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Our New Edens: Chapter 8 - Grieving the Holy Spirit

By J.R. Miller

      "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God." Ephesians 4:30

      We are exhorted not to grieve the Divine Spirit. So the Spirit is a person, not a mere influence. You cannot grieve an influence. You may resist it--but it will not care, will not feel hurt. You can grieve a person, however, give him pain, and the Holy Spirit is a person with feelings, affections, and a heart that can be pained, like your mother's.

      The Holy Spirit is also your friend. You cannot grieve a person who dislikes you or is indifferent to you. But when one loves you, cares for you, is deeply interested in you--you grieve him if you do not trust him, if you do not prove faithful and true, if you treat him ungratefully or unkindly, if you slight or despise his love. There are children who grieve their parents. There are people who grieve their friends. Perhaps there never is love that is not hurt sometimes, many times--we all are so heedless, so ignorant, so thoughtless; such blunderers in living and loving.

      Now we may grieve the Holy Spirit of God--for He loves us. We do not think often of the love of the Spirit. We know that the Father loves us, for He gave His only begotten Son to redeem us. We know that the Son of God loves us, for His coming to this world in the Incarnation and all His wonderful life of service and sacrifice for us, proved His love. But we do not speak much of the love of the Spirit. Yet His love is no less than that of the Father or the Son. Think how He follows us patiently and unweariedly in all our wanderings, through all our unfaithfulness, never giving us up until He gets us home at last. Think how He makes us His companions, entering into closest relations of friendship with us.

      We speak of the condescension of the Son of God in coming to earth and living in a human body in a world of sin and sorrow, meeting the conditions of ignorance, enmity, unbelief, rejection, and wrong. Have you ever thought of the condescension of the Holy Spirit in living with us, not three years only--but continually? We are told, too, that He lives in us. "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit." What kind of a place is your heart for the Holy Spirit to live in? Think of all the evil there is in it. Think of the unholy thoughts, feelings, desires, affections, of the rebellions, the insubmissions, the brood of unclean things there are in your heart.

      Now into that heart the Holy Spirit comes, not for a transient visit, as when some pure and gentle woman goes into a place of wretchedness and degradation for half an hour on an errand of mercy--but to make His home there--to live there until He has changed all the evil into good. Do you not think that the love of the Holy Spirit in making our hearts His home for all the years of our life--is quite as wonderful as was the love of Christ in spending His thirty-three years in this world? The Holy Spirit loves us tenderly, yearningly, infinitely. Now, we may grieve this Holy Spirit whose heart is so gentle and who loves us so.

      Nathaniel Hawthorne had a little daughter called Una, who often made up stories for her younger brother. One day she was overheard telling him of a boy who was very naughty. "He grew naughtier and naughtier," said her brother, "and every day naughtier still, until at last--at last--he struck God!" That was terrible! But there are many, many people who do strike God not once only--but again and again. The Holy Spirit is God. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God."

      We must remember that this counsel is addressed to Christians, not to the impenitent. The exhortation against grieving the Spirit, is for those who have opened the door, admitting the heavenly Guest, and have then grieved Him as a guest, as a friend.

      The connection of the words is very suggestive. They stand in the midst of exhortations concerning speech and concerning unlovingness. Notice this reading: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God." So we may grieve the Spirit--by our words. Jesus laid great stress on speech as an expression of the life. "By your words," he said, "you shall be justified; and by your words--you shall be condemned." Paul's teaching here makes it very plain what kind of speech a Christian should make use of. He should not use any unwholesome talk, which scholars say means rather worthless speech--like the idle words which the Master condemned. What a mass of worthless words, good for nothing, empty, vain, inept, doing nobody any good, are spoken every day! These grieve the Spirit of God, for our wonderful gift of speech is given to us that with it we may bless the world.

      Paul tells us what kind of words Christians should speak--such speech as is edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to those who hear. Good for edifying! That is, every word we speak should be such as will give help, put cheer, hope, or encouragement into others' hearts--put touches of beauty on others' lives. Are the words we speak of this kind? Do they give inspiration, encouragement, strength, uplift? Do they impart grace to those who hear us?

      This does not mean that all our words shall be solemn and somber. Sometimes the best way to minister grace to a friend--is to make him laugh. Humor has its place in Christian speech, and without it religion would fail ofttimes in its most helpful ministry. But if our best work always is to make people happy, what is required--is that all our speech shall minister grace to those who hear, make them better, truer, stronger, braver, more helpful to others. There are words that hurt tender hearts--and when we hurt a human heart, we grieve the Holy Spirit.

      There are other words which tell us further how the lesson applies in our daily common life. "Do not grieve not the Holy Spirit . . . Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

      We do not know what we are doing--when we let bitter thoughts stay in our minds, or when we speak unkind words which give pain to those who love us. We are desecrating the temple in us, in which the Holy Spirit has His home. We are hurting, grieving God, for we must remember that he who wrongs one of Christ's own, wrongs Christ Himself! Let us cultivate love--and all the gentle expressions of love. Let us remember that God is love--the Holy Spirit is love. Therefore only love can please Him.

      We may think we have the Spirit in our hearts--because we are busy in Christian work, or because we are sound in doctrine, or because we give money to good causes. Let us also know, that anything that is unloving in thought, or feeling, or disposition, or act--grieves the Holy Spirit. Let us seek to make our hearts fit temples for the heavenly Guest--by putting out all that is not loving, and welcoming love into every nook and corner of our being.

      But there are other ways of grieving the Spirit. His work in us is to glorify Christ. He does not glorify Himself--but, keeping Himself out of sight, never calling attention to Himself, He pours the light upon the Redeemer, that we may see Him, that He may become glorious in our sight.

      The purpose of the Holy Spirit in us--is to reproduce the life of Christ in us. We think sometimes that we are like Christ--because we have good manners, are polite, courteous, kind, obliging, or because we are enrolled in some church. These are proper marks of a believer in Christ--but there are other marks. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control." Each one of these words stands for a quality that is Christlike. Think of what love is--as Christ lived it out; what peace is; what joy is; what patience is; what meekness is. Think of the way Christ went through this world, loving, patient, forbearing, enduring. We think of His cross as the highest expression of His love, the mountain-top of His revealing of God. So, no doubt, it was. But all of His life, even in its smallest acts, was likewise a manifestation of His love.

      We are not called to go to Calvary to die again--there is no need for this; but we are called to die on the cross, nevertheless, to die continually. Loving as Christ loved--is a daily dying. Men must see the cross in our conduct, our disposition, our treatment of others, our service, our spirit of self-denying and sacrifice. Whenever we fail in thus honoring Christ--we grieve the Holy Spirit. When we act selfishly instead of unselfishly, when we are false instead of true, when we show pride instead of humility, when we think of our own interests before the interests of Christ's kingdom, when in our relations with others we show an unchristlike temper--we grieve the Holy Spirit of God.

      The great need of the Christian Church today is not fine buildings in which to worship God, not more members, not greater wealth, not larger institutions. What the Church needs first and foremost is holy living, and more Christlikeness in its members. We should seek to live our beliefs. We should bring our living--up to our professing. We say we are Christians--well, let us be Christians.

      We grieve the Spirit of God--when we get absorbed so much in this world, that we lose interest in the heavenly life. A Jewish legend affirms that if an angel spends seven days down on the earth--he becomes gross and opaque and loses the power of his wings. It is true of the human followers of Christ, that if they stay out in the world a little while, away from the presence and fellowship of Christ, they will become earthly, losing their spirituality, their heavenly mindedness. They will also lose the power of their wings and be unable to fly Godward.

      There are many strong words in the New Testament concerning the life of the Christian--the life he ought to live in this world. We are to be in the world--but not of it, said the Master. We are to be filled unto all the fullness of God. Our citizenship is to be in heaven. We are to walk as children of light. We are to be as holy as God is holy. We cannot live the heavenly life here on earth--unless we are always in communication with heaven. He who does not abide in Christ, cannot bear fruit. "Apart from Me," said Christ, "you can do nothing." Seven days in the world away from Christ--would leave us gross and opaque, too. Indeed, one day without prayer and communion with God--will dim the luster of our light and rob us of power. The only way to maintain the glory and the vigor of our spiritual life--is to be always under the influence of the Spirit of God.

      Another of Paul's expressive counsels concerning the Spirit, is given in another of his epistles: "Do not quench the Spirit." The Spirit is a fire, the fire of God burning in us, on our heart's altar. This holy flame is a Divine lamp, fed from heaven. Do not quench it! Do not put it out. Do not let it burn low. Do not resist the Spirit's work in your heart. Let the fire burn, and burn up all that is not good or worthy in you. Let it purify you, cleanse your life, until nothing unholy remains. Let it kindle your whole being until your life shall be indeed a burning and shining light in the world.

      "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God." The word "grieve" is the same in the original as is used in the gospels when it is said of Jesus in Gethsemane that His soul was exceeding sorrowful. So we make another Gethsemane in the heart of Jesus, make Him exceeding sorrowful--if we do not do those things that please Him, if we disappoint His longing for our holiness.

      How can we live so as not to grieve the Holy Spirit? Think what it is the Spirit seeks to do in us. His mission is to bring us back to God, to undo the work of sin in us, to teach us the will of God and help us to do that will. He comes into our hearts when they are full of evil--and His work is to cleanse us of the evil and then to fill us with good. He comes to cure us of all bitterness, anger, and resentment, and to fill us with love. He comes to bring heaven down into our hearts and lives.

      What now is our part? It is to yield our hearts and lives to the Spirit, to obey His voice, to accept His guidance. It is to open every part of our being to His influence, not keeping Him out of any room or closet.

      It is a wonderful fact, that we can have all the power of God come into our lives--that we may be instruments which God can use. An organ has a capacity for sweet music--but while it is closed there is no voice in its pipes--it is silent. The organist might sit down at the keyboard and run his fingers over the keys, and there would still be no music, only a clatter. The organ is dead--it is not of any use. It needs the breathing of the air through its pipes, before its mechanism can be effective. Only start the motor and have the air blowing through the organ, and then, when its keys are touched, they will respond in sweet harmonies. We are like organs--we have all the powers necessary for noble living. We are meant to make sweet music in our living. We have reason, conscience, will, affections, intellectual faculties, education. Yet until the breath of God blows upon us--we are only organs mute and dead. The best player can bring out no heavenly music. But when God breathes upon us, and we receive the Holy Spirit--then music will pour forth from our lives--the music of joy, peace, love, holiness!

      One of Miss Havergal's poems tells of an Aeolian harp which a friend had sent her, telling her in a letter of the sweetness of its tones. Without reading the letter through, Miss Havergal took the harp in her hands and began to thrum its seven strings, thinking that was the way to use it. But she could bring out no music. She was disappointed. She then looked at her friend's letter again, and learned that the harp must be put into the window, under the sash, if it would give forth its music. She obeyed the instructions, and then the wind began to blow over the wires and the room was instantly filled with sweet strains.

      Our lives are like Aeolian harps. Skillful fingers on the strings make a kind of music. Human love brings out much that is beautiful.

      But it is only when the breath of God blows upon our lives that heavenly music comes from them. Shall we not yield all our being to this blessed Holy Spirit? Let us not grieve Him by resisting Him. Let us keep no door shut upon Him. Then, let us obey every command and impulse of the Spirit, doing always the things He bids us do. Let us follow all Divine inspirations.

      The true problem of Christian life is not merely church-membership, not merely activity in Christian service, not merely good living--it is to bring all the powers of the body, mind, and spirit under the influence and the sway of God!

Back to J.R. Miller index.

See Also:
   Chapter 1 - Our New Edens
   Chapter 2 - The Way to God
   Chapter 3 - Prayer in the Christian Life
   Chapter 4 - A Parable of Christian Growth
   Chapter 5 - The Beauty of Quietness
   Chapter 6 - The Name on the Forehead
   Chapter 7 - The True Glory of Life
   Chapter 8 - Grieving the Holy Spirit


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