Important Distinctions in Temptations
1. It is important to distinguish between temptation and sin.
It is no sin to be tempted, seeing that our Lord was severely tempted in the wilderness, and yet without sin. It is only when the temptation is consented to, and the will yields to the suggestion and solicitation, that sin enters. Temptation is that which proceeds from the enemy — sin is that which proceeds from the individual. It does not matter how severely one is tempted, if he does not yield to the temptation –he has not committed sin.
2. It is also important to distinguish between evil thoughts, and thoughts of evil. Some souls have failed to make this distinction, and have suffered even to the loss of their souls. Thoughts about evil are suggested from without, and cannot be avoided since evil is all about us. But evil thoughts originate within, and are the product and the evidence of an evil heart. Mark says, “For from within, out of the heart of man, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, murders” (Mark 7:21).
A Christian worker was speaking to a large crowd of young people. The speaker said, “Young people, you cannot help it if the devil brings his brats and puts them on your porch, but thank God, you don’t have to take them in and rear them for him!” Satan will bring suggestions, and try to fire our natural desires, but it is our business to slam the door in his face and refuse to take them in. We must say “No” to these suggestions and desires, and if we say “No” to them we have not sinned. We cannot any more keep these suggestions from coming to us, than we can control a group of men standing on the street, using bad language and telling smutty stories. Of course, we can hear them, but we do not have to stop and join in with them. We cannot keep birds from flying over our heads, but we can keep them from building nests in our hair.
Medical science tells us that the average heart beats about seventy-two times a minute. Each time it beats it pumps between five and six ounces of blood through the human body. Therefore, in a period of twenty-four hours it would pump nineteen tons of blood through the body. And over a span of threescore and ten years it would pump more than four hundred and seventy-eight million tons through the body.
Next to the heart, the mind is the most active part of the body. The mind is a wonderful thing. It is amazing to trace its activities. Even while we are asleep, the mind will dream, and many times will solve problems while we rest. The mind is going to think on something – it refuses to be a vacuum. If it does not think on good things, then it will think on evil things. It is our duty to control the mind. The mighty Paul says, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10:5).
3. We should distinguish between temptation and trials.
The common use of the word “temptation” is a Satanic enticement to evil. And this enticement will come to every true Christian along the way of life. This enticement is from without, and is not from within. Then the word “trial” denotes a test, a challenge, as in Genesis 22:1, where it reads, “And it came to pass after these things that God did tempt (or try) Abraham.” This was no solicitation nor enticement to evil– it was purely a test and trial of his faith, in the offering up of his son Isaac.
4. We should be careful to distinguish between the accusations of Satan and the reproofs of the Holy Ghost.
The accusations of Satan should be instantly resisted and rejected — whereas, there proof of the Spirit should be instantly heeded. Satan is the accuser of the Brethren (Rev. 12:10).
The Holy Spirit never taunts and torments the soul by accusing, criticizing, and insinuating against it — that is always the work of Satan. Satan has been accusing the people of God ever since he was cast out of Heaven. Often he will secretly bring his suggestions, and then will accuse us of having sinned. A Christian lady was helping serve the table at a large religious gathering. She heldback part of the desert for those who were serving. Unintentionally, she put a larger piece of pie at her own plate. Immediately Satan accused her of being selfish. Yes, Satan will dump a lot of things on our door steps. But we can resist him and win the victory. James says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
The Holy Spirit is faithful to bring to us new light. However, if we persistently refuse to walk in it, we will grieve, wound, and eventually drive the Spirit away, leaving the soul indesolation and darkness. Paul, the peerless missionary says, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). Phillips says, in his translation of this passage, “Hurt not the Holy Spirit of God”. The Spirit is a person, and can be grieved, insulted, and finally sinned against. Someone has said, “We anger a stranger, but we grieve a friend.”
Often Satan brings his accusations to the believer even down to the hour of death. Rev. Charles L. Henbest lived in Rogers, Arkansas. He suffered with that incurable disease of cancer of the spine and heart trouble. He passed away in the early fall of 1960 in the Hillcrest Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Brother Henbest related this story to his beloved wife before he went to his eternal home. He said, “On two or three occasions the devil came into my room. It was just as real as life is real. He brought such accusations as these to me: `Henbest, you’ve been a Christian for many years now, haven’t you? You have preached in many states, haven’t you? You have prayed for many people to be healed, haven’t you? Why doesn’t God hear your prayer and heal your body?'”
After Satan had so falsely accused him and tormented him, Brother Henbest said, “One day the Lord came to visit me, and beckoned me to come to Him. The Lord took me as it were, upon a great high mountain with a deep valley below. In the valley was a great host of people. The Lord said unto me: ‘Henbest, do you see those people? And do you remember what you asked Me when you first started in the ministry?’ It seemed the Lord took me on a tour from the time He saved me, to every preaching place, and to every revival I had conducted.
“Then the Lord said unto me: `You asked Me for twenty years in which to preach the gospel; and you asked Me for twenty thousand souls. I have given you twenty-five years to preach My Word, and I have given you eighty thousand souls. And those uplifted hands in the multitude, are your converts who are now in the ministry’. Then the Lord showed me His hands which were folded, and as He began to open them, they were crimson red. And in the middle of one of the Lord’s hands, there was something that looked like a pearl. Again, the Lord said, `See that pearl. It is your soul — I have washed and cleansed it. If you will keep trusting Me, I’ll see you through to eternal victory.'”
Satan continued his accusations to the very last, but God took His faithful child through to glorious victory. Thank God, He will also take us through regardless of the accusations of Satan. We can have the victory over Him! The Psalmist David said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalms 23:4).