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James 1:12-15 by Robert Dean
Series:James (1998)
Duration:1 hr 4 mins 12 secs

Doctrine of Crowns – Mechanics of Temptation
James 1:12-15

NASB "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which {the Lord} has promised to those who love Him. 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. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death."

""Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial"—'trial' is the Greek word PEIRASOMOS [peirasmoj] which has two meanings. One is an objective sense and one is a subjective sense. In the objective sense this relates to baiting a trap. That is the objective sense of temptation. The subjective sense is the inner attraction, the inner draw to that outer bait. This is very objective, you can offer someone the bait, the opportunity to sin, put them under a certain amount of pressure so that that they may want to go in a particular direction; but the subjective sense is the sense in which they are internally drawn or attracted to that bait. Externally we come under adversity or outside pressure from three sources.

First of all, living in the cosmic system. This comes from the Greek word KOSMOS [kosmoj] which had to do with a very orderly system. The root word is that from which we get the English word "cosmetic." The head of the cosmic system is Satan. So the cosmic system promotes all of Satan's values and ideals, and Satan's systems are not always what we think of in terms of malignant evil. Perhaps Satan's greatest tool is religion and morality, because nothing distracts people further from the truth of God's Word than these two. Religion and morality emphasize human merit. It is the idea that man does the work and then God blesses. World religions are various systems that seek to promote human ability, effort and good in such a way that God is impressed with human sincerity and all of the various things that man can do through religious activity—ritual, giving, prayer, etc. People think that they are going to somehow impress God and gain His approval or approbation. This cosmic system, then, is the entire system of Satan's rule on planet earth. Right now we know from the Scriptures that he is the prince of the power of the air and that he is the god of this age and the ruler of this age. The cosmic system is that which Satan promotes to try to gain control of planet earth.

Secondly, we go one step further from the cosmic system and we have to deal with unbelievers and carnal believers who are operating on human viewpoint and cosmic ideologies. Because they are making decisions based on socialism, communism, atheism, Gnosticism, and any and all kind of other isms that are contrary to God's Word, that we are going to feel the backlash of all sorts of human viewpoint systems in our life because they have made bad decisions based on human viewpoint.

Third, because we live with and in close association with carnal believers, and they are going to be under divine discipline, we are going to undergo a certain amount of adversity simply because God is disciplining them we will come under a certain amount of suffering by association and overflow suffering.

Fourth, if you live in a nation that is under divine discipline then you will also undergo a certain amount of adversity and trouble that has nothing to do with your own personal behaviour. All of this relates to outside pressure, adversity or tests which provide an opportunity to choose to apply Bible doctrine.

How do we as believers persist in the midst of testing? Example: Matthew 4:1. This was at the beginning of our Lord's ministry, immediately after is baptism. NASB "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [tested] by the devil." When we are tested our testing comes from one of three sources: a) Satan. He is the enemy of God and is in opposition to everything God is planning to do on earth and all of God's plans for redeeming mankind, and he is the enemy of every single believer. He is not omniscient and cannot run around chasing every believer but in terms of Satan as the head of an entire array of demons who are carrying out his tasks, part of which is to destroy the witness of believers in the church age and the angelic conflict—in some sense that might be true, although we attribute a tremendous amount to Satan that is just the result of people's sin natures. The sin nature that we possess is capable of the same quality of evil that Satan's and the demons' is capable of. Sin is sinful, highly evil and wicked. There is no difference in quality between the depravity of a human sin nature and the angelic sin nature. The only difference is that the angelic creatures have much more power and capability than we have, so they are able to do a lot more than any human being is capable of doing. Satan uses the world system to create all sorts of rationales and arguments to convince people that human viewpoint provides the best solution, that God's solution is difficult and is not necessary, and that it (doctrine) doesn't work; b) the greatest problems of all is not one of the two external enemies, it is the internal traitor that we have, the enemy behind the lines, the covert spy, i.e. our own sin nature, the flesh. This is the most dangerous. We have this terrible enemy within that is constantly tempting us. It is not a sin to be tempted, incidentally. As long as we are positive to doctrine and are applying doctrine you can easily resist the temptation, the bait that is set by the sin nature. But the minute we begin to find it attractive and to put our focus on that bait (as Eve looked at the fruit) and decide to sin, it is at that point of using our volition that causes us to sin.

Jesus is led up by the Spirit to be tested by the devil, the # 1 enemy. Jesus has the high commander of the enemy forces paying particular attention to Him. This is a time when Jesus was physically weak, He had been without food for forty days. Satan appeals to Him to solve His problem of hunger in an illegitimate way, to use His power apart from God's plan. NASB But He answered and said, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'" Jesus focuses back on doctrine and He rebuts the temptation by using Scripture and applying doctrine. So if we are going to not succumb to temptation, if we are going to resist, if we are going to persist and endure in times of testing, then we do it by means of the Word of God. That is our power through God the Holy Spirit. Under the filling of the Holy Spirit Jesus is led to the wilderness, and under the filling of the Holy Spirit He is utilizing the Word of God as His defensive weapon. Just as the RHEMA [r(hma], the spoken Word is the sword of the Spirit in Ephesians chapter six; that is how it is used, it is a defensive weapon to parry the thrusts of the enemy. It is not an offensive weapon, we do not as believers go out and engage the devil in hand-to-hand combat. We are to stand fast; we stand fast on the Word of God and we let God deal with Satan. That is what Jesus is doing here by quoting Scripture accurately.

Then in verse 5, 6, "…the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, 'HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU'; and 'ON {their} HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'" This time Satan uses Scripture but he takes it out of context and tries to use it to get the Lord to violate  His position and submission to the plan of God. Jesus' response is once again by accurately quoting Scripture. Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'"

For the third test, vv. 8-11 NASB "Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'" Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and {began} to minister to Him." The point is that Satan is baiting a trap. There is nothing in Jesus that attracts Him to the bait (He has no sin nature), nevertheless there is a test, a temptation. Just because there is no sin nature here does not mean that Jesus is not being tempted. He is in the same position as the first Adam. Jesus was successful; Adam was a failure. The result of Adam's sin is the entire human race sinned when Adam sinned and fell into condemnation, and the result of Jesus' victory here is that He exemplified how the believer in the church age is to have victory in times of testing—under the filling of the Holy Spirit and through the use of the Word of God.

Returning to James chapter one, how do we persevere? By the filling of the Holy Spirit and the application of doctrine.  "…or once he has been approved…" Now we come to another important word. The word here is DOKIMOS [dokimoj]. This is a different kind of test. It means to evaluate, to test for the purposes of approval as opposed to PEIRASMOS which has to do with an objective test or an internal temptation. This is a test for approval in order to evaluate how much doctrine someone has. Once he passes the test (by application of doctrine) then the result is approval. "…he will receive the crown of life which {the Lord} has promised to those who love Him." This introduces a very important doctrine for the believer, and that is that God has for us what is called "contingent blessings in eternity." These are contingent upon your volition, your decision a) to learn doctrine; b) to apply doctrine. As you learn to apply doctrine in the midst of tests one result is maturity. As a result of maturity God will distribute to you your contingent blessings. These are blessings that God has decided to give you and set aside for you from eternity past. They are not dependent upon works, they are dependent upon your growth because God is not going to bless you beyond your capabilities. He is not going to distribute these blessings until we have developed the capacity for them. So learn and apply and grow to maturity and we are establishing the basis for these contingent blessings in eternity, which are rewards. Our goal is to grow to spiritual maturity as fast as possible and that is where the spiritual life really begins. The end of the spiritual life is not to get to maturity. You get to maturity so that you can live the adult spiritual life. That is the way it is in the physical realm. We need to grow up as fast as we can and reach a level of spiritual maturity so that we can live the adult spiritual life. The adult spiritual life is where we glorify God. It is in the adult spiritual life that we experience the maximum blessing that God has for us in time. It is in the adult spiritual life that we have our greatest witness in the angelic conflict. It is in the adult spiritual life that we see the greatest demonstration of the power of God in our lives. We have to grow up as soon as possible and the only way to do that is through learning and applying doctrine—James 1:2-4. Endurance is to have its maturing result that we may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. God motivates us with rewards, and these rewards are outlined in the Scriptures as crowns.

Why is this important? It is important to understand that everything you do now impacts eternity. You will be in eternity what you choose to do right now. Think about that. Just as you right now are the result of all the decisions you made in the last 20, 30, 40 50 years or more, the same thing is true in eternity. The only thing that you are going to take with you when you leave planet earth, when the Lord calls you home, is the doctrine that is in your soul and the spiritual maturity that you possess at that time. If you are a spiritual infant, if you have been living in reversionism as a backslidden Christian, living in carnality, and you have never grown; then when you get to heaven you are still going to be a spiritual infant. You are not going to have any greater capacity to appreciate and understand your surroundings than somebody who has just moments before they died trusted the Lord as their savior. The only way you can develop capacity to appreciate and understand what is going on in heaven is through learning something. We are in that training ground right now while we are here on earth. So for those believers who pursue spiritual maturity and spiritual adulthood, for those believers who are witnesses in the angelic conflict, and those believers who pursue and are successful in the spiritual life, there are a variety of crowns that are promised, a variety of rewards. 

1)  There are two types of crowns that are mentioned in the Scriptures. The first word is STEPHANOS [stefanoj], the second is DIADEMA [diadhma]. The DIADEMA is a royal crown and is not the subject of the doctrine of crowns which always uses the term STEPHANOS, which is the victor's crown. It is a crown given as a reward for successful achievement—for victory in the Olympic Games, for bravery in combat, or for a place of honor at a feast. The STEPHANOS was usually a wreath made from laurel leaves or olive leaves, oak leaves, or similar that was placed upon the head.  It is interesting that the crown of thorns that was placed in Jesus' head is a STEPHANOS, a victor's crown. At the time when Satan thought He was administering the defeat to Jesus, God in His sense of humor, has a STEPHANOS of thorns placed upon our Lord's head to show that in that time of tremendous suffering He was being victorious. Mark 15:17 NASB "They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him."

1 Corinthians 9:25 NASB "Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then {do it} to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable."

Philippians 4:1 NASB "Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long {to see,} my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved."

2 Timothy 4:8 NASB "in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing." 

1 Peter 5:4 NASB "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory."

Revelation 2:10 NASB "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."

Revelation 3:11 NASB "I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown."

Revelation 4:4 NASB "Around the throne {were} twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones {I saw} twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads."

Revelation 4:10 NASB "the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,"

The DIADEMA is mentioned in Revelation 12:3; 13:1; 19:12.

2)  Each crown included monetary reward, freedom from taxes, children educated at public expense, and a statue of the person, the victor was erected in the public square. The crown is used in Scripture as a symbol for the greatest honors that the Lord can give to a victorious believer, a believer who endures and persists in the midst of all testing to grow to spiritual maturity and spiritual adulthood.

3)  To understand the nature of crowns we must understand the cultural imagery of the games which underlies this metaphor. The believer is compared to an athlete—1 Timothy 2:4, 5 NASB "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules." The rules here are analogous to the mandates of the Christian life. Just as there were rules for the Greek athlete there are mandates for the Christian life. Don't push that too far, it doesn't mean that if you violate a rule, a mandate in Scripture, you are disqualified. The way to recover if we do break a rule or violate a mandate or sin is through the use of 1 John 1:9. That is grace; we can recover. For the believer there is grace, divine forgiveness, and so we can move forward in our advance towards spiritual maturity, spiritual adulthood, and reward.

4)  Related to the games, the historical background. The games were well known in the ancient world and they developed in Greece in the 6th century BC. Later under Rome they never had the same glory that they had in Greece. Only free-born Greeks were eligible participants. They entered into a rigorous ten-month schedule of training. The Greek word for this is AGONIZOMAI [a)gwnizomai], from which we get our word "agony." Athletes were selected by elimination trials in each town. Once the victory was complete tremendous honors were heaped on the victor when he returned home.

5)  As believers we are not to live our Christian lives aimlessly. In ancient Greece they just flailed at one another.

Principle: these rewards can be lost. We can fall away from grace, which means we depart from the truth, we begin living in carnality and under the sin nature, and we lose everything we gain.