Last week I talked about my “Holy Spirit-less” baptism, which I received in a Christian church. In fairness, it was so long ago, I don’t remember the details. The pastor may have mentioned the Holy Spirit at some point during the process, but if so, it obviously didn’t stick.
For the next decade or so, my focus would be solely on God and Jesus, which isn’t a bad thing. It just happens to be only 2/3rds of the puzzle.
I didn’t really start thinking about the Holy Spirit until I read Francis Chan’s Forgotten God. As the book’s name suggests, Chan speaks about how the modern church has neglected teaching about the Holy Spirit.
Obviously, I concur, but I also take the stance that it’s not the church’s job to teach me anything. Ideally, yes, the church should teach, but no one in the church is responsible for my relationship with the Trinity. If I truly want to learn about this mysterious three-in-one God, I must take personal responsibility and study on my own.
Regarding the church, however, there seems to be two extremes: under-emphasis on the Spirit and over-emphasis on the Spirit. On one side you have the conservative protestant churches Chan is speaking to which have, for the most part, forgotten to teach about the Holy Spirit. On the other side you have charismatics and pentecostals getting drunk the the “spirit” every Sunday morning. (The quotes and small ‘s’ are purposeful, but that’s another post.)
Maybe this is why I’m increasingly skeptical and distrusting of many modern Biblical teachers. Where’s the balance? It’s either, all love, or all hell fire, prim and restrained, or rolling and shaking and speaking in tongues.
So I asked myself, “Who do I trust to teach me about the Holy Spirit?” and I landed on Charles Spurgeon, specifically his sermon titled “Grieving the Holy Spirit”.
I don’t know if I’m becoming more old fashioned in my old age or what, but I find Spurgeon’s teaching style refreshing and appealing, as well as extremely enlightening. So much so that I could probably stand to read this sermon every morning for the next year.
The entire sermon is well worth the read, but I will highlight the sections I found particularly helpful below.
…for grief is a sweet combination of anger and of love. It is anger, but all the gall is taken from it. Love sweetens the anger, and turns the edge of it, not against the person, but against the offense… Instead of wishing me ill as the punishment of my sin, he looks upon my sin itself as being the ill. He grieves to think that I am already injured, from the fact that I have sinned.
Oh,—but let us blush to tell it—how often have we done despite to him! When we were in a state of unregeneracy, how we were wont to resist him! We quenched the Spirit; he strove with us but we strove against him. But blessed be his dear name, and let him have everlasting songs for it, he would not let us go! We would not be saved, but he would save us. We sought to thrust ourselves into the fire, but he sought to pluck us from the burning. We would dash ourselves from the precipice, but he wrestled with us and held us fast; he would not let us destroy our souls.
Now I would not wish to exalt one person of the Trinity above another, but I do feel this, that because Jesus Christ was a man, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, and therefore there was something tangible in him that can be seen with the eyes, and handled with the hands, therefore we more readily think of him, and fix our love on him, than we do upon the Spirit. But why should it be? Let us love Jesus with all our hearts, and let us love the Holy Spirit too. Let us have songs for him, gratitude for him. We do not forget Christ’s cross, let us not forget the Spirit’s operations. We do not forget what Jesus has done for us, let us always remember what the Spirit does in us.
Now, it is by the Spirit of God that the Christian is sealed, that he is kept, he is preserved, sealed unto the day of redemption—–sealed until Christ comes fully to redeem the bodies of his saints by raising them from the death, and fully to redeem the world by purging it from sin, and making it a kingdom unto himself in righteousness. We shall hold on our way, we shall be saved. The chosen seed cannot be lost they must be brought home at last, but how? By the sealing of the Spirit. Apart from that they perish, they are undone. When the last general fire shall blaze out, everything that has not the seal of the Spirit on it, shall be burned up. But the men upon whose forehead is the seal shall be preserved.
How may we grieve him,—what will be the sad result of grieving him—if we have grieved him, how may we bring him back again?
…You may grieve him by impure thoughts…
…We grieve him yet more if we indulge in outward acts of sin…
…I think I now see the Spirit of God grieving, when you are sitting down to read a novel and there is your Bible unread…
…You have no time for prayer, but the Spirit sees you very active about worldly things, and having many hours to spare for relaxation and amusement. And then he is grieved because he sees that you love worldly things better than you love him…
…the Holy Spirit is exceedingly grieved by our unbelief.
…there may be some of you here who have lost the visible presence of Christ with you; who have in fact so grieved the Spirit that he has gone. It is a mercy for you to know that the Spirit of God never leaves his people finally; he leaves them for chastisement, but not for damnation. He sometimes leaves them that they may get good by knowing their own weakness, but be will not leave them finally to perish.
I beseech you use every means by which that Spirit may be brought back to you. Once more, let me tell you distinctly what the means are. Search out for the sin that has grieved the Spirit, give it up, slay that sin upon the spot; repent with tears and sighs; continue in prayer, and never rest satisfied until the Holy Ghost comes back to you. Search out for the sin that has grieved the Spirit, give it up, slay that sin upon the spot; repent with tears and sighs; continue in prayer, and never rest satisfied until the Holy Ghost comes back to you.
Oh I hear the word of the gospel, ere ye separate, for the Spirit speaketh effectually to you now in this short sentence—“Repent and be converted everyone of you, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord,” and hear this solemn sentence, “He that believeth in the Lord Jesus and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” May the Lord grant that we may not grieve the Holy Spirit. Amen.