August 13, 2016

The danger of sliding back

Imagine going down a hill in a vehicle with no brakes running backwards. That is how I should feel every time that I throw a damper on the Holy Spirit of God.

Today’s devotional reading is about how that happens and what I need to watch out for in my life. While it seems a terror to avoid, stifling the Spirit of God happens far more easily than one might suppose.

Out of this passage, Chambers selects the shortest line: “Do not quench the Spirit” . . .

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14–22)

How can the Holy Spirit be quenched? Chambers says that the Spirit’s voice is so gentle that only those in perfect communion with God will hear Him. Obviously, one way to quench the Spirit is by not listening, being too busy with other things to listen, to push Him away with noise, ear buds, and activity.

Chambers also says to beware of living on memories under a refusal to walk in the light today, saying, “Years ago, Jesus did this or that” rather than, “This morning I heard God speak.” When I spend more time talking about His work in my life back when, then I’m likely hiding unconfessed sin and refusals to listen somewhere in the past. I need to get on my knees, find out what it was, and confess it to God so that I am no longer quenching the Spirit. 

Another ‘opportunity’ to quench the Spirit is when God brings a crisis and I don’t quite get through it. So He engineers a repeat, but in the repeat His voice is less keen and I become more annoyed with my disobedience. This is a serious change of focus from being concerned about my relationship with God to caring more about my performance. In this, I am quenching the Spirit. If I continue, the crisis may or may not be repeated. The danger is that the Spirit has thrown up His hands and left me to become very sick of myself. I can waste a lot of time and energy in self-pity and beating up myself.

If I am making excuses for my disobedience and feeling sorry that I have to give up that which is an affront to God but an enjoyable habit to me, I am quenching the Spirit. I have forgotten that God has to slay whatever it is that I am using to please myself instead of pleasing Him.

Besides Chambers’ words of wisdom, the context of this passage offers more. If I envy or join the idle instead of admonishing them, or if I ignore, put down, or become impatient with those who struggle, I am quenching the Spirit. If I repay evil for evil or even put up with the evil that others do, I am quenching the Spirit.

I’m to rejoice always, pray constantly, and be thankful in all situations. This is the work of the Spirit in me, His fruit. If I don’t do these things, I am quenching Him.

Finally, if I resent and resist the Word of God through those who speak it, or if I don’t test what I hear and make sure it is good, or if I do any form of evil at all, I am quenching the work of the Holy Spirit in me.

Five words of instruction translate into an entire life, into all that I think, say, or do. Once I stop listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit, I am moving backwards and away from God. This is a most serious thing and horrifying, like going downhill backwards and out of control.

No comments: