We can become uneasy and thrown off balance when the Holy Spirit begins a work of conviction in our heart. The Lord’s disciplinary process toward true spiritual growth is quite unfamiliar to us. We are easily tempted to thwart His work not recognizing the signs or how personally intimate and relational His work really is. Here are five temptations you might experience when facing conviction.
When you experience these temptations, you can be certain it’s your flesh, and that you need to be set free from old patterns of behavior, and perhaps life-long strongholds that have captured your soul and falsely shaped your relational habits [your character]. Instead, humbly let God take you to the cross of putting to death your fleshly ways when tempted to act in one of these five ways.
Temptation #1 — Denial
You may want to respond with, “I’ve been hearing the Gospel all my life. I already understand it. This couldn’t possibly apply to me”, or some other version of this scenario. You might continue to deny the fruit of broken relationships you’re unwilling to mend and heal. Some deny that the bad fruit is their fault, blaming it on the spouse, a disability of some sort, a phase of childhood development, or a “personality conflict.” Others, after hearing what needs doing, and the level of personal responsibility required of them, simply decide to believe that it’s not really that bad.
Look at your relationships. Tell the truth so God can help you!
Temptation #2 — Excuses
When unknowingly serving a false standard, people develop excuses for the guilt still in their lives. For some, excuses are a normal part of their life, because they never learned how to put their faith in God for their personal spiritual growth.
“Now we know that whatever the Law of Love says, it speaks to those who are under the Law [of Works], so that [the murmurs and excuses of] every mouth may be hushed and all the world may be held accountable to God.”
~ Romans 3:19
True love shuts the mouth filled with excuse. There is never any excuse for sinning against your family, causing broken or damaged relationships. Begin to tell the truth to yourself and to God, and He will give you the grace for personal ownership toward making changes.
Temptation #3 — False Confessions
People commonly blurt out many things about their lives and beliefs without ever actually speaking the truth about anything. They talk around main issues, preventing anyone from getting too close. Another common habit is to laugh off true confessions, thereby making them false confessions.
For instance: “My daughter and I had a big fight last night…but she’s just a teenager…ha, ha, ha…”
Another one: “My children like to make up their own minds; they’re pretty independent…oh well…that’s a good thing, right?” These uncertainties indicate a conscience in the face of conviction.
Practice making a true confession—one that hurts and wounds your pride and acknowledges the true state of things, and the hurt you caused others that brought about the state of things.
Temptation #4 — Fault-finding and Building Cases
Fault-finding is one of the primary temptations of one receiving instruction in The Way of Christ. The flesh will always criticize the way of the true believer, whether that believer is the spouse or a truth-bearer friend. Fault-finding is directed toward the person giving such instruction or simply modeling true righteousness. The Scripture is clear that fault-finding is against God (Philippians 2:14-15).
Some go even further and build grandiose cases against others—often the truth-teller—using convoluted thinking and self-projection of their personal issues to side-step their conscience. The Scripture indicates that we view outward situations and people from the spirit(s) that is/are at work within us.
“To the pure [in heart and conscience] all things are pure, but to the defiled and corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are defiled and polluted.”
~ Titus 1:15 TAB
The psychological term for this is “self-projection”. Projecting faults and building cases against another is never the Holy Spirit. The fault-finder finds reasons and constructs arguments why they shouldn’t listen to another person.
Temptation #5 — Sulking in Guilt
Another very common temptation among my younger mom friends is to simply sulk in guilt. This is disguised as self-pity or self-condemnation, both equally signs of true guilt. Unresolved guilt produces feelings of failure, and a tendency to beat yourself up. Unresolved guilt will lead the person to continue to try harder next time while still getting the same results.
This person may say, “I already know I’m failing at my parenting, and I don’t need you to just keep telling me so.” or “I’ll never be a good parent. I’m doomed to failure.” Sulking in guilt is not repentance. Sulking in guilt is all about the guilty one, and never about beginning to love the ones we’ve hurt. Sulking in guilt will paralyze your faith and prevent you from moving forward.
Instead, begin to focus on helping and serving those in your charge, trusting God’s grace to move you forward. Watch over the tendency to repeat cycles of discouragement and don’t allow yourself to stay discouraged for more than a few minutes at a time. Get moving in your purpose, receiving God’s comfort, affirmation, and grace for your journey!
Putting to Death the Deeds of the Flesh
The spiritual growth process can challenge everything you thought made up your personality, because personality is much more than those peculiar traits you’re born with. As you grew up, your personality was heavily influenced by the sum of your relational habits both good and bad. You identify with the false parts of your personality just as much as you identify with the good parts. The sum of your relational habits formed your character and false self. Carnality, self-centeredness and un-love easily go unrecognized in us, making temptations many and varied.
This false self-image is the very thing God is wanting to expose and put to death. God wants you to want identity with Him—not just ideas of Him, but with His love, His holiness, and His ways becoming a part of who you are. You can only truly identify with what is living inside of you. If it’s false, fleshly, self-centered stuff, then that is what you are identifying with. When you repent, truly turn away and put to death the deeds of your flesh, then you can identify with Jesus more than with yourself. He wants to create in you a habitation for Him to live through you, living loved and loving others.
Dear Heart, of these five temptations, can you identify your strongest, self-centered tendency when feeling tempted? Did you know that you are stopping up your own relationship with God when giving into any of these temptations? You could be preventing yourself from experiencing His love for you and the freedom in His grace.
The Lord will show you what you need to do instead, so you can begin to struggle against your flesh in union with the Holy Spirit. Please let me know in the comments below which one of these temptations you’ve struggled with the most. Do you have a different one not listed here that you’ve worked at overcoming? I know you are working at the overcoming life. Keep going! Jesus loves you!