A few days ago, I had an interesting and novel thought.
What if we were tempted to do good instead of to do evil?
Would that make it easier for us to do good – and to refuse evil?
Actually, the Holy Spirit does tempt us to do good. That is at least one of the roles the Spirit plays as He serves as our Comfortor and Helper. He nudges us in the right direction.
Have you felt his nudgings? Have you experienced times when you had an unusual urge to do a good deed – or make a needed phone call. Maybe you had been experiencing a bout of anger at someone and said things you later regretted. Then you had that nudge to apologize and try to set things right.
How did you respond? Did you immediately set about following that urge? Or did you put it off for a better (more convenient?) time? Did you stiffle the urge altogether, saying something like, “Why should I make the first move and apologize? If he was offended at what I said, let him come to me!”
In Ephesians 4:30-32, the apostle to the Gentiles (I think that includes most who are reading this) wrote:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Look closely at that list of things we are told to get rid of: bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and malice. These make up a very destructive sextet of disharmony. What harmony can there be when these fiends are raging within us?
But God is the God of Peace. He calls to into His peace that passes all understanding. But how do we get there from here?
Do you think it is for nothing that Paul led into that list by saying, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit”? What if the Holy Spirit is providing nudges to us all along that will help us rid our hearts of these agents of Satan? What would grieve Him? Would there be grief in the heart of the Spirit of God if I sloughed off those nudges that push me ever so gently into the path I should take?
But someone objects, “The Holy Spirit works today only through the inspired Word of God! It [people who think this way usually want to depersonalize the Spirit, so they tend to speak of the Spirit as “It,” not as “He”] does not teach us anything except what is in the Bible. If the Spirit gave us nudges, such as you are suggesting, It would interfere with our free will.”
Really? I am willing to dare suggest that you have felt such nudges, and if you are honest with yourself you will admit it. Furthermore, I dare suggest that sometimes you have followed that leading. When you did, where did the impetus come from? Was it from your own highly developed desire for goodness and the humility that resides in every fiber of your being that you followed the urge to set aside your anger for kindness and compassion? Or was it God working in you to desire his good purpose for you (see Philippians 2:13)?
It is amazing to me that we can all recognize that the Devil tempts us to do evil. Now Satan does not (usually, anyway) put a gun to our heads and say do this evil thing or else I’ll blow your brains out! Temptation is subtle. Old Scratch sets the trap for us gently and with guile. He convinces us that it’s really not such a bad idea after all – or that just this once won’t matter.
Now how does he put thoughts like that into our heads? Of course he uses other people to influence us – and our thinking is molded by the things we read, hear, see, and experience.
My question is, if the Devil can do this against us, doesn’t it stand to reason that the Holy Spirit of God can do this for us? Or does the Devil have powers to influence us that the Holy Spirit does not have?
Now, “The Devil made me do it” is not an excuse for sin. But why not? It is because, when all is said and done, we have the say as to whether we yield to temptation or not. The Devil tries to influence our desires, our emotions, and even our intellectual convictions to get us do his bidding. He can make sin awfully appealing and attractive. But he does not have power to make you sin because God has promised that with every temptation He will make a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).
So why is that when we talk about spiritual influence from God’s side of the battle, some among us raise their voices in holy indignation saying that if we believe in such a thing we have denied man’s free will and that God should then be blamed if any given individual is lost?
If the Devil does not have power to make us sin against our will, even though he tempts us mightily, can we say with conviction that God has no power to at least nudge us in the right direction?
I may be totally off base in this line of thinking. If I am, will someone please show me where I am wrong. But it sure seems to me that if the Devil can tempt me to do wrong then it stands to reason that God can tempt me to do right.