The Peculiar Temptations Of The Spirit-filled
There are many temptations that are peculiar to the Spirit-filled believer. These temptations are the same in appeal as the temptations that came to Christ in the wilderness, and to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Let us notice these peculiar temptations that will assail those who are sanctified wholly.
1. Spiritual pride. The “abundance of revelations” may become the occasion of temptation to spiritual pride, as in the case of Paul — necessitating the “thorn in the flesh” lest he should become “exalted above measure” (II Cor. 12:7). There are at least four kinds of pride: Namely, race pride, face pride, place pride, and grace pride. And grace pride is perhaps the most subtle and dangerous of the four.
The person who prides himself in the fact that he has an experience in grace making him superior to the rest of the brethren, is almost certain to become an egotist, and a bigot – assuming that he is a favorite with the Lord, and refuses to be advised and warned of peril until it is too late. It is usually this sort of pride that “goeth before destruction” and the “haughty spirit before a fall”(Prov. 16:18).
Satan is not particular as to whether he disheartens, discourages, or causes us to be exalted and puffed up, as either will accomplish his purpose. The suggestion that one is superior to others, always comes from the enemy, and will feed spiritual pride, if it is not instantly rejected. Paul says, “Being lifted up with pride, they fall into the condemnation of the devil” (I Tim. 3:6).
If Satan can succeed in deceiving the believer into spiritual pride, the individual will likely become bossy over other people in spiritual matters. Among the lovely flowers of gratitude will grow the hemlock of pride. And he who exalts himself will never exalt Christ.
An old preacher said, “There are only two safe places for the believer — the dust and Heaven, and of the two, the dust is the safer — for angels fell from Heaven, but no man was ever known to fall from the dust.”
2. The waning of ecstasies will be another peculiar temptation of the sanctified soul. No person can always feel the same — even though he has been delivered from the principle of sin. Peter says, “Ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations,” nevertheless, we can still be “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:5, 6). Hence, there is no experience in grace where a person is exempt from temptation – and “manifold temptations” will always bring “heaviness.”
Therefore, the spirit of “heaviness” is perfectly compatible with the spirit of holiness. A person may enjoy the highest state of grace, and yet be in “heaviness” for a “season.” This is perhaps one of the most difficult lessons for a sanctified soul to learn. When the fullness of joy, and the emotions are stirred, a person will think he is all right, but when the joy subsides, and thee motions settle down to normalcy, then will come his moments of depression, and Satan will then endeavor to make hurtful suggestions.
I have often compared the emotions of the soul to the tides of the ocean. I have stood upon the shores of the Atlantic, and watched the tide come in with mighty force. It washed the sea weeds upon the shore, and hit the shore with a mighty crash. Then, I have watched the tide go out, too. Spiritually-speaking, I have known the high tide of joy, when the exhilarating glory of the Lord rested upon my soul. Under the impact of such inspiration, I have preached, when it seemed that I was physically lifted into another realm. At times I have remained in this high state of spiritual illumination for several hours, before I came back to normalcy.
Yet, there have been other times when the tide was going out, and I struggled to carry on successfully. It is often, when the tide is going out that Satan fires his loudest guns of discouragement. I fear we have not understood, as we should, the difference between the constant abiding of the Holy Ghost, and the manifestations of the Spirit. Both of these truths are found in John fourteen. In one verse the Master says, “He will abide with you forever” (V. 16). And in another verse He says, “I will manifest myself unto you” (V. 21).
Some people think the Spirit cannot abide in the heart, without manifesting Himself. The most of us want to live on physical manifestations all the time. Yes, unless the Lord blesses us with outward manifestations of the Spirit, we are tempted to believe that we do not have any grace in the heart. When the Lord sanctified my soul, I did not sleep very much the first night. There were two reasons for not sleeping. (1) I was rejoicing over the new found experience of heart purity. (2)I was afraid that the Spirit would depart from my heart while I was sleeping. I had heard someone say that it was possible for the Spirit to depart while we were asleep. But thank God for the day that my eyes fell upon these words of Jesus: “I will give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever.”
Yes, He will abide when we are nervous, if we will behave ourselves. Then, He will abide when we do not have sufficient money to pay our bills, if we will continue to be honest. Neither will He forsake us when our body is not well, if we will continue to trust Him. He will continue to be our Comforter when our loved ones are taken from us. So long as we keep our all upon the altar, He will not depart. Satan often says to a soul that is beset with trials and battles, “You do not feel as you once did — you do not feel as other people say they feel.” But just keep trusting the Blood of Christ (I John 1:7).
3. One of the early temptations that will come to the newly-sanctified soul, is to be indefinite and evasive in giving a clear testimony to the experience. Such a one will be tempted to call it the Higher life, a great blessing, a special anointing, or some other name, rather than come out in the clear, and call it entire sanctification. John Wesley said that the word “sanctification” is peculiarly hated by the devil.
The sainted John Fletcher said that he lost the experience of holiness five or six times because he failed to give a clear testimony to it. Some might be tempted to feel that if the life is lived sincerely, that is sufficient. While it is highly important to live the beautiful life of heart holiness, yet, it is just as important that one should testify to the experience.
The Apostle Paul says, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10). And in the Book of Revelation, John says, “They overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony”(Rev. 12:-11). If Satan can get us to refuse to give a clear testimony to what God has done for us, he has gained the victory.
Here is an instructive command given to the children of Israel: “When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein; that thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the Lord giveth thee, and shall put in a basket, and thou shalt go into the place (the church)which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name there. And thou shalt go unto the priest (the pastor) that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto the Lord thy God, that I am come unto the country which the Lord sware unto our fathers for to give us” (Deut. 26:1-3).
These people might have reasoned, “What is the use of us saying, `I profess this day’? Would not the fruit in the basket be a sufficient witness and proof that we are in the land?” But God commands the testimony, as well as the fruit — teaching us that life and lip — the testimony, and the fruit are inseparable.
He who does not live the experience of holiness will not long have a clear testimony – and he who is not faithful in testimony will not long live the life consistently. The golden bell and the pomegranate, alternately, on the hem of the robe of the ephod that was worn by the high priest while ministering in the holy of holies (Exo. 28:33-35), teach precisely the same lesson. The pomegranate signified the fruit of the sanctified life, and the golden bells the testimony — they mustnot be separated.
4. There is also the temptation to be impatient toward those who do not seek heart holiness immediately after conversion. Because of the clarified vision and the increase of light, and the new impetus and accelerated movement that has resulted from the new found experience of holiness, there is likely to come the temptation to feel impatient with the dullness and sluggishness of such who do not seek the fiery baptism of the Spirit at once. Therefore, unless we are watchful, there will be the strong temptation to become critical and censorious, impugning the motives, and doubting the sincerity of such as do not immediately “walk in the light.” If we do not guard ourselves closely at this point, we will become the sad spectacle of holiness people seeking to promote the beautiful experience of full salvation in an unholy way.
At such times we should remind ourselves of the dullness and density we were in, and perhaps for many years, before we sought and found the experience of full salvation. After all, the matter was not fully understood and appreciated by us until after there had been given to us an inward illumination and the revelation of the Holy Ghost, resulting in personal purity. The “light” we have thus received may yet be darkness to those about us. Not until the Spirit has illuminated the heart and mind, can we have a proper appreciation of that which has become so wonderful and glorious to us.
Because of this grave danger, we should be constantly on guard, with watchfulness, lest we become fault-finding, censorious, and injurious to the promotion of the experience of the baptism of the Spirit. We are told the “Good shepherd goeth before” His sheep to lead them — not to drive them in the way they should go.
5. There is always the temptation to compromise. Because of the aloofness and withdrawal of sympathy — oftentimes resulting in complete ostracism, from friends, we will be tempted to cool off, and let down in our standards. Very likely, because of the furtive glance of the eye, the significant shrug of the shoulder and the secret whisper among those whom we love and long to help, will cause a feeling of loneliness. It is at such a time, that Satan will suggest to you that perhaps you are too religious, and should compromise to prove to others that you are not an “old fogy”, an “extremist”, or a “fanatic”, as they have supposed.
The temptation to become a little more liberal and broader in your views, so as to become more useful, is such a subtle and plausible suggestion that even some who are supposed to be mature Christians have been deceived and beguiled thereby. Compromise is the sure road to defeat.
It should be remembered that the way of holiness never was a popular way. This is because holiness runs directly counter to all the customs, fads, and fashions of this world. The narrative says, “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God”(Luke 16:15). Then James says, “Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). There can be no truce nor temporizing here. In order that Jesus “might sanctify the people with his own blood”, went outside the gate — and he who would enjoy this rich experience of holiness must “go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach”(Heb. 12:13).
6. The sanctified soul is confronted with the peculiar temptation of mistaking liberty for license. Human nature, like the pendulum of a clock, is inclined to swing from one extreme to the other. Having been in bondage and enslaved by sin so long a time, and now to be suddenly emerging into this glorious liberty, and the perfect freedom of the Spirit, there is great need of constant watchfulness, lest this liberty should be used as “an occasion to the flesh.” There is liberty always to do anything and everything that is right, and pure, and holy — but this must not be mistaken for license to do anything that is doubtful, sinful, or unholy.
Let us remember that irreverence, undue familiarity, insubordination, lightness, foolishness, inordinate affection, tending to free-loveism — all these things are the temptations and devices of Satan, in order to destroy the souls of men. To love too much is just as fatal to spiritual life, as not loving enough. Paul, the great Apostle says, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Gal. 5:1).
7. There is the subtle temptation to cast away our confidence when new light comes to us. As the Holy Spirit illuminates the mind, and unfolds new duties, and new responsibilities –indicating some things that should be done — such as tithing, or fasting, or the call of God to certain types of service in the kingdom — or He may reveal some things that should be left undone. There are some professed Christians who do not seem to have any conscientious scruples about reading pernicious literature, nor attending questionable places. As we walk in the light of the Lord, new duties will confront us, and new obligations will engage our attention. The true believer will rejoice over new light, and will obediently walk in it.
The sanctified soul has nothing to do but to walk in the light, to obey the plain written Word of God, and to stick to his original contract to which he agreed when he first made his commitment to the Lord. No person is expected to do better than he knows, nor is he condemned for what he has not known. But the believer is held responsible for the light he could have received, had he sought for it. And when the new light does come, the believer cannot evade personal responsibility. Let us remember, that light is ever the measure of responsibility.
The Master said, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin” (John 15:22). Again, the Lord spoke concerning the irresponsibility, when He said, “This is the condemnation, that light has come.., and men loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:19). Yes, when new light comes to the Spirit-filled soul, it does not mean that he should go to the altar, but that he should walk in the new light. However, if the believer refuses to walk in it, and deliberately disobeys, it will become condemnation to his soul. So, let us walk in the light, as the Beloved John says, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we will have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I John 1:7).
Let us not throw away our confidence in the hour of temptation. The Hebrew writer says, “Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end”(Heb. 3:6); “If we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end” (V. 14); “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward” (Chapter 10:35).
8. The sanctified soul will be tempted to plunge into misguided zeal. Misguided zeal invariably leads to fanaticism. When Satan cannot keep a person in the cold ruts of dead formalism he will likely seek to rush him over the precipice into the snares of some soul-destroying fanaticism. While “It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing”, yet, Paul rebuked the Galatians for their misguided zeal. He said unto them, “They zealously affect you, but not well”(Gal. 4:17, 18). All fanaticism has in it some phase of truth — but invariably it is distorted truth, and distorted truth is error. This strange condition will cause a person to place first what God places last. Quite often misguided zeal will place undue emphasis upon demonstration, or some of the gifts of the Spirit-such as “healing”, or the “speaking in tongues”, or “miracles” — and thus sidetrack the soul from the main line of that “charity”, which is perfect love in a pure heart. A fanatic is not at first an evil-minded person, but one who has a misguided zeal for truth, but has lost his equilibrium. He has a “zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2).
9. The sanctified soul will be severely tempted to doubt and discouragement. The writer to the Hebrews warned them against “an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God”(Heb. 3:12). Many believers speak of their doubts, as though it were an infirmity, or human weakness, and excuse themselves by saying, “I am just naturally a doubting Thomas.” Yet, when we consider the seriousness of doubts, we will realize that doubt is not a human weakness, but devilishness.
To disbelieve God is to dishonor Him. A person should no more consent to be a doubter than he would consent to be a thief, or liar. A thief or a liar might be as readily counted a Christian, as one who doubts God. Doubts proceed from an evil heart. In the Spirit-filled heart, this “evil root of unbelief” is utterly destroyed. While the enemy may present or suggest the temptation to doubt, yet, it should be instantly rejected. There is no soil in a pure heart in which the seeds of doubt and unbelief can germinate and grow. `I do not doubt God, but I do doubt my own experience” says a believer.
The real question here is, Have you fully met the conditions? If so, there can be no doubt concerning the faithfulness of God, in doubting His part. You cannot retain a pure heart and doubt the faithfulness of God. The Hebrew writer says at this point, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). Our wonderful Lord says, “According to your faith, so be it unto you”(Matt. 9:29).
Again Jesus speaks on the subject, when He said, “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt”(Matt. 14:31). This question of the Master is as full of significance now as it was on that stormy night in Galilee. For when the winds are contrary, and the seas stormy, doubts and fears are near at hand to overwhelm us as they were near at hand to Peter. And the words of Christ, “O thou of little faith”, applies as definitely to believers in Christ now as they did to Peter in that day. Satan is ever trying to discourage the believer. This seems to be one of his greatest weapons.
There appeared a story in a magazine, in which the editor said: “This story below has been printed over two million times in the last twenty years.” It seems that the devil decided to have an auction. Yes, he decided to go out of business and sell all his tools. The auction day came, and a great crowd of people gathered. He placed all his tools out on a red plush mat. The tools were envy, jealousy, greed, avarice, vengeance, resentment, hatred — all of them.
Off to one side, he had a silver wedge. Someone asked him what it was, and he said, “That’s a silver wedge. See how bright and shiny it is. I use it all of the time. I put it over there because it’s the most valuable. It is worth more than all the other tools put together.”
The people asked, “Well, how do you use it ?”
Satan answered, “That is the wedge of discouragement. You can take the finest Christian, one who has received Jesus Christ into his life and who is trying to serve Him, and drive the wedge of discouragement into his Christian work and wreck his usefulness. Whatever the believer may face, if I can drive the wedge of discouragement in, and pry open a door, one that all the rest of my cohorts can enter, I can break that life down with discouragement.”
After a moment someone asked, “Satan, are there any people in the world that you cannot use that wedge on?”
He answered, “Just one group.”
And everybody pressed forward and said, “Who are they?”
“They are the thankful people — the people who have gratitude in their hearts. They are the humble people. They are the people who thank their Heavenly Father for all the blessings of their lives. They are the people who have thrown wide open the doors of their hearts and let Jesus come in.” Therefore, we should fight against the discouragements of Satan, for they are dangerous, and could bring disaster to the believer. We should keep our hearts filled with praise and thanksgiving to our wonderful Lord.
The great Apostle Paul says, “I know whom I have believed, and therefore am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (II Cor. 1:12). If we knew the Lord as Paul did, we would be equally persuaded — for we would see how utterly impossible it is for Him to fail us. Men may fail us, but God never! Every doubt, therefore, is in reality a libel against God — for it is an implication that He Who has promised, is not faithful, but unfaithful, and that He cannot be trusted.
O believing soul, resist any encroachment of doubt! For, in doubting God, we are practically denying God. The Hebrew writer says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Let us believe God, for doubting is like the waves of the sea. James says, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like the waves of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:6).