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What Does It Mean to Grieve the Holy Spirit?

November 28 2018
November 28 2018

When you look back at the story of your life, what particular things have stood out to you the most?

Perhaps you can recall particular events that have shaped who you are as a person. How about employments that have strengthened you and allowed you to use the gifts and talents God has given you? Or loved ones who have been with you for the long haul, or those who have come and gone?

Perhaps you can recall broken relationships that seemed to be beyond repair. What was once healthy had, in time, become disjointed and fractured.

If we were to give these broken things or seasons of brokenness a name, the word Grievances would probably fit the bill.

When we read Ephesians 4:25–5:2, we see an interesting set of instruction that befits us as followers of Christ. Put away falsehood, because bearing false witness hurts our Christian fellowship. Deal with anger quickly, for it causes resentment and exposes us to the devil’s workings. Do not steal, but rather give generously out of the fruit of your labor… And soon we come to verse 30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

You might think, “Wait, it’s possible for Christians to grieve the Spirit? What does this kind of grieving mean? And how can I avoid it?”

As men and women who have been chosen in Christ before the world’s foundation—loved dearly and bought with his own blood—we are eternally secure in the grace of God. And we have the guarantee of our inheritance as sons and daughters of God until we acquire possession of it, by the work of the Spirit who has sealed us (Ephesians 1:11–14).

However, we face temptations from Satan and the world daily. Our assurance of salvation can in some seasons of life be thoroughly enjoyed, and then through falling into habitual sin, become weakened. Christians who succumb to the prevalence of sin’s corruption and neglect the means of preservation can find themselves falling into sins that are especially grievous. At this point, they experience the displeasure of God toward their actions and so grieve the Holy Spirit of God who lives within them.

The Spirit bears witness to the gospel of Jesus, but if this residual sin continues without confession, forsaking of such sin, and resting upon the undeserved grace of Christ, the comfort and joy and goodness of God will seem empty to them. Their hearts are hardened, their consciences wounded, and temporal judgments for their sin are soon to follow as they hurt those around them.

Heavy stuff, to be sure! But this is the dangerous, well-worn path of those Christians who give themselves over to their sin (Proverbs 8:13–18).

The answer? Recognize sin as sin. Confess your own sin openly before God, knowing that he wants to tend to your wounds and bring healing where it is lacking. Consider who your sin has hurt, both other people and yourself, and make genuine amends.

The fight against sin is a daily thing for us as Christians, but we have a loving God who is also a Warrior who fights over us (Romans 7:25). Consider to what great lengths he went, to save us from our sin—even while we were dead in our sins against him and his law! This is real love that pursues, converts, and establishes us. “The law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).

So how should we respond? Consider these words in Ephesians 5:1–2, and rest, work, and live in this joy:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”


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