The Holy Spirit and Temptation

After a break last week, the series on temptation and the tools God has given believers to fight sin continues.  Tonight, the role of the Holy Spirit will be discussed.

Before we jump into the way the Holy Spirit helps us fight back against temptation, we need a quick reminder of who the Holy Spirit is.  The Holy Spirit is not simply an aide sent by God, nor is He an “it.”  The Holy Spirit is God the Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.  At Jesus’ baptism, described in Matthew 3:13-17, Jesus sees “the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him, and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'”  This is one of the clearest, definitive pictures of the Trinity–God in three persons: Father, Spirit and Son.  The NT clearly says God sends HIS Spirit, not A spirit, or a guidance counselor.  He (God the Father) sends God the Spirit to indwell each believer to obey Jesus as Lord and do the Father’s will.

The Holy Spirit is crucial not just for fighting sin, but for salvation.  The Bible is clear that if you do not have the Holy Spirit, you are not saved, and if you are saved, regardless of how you feel or how much you may be struggling, you have the Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14, Rom. 8:14).  Just like belief in the cross comes before using the cross as a weapon against sin, so the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, a result of God’s grace through faith, comes before our walking by the Spirit in fighting sin.

If we are Christians, then, we need to understand WHY we have the Holy Spirit.    We now know how we received the Spirit, but why?  Ephesians 2:22 says, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”  The gifts the Spirit gives (1 Cor. 12), the spirit of adoption we receive (Rom. 8:15), the help and teaching the Spirit gives (John 16), all help us be more and more like Jesus, growing in our knowledge of and conformity to godliness.

When we look at the New Testament, especially the writings of Paul, the Spirit’s role is one of assurance and teaching.  Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:14-17, which almost mirror each other, say that part of the Spirit’s role is to “bear witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” to teach us that because we are children of God, we “are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”  The presence of the Spirit gives us the comfort that we are saved, that God is not just Father, but that He is OUR Father, OUR God, and that Jesus is OUR Savior and OUR Lord.  He takes the objective truth of the gospel and makes it personal.  Why is this so important in the moment of temptation?

Temptation often tries to make us believe that God does not love us.  One of the lies of sin is that we aren’t really His, that God’s not as good as He says, and that the gospel isn’t really true.  The Spirit reminds us of the gospel we have believed, and that those who receive Jesus are children of God.  The Spirit reminds us that, as we discussed in the first post in this series, we have believed Christ, have been forgiven and are now free in God’s love as His children.  In this knowledge, we are free to say “no” to sin, and “yes” to the Lord.

The Spirit is also involved in changing our desires.  A reading of Romans 7 reveals that the Christian no longer desires to sin, but is content to trust his/her Savior and obey Him alone (though we struggle and fail often).  Galatians 5:17 says that “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.”  One day we wanted to do our own thing, to live for ourselves and not care about the things of God.  Then, by God’s mercy and grace, we trusted Christ as Savior and Lord, to forgive us and give us new life, and the Spirit changed us, from the inside out, to have a desire for holiness, for God’s Word, for joy in Him, and to love Him above all things.

Our struggle with sin is lifelong, but our desires have changed, and in the moment of temptation, one of the strongest reminders the Spirit gives is a simple reminder that this current temptation is not what we want to do.  It’s ridiculously freeing to be able to look my sin in the eye in the moment of temptation and say, “I’m going to do whatever I want,” knowing that what I want is to trust God and honor Him.  This is a gift of the Spirit, who changes us from the inside out.  While we may change some behaviors, it is only the Holy Spirit who changes our desires.

Lastly, let’s look at what Jesus says about the Spirit.  John 16:4-15 describes Christ’s telling of the work of the Spirit to His disciples right before He is arrested.  He says that the Spirit is a “helper.”  Every Christian can testify to this truth.  We’ve all experienced those times where we’ve needed an abudance of God’s grace, the strength and power of God’s presence, whether it be in temptation or another moment in life, and we know that God brought us through that through the Spirit, who never leaves us. 

Jesus also says the Spirit convicts us of sin.  Now, in this passage, Jesus specifically speaks of the sin of not trusting Him as Savior.  This is, of course, what we need both when we initially come to Christ and after, because we still sin.  We have changed, and Jesus is Lord, but there’s a struggle to live out this faith.  The Spirit convicts us, leads us to repentance, to acknowledge our sin and our desire to obey Christ, and leads us to trust Christ to forgive us and stand in our place and continue to change us.

The Spirit is vitally connected to the Word.  The Spirit teaches us to follow Christ and fight the lies of false gods by using the Word of God.  We cannot separate the role of the Bible and the role of the Spirit.  Without the Bible, there’s no ammo.  But without the Spirit, the Word is worthless.  We need the Spirit to change our desires and to help us know and apply the Word of God.  Ephesians 6:17 describes the Word of God as the “sword of the Spirit.”  The Spirit wields the Word of God and allows us to use the truth of God’s Word and His goodness to fight back against the lies of sin.

I hope we see how vital the Spirit is.  Let this lead us to worship God the Father for giving us God the Spirit.

May we continue to lean on your Spirit in our fight against sin, Lord.  May we trust what you’ve done for us, and by the power of the Spirit, grow in godliness.  May we seek to live by the Spirit and not the flesh, until you come back and finish our salvation, bringing us home safely to perfect holiness and joy in your presence.

God bless,
Neal E.


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