Our anthem declares, “Holy Spirit You are welcome here.” While we may desire Him to manifest His presence, are our lives, is our church, a place He wants to dwell? Are we inviting Him on our terms or on His?
The apostle Paul warns us against grieving the Spirit (Eph. 4:30). When we consider the idea of grieving, it implies some sort of deep sorrow. When do we experience grief? Isn’t it only when it involves something or someone meaningful to us? When someone we don’t know well or care for wounds us we may become angry or annoyed, but generally don’t grieve. However, Paul doesn’t warn us not to annoy the Spirit, but not to grieve Him—not to cause Him deep sorrow. This implies the Spirit loves us deeply, and our actions or attitudes can, in some way, cause Him sorrow.
Paul issues this caution against grieving the Spirit in the midst of His instructions to the Ephesian church which include a call for unity in the Body, living as light, and a teaching regarding how we should behave as believers. Paul reminds us that this unity is Spirit driven (4:3), that we are of one Body and one Spirit, we have one hope, “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism; one God and Father of all…” If all of this is ours in the Spirit, it is easy to see how divisions within the Body would grieve Him. I’m sorry to be graphic, but if you have ever pulled on the living flesh around a wound or blister, you know what pain a tearing in the flesh causes.
Division in the Body of Christ pulls at its life-flesh, and is an affront to the Spirit who makes us one. Think about the price the Lord paid to gain this unity for us, and the hardness of heart that is evident in us when we throw this cherished unity aside through our pride and selfishness. I truly believe that our hearts are hardened toward God in direct proportion to our hardness toward other people. Our break in unity with others within the Body strains the sense of our union with the Lord, and this is a grief to Him.
The Holy Spirit is often likened to or associated with a flame, a holy burning. He is also called the Spirit of Truth. The Holy Spirit shines the light of truth into our hearts and makes us Children of Light. In this respect we can grieve Him in a couple of ways:
1. We can “hide our light under a bushel,” living in such a way as to deny truth or keep it from those around us.
2. Or we can refuse or neglect to walk in the truth we have been given. We do that by not spending time in the word, or not allowing the word to penetrate our lives and change us.
When we belong to Christ, yet walk in disobedience, the scripture tells us we don’t really love Him. When you love someone very much and they don’t love you back, doesn’t it grieve you? When you see them headed toward disaster and they don’t heed your warning, doesn’t it grieve you? This is how we grieve the Spirit when we disobey.
Paul also instructs us in what a Spirit-filled life should look like. He tells us to put off the old and put on the new—not just in behavior, but in our attitudes—calling us to holiness before God and righteousness with men. The Spirit of Truth calls us not only to know truth but to speak it to one another. How it must wound Him when we lie to or deceive one another, for this damages the unity we mentioned earlier. Anger, stealing, unwholesome speech, and the other things Paul lists in this chapter all have the dual peril of driving us away from the Spirit and from one another.
Disobedience not only shows we don’t really love Him, it shows we don’t understand what it means to fear the Lord and revere His holiness. This is the HOLY Spirit. Sin in any form is abhorrent to Him. This is the humble Spirit, who faithfully points to and exalts the Son and the Father, and pride in any form is repugnant to Him. When we persist in sin He cannot draw near to us, and it grieves Him because we were created to be in fellowship with Him.
The reality is, when we grieve the Spirit, when we walk in disobedience, when we stop our ears to His voice, He tends to step back, speak softer, and let us have our own way—all frightening prospects. Often the most merciful thing He can do at such a time is to chasten us so we will turn back and obey, and draw near again.
So, when we say He is welcome, are our obedient lives evidence that He is really welcome, or have we pushed Him away through disobedience? It is a question we need to ask ourselves, as individuals and as a congregation. And we must make certain that we ask regularly, in order that we remain a place He can freely come, fully bless, and mightily empower.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries