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July 14, 2011
Grieving and Quenching - Matters of the Spirit
By Anthony Wade
Grieving and Quenching - Matters of the Spirit
Grieving and Quenching Matters of the Spirit
John 14: 15-17 "If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
King David was a man after the very heart of God. Unfortunately, in a moment of human weakness, he gave in to sin and would become an adulterer and a murderer. He would lose two children and his kingdom. Worst of all, when he was in the middle of the sin, he no longer could see right from wrong. Even as the Prophet Nathan related the story to him about the little ewe lamb, David could not see past his sin to recognize that the story was in fact about him. Once Nathan removes the veil from David's eyes, the full magnitude of his sin falls upon him. David is not described as a man after the very heart of God because he was perfect. He was far from it. He was a man of war. He spilled too much blood for God to even allow him to build the temple. His transgression with Bathsheba is legendary. What made David a man after the heart of God is that he truly repented when faced with his own failings. He did not seek to pass the buck, blame others, or over spiritualize his sin. After the Bathsheba sin David penned Psalm 51. A psalm filled with the remorse David was feeling over what he had done. In the middle he writes:
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51: 11 (NIV)
What powerful concerns from David. Realize that David was around for the majority of the reign of the previous King, Saul. He had seen how Saul allowed sin to separate him from God. The difference between them is that Saul always tried to rationalize his sin. He always tried to explain it to God as opposed to repent of it. The result which David witnessed was devastating:
Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. 1Samuel 16: 14 (NIV)
God does not expect perfection from us beloved. He expects that when we recognize our shortcomings that we turn back to Him in humility and repent of them. Some are too fond of "the devil made me do it" theology but the reality is that the devil cannot make you do anything. All he can do is present you with a choice. A decision to follow God or to stray. God understands the flesh we walk in. So when we stray, God is not surprised.
While David had every reason to be fearful of God taking His Holy Spirit from him, we do not have to worry as such. Our key verses teach us that when Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to help us and be with us, it was forever. The often least understood portion of the Trinity; the Holy Spirit is God living inside of every believer.
But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Romans 8: 10-11 (NIV)
The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives inside of every believer! In the Old Testament, God was separated from His believers. Within the temple, was the Holy of Holies, where only specific people were allowed to enter at specific times. There was a veil separating the God's presence from the believers. The atoning work of Christ on Calvary changed that:
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; - 1Corinthians 6: 19 (NIV)
We are now the temple. There is no more separation between us and God. And while we have this awesome gift from God, do we really walk within that power and promise daily? Because while we do not have to fear of God taking His Spirit from us, we can certainly do things to lessen the power we have within us. Firstly, we can grieve the Holy Spirit within us:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 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. Ephesians 4: 29-32 (NIV)
The word grieve is defined as "to inflict deep sorrow." Reflect upon that for a moment in light of these verses from Ephesians. Because we have the Spirit of God within us we need to be careful in everything we do. If not we can actually inflict deep sorrow upon the Holy Spirit, grieving Him. These verses illustrate some of the things that can cause this. They grieve the Spirit because they deny the very power the Spirit gives us. When we speak about bitterness, rage, anger, fighting, slander and malice we are talking about the things that God has set us free from. The very bondages of sin that the Spirit has delivered us from! What we say can grieve the Spirit. Are we talking in a manner that edifies others or do our words tear them down? Do our words take into consideration the needs of others or the needs of ourselves are we still selfish by nature? Is what we say for the benefit of others or does it feed some personal agenda? These are the things that will grieve the Spirit because His power working within us should cause the opposite effect! We should want to be selfless in our speech, seeking to build people up. We should be slow to anger and contain no bitterness or malice. We should be peacemakers and never seek to slander someone. This is why the Bible teaches us about the fruit of the Spirit:
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5: 22-23 (NLT)
Where our sinful, worldly nature revels in hatred, misery, unrest and malice the Spirit should produce within us love, joy, peace and kindness. Where our sinful, worldly nature chains us to meanness, unfaithfulness, aggression and impulsivity the Spirit frees us to produce goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Thus when we reflect back to our sinful, worldly nature instead of to the Spirit of God within us, it naturally grieves that Spirit. God freed us to live apart from those things; not to continue in them. Secondly, we can quench the Holy Spirit:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. 1Thessalonians 5: 16-22 (NKJV)
People often lament not knowing God's will for their lives yet here it is laid out for us in detail. It was so important to God, that each individual imperative is given its own verse. We read these sometimes and in our mortal minds we dismiss them almost as not being possible. How can we be always rejoicing? What about death and pain and suffering? How can we pray without ceasing, give thanks in every situation, and test everything we encounter in this life? These are not only written as imperatives but as absolutes! Given the nature of the world we must live in they certainly seem out of reach. But here is the truth we must wrap our minds around today just because our finite minds cannot imagine them it does not change the fact that it is the will of God for our lives! This is what we should be striving for. It is what we should be working towards. The truth is that if we always rejoiced than we would find ourselves not getting depressed by the day to day minutia in this world which the Bible describes us as foreigners in! If we were ever able to maintain a true God consciousness, where we were praying constantly, we would never find ourselves acting without Him in any area of our lives. Too often by the time we bring something to God in prayer it already has become a large problem. Imagine if we presented Him with the small things before they become large! THAT is His will! If we were ever able to give thanks in all situations, we would always find ourselves in a humble position, avoiding the pitfalls of our pride. If we were able to test everything, which means to measure everything up to the Word of God, we would be able to avoid so much sin and heartache. These are the will of God for our lives even if we dismiss them as "pie in the sky."
And in the middle of these commands is the verse, "do not quench the Spirit." The NIV says, "do not put out the Spirit's fire." The dictionary defines quench as, "to extinguish or put out." The Spirit of God is often described as fire. When the Holy Spirit was first given at Pentecost it was in the form of tongues of fire. It should burn within each one of us providing light and comfort for a fallen and cold world walking darkness. Likewise, it should provide us with the same light and comfort we need to keep walking the right path in a world with so many distractions and trappings.
Quenching the Spirit then is a process of not doing the will God has for us in our lives. This can easily mean avoiding a calling He might have for us but at the core it means not striving towards these imperatives listed in 1Thessalonians. When we are not joyful and we allow the misery of the world to infect who we are in Christ, we are actively quenching the Spirit within us. We are working toward putting that fire out. When we do not cultivate a God consciousness we are avoiding talking with God! We leave Him out of areas of our lives and then wonder why things go so wrong. Or prayer can become ritualistic where there is no intimacy between you and God no fire. Or it becomes a "whine list" where we expect blessings from God while we walk in disobedience to Him. When we fail to give thanks to Him for everything in our lives we also quench the Spirit within us. The devil is a master at showing us what we do not have so we cannot appreciate everything God has given us. We become externally focused instead of reflecting within to see all God has done. We see someone else and measure their blessings against ours. We forget where God had to go to find us. How far down He had to reach. It would have been easy for the Apostle Paul to become inflated in his view of himself. But he always remembered that he had persecuted the church. He never forgot where God found him and as a result he always declared that of all the apostles, he was the least. We often talk about the verses regarding the thorn in his flesh but forget why it was given:
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 2Corinthians 12: 7 (NIV)
God is aware of how easily we can become conceited. How quickly we can think more of ourselves and thus, less of Him. We must test everything we come up against in this life by measuring it against God's Word. We must be vigilant against putting out the fire of God that burns within us. When we are first saved we are often described as being "on fire". As the fire burns low we find ourselves described as "lukewarm." The fire is still there but it is going out slowly. As we continue to quench the Holy Spirit we run the risk of backsliding to the point where we fall away from the teachings of Christ and the church. That is often described as someone whose "faith has grown cold." With the fire of the spirit quenched, it is no surprise!
While the end result may appear similar there is a difference between grieving and quenching the Spirit within us. We grieve the Spirit when we do something. It is an action issue. We are angry. We are bitter. We slander someone. We quench the Spirit when we fail to do something. It is a failure to action issue. We don't rejoice and praise God. We fail to give proper thanks for all God has done. We do not seek God in prayer. We fail to measure things in our lives against the Word. These are both progressive issues. Everyone fails. Everyone falls. But when we continue in this manner we begin the progression of grieving or quenching the Spirit. That is a progression we must avoid at all cost. For while we may not have to fear like David did that God will take His Spirit from us we must realize that our own actions or inactions, can essentially have the same effect in our lives.
Reverend Anthony Wade July 14, 2011