Some wolves, especially the White Wolf, have a special place in Native American folklore. They are sometimes viewed as spiritual guides and are often portrayed in a positive light. Searches on several occult websites reveal a very favorable opinion of the wolf. That’s interesting because the Bible looks at wolves in a very negative light, always portraying them having to do with sin or personal destruction. Consider Ezekiel 22:27 and Matthew 7:15 which describe wolves as being ravenous, which means “extremely hungry,” and “intensely eager for gratification or satisfaction.” Habakuk 1:8 alerts us to the fact that wolves are fierce. Zephaniah 3:3 implies that wolves will utterly destroy and consume what they kill. Matthew 10:16 and Luke 10:3 reminds us that, spiritually, wolves are all around us and that according to Acts 20:29, these wolves will creep into our churches and “not spare the flock.”
I want to focus this week on how the wolves will come calling on us personally, highlighting the fact that they are ravenous, hungry beings bent on being gratified and satisfied and they will use their fierceness to destroy us and our families totally. After all, these wolves are everywhere and don’t care about collateral damage when they go in for the kill. When a wolf kills a rabbit, it doesn’t care about the rest of the rabbit family back home…it takes no thought of it. And if need be, the next day, he may go after one of the surviving members of that family and kill it. It happens in church families and it happens inside individual families within the church when the devil gets in and devours a family member, or the entire family.
The text for today is James 1:12-16. If you have your Bible, read through the passage as I highlight several truths about the devil and his tactics for destroying people. The first thing we need to get down and understand is that God will test us (send us trials) in order that our faith may be tested and through that testing, we can become better overall. Of course, the master counterfeiter wants to tempt us at the same time and that tempting is designed to bring us down and harm us spiritually. That’s what James 1:12-13 is saying, that God will NOT tempt us with evil…it’s impossible since there is no evil in God, and God wants us to flee evil, so He wouldn’t lead us into doing evil things.
Very briefly, it’s like this. When God tests our faith with a trial of some kind, He is looking for us to respond in a positive and godly way. For example…in James 1:2, we see that God wants us to be joyful and find the ability to rejoice when He tests us. Why? Because these trials produce good things in us…like patience. The devil wants us to ruin our testimony and be the dimmest of lights in this world by complaining throughout the trial, all the while searching for a “quick fix” instead of waiting on God and learning to be patient. So when God tests us to help us grow…the devil tempts us to destroy us.
But the devil has a second focus that is apart from working against God’s testing, and that is described in the remainder of the text in verses 14-16. Here we find James explaining to us that WE provide the devil with multiple opportunities to trip us up. Consider James 1:14, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away OF HIS OWN lust and enticed.” See, it’s our own fleshly lusts and desires that draw us away from the safety of God’s protective hand, and put us right in the hands of the devil, who will then tempt us. First our lust for something kicks in…that lust will lead us astray…and once we are led away, we are easy prey for the devil because we are fighting him on his turf. But realize this. The tempting only comes AFTER we are drawn away by our own lusts…so we have a high level of culpability when we fall into sin.
Consider the alcoholic that has spent the last several years sober and away from alcohol. He has stayed strong in the Word and made his home his personal “No Fail Zone.” There are no bottles of liquor anywhere in his house. Now if this same alcoholic becomes weaker in the faith, and his flesh kicks up, and he starts to desire a drink…as long as he stays home, he CANNOT be tempted to take a drink. The devil has nothing to tempt him with. However, if, in his weakened spiritual state this gentleman wants to go to the bar to watch a ballgame, NOW the devil can tempt him because alcohol is all around him. See…this man was led away of his own lusts from the safety of his home and THEN he was tempted by the devil.
A pastor I sat under for some of the time I was in college in Maine, the late Harry Boyle of Grace Baptist Church in Portland, said something I’ll never forget as it relates to James 1:14. He said, “We give the devil too much credit for the sin in our lives. If the devil died tomorrow we’d still have troubles.” It’s the old adage, “The devil made me do it.” Well yeah, but you let him. You put yourself there. If you read the descriptions of the Strange Woman of Proverbs 5, 6, & 7, you’ll find that the men were getting in trouble because they were going to where SHE was. Had they stayed home, they wouldn’t have gotten caught in her web. But once they were led astray by THEIR own lusts, the devil enticed them, and they led THEMSELVES to slaughter (Proverbs 7:22). More on that in a little bit.
James 1:15 reads, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringith forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” So the byproduct of our lusts, after we are tempted (James 1:14) is sin. The alcoholic at the bar will take his first drink in years. The man walking by the home of the strange woman will harken unto her voice and be enticed (tempted) and then partake of forbidden fruit. So if we dwell on our lusts long enough, it will bring forth sin. This is why in Matthew 5:27-28 Jesus says that even lusting in our hearts and mind is the equivalent to the physical act of adultery. Why? Because if we dwell on it, and obsess over it long enough, we’ll actually do it. Same thing is true in 1st John 3:15, all you have to do is harbor hate in your heart, and God calls you a murderer. Why? Because if you dwell on how much you hate someone, the potential is there to carry it through, all the way to possibly murdering that person.
Now the sin that is conceived has consequences that come along with it. The Bible may seem a bit dramatic in calling the consequences of sin death, but it’s not being dramatic at all. The sin that Adam and Eve committed in Genesis 2 brought forth both physical and spiritual death for the rest of us according to Romans 5:17. Spiritually speaking, Romans 6:23 says that we are all spiritually dead because of sin, but that the remedy to this spiritual death is God’s Son who can give us eternal life. And let’s not forget the many examples of people experiencing physical death as a result of their sin. One example is Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5:1-11, who both died as a direct result of lying and disobeying one of the original Ten Commandments.
In more personal everyday examples, we all know, or at least have heard of people dying because of the sin they were involved in. Alcoholics can die of liver failure. Drug addicts can die of overdoses. Promiscuous people can contract incurable sexually transmitted diseases like HIV eventually leading to AIDS and death. Adulterers have been known to be killed by jealous spouses. People who smoke can develop lung cancer, which can eventually kill. It’s at times like these, when we reflect on some of the things we have done in the past that had potentially serious consequences that we have been spared from enduring, that the true depth and value of God’s mercy and grace is made known to us. But here’s an illustration to make James 1:14-15 more practically understood.
One of the hardest things to do is to live as an Eskimo and have to hunt wide open, exposed expanses of land to gather food. There is no shelter and no hiding, so the animals are not fooled and can evade capture because they are tipped off to the hunter being in the area. The Arctic Wolf is just such an animal. It is nearly impossible to hunt using traditional stalking and shooting methods. So, tradition tells the story of how the Eskimo developed a method to hunt the wolf with a nearly 100% kill rate…and they relied on the wolf itself to do most of the work.
Knowing that the wolf has an insatiable appetite for blood, the Eskimo would take very sharp swords and dip the sword in blood from a recent kill (maybe a seal) and let that layer of blood freeze. Then, after the first layer is frozen, they would add a second layer, and so on, until every last bit of the sharp blade was covered by the blood. Then, during the day, the Eskimo would fix these swords in the snow with the blade upright. At night, a wolf would pick up the scent and investigate and find the blood he was smelling.
What happens next is that while the Eskimo slept, the wolf feasted on this tasty treat. He would lick the blood and enjoy himself immensely. As his tongue warmed up the blood and it became somewhat thawed, the taste for that blood got greater and greater, bringing the wolf more and more pleasure. Layer and layer would be licked clean away until all of a sudden, the lethal nature of the tasty treat would appear. At first, the exposed blade may have been so small, that the wolf may not have even noticed anything amiss. All the wolf was able to concentrate on was the tasty treat someone had left for him…so he keeps on keeping on…lapping the blood off the blade more and more and with higher and higher levels of intensity.
Eventually more of the blade is exposed now, and the wolf is so feverishly consuming the blood that he is now bleeding from his tongue. Now his own fresh blood is mingled with the frozen blood he had been feasting on. Eventually the wolf senses something is wrong and abandons the blood popsicle. The pain in his mouth now far outweighs any enjoyment he can get from the blood. But by then it’s already too late. The wolf now wanders off into the night.
The next morning, the Eskimo awakens and heads out to the trap he set for the wolf. He then follows the trail of the blood dripped from the wolf’s mouth and will eventually come upon the wolf lying in the snow, deceased from having bled to death. The Eskimo then takes it home and uses it for his and his family’s needs. The Eskimo did very little to kill the wolf, other than setting a tempting treat as a trap. The wolf, led away that night by its lust for blood, really destroyed his own self once he let the tempting treat get the better of him.
How often are we led away by our lusts and then tempted by the devil with some sin that is so very appealing to us. We give in to the temptation and perhaps at first we come out of it unscathed. But the more we get hooked on whatever sin we are indulging in, and as we get deeper and deeper into it, we start hitting some unwanted consequences. At first we may not even realize that these consequences are directly related to what we are doing, but sooner or later, if we continue, we will find ourselves not enjoying our sin as much anymore because the consequences are more and more severe and bring down the level of enjoyment significantly. At this point, we may swear away that sin for good, but by now, in some cases, it’s too late. Like the wolf, we will die. We may die physically, emotionally, psychologically, but we will most certainly spiritually. But unlike the wolf serving the Eskimo in death, the devil will just leave our carcasses there to rot, because he has no use for us other than to let everyone see what kind of a failure we were as a Christian…nice huh?
So let’s wrap it up with James 1:16 which reads, “Do not err, my beloved brethren.” Yes, James is writing to Christians. He is writing to fellow believers. He is writing to you and I. This CAN and DOES happen to Christians, so at the end of this portion of scripture about being led astray and tempted and becoming utterly destroyed, James pleads with us not to be fooled. Don’t be proud and say “That won’t happen to me…I’m too aware of what I’m capable of doing.” It CAN and WILL happen to you if you take that posture…just read Proverbs 16:18 and Proverbs 18:12 to see that it’s true. So be careful and don’t let the “Eskimos” get you!