Mark finally admitted his sin. The Muellers actually had a fantastic childhood and we laugh at these memories–but it highlights something that is true of every one of us here this morning, young and old. We all have a hard time admitting our sin–whether it’s when we lose our temper, or tell a lie to a checker, or show a bad attitude, or drive reckless, or secretly lust, or long for something that’s not ours, or think poorly of another. This goes on and on–we have a difficult time admitting our sin.

We love to blame others. We are so good at it, there are some who make it their distinguishing attribute–they’re the perpetual victim and nothing is ever their fault. Our society has now made blame a weapon, with the cancel culture. And believers and churches have retreated from discipleship, fellowship and ministry, because blamers can’t maintain healthy relationships.

Blame began the day the first couple sinned in the garden. When God confronted Adam with his sin in the Garden of Eden, Adam’s reply in Genesis 3:12 was, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”  When the Lord then asked Eve in verse 13, “What is this you have done?” she replied, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” Eve blamed Satan–but much worse, Adam blamed God.

The half-brother of Lord and author of the book we are studying is forthright. James has no patience with foolish fatalism. When a poor man blames his poverty for turning him into a thief so he can justify his stealing, James says, “No, you’re at fault regardless of your circumstances–it was you. You did it. You are a sinner!” When he says, “God was at fault for making me poor,” James will say, “No, you’re a thief.”

When a drunk blames domestic struggles and business failures for his drinking, resulting in drunk driving, crashing his car and personally injuring someone–he may blame God for his current marital struggles and financial woes, but James will confront him with, “You are a drunk. You sinned, this is your fault.” It’s not your marriage or job. You are responsible for your anger in an argument and you are responsible for the words you speak to your spouse. You are responsible for how you spend the Lord’s money and invest the Lord’s time. You are responsible for your sin of lust in front of a phone or computer screen.

You’re responsible for your unwillingness to obey authorities—they are not forcing you to disobey God. God does not allow for any excuse, any justification, any rationalizing over sin. God does not allow for anyone to excuse themselves with, “The devil made me do it.” A thousand times no. All genuine Christians accept responsibility for their sin. This is basic Christianity 101, friends. You must accept your responsibility for sin to become a Christian, or you are not a Christian. In fact, you must publicly admit your sin. Part of the public confession before men is that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. You confess your need for a Savior and follow Christ as Lord. Paul called himself, “Oh wretched man that I am.” And toward the end of his life, he called himself, present tense, ongoing, “the chief of sinners.” Get used to it, friends–you are responsible for your sin.

This is where James takes us next in chapter 1:13 to 18 of his letter. We will only get to half of this passage today, but I have to tell you up front. Once we get to part 2 next week, the entire paragraph will rock your world. You remember what is happening–the scattered Jews James wrote to were suffering and experiencing persecution. What made it really difficult for them was this–they were not only from God’s chosen nation, but the recipients of this letter were also God’s chosen, born again Christians, Jews who had turned to Christ as their Savior.

They were no longer under God’s wrath, but now a part of God’s eternal family. So why was life so hard for them? The Father was supposed to take care of them. And in their suffering, financial hardship and difficulty, some felt like God was to blame. Let me read the passage with you as you follow along in your Bible or outline.

James 1:13 to 18, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”

James clearly states that genuine Christians accept responsibility for their sins. Believers understand it is their own hearts which give birth to sin and not their outward trials, circumstances, other people, parents, job, church, but themselves. Christians embrace it is their own nature which is the problem.

Your struggle in giving into temptation is not the tempter without but the traitor within. And that it is foolish to blame God–He is not only the giver of all the good gifts, but He is the one who transformed us in the first place. Jesus freed us from being a slave to sin to being a slave of righteousness.

You need these verses this AM in order to win the battles against temptation. You need this text to stop blaming your circumstances, or other people for your sin. You need this paragraph to understand how deception works in your life. You need the Scripture here to worship the Lord in a whole new way. In fact, these verses will come alive, if today and next Sunday you select one of your biggest sin battles–the one the Spirit brings to mind right now, and filter it through these verses. Whether it is anger, lust, fear, depression, apathy, laziness, indifference, excusing responsibility, lack of discipline—whatever it is, let these verses assist you in crushing sin and becoming like Christ. The text exposes three major points which create the outline. Look at the first . . .

#1  Do not BLAME God for your own sin  Verse 13

In verse 13, after a lengthy discussion of trials, James reminds his readers and you not to blame your sin on anyone or anything but ourselves. Most of all, don’t blame God. James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” When James says, “when he is tempted,” the Greek word “tempted” is the same word used by James to describe trials in verses 1 to 12.

It’s the context which dictates its meaning. So here the obvious sense is the evil of tempting–not testing with trials. Verses 13 to 18 is a picture of temptation. James lists temptation after trials. The point James is making is this–every difficult circumstance that enters a believer’s life does one of two things—1) it can strengthen you, if you obey God’s Word and remain confident in God’s care, or 2) it can become a solicitation to evil, if you choose instead to doubt God and disobey His Word. And the emphasis James is making is, God is not the tempter. God is not at fault for your sin. Yes He is sovereign, but He is not responsible for your evil. When you sin, it is because you chose to sin, so take responsibility for your sin.

James gets tough as he starts verse 13. He says, “Let no one say”–this is a continual command for every believer here. Never say this—stop the blame game. Perpetual victims are not welcome here unless they repent. They are anti-Christian, anti-Bible. Maybe you don’t blame God, but you blame your circumstances, problems or people other than yourself. But friends, that thinking ruins your relationship with Christ and with His Church–why? No human being exists who is not responsible for their own sin. And no human exists who is not partly responsible in any conflict, any trial, any relationship tension–we all contribute sinfully, even if it’s in a minor way.

Imagine what it would be like to stand on the hills above, as God allowed a fire, a flood, or an army to wipe out this valley–every home destroyed and every person who didn’t flee was killed. Everyone. You might be tempted to blame God, you might be tempted to complain–but when that happened to Jerusalem, what did God tell His people through Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:39? “Why should any living mortal, or any man, offer complaint in view of his sins?” That is a life verse for me–God gives good gifts, God gave you salvation–no matter what happens, I have no justification to complain over horrible circumstances or even sin struggles.

Let no one say”–the idea is let no person say to himself, that is rationalize to himself that when he is tempted, he is being tempted by God. The very idea is anathema. “Tempted by God”–the preposition “by” that James uses communicates remoteness, indirectness, distance, meaning no one should say that God is even indirectly responsible for temptation to evil. Our Lord is in no way, and to no degree, responsible directly or indirectly for your temptations to evil.

Yes your Father allows temptations to continue, but each believer has a choice to sin or to escape,  for God promises nothing will come to you that you can’t handle. First Corinthians 10:13, “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.”

I like the way some of my Greek manuscripts translate “temptations”–they write being pressured. Listen, being pressured to sin is not a rare event–it is common to mankind. No person, even the most godly Christian, can escape temptation. Even our perfect Lord Jesus, who was without sin and without sinful flesh, was in His humanity, “tempted by the devil” in Matthew 4. Sadly, as one ancient writer quipped, your Christian baptism does not drown the flesh. But Martin Luther reminds us, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”

You don’t have to give into temptation pressure–God is faithful and will provide a way of escape. As a believer, you are not a slave to sin. But whatever you do, do not blame God. Verse 13 finishes with, “for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” God cannot be tempted. God, by His holy nature, has no capacity for evil, nor any vulnerability to it. Your God is untemptable–He is invincible to assaults of evil. John MacArthur writes, “The nature of evil makes it inherently foreign to the nature of God.” The two are mutually exclusive. The gulf between them is infinite. Our God has no vulnerability to evil and is utterly unassailable to its onslaughts.

Our Lord is aware of evil, but He is and will always be untouched by it–just like a sunbeam shining on a dump, is untouched by the trash. Your God is holy. Shortly after He instituted the covenant at Sinai, in Leviticus 19:2 the Lord called Moses to remind His people, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Your God repeats that command to you, the Church, in 1 Peter 1:16, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Eternal worship in the future will include Revelation 4:8, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” The word holy occurs about 2,000 times in the Bible. It means to be set apart for something special. God is holy, in that He sets himself apart from humanity. And that holiness is eternally unmixed with anything less than pure. So much so that Habakkuk emphasizes that the Lord has no vulnerability to evil or even temptation to evil, so the prophet declares, Habakkuk 1:13, “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and You cannot look on wickedness with favor.”

God in a body, the Lord Jesus in Hebrews 7:26, is also described as “…holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners”–which is why verse 13 concludes with, “and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” God purposes trials to occur, and in them He allows temptation to happen—but He has promised not to allow more than believers can endure and never without a way to escape. Each of us, each time, choose whether to take the escape God provides, or to give in. That’s why James gets really pointed in verse 14.

#2  Accept RESPONSIBILITY for your own sin  Verses 14 to 15

Do not blame God, people, circumstances, background or the devil–why? Because with sin, it is your fault, your responsibility, your choice. Look at verses 14 and 15. These verses will tell you that no one is immune to temptations—”each one is tempted”. Your sin has a three-step process, 1) “carried away”. The sins you battle with are different than the sins others battle with, 2) “his own lust”. That sinning starts with the emotions and mind, 3) “enticed by his own lust-conceived”.

That thinking you are above the danger of temptation or not responsible to battle is deadly. Read James 1:14 and 15, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” Each one emphasizes the universality of temptation from which no person is immune. Every human is tempted–there are no exceptions. Godliness does not prevent temptation. “Each one is tempted”–the present tense “is tempted” underscores the repeated and inescapable reality of the temptation attack. This goes on all the time, in every situation, when you least expect it. Temptation will attack you anytime and anywhere, because you carry its fuel within you.

Now temptation itself is not a sin–it is the allurement to sin, the pressure to sin. The Lord Jesus was tempted. In fact, Christ was Hebrews 4:15, “One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” So when does a temptation become sin–what is the process? James tells you in verse 14, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” Carried away is the picture of being lured into a hunting trap.

The Greek word “carried away” means dragging away, as if compelled by an inner desire. It was often used as a hunting term to refer to a baited trap designed to lure an unsuspecting animal into it. Enticed was commonly used as a fishing term describing the bait. The purpose of the bait is to lure the prey from safety, in order to capture it. Like a fish drawn out from his deep pool in order to eat that lure or hooked fly, entice means to capture. It was also used in first century Greek to mean enticed by pleasure.

The word enticed is only used three times in the New Testament–here, and twice describing the false teacher in 2 Peter. His “eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children,” and later using “arrogant words of vanity by which they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error.” But what lures you into the temptation trap–what leads you closer to sin? What’s the bait? Verse 14, “by his own lust.” Lust is an older Greek word for craving. Lust is your own strong emotional desires. What lures you into the temptation trap? What leads you closer to sin?

STEP #1  Strong DESIRE

Animals are successfully lured to traps because the bait is too attractive for them to resist. It looks good, smells good, and appeals to their senses. Their desire for the bait becomes so intense, it causes them to lose normal caution, overlook the danger and ignore the trap, until it is too late. You and I succumb to temptation in exactly the same way. When our lust, strong desires, draws us toward evil things that are appealing to our fleshly desire. Although today, the English word lust is almost exclusively used to describe illicit sexual desire, the Greek term lust refers to a deep desire or a good or bad longing of any kind.

Did you notice God says “his own lust”? That means temptations will be different for each of us. One person’s passion is another person’s repulsion. Each of us battles with temptation differently. I’ve never struggled with homosexuality, but others do. But each of us battles with lust. We all battle with our own strong emotional desires. In other words, given the right circumstances, anybody can commit any sin. Sin can look attractive and sin can look pleasurable–and often is, at least for a while. Otherwise it would have no power over us.

John MacArthur adds, “There would be no attraction of sin were it not for man’s own sinful lust, which makes evil seem more appealing than righteousness, falsehood, more appealing than truth, immorality, more appealing than moral purity, and the things of the world, more appealing than the things of God.” You cannot blame Satan, his demons, ungodly people, fleshly Christians, background, economics, or health for your own lust. And most certainly, you cannot blame God. Again, the problem is not a tempter from without, but the traitor within.

Step #1 is strong desire–the desire to be satisfied by acquiring something. It starts emotionally. It’s very subtle. You have a need–they were unfair, they hurt me, this looks good, this looks pleasurable. Sometimes you’re surprised by the emotions, the suddenness, the drive, the strength of them. But what happens next is the key to stopping temptation from becoming sin. Driven by your strong emotions, now mentally you make a decision. You are, verse 14, “enticed”–carried away . . .

STEP #2  DECEPTION of the mind

The temptation process next affects your mind through deception. You begin to rationalize your right to possess what you emotionally desire. What you feel becomes what you think, which will eventually lead to action, unless you stop it in the mind. The key is your mind. You are now thinking about it. You can’t stop the emotion, but you can direct your thinking. And you must say, “No.” The Spirit of God, recalling the Word of God in your mind, empowering you to say, “No.”

After the emotions kick in, then the thoughts begin to dwell. The battle travels from the heart to the mind, then finally to the will. But it must be stopped in the mind. Like rejecting false religious systems, 2 Corinthians 10:5, by the power of the Holy Spirit, “We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

Like Philippians 4:8, you can dwell upon “whatever is true [and not false], whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” To beat temptation, you must get serious about your mind, because the battle is there.

If I had a long enough cord and could plug your mind into the projectors behind me, and it would project for all to see every single thought that went through your brain today, right now, would you let me plug you in? Yes or no? That is where the battle is–In your mind, beware of the so-called harmless fantasy. Beware of taking the second, long look. In your mind, beware of thinking you deserve this. Beware of, “you must love yourself first” in your mind. Beware of thinking that desires, longings and wants are needs. James 1:16 screams, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” What happens if I feel it in my heart, think it in my head, then choose wrongly?

STEP #3  DISOBEDIENCE  Verse 15

Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” Once conceived, the will is in gear–then our thoughts will give birth to sin. Strong emotion, your lust draws you in. Then you make a decision in your mind–a willful choice, a mental determination, a personal selection. You pick passion over principle. Verse 15, “when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin.” Then once that decision is made, then sin is conceived–your will yields to the strong emotional lust, and conception of sin takes place.

Sin is not merely a random, spontaneous act, but the result of a process in you. The Greek words for “has conceived” and “brings forth” liken the process to physical conception and birth. James personifies temptation, showing it is alive and active in you. When someone commits adultery, there were a lot of little sins which led to that major failure. When someone displays a heart of anger, there has been much going on in that heart to finally express that sin. When someone lives in fear, there are major issues with God’s character and small choices made along the way to see them be so fearful.

Sin is a process. It starts with emotional lust temptation, then mental deception, until it finally issues forth in disobedience. Verse 15, “conceived” is the image of conception which will then give birth to sin in your life. Sin is literally brought forth, from the desire to the deception and now the disobedience. When you lose that internal mental battle over those strong emotions, then the lusts are fulfilled and sin is produced.

And Verse 15b, when sin is accomplished, “it brings forth death.” James reminds his readers the wages of sin is death. Sin will kill you for all eternity, or your eternal punishment for sin killed Christ in your place. Sin always brings forth death. And even though sin does not result in spiritual death for the believer, 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 John 5 teach you that your sin can lead to physical death. James wants you to know the seriousness of ongoing sin–it brings forth death.

And look ahead to verses 16 to 18 for next week. James wants you to know that even though you are beloved, verse 16–God is always good and a giver of all good gifts. Verse 17, and God is the one who transformed you so you wouldn’t have to live in sin. Verse 18, even though all that, sin is still hateful. It brings forth death.

TAKE HOME

A  Get SERIOUS about SIN

You need the means of grace to do battle and stop temptation before it’s birthed. You need spiritual leaders in your life who will 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “… admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

You need to listen to, study, read, memorize God’s all-powerful Sword. Psalm 119:9, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.”

You need to be at church with God’s people. You need to be discipled by a group of men or women. You need to be honest and transparent about your sinful struggles. All of us need to 2 Timothy 2:22, “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

Take no steps today about your sin and you are just asking for it–get serious about sin. Ask the Lord to guide you in how you will begin to attack that one sin He brought to mind.

B  Understand the PROCESS of TEMPTATION

It starts with 1) desires, then 2) deception in the mind, and issues forth in 3) disobedience. But it needs to be stopped in the mind. Get after what you think about–attack it. Depend on the Spirit and memorize the Scriptures that relate to your sin battles. If you’re struggling with lust, memorizing John 11:35 which says, “Jesus wept,” won’t help. Memorize the verses that relate to your sin battles and temptation desires.

You can’t stop the desires, but you can stop the deception–you can choose to refuse In Christ. You can say, “No, this is what the Lord wants from me.” Filled with the Spirit you can say, “No, this is what would please Jesus who died for me. No, I will not embrace this lust, but react in this manner to these desires which would glorify God.” Use Philippians 4:8 and dwell upon only that which is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise.

C  Do not embrace the role of the VICTIM

Apart from those who were physically forced into sin, you are not the victim. Do not blame your circumstances, your family background, your parents, your health, your lack of wealth, your race, your body, your friends, your church, your job, your pastors, your elders, your community group, your children, your wife, your husband, your personality or your appearance–and most of all, James says you must not blame God.

The point of these verses is, genuine Christians accept responsibility for their own sin. Do not be the victim–it will destroy your walk, your family and sometimes your friends. You came to Christ as an admitted sinner and you grow in Christ as an admitted sinner. Never blame God and stop blaming others. Recognize that God’s will is for you to 1) reckon yourself dead to sin’s power, 2) confess your sins, 3) repent of your sins, and 4) get help from others over your sin. But nowhere does the Bible say you are to blame others for your sin or hide your sin. Like David, say to the Lord Psalm 32:5, “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.”

D  Be moved by your growing awareness of Who God is

God is holy, without sin. And someday you will be perfectly holy too. Rejoice in who He is and what He has done for you. Next week James will remind you of His incredible blessings in your life. Verse 17, James will remind you He saved you, but not merely saved and transformed you. He made you different–made you holy before Him. And saved you so you could live holy as you depend upon His Spirit and walk in dependent obedience to His Word, verse 18. So much so, you are called beloved brethren. Christ loves you, sinner–verse 16.

Do not let your sin deceive you into discouragement, but let God’s good gifts, His grace, His redemption, His salvation through Christ, His indwelling Holy Spirit, and His promise to finish what He started in your life, drive you to flee youthful lusts and pursue His righteousness. Let’s pray.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.

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