ACST 40: The Reflector

Nov 08 092 If the Holy Spirit were a mere influence, it would not matter so much what our inner character was, as long as we succumbed to that influence. But the Holy Spirit is a person, sent not only to move us is a certain direction, but walk alongside us as we tread that path. He is a friend who goes with us as we go about our daily lives. Just as any other friend would be, he is affected by what we do and say. He reflects our relationship with the Father. When we were unbelievers – without hope and without God in this world – his connection to us reflected that lack of relationship.

 

resisting him

The unbeliever is born into this world with a natural disposition to resist the Holy Spirit’s influence. Although God continues to show evidence of his existence by what he has made, the unbeliever fails to see it. Stephen criticized his fellow Jews who were bombarded with evidence of God’s work in their lives, but “always resist the Holy Spirit.”[1]

To the saved, a tree is a marvel of complex design, enabling the production of oxygen, the provision for a habitat for people and animals, the cleaning of pollution from the air, the raw material for numerous products that enhance the quality of life, and a beautiful, majestic thing to look at. All these things and more are gifts from God, who created trees for our enjoyment and benefit.

To the unsaved, it is usually just a tree. That may be a simplification, but it demonstrates how differently the saved and unsaved react to the world around them. The difference is partly the fact that although all humanity was created with an appreciation for the world around us, believers have special access to God’s Holy Spirit. We are able to tap into that capacity for appreciation that otherwise might lie dormant. Our ears are open so that when God talks, we listen. Our eyes are adjusting to the brightness of his presence. It is as if we have muscles to use that unbelievers do not have.

Having these muscles is no guarantee that we will always use them. Christians are under divine obligation to resist the devil and to consciously surrender to the Holy Spirit, but we sometimes do the reverse. Often we find ourselves giving in to Satan’s temptations, but failing to listen and respond to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. We always have the capacity to use our spiritual muscles and walk away from sin, but we often take the easy way and give in to sin instead.

But the Holy Spirit does not simply prompt us to avoid sin. There is a whole world of holiness and creativity and things that bring glory to the Father. He wants us to experience all the treasures of that world, and is ready to take us by the hand and give us a guided tour. But we resist the Holy Spirit here too. There are many reasons that we resist his promptings toward miraculous living. Among them:

1. We are creatures of habit. Having lived our lives on a certain level, following a certain path, we are not inclined to stray from that path.

2. We fear the unknown. The unknown is just where the Holy Spirit wants to take us.

3. We identify mostly with others who are not likely to surrender to the truly adventurous life the Holy Spirit can offer. We fear the loss of their approval if we take up the challenge of the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

4. We too easily swallow the Enemy’s lies about ourselves. Satan tells us that we are so tied to the sins and failures and lusts of this life that God cannot make us different that we are.

There is no foundation for this lack of faith. Not one believer – no matter what his history – is tied to a life of mediocrity. We all have the potential to be much more than we allow ourselves to be. The call to break the habit of resisting the Holy Spirit is a challenge to us all.

quenching him

Most of us have seen or have otherwise experienced some special miracle where the Holy Spirit has manifested. Perhaps while hearing a sermon, or some teaching of the Bible, at some point a special message from the Spirit himself touches the heart. At that point one realizes that God is speaking directly to him through the human speaker. Or, perhaps that special message comes through the words of a song or a prayer. Sometimes the Spirit touches the heart through an act of kindness, or ministry that meets a need nobody was supposed to know about.

Our public worship services are times when such Holy Spirit manifestations should be common. Unfortunately, we sometimes sit through entire services that seem as dry as a desert. Collectively, the body is suppressing the activity of the Spirit. It is like a spiritual coma.

Paul warned the Thessalonians not to “quench the Spirit.”[2] The imagery is that of a fire, which, if allowed to grow, will do what fire does – burn. To quench the Holy Spirit is to put his fire out. That implies that there are times when the Holy Spirit wants to accomplish something, yet his revealed intention is stopped by the indifference or opposition of believers. Paul does not specify what type of ministry it is that can be potentially hindered. The implication is that many different types of ministry can be quenched.

Perhaps 1 Thessalonians 5:20, where Paul tells the same church not to “despise prophecies,” is a particular example of the general rule against quenching the Spirit. There are some times when the Holy Spirit would want to share a prophetic word from God in a gathering, but some believers present are not willing to accept that ministry.

To quench the Spirit is a dangerous thing. It takes resisting to a whole new level. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman. If he encounters those who are not willing to accept his manifestations, he will often withhold them. Sometimes all it takes to encourage an entire body of believers to quench the Spirit is the fear of being labeled charismatic.

grieving him

Paul told the Ephesians that they had the opportunity to put off their old selves and put on the new selves “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”[3] He was talking about the Spirit’s role as a sanctifier, one who changes us into who we were meant to be. Yet, he warned the Ephesians that they can resist that transformation. He charged them not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”[4]

Living an unholy life when we were called to holiness breaks the Holy Spirit’s heart. It prevents the transformation. Our lives are like containers. They can hold holy things or unholy things, but we were not designed to hold both at the same time. We are temples, designed to house the celebration of God’s holiness. If those temples become defiled – the worship ceases. The celebration stops. The Holy Spirit mourns the quiet.

Defilement does not always manifest publically. A secret sin can shut down the celebration just as quickly as a public spectacle. What is taking place is a personal tragedy for the Holy Spirit himself. Paul implies that a church could remain doctrinally sound but still cause grief to the Holy Spirit who taught them their orthodox beliefs. All it takes is living like there is no God. If a church chooses to turn its back on the transformation the Holy Spirit offers, heaven turns quiet for them. That is the sound of the Holy Spirit grieving.

blaspheming him

There is only one sin against the Holy Spirit which Jesus deems irreversible and unpardonable. That is the sin of blaspheming him.[5] To do this is to set oneself against what God is doing and wants to do. It is to declare oneself in opposition to God’s will. It is more than simply resisting his call, and more than merely grieving or quenching his fire. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is purposely seeking to malign God’s name and oppose what he wants.

The Christian who consciously seeks to please God and seeks forgiveness for those aspects of her life that are not pleasing to him will never be in danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Christian believers are much more likely to grieve the Holy Spirit by un-confessed sin, or to quench him when he wants to manifest.

It is unbelievers who consciously resist the promptings of the Holy Spirit – who are in danger of carrying that resistance to the point of blasphemy.

The Holy Spirit empowers faithful believers to manifest God in this world. He reflects the quality of our commitment to God, and can therefore withhold that power among those who resist his influence. Confession and forgiveness can lead to a re-connection with God’s power for personal ministry. Getting into the word of God and faithfully praying for him to use us are also ways to reconnect. God wants us to have a personal relationship with him where the Holy Spirit stays in constant communication with our spirits. May we manifest the faithfulness needed to stay connected.


[1] Acts 7:51.

[2] 1 Thessalonians 5:19.

[3] Ephesians 4:22, 24.

[4] Ephesians 4:30.

[5] Matthew 12:31.

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