“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully-grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15)
This is ugly isn’t it? God tempts no one, and is not tempted with evil – yet we are lured away and enticed by what? Our own desires. Remember the image of the monster breaking out of the nostalgic movie theater? “It came from within!” seems to be an appropriate statement describing the shocking reality of what lurks beneath the surface in our hearts. But do you agree with God? Do you agree that when you’re tempted you’re led astray by your own desires? Do you think your heart is really this black? I mean it doesn’t take many steps into our current cultural climate to find out what most people think about the heart of man.
If you take a tour through the monster ballads of the 80’s you’ll find a robust theological view of not only what the heart is, but what it is for.
For example: Edge of a Broken Heart by Bon Jovi, Kickstart My Heart by Motley Crue, Burning Heart by Survivor, Hide Your Heart by Kiss, Closer To The Heart by Rush, Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes, Listen To Your Heart by Roxette, Open Your Heart by Madonna, Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler, Hungry Heart by Bruce Springsteen, Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around by Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks, Harden My Heart by Quarterflash, Cold Hearted by Paula Abdul, Hearts and Bones by Paul Simon, do I need to go on?
That was just in the 80’s! Imagine how large the song list gets when you open it up all the way to the present?! We are not a people who are disinterested about the thoughts and intentions of our hearts are we? No were not. Rather, I think we’re so obsessed with our hearts, so driven by our hearts, and so bent on following our hearts regardless of the consequences it brings. This is not good. You should never follow your heart, or be driven here or there by its leading or orientation. The early American poet Emily Dickinson coined a phrase that many of us have used to justify our sin: “The heart wants what the heart wants.” Jeremiah 17:9 gives us warning, “The heart is deceitful above all things, desperately sick, who can know it?” Jesus even said in Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander.”
Lets pause and ask a question. Have you said or heard someone say “I fell into sin again.” I have. Do you think James agrees with this? I don’t! If each person is tempted when they are lured away and enticed by their own desires, than it follows that no one “falls” into sin. Rather we sin because we want to. Isn’t this sin defined? Preferring what is evil over what is good? I think we say we “fall” into sin because we don’t want to see ourselves as bad as we really are. Notice 1:15, we see the anatomy of temptation in a chain like fashion. Once desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin, and once sin is full grown it brings forth death. It really does come from within. The completion of this step-by-step progression into sin may take years to form in the heart, or it may take minutes. Allowing sinful desires to grow in our hearts give it room to grow, sin then comes forth, when it roars its ugly head literally all hell breaks lose, and if sin is not dealt with in a Biblically appropriate manner, it will be the end of us.
John Witherspoon, a Scottish pastor and former Princeton president, once preached a sermon called “The Deceitfulness of Sin.” In it he described what this process of sin looks like in the human experience as it grows. He gave 8 steps.
1 – you enter and initiate yourself in a vicious practice by small sins.
2 – having once begun in the ways of sin, you venture upon something greater and more daring; courage grows with experience; and you give yourself more liberty to walk in the ways of your heart.
3 – open sins soon throw you into the hands of ungodly companions.
4 – next, you begin to feel the force of habit and custom.
5 – the next stage you lose the sense of shame and sin openly and boldly.
6 – you begin to harden yourself so as to sin without remorse of conscience.
7 – you then come to boast and glory in your wickedness, that what you do is something to be above shame, perhaps you even esteem your sin as honorable.
8 – lastly, not content with being wicked yourself, you use all your person and influence to make others join in with you.
Author Kevin DeYoung described this process as beginning from small sins to bigger sins, to bad friends and bad habits, to loss of shame and loss of conscience, to boasting in what is evil and then zealously pursuing others to do the same – this is the devilish nature of sin’s grip on the human heart.
The descent into our depravity is not a ride many want to take. But God has cure for this, and He doesn’t leave us in the knowledge of our depravity in this text.