As a child I remember the verse in the Bible that struck the most fear in my heart, it wasn’t hell’s fury in revelations or Ezekiel’s shaking bones but one of Paul’s remarks: Eph 4:30 “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.” This command from Paul falls nicely in between a list of others he gives to the Ephesians. Am I the only one who went through her early years fearing at every turn that she might grieve the Holy Spirit and lose her ticket to Heaven? The devil, I knew as they taught me at Sunday school, would burst into flames when I mention Jesus’ Name, but this, this action I may or may not have already done, the thought of it paralyzed me.
Unfortunately I cannot remember how I came about this and therefore do not know exactly who to thank for helping me realize what Paul meant with that verse. Firstly it is important to define the function of the Holy Spirit and our expected response in order to derive the meaning of “grieving the Holy Spirit”. A very rudimentary definition of it would be; the work of the Holy Spirit is to know God and to divulge such knowledge to us in our spirit. Before redemption it is made visible in the constant ‘nudge’ towards God after redemption the saved ones experience the joy of getting to know the incalculable God through this very same Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit in the unsaved soul is incessant, whether it be a parent’s voice, an interesting-looking book, a friend who is always talking about God as though He is real, the beggar that blesses you after you give him a half-eaten Big Mac… The Holy Spirit is always talking to every man, whether it is through nature, other humans, the written word, name it! The Holy Spirit has access and control of all the speakers in the world, even the billboards, all to turn our attention to God. To grieve the Holy Spirit then would be to rebel against this call every day in every way. To mute, disconnect, ‘mark as spam’ all the speakers He uses in your world. The voice will grow less audible, not because the Holy Spirit retires but because the good news becomes ‘white noise’ in their ears. This would be to grieve the Holy Spirit, and if you persist in this path, you will miss heaven, because that is where God is and you have made it clear in every way, you do not desire His company.
So in short my fear of grieving the Holy Spirit was eased in the knowledge that if I am worried about grieving the Holy Spirit I’m still good to go, because heading His voice and acknowledging His presence is exactly the opposite of grieving Him, it is engaging Him, and the Joy of having Christ alive in you through the Holy Spirit is truly the best and most fulfilling experience you can have while you are still trapped in this bleeding sweating body. I would like very much to continue on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the redeemed, but I must now circle around to my real reason for writing, the elephant in the room, whenever it is me and God and nobody else…
What I am about to discuss have been confirmed to me in much of my reading both of scripture and other published works by the likes of CS Lewis. Most notably his chapter entitled ‘Pride’ in Mere Christianity. The one sin that the enemy was able to commit in heaven where he had all his heart’s desires and perfect love and beauty around him, was to turn to himself rather than to God. No other sin was possible since all other sins are committed against an object. For instance thievery or murder, still although he had everything, including an audience with God, pride, the love of self above God was still an option which he chose to exercise. It is the most base of all sins and in its root, the anti-state of God. It is in the end, the only sin that can keep you out of heaven, for to give in to pride is to mute the Holy Spirit and say; “no I will do what I want, I am a self-made person, I do not need anyone’s charity” It is clear now that the one thing Paul told the Ephesians to refrain from at all cost namely grieving the Holy Spirit and the one sin that can be committed in a “perfect world”, is to turn inward, away from God. To deny the gift of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the grace and forgiveness of sins. God can cure all ails and forgive all wrong doings but He cannot and will not force us to acknowledge Him, and one cannot know God without choosing Him above all else for then we know a ‘god’ we have set up for ourselves in our mind and not the true living God who’s presence is overwhelming.
In another book by CS Lewis, The great Divorce, He writes a story of a man that goes into a netherworld where he and other “ghosts” are transported to the entrance of heaven. Here they meet with people they knew on earth who have entered the heavenlies. The one ghost, when confronted by an Angel agrees to the angel removing the little lizard on his shoulder that keeps on talking nonsense. At once this lizard dies and rises up again as a steed, transporting the ghost to the heavenlies. This ‘sin’ that was controlling him is taken away from him, when he agrees to be freed from it. Another woman meets her brother in this realm, and immediately wants to know why her late son did not come down to meet her? He tries to talk to her but the more he explains that she must first stop caring about her son and embrace all that is to see here the more adamant she becomes that she wants to be taken to her son immediately or else he must be brought to her. In the end she chooses to leave this place with her love for her son as primary rather than going on to meet God and love Him above all else. I would also like to refer to the following passage from the bible; Luk 18:9-14 (ISV): Jesus also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves, thinking they were righteous, but who looked down on everyone else: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed, ‘O God, I thank you that I’m not like other people—thieves, dishonest people, adulterers, or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I give a tenth of my entire income.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even look up to heaven. Instead, he continued to beat his chest and said, ‘O God, be merciful to me, the sinner that I am!’ I tell you, this man, rather than the other one, went down to his home justified, because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the person who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The reason why I share these two parts of the book and the parable is to show something very important that we must understand about life, guilty pleasures, crippling sins, our duties and natural affections. The enemy will do anything and use everything to not just turn you away from God, but even better, to turn you towards yourself. In the abovementioned story, the lizard was given up by the man and through that act he was able to continue to God. The woman who did not cherish an inherently sinful habit, but only ‘natural’ love for her son, let the love take control of her so much that it kept her from loving God. Her love for her son, was in fact so polluted with self that she would rather have her son in the netherworld with her than with God in heaven. I want to make clear this point, the enemy will use ‘good’ things such as passion, patriotism and even intellect to thwart our longing for God. Sometimes sin can be our aid in that it shows us that we need God desperately to free us from it. We cannot keep nurturing it, it must be sacrificed at once. My desire is that we will always and in everything we endeavour to do check our hearts, are our intentions to please our Lover? As an example; do we give alms to the poor to show how ‘holy’ we are or because we care deeply for their wellbeing?
The elephant in the room is the same for each and every person that ever lived and ever will live. It is self. Sins are used to tie us up, blind us, paralyze us, even tear us up, but even the Enemy would gladly trade your lust and murder for a squeaky clean life filled with pride. Good things like brotherly love and happiness become even more spectacular when submitted to God, but God also trades in the dark and murky streets, he takes cowardice, malice, vengeance all of it, for a chance to look you in the eye and set you free, free most of all, from yourself. Will you try and justify why you have big ears, a trunk and is covered in white? Will you fight for what you deem to be your rights? Or will you come and lie down on the green pastures, let go of every bit of pride, self-justification, pompous riff-raff and just exhale? Will you come to God and burst with immeasurable joy at meeting your Beloved, while your big ears, trunk, feathers, badges and dress fall off in His presence?