What Should I Do When Temptation Comes?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
I don’t know about you but I think most of us feel that God is drawing us much closer together. We’re such dumb people, we human beings, and I suppose He has to do all kinds of things to bring us close to each other’s hearts. But it just feels so good to me anyway and I think to you too.
I won’t give the loved one’s name but I got a good letter and I thought it was just good and expressed some of the things that some of us would think in these Sundays. You made the statement that “when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we never feel negative or sad feelings.” It does seem loved ones that you have to make a distinction between temptation and sin. I think if you are really scriptural about what temptation is, you’d have to go to James 1:14. This might help some us in our own daily lives as well as our understanding of the doctrine.
James 1:14, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” So, we are normally tempted by a desire that we have, being used by Satan to draw us into excessive desire which then becomes lust and then becomes sin. This may be vital for us to see that temptation comes not just from without, though in fact it’s initiated from without by Satan, but it occurs inside us. So Satan is able to inject a fiery dart into us and that is temptation and that can often be a negative feeling or a sad feeling, but the key is, does it come from without from Satan or does it come from within us?
So, we might have hunger, that’s a desire we normally have and that’s legitimate and Satan throws a fiery dart into us of maybe a fascination for three cokes instead instead of one or whatever or chocolate cream pie or chocolate chip ice-cream beyond what is reasonable. Well, we feel that desire from within, we feel that. But the difference between temptation and sin is that temptation comes from without and sin continues to come from within. So this dear one says and I think rightly: “Initially felt feelings are neither good nor bad, they just are. It is what we choose to do with them that become morally right or wrong.” I think that’s right.
The first thought of anger or the first thought of irritability can easily be injected into you from without from the atmosphere around you. You can go into the office one morning and there’s a whole spirit of criticism going, just the whole atmosphere, they’re taking Billy Graham apart piece by piece or they’re taking Ronald Reagan apart piece by piece and it is very easy for that whole spirit of criticism around you in the office to almost deluge you. Before you know it, you’re into the middle of it. The moment God through your conscience, through the revelation of His Holy Spirit, says to you, “Wait a minute; you see what you’re involved in here,” that’s the moment of choice for you and me. That’s when we either go on into sin or we step back and we say, “Yes, this is wrong, I am having nothing more to do with it.”
But loved ones, it is probably important for all of us to see that even when you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, Satan is still able to inject a thought of evil or a thought of anger into your mind or your emotions even. It is not sin until you embrace it to yourself, accept it with your will and entertain it. You know the old saying, “You can’t help swallows flying over your head, but you can prevent them building nests in your hair.”
We’re in this world that is filled with all kinds of strange feelings and strange attitudes. That’s the whole basis of the pop song business and the whole rock and roll thing. That’s the basis of the entire hard rock situation, all the acid rock. The basis of it is that there is a soul, a cosmic soul that we human beings share. You’ve only to go to a football game to sense that that cosmic soul is there. Everybody is up there “ra-ra-ra-ing” for their team and you’re up also because you are influenced by the psychic life around you, the soul life around you, even the spirit life around you.
Loved ones we move in and out of that every day in our lives and that is impinging upon us all the time. That’s how Satan tempts us. He injects one of those thoughts into us — but a thought of evil does not become an evil thought until you embrace it with your will. So it’s probably quite important you know, to see that comment in the light of that. You made the statement that “when we’re filled with the Holy Spirit, we never feel negative or sad feelings.” Well, it seems to me often from without all kinds of feelings, all kinds of thoughts could come in but the first second, it is the temptation, the second second, it becomes sin.
In other words, the first second it comes in and you can’t tell. It comes in involuntarily from outside. But the moment you know it’s there and God let’s you know it’s there, then, if you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, you have the power to reject it. It is true too that there are other ways in which you have sad feelings. I think Jesus said, “You weep with those that weep, you rejoice with those that rejoice,” if you’re filled with this Holy Spirit, you have an ability and empathy to sympathize with others and to feel with them.
It seems too that at times of great trial, you can be in heaviness under manifold temptations. There can be a sense of solemnity about you. Being filled with the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean shallow superficial happy happiness all the time. Seems to me there are times when a mom dies or a dad dies or a loved one dies or there are times when there are just serious times in your life, just very serious times. God expects us to be real about those and to see that joy is not being free from any kind of solemnity.
Now, if you say to me, “Well, brother where do you get the sense that being filled with the Holy Spirit enables you from within to have a continual joy?” Well, loved ones, from several pieces in scripture: 2 Corinthians 4:7 is one of them. In other words we’re not talking about a light superficial happy happiness that has nothing to do with trials. We’re talking about something that is there, coming from within you, even in the midst of difficulties.
2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.” Paul is talking about himself and his fellow apostles. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” So, we come into all kinds of trials, all kinds of difficulties and at times you might even be perplexed, but not perplexed to that point of despair that so often we are.
So, you might be pressed but not destroyed. All kinds of things may pressure you and move against you but you find rising up from within you through the Holy Spirit, a joy and a peace that wins through and comes to a confidence that God is still in control. Seems that that’s what we’re talking about. If you’re not filled with the Holy Spirit, all that stuff is coming in on you and you’ve
nothing but despair. You’re just looking at the circumstances hoping that they’ll change or hoping that somebody will deliver you. But there’s nothing rising from within that gives you that peace that passes all understanding.
Another piece about that is in 2 Corinthians 6:4-10, “But as servants of God, we commend ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watching, hunger; by purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as imposters and yet are true; as unknown and yet well known; as dying and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
That’s it; you see that verse 10A, “As sorrowful yet always rejoicing,” that’s it. There is an amazing paradox that many of us I think have touched there. There are all kinds of things that come in upon you to make you sorrowful but you find rising from within you a rejoicing and a joy in God that is separate from that. Now the tragedy is when you’re not filled with the Holy Spirit, it’s hard to get anything up from inside at all.
So loved ones, when we say we never have negative or sad feelings, yes from the point of view of what comes from within us. From within us come rivers of living water that rise up constantly. From without and round about us there are all kinds of things. In other words, being filled with the Holy Spirit is not an unreal superficial kind of happy happiness that has to smile its head off even when your dearest one dies right in front of you. That’s not it.
It’s a reality. It’s a normal humanness. It’s an interaction with loved ones and with circumstances but it is from within a deep joy that comes from knowing that whatever happens the Father has things in control and you’re satisfied that He has them in control. Some of the difficulty you and I come up against is, we’re not quite satisfied that He has everything in control or we don’t like the way He is controlling it too much and that’s where we fail to enjoy the fullness of Holy Spirit.
So, that’s part loved ones of that, and do think about and ask me at the end if we have time, I think we will have. Now I’ll go a little further because this loved one said, “I think something very good about a kind of superficial fullness of the spirit that some of us get into. I think some feel that they can’t be human (make mistakes)”. I should apologize to the dear one who has written as I didn’t ask you if I could share this but I am not giving your name and I don’t know you, so I thought it was so good.
“I think some feel that they can’t be human (make mistakes) once they are filled with the Holy Spirit. I have seen Christians get into a form of legalism and emotional difficulty by denying all negative feelings to give a positive confession, making words, what they say and don’t say, a way of life to the point that the average person can’t relate to them and they appear to be false and pretentious.”
I thought that was good, you know. “I think some feel that they can’t be human or make mistakes, once they are filled with the Holy Spirit. I have seen Christians get into a form of legalism and emotional difficulty by denying all negative feelings to give a positive confession, making words, what they say and don’t say, a way of life, to the point that the average person can’t relate to them and they appear to be false and pretentious.”
I think some of us, in our youthfulness get into that. We say, “Oh yes, I am filled with the Holy Spirit, so I can’t sin. So what I am doing, mustn’t be sinning, so it isn’t sinning, no, it’s something else. It’s just being human or something and we get into a whole game. Or we feel these things within and instead of dealing with them before God and allowing the Holy Spirit to deal with them, we say, “No, they aren’t there, they aren’t there.” And so we get into all kinds of emotional sickness.
I think she carried it a little further, “if we deny all negative feelings, we become emotionally ill. Anger becomes depression, jealousy becomes hatred, and eventually we become numb and soon can neither feel sad nor glad. It is a zombie like quality and in fact mental illness.” I think that’s right. “So, from what I see, Christians need to learn how to deal with their emotions in a healthy way, not by denying their feelings and not by being controlled by them, but by admitting them and confessing them to God and to their fellow men, Christian or non-Christian, and honestly deal with them openly as much as possible. In this way, we will not begin to hide and start pretending to God and each other.”
That seems good to me. But some of us get into an attitude, “Well, Pastor says if I am filled with the Holy Spirit, I don’t feel anger. Well, I feel anger but I know I am filled with the Holy Spirit, so that’s not anger.” And we just deny it and that’s unreal and lying and hypocritical and God can do nothing with us and man can do less with us. Obviously what God wants us to do is to be real, not to get some idea or picture; this is what being filled with the Holy Spirit is about.
I say this reverently but who cares what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Who cares, what defines what? Who cares how you define baptism of the Spirit? What God wants for you and me is all that He has wrought for us in Jesus. He wants us to experience that. He wants us to be real about that. Who cares what somebody else thinks of me? Who cares what somebody thinks whether I am baptized with the Holy Spirit or filled with the Holy Spirit or born of the Spirit? Who cares?
God has done something for us all in Jesus that enables us to live above self and above sin. We want to get into that. I want to get you into that whatever way I can. I want you to get me into that whatever way you can. We want to help each other to get into all that God has wrought for us in Jesus. We want nothing less than He has done for us in Jesus, we want nothing more but we do want what He has done for us in Jesus.
Loved ones, I would encourage your hearts to see that if we’re in Jesus together and God has accepted all of us because of Jesus, then we can accept each other today. We don’t need to be saying, “Oh well, you got impatient so you’re not this. What does that matter? If you’ve got something that God can deliver you from, it’s up to me to help you to get into that. If you can see something that I have got that God can deliver me from, it’s up to you to help me to be delivered from that.” But let’s keep clear of setting up patterns of behavior that we try to live up to. Legalistic little attitudes where, “No, we don’t admit we have any feelings at all.” That’s what some of us do. We have some bad feelings so we deny them, and so cease to have even good feelings. We become as the loved one said, kind of zombies.
Now what God wants is of course, for us to be real. Now, one of the ways in which some of us deal with these things, she touches upon in her letter. She says, “If we choose to hang onto negative feelings or harmful ones, they can harm us and others. They need to be confessed or lifted up to God. Then we can be cleansed of them and receive inner healing in the areas where past hurts trigger
so many negative feelings.”
Maybe we should read that again because it’s well known among us a way to deal with some of those feelings. “If we choose to hang onto negative feelings or harmful ones, they can harm us and others. They need to be confessed or lifted up to God. Then we can be cleansed of them and receive inner healing in the areas where past hurts trigger so many negative feelings.”
I think that latter part covers some of our negative feelings. But a lot, it doesn’t cover. For instance, I think it covers the feelings that some of us have who had a mother or a father that always criticized us –always criticized us. Whatever we did was wrong, it didn’t matter what it was, it was wrong and we grew up hurt by that and therefore very very reluctant to take any kind of criticism or correction from anyone.
So, the hurt was there and as a result of that, we just rejected all criticism or all correction. Now it seems that what the loved one says is right in that situation. What we need to do is come before God, first of all confess any resentment we have against our moms or dads for their criticism and then ask Him to show us His attitude to us. We need to begin to read scripture and see how loving and magnanimous God is, how generous — how He forgives seventy times seven — how tolerant and patient He is of a thousand mistakes.
Look how good He was with Peter when Peter even denied Him before the maid and Jesus came right back and was merciful to Him. We need to see the bigness of God’s heart and allow that to heal the fear that we have of being corrected and then begin to see through the Holy Spirit as He works upon us and heals us. See, correction is a beautiful thing, as something that is great and good. Now that deals with some of those feelings, loved ones.
But there are other feelings that we have that don’t require just healing. They require downright deliverance. And those are the ones that we particularly talk about when we talk about what God has done in Jesus for us. What degree of victory does God want in our lives and what degree of victory is needed in our lives? Well, would you look with me at Galatians? It seems that God has given us a very clear verse there that prevents us rationalizing sin away and yet gives us a pointer as to how to deal with it.
Galatians 5:19, “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like. I warn you as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Just help me to call black, black and white, white because God wasn’t saying, “If you ever in your whole life feel envy or you ever in your whole life feel a touch of anger, then you won’t inherit the kingdom of God.” This was very plain. Those who do these things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
If you find that fornication or anger or jealousy is pretty continuously a part of your life, a part of your response to situations, if year after year after year you still have trouble with the same anger and the same resentment that you had trouble with ten years ago, well, whatever way you manipulate the English language, that means you’re doing such things. Those things are things that you do.
You’re doing those things and if you do those things, you won’t inherit the kingdom of God because the kingdom of God is a peaceable kingdom. It’s a place of beauty with a lion and the lamb that lie
down together. It’s a place where all tears are wiped away from all eyes. It’s a place where people prefer the other before themselves. It’s a place where love is not jealous or boastful, it’s not arrogant or rude, it does not insist on its own way. It’s a place of beauty. And if envy and anger and strife and jealousy come into that place, it would destroy it. So God cannot let that kind of thing inherit His kingdom.
So loved ones, it is just good to look at those things and to be real about them and then as the loved one said, “Don’t deny them, but be real before God about them.” So if you could just take the jealousy. You might say, “Well, I only feel jealousy once every two weeks” or “I only feel it when Bryan Steel sings a song as beautifully as this morning” or “I only feel jealousy when I meet my older brother and thank goodness, I only meet him every now and again.” So you could say, “Well, I don’t feel jealousy constantly, so probably I’ll inherit the kingdom of God.”
Well, let’s be fair. Jealousy only comes up in certain situations. So it’s important to see when those situations come up, do you feel jealousy? In other words do you feel jealous of somebody? Do you feel, “Well, they’re not really as good as me, but they appear to be as good as me to everybody else at the moment and I know they’re not and I am really better, but I am sorry that they do appear better than me at this moment!” Or envy is the other side of that, “I wish I were as good as them or I wish everybody was looking at me the way they’re looking at them.”
Well, do you feel that? Do you continue to feel that? You maybe felt that 10 years ago, well, do you feel it now at all? Do you ever feel it? Well, if you do, then you can be labeled as a person who does such things, you know. You may say, “Oh now brother, I don’t do them everyday,” no, but the situation doesn’t come up everyday. Do you come into problems with jealousy or envy when the situation arises that normally provokes that in you? Have you made virtually no headway about that even though you’re born of God and you know your sins are forgiven?
Now if that’s the situation, then what God wants us to do is to go before Him and say, “Lord, why do I feel that jealousy or envy, why?” Don’t just cover it up, don’t deny it, don’t pretend it isn’t there, and don’t say, “Oh, I am filled with the Spirit, so I don’t really feel that even though I do feel it”. Be real with God and say, “Lord, why do I feel jealousy? Why do I feel jealousy? Holy Spirit will You analyze me and show me why I feel jealousy?” and then what I did loved ones, I knew that God had given me a mind and I asked Him, “Holy Spirit, will You direct me to see what I should examine? I don’t want to thrash around here on my own with introspection because I won’t find what I need to find anyway and I’ll only get down and down and down on myself instead of looking to Jesus and seeing that I am crucified with Him and that’s why you have accepted me despite what I am inside.”
So don’t get down inside and thrash around and say, “I am going to psychoanalyze myself” but look out to the Holy Spirit. Say, “Holy Spirit, I know I have been crucified with Jesus, I know that, I know that’s why God has accepted me whatever bad feelings I have. I know that’s true. Will You reveal to me why I am jealous. Because I know Jesus isn’t jealous, and I am in Jesus. Now why am I jealous and He is not jealous and yet I am in Him?” And the Holy Spirit will lovingly reveal to you in a way that even my present words will never do.
The Holy Spirit will reveal to you that the Lord Jesus did not care what people thought of Him, He didn’t. He didn’t care what all those jeering, mocking crowds in front of Him thought of Him. He cared only what His Father thought Him. He depended completely on God, His Father for His own self-esteem. He didn’t depend on what others think, but you still depend on the world for some
things and it’s those things that you are depending on the world for, that are allowing Satan to bring about in you these feelings that are sinful.
What you need to do is to accept the place that God has given you in Jesus where He died to what the world thought of Him and you died with Him and He destroyed actually all reputation you have before the world and He wants you sweetly to enter into that. Accept that by faith and thank Jesus that when He died to what the world thought of Him, you also died. And then trust Him to make that more and more real to you until you are delivered from the world’s opinion.
Loved ones as you do that, the Holy Spirit is able to begin to deliver you from the power of the world and the influence of the world over you. Now, why do I mention that so strongly? Because many of us think that you can deal with these feelings, one by one by one by one by one by one. And so we go at jealousy for awhile and we crush that to death. And then we go at anger for awhile and we crush that to death. And then we go at pride for a while and we crush that to death. But then we find that jealousy has sprung up over here. And so we get back to that and by the time we’ve dealt with it, pride is up over here.
Those are unitary. They’re unitary. All the works of the flesh connect up with flesh. Spell FLESH another way, with the ‘h’ left out of it. If you could rearrange FLESH: leave the ‘h’ out of it, take the ‘s’ first and the ‘e’ second then the ‘l’ and the ‘f’, you get ‘SELF’. All those things are connected to a self that is still depending somewhat on the world and here is the amazing fact. Bit by bit as you deal with God through the Holy Spirit on these different works of the flesh, He reveals to you this and this, and this way in which you’re depending on the world and finally He brings you to a place where you come to the ground of your heart — the ground of your heart.
The last place where you depend on the world for something that God alone can give you and you come to that place of full consecration revealed to you by the Holy Spirit. Then you see it all in a moment that you have been crucified with Jesus, that you have been separated from the world and that you care only for God and for what He thinks of you and for what He can supply you with and then the Holy Spirit sweetly fills you, baptizes you with Himself and delivers you from the power of the world.
Then you go on in a progressive experience of that beauty. But loved ones, that’s what God wants us to do. He wants us to come into a real dealing with Him in Jesus on the Cross about the things that we feel in our hearts at times and that we know are wrong. God is patient with you and patient with me. He is patient with us. He will take time with us and He is not going to slap you down while you’re hungering and thirsting after righteousness, He’s not.
Yes, you’re going to– we’re all going to– fall and fall and fall a thousand times before God brings us into victory, but there is a place of victory. There is a place where we can at last say with Paul, “I live, yet not I, but Christ lives within me and this life I live by the faith of the Son of God.” And our job together is to help each other into that. But as we go along, let’s be dead honest.
You see why you can be dead honest? We’re not coming before a mighty father that’s saying, “You admit anger, you’re finished with me, if you admit jealousy, you’re finished with me.” That’s the kind of father you remember that you were too afraid ever to be honest with. This father says, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, and though they be like crimson,
they shall be as wool because I’ve done everything to My Son to deliver you from them and until you’re delivered, My heart towards you is the heart that I have towards My Son Jesus because I have put you into Him and until you die, I am going to treat you as being in Him and I am asking you to treat yourself as being in Him so that you can experience the deliverance that that brings.”
But that’s what our father says. Until the moment of death, you and I will face nothing but the mercy and the forgiveness of our Father and along with that, we’ll find this miracle of Jesus’ death waiting to be manifested in us. Loved ones is there anyone who has any questions? I know sometimes prayer is more suitable than questions, but I thought the letter was good and I thought it clarifies some things. Let me just finish by saying there is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God, a place where sin cannot molest near to the heart of God, there is.
I’d like to talk next week about the positive aspect of the crucified life, the resurrected life, the powers and authority that He gives us.
Dear Father, we know these things are spiritually discerned and we know that they become real to us through not only our academic and intellectual interest in them, but through our heart-hunger, for deliverance from self and the power of sin in our lives. So Father, we would hunger after You. We know finally, no man can describe to us how to enter into the deliverance that Jesus has wrought for us on the Cross. We know finally only You dear Holy Spirit can do that. We would ask you to begin to do it in our lives.
Will You Holy Spirit, show us, even those of us who believe we’re born of God and know the forgiveness of our sins. Would You show us any ways in which we still are depending upon the world instead of as Jesus did on the Cross on God only? Will You enable us Holy Spirit so to trace the works of the flesh in us, the envy and anger, the impatience, the fornication, the jealousy, the strife, the selfishness, so to trace them back to their root that we, by the revelation of the Holy Spirit may see that that self has already been crucified with Christ, already we’ve been changed, already that enslaved self that is so chained to the world has been changed in Jesus. It’s already been done and we only have to have faith in that, full faith and that will be made real in our hearts and our lives. Lord we ask You to do that for Jesus’ sake and for our sanctification. Amen.