Your body lives in the world, but your soul lives in God’s Kingdom on Earth.
Your body is constantly tempted by things of the world, but it is your soul that is being tested.
Your body is tempted; your soul is tested.
That is life in the Earthly Kingdom.
Most of the temptations are of the garden variety and involve relatively unimportant things like food, sex, and money. These are things your body may crave but your soul, if you’re born-again, generally ignores. Jesus ate the food that was offered to him, but he didn’t line up for it. He said: “I have meat to eat that you know not of”. Jesus by-passed the sexual aspect in his relationships with women, saying: “Those who are considered worthy of the Kingdom neither marry nor are given in marriage”. Jesus used the money that was given to him, but he didn’t focus on making any. He said: “Render onto Caesar the things that are Caesars, and unto God the things that are God’s”.
These temptations of food, sex, and money are of low importance in the Kingdom. You are expected to want what your body wants, but not to be driven by those desires. You should limit them by God’s Commandments, and if you don’t, you’ll suffer for it. You’ll know what I mean when it happens to you (and yes, I speak from experience).
Your emotions, on the other hand, are not garden-variety temptations. Your emotions, and the actions that result from them, may very well be the things that get you condemned, even if you are born-again.
We live in an age where raw emotional expression is strongly encouraged and considered a sign of good mental health. Suppressing emotions is now generally frowned upon and “feelings” are deemed of higher importance – even in a court of law – than verifiable facts. However, if you live in the Kingdom, you should beware of your emotions, as most of them are in fact temptations.
You cannot live your life based on your feelings. As a born-again believer, you have the power, through God’s Spirit, to overcome the temptations that sometimes well up and threaten to overcome you. You don’t need to be offended. You don’t need to want revenge. You don’t need to desire something or someone so much that you lose all reason and become obsessed. These are temptations. These are tests. You can learn how to pass all of them.
When someone insults you, don’t be offended. Paul says if there’s anything good about someone, think about that. Focus on that. Remember only that. Jesus says to love your enemies by blessing them instead of cursing them. You love them simply by blessing and praying for them. You don’t have to like them. The liking part may or may not come later (it usually does). Your job is to choose to forgive, and to choose to bless, and to choose to pray. These are all decisions of your will that you can make even while you continue to dislike the person you’re forgiving, blessing, and praying for. You don’t have to feel like doing these things; you choose to do them. And God will take it from there.
The same with revenge. When you feel the urge to get back at someone either through words or actions, choose to see only the good in them, choose to forgive them, choose to bless them, and choose to pray for them. Again, these are all choices. Simple choices; simple decisions of the will. You probably won’t feel like making these choices, but you’ll do them anyway because you understand that your body is being tempted, and you want your spirit to pass the test.
Obsession means that you’re wallowing in temptation. Obsession means that you’ve been tempted and tempted and tempted and tempted, and each time you’ve given into the temptation and failed the test. By the time you’ve reached the point of obsession, you’re neck-deep in temptation and it’s almost too late for you.
Note that I said “almost” too late. You can still choose not to give into the temptation. No matter how compromised you’ve become, you can still choose not to think or speak or do what you know has no place in the Kingdom. There is still time to make the right choice and pass the test, but not much time. Reaching the stage of obsession is a big red flag that you’re nearing a crisis point that will resolve either in your favour or not in your favour. It’s up to you.
When we leave one country and enter another, our belongings are usually searched at the border. The authority doing the searching is looking for things that are not permitted to be brought into the country. If some unpermitted thing is found, we are turned away or sometimes even arrested.
The same thing happens when we leave this world, only instead of our luggage being searched, it’s our souls. And if anything is found in them that can’t be brought into Heaven, we’ll be turned away.
Don’t let emotional temptations keep you from getting into Heaven. Failed tests are unrepentant sin. You cannot get into Heaven with unrepentant sin on your soul.
Recognize emotional temptations for what they are. Hatred, revenge, self-pity, manipulation, jealousy, resentment, lust, obsession – these are all temptations. Don’t let them overcome you; overcome them through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. No emotion, no matter how overwhelming, is stronger than you if God is working through you.
When temptations goad you into thinking, saying or doing things that you know you shouldn’t, fight back by choosing to see the good, choosing to forgive, choosing to bless, and choosing to pray. That’s how you’ll overcome your temptations and pass your tests, until the day comes when you’re waved through the border, unobstructed, into God’s Heavenly Kingdom.