I would like to invite your attention to the fourth chapter of Ephesians and specifically verses 25 – 32 where the Apostle Paul writes….
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:25–32, ESV)
What is it that safeguards the Christian from turning Paul’s instructions in this passage into moralism? As your Pastor I implore you to listen carefully.
What is moralism?
Moralism is an insidious false gospel. The message of moralism is that if you will improve your behavior in your own strength that is what God is interested in. If we can modify our behavior, then God is happy. Moralism is trying to be moral in our own strength and for our own reasons. Moralism is our efforts to turn ourselves into “good moral people”.
Sadly, and tragically I’m afraid that is the message being preached from the pulpits of many churches today. But Paul had strong and sobering words for those who were tempted to substitute the message of moralism for the Gospel.
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6–9, ESV)
Clearly moralism is not the gospel. Paul was always concerned that the pure gospel would be distorted and turned into something that it was not. He was concerned that the pure message of the gospel would be corrupted and turned into a message of moralism better known in our day as self-improvement and self-help. A message that has no power to save. That is not to say that it has no power, it the power to damn its adherents to eternal judgment.
That’s why Paul wrote in the book of Galatians
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”
(Galatians 1:6–7, ESV)
Are you a Christian or are you just a good person? Have you been changed on the inside by the Gospel? Or are you a person who is still dead in your trespasses and sins who is working hard to improve yourself and striving to become a better version of yourself?
Are you trying to do what only God can do through the gospel of Christ?
HOW TO AVOID BECOMING A MORALIST
Paul does not want you to be like the Galatians and be drawn towards the false gospel of moralism.
Part of the problem with moralism lies in it’s motivation. There should be a vast difference between the motivation of the Christian in striving to obey the Apostle Paul’s commands and the non-Christian trying to live a “good moral life”.
What is the difference? The Believer is motivated by love – not love of themselves, but love of God, love of God’s glory.
The unbeliever is also motivated by love. It may be love of others, because they love others they try and be good people. It may be love of self. Their pride leads them to be careful about what they say and what they do outwardly but inside they are still corrupt with nothing to offer that can appease our Holy Righteous God.
OUT OF PLACE?
The focus for this morning is verse 30. There’s a question that needs to be asked.
Is Paul’s instruction to not grieve the Holy Spirit a reference to what he has just said, or is it a reference to what he is about to say in verses 31-32 or is he referring to the entire passage verses 25-32?
The reality is we don’t know because Paul didn’t tell us! But it would seem that his instruction here in verse 30 applies to the entire passage.
Here is my reasoning for believing it applies to the entire passage. Anytime that we are given instruction in the Scriptures the believer is obligated to obey the instruction, whether the instruction is a negative or a positive. You as a believer are obligated to obey whenever the Scriptures instruct you to stop a certain behavior such as to stop lying and begin speaking the truth with your neighbor – Which would be an example of a negative don’t lie. Or you are instructed to be angry and sin not which is a positive.
If we continue to lie we are disobedient to Scripture and our disobedience grieves the Holy Spirit. Likewise, if we do not get angry for the right reasons that also is an expression of disobedience and that too grieves the Holy Spirit.
But what about the sins Paul describes in verse 31? Wouldn’t are involvement in them grieve the Holy Spirit?
Then what about the positive instruction in verse 32? If we fail to obey Paul’s instruction wouldn’t that also grieve the Holy Spirit?
Therefore, as I understand the passage verse 30 is applicable to the entirety of the passage.
THE CHRISTIAN’S MOTIVATION
The motivation of the Christian is entirely different from the motivation of the unbeliever. I conduct myself as a Christian in a godly fashion because of whose I am. My conduct, my lifestyle flows out of the unique relationship that only I as a believer have with the Lord Jesus. I make sure that I do not grieve the Holy Spirit because when I engage in the activities described by the Apostle Paul I not only sin by engaging in those actions, I compound my sin by grieving the Holy Spirit, which if left unchecked and not repented I am in danger of doing serious spiritual damage to myself.
Remember this is a passage dealing with our sanctification. When we in the power of the Holy Spirit change our behaviors that is the outworking of our sanctification, that is the gospel being worked out in our lives. It is the outworking of our progress in holiness and Christlikeness. Therefore, as you watch and observe your actions you can detect your progress in sanctification.
The thrust of this passage (verses 25 – 32) is that your actions matter.
Perhaps you are somewhat taken back when you read Paul’s instruction to not grieve the Holy Spirit. How is it possible for you to grieve the Holy Spirit? Clearly from Paul’s words it is possible for us as Christians. It is possible as those who have been sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption to grieve the One who has sealed us.
That’s why I say our actions matter. And because they matter we should think carefully about how we conduct ourselves as Christians. Grace is not a license to do whatever we want. Grace frees us to live in a manner that pleases God.
Think back over your actions of the past week do you see any words, any actions that you’re now beginning to see grieved the Holy Spirit. Husbands and Wives think about how you spoke to another this week, did any of those conversations grieve the Holy Spirit? Parents did the way you parented this week grieve the Holy Spirit.
I’m not trying to discourage you, I’m wanting to see that there are some blind spots in our lives that need to be addressed so that we grow in grace and experience the freedom of God’s grace.
DO NOT GRIEVE
I don’t think it’s hard for us to understand Paul’s meaning. As human beings we understand what it means to grieve. When Paul says that we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit he means that when we choose to disobey and disregard the instructions and the commands in Scripture the Holy Spirit is affected. We bring sorrow to the heart of God when we sin, when we lie to one another, when our talk is impure. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we do not put off the old ways of the old life, of the old nature and refuse to put on the ways of the new life, the new nature.
Your intelligent people so let’s think this through. If it is possible for our actions to grieve the Holy Spirit what does this teach us about the Holy Spirit?
It teaches us that the Holy Spirit is not some impersonal force. The Holy Spirit is not an it. If our actions grieve the Holy Spirit that means that He has attributes that are associated with personhood.
The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit can be grieved, that He works, that He speaks, that He teaches, and He convicts of sin. The Holy Spirit can be tested, He can be lied to, He can be insulted. These are all activities associated with His personhood.
YOUR CONSTANT COMPANION
The Holy Spirit is always with you as a believer. He is always available to help you whenever you need help, whenever you need strength in battling temptation, whenever you need to be encouraged. He is your comforter in times of sorrow. At the moment of your conversion the Holy Spirit came to reside within you and He will never leave you. He is always with you.
Because the Holy Spirit is always with us, and always available to us we grieve Him when we ignore Him, when we choose to disregard His presence in our lives. When we choose to rely upon our own resources instead of His divine, all powerful resources that He will gladly use on behalf of even the weakest and spiritually immature believer.
To grieve the Holy Spirit there must be a relationship with the Holy Spirit. You can’t grieve over one you have no relationship with. Therefore, before you worry about grieving the Holy Spirit you must first make sure that you have a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Are you a Christian? Have you seen the beauty and the glory of Christ? Do you desire Christ, not for what He can give you but solely for who He is?
HOW DO WE GRIEVE THE HOLY SPIRIT?
We grieve the Holy Spirit whenever we do anything that is not holy. Anything that belongs to works of the flesh are not holy.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
(Galatians 5:19–21, ESV)
All these things grieve the Holy Spirit, our speech can grieve the Holy Spirit. Our thoughts can grieve the Holy Spirit. How many times have we plotted revenge in our minds, how many times have we thought of how we could get back at those who have hurt us in some way. The reason we never follow through is fear of getting caught.
Sherry and I were watching a show the other day and a man said the only reason his former business partner was still alive was because murder was illegal. Which meant that in his mind he had already murdered the man.
Lloyd-Jones says that another way that we can grieve the Holy Spirit is by failing to recognize or to acknowledge his constant presence within us. I wonder how often do you think about the Holy Spirit? How often do you recognize His constant presence in your life? What happens we when don’t think about Hm frequently and when we don’t recognize His abiding presence? It leads to us not honoring the Holy Spirit in the way that we should. We must recognize the Holy Spirit as our Divine helper, our Divine Comforter. He came to help you never to harm you.
I wonder if we truly understand the incredible privilege we have as believer that the very Spirit of the All Mighty, Eternal Sovereign God, maker of heaven and of earth has come to us and resides within us? Do we meditate on that incredible truth? Do we revel and rejoice in that incredible truth, a truth that would be hard to believe if the Scriptures did not tell us it was true.
THE CHRISTIANS MOTIVATION
If I were to ask you what is your motivation for not wanting to grieve the Holy Spirit what would your response be?
Would it be a legal response? Meaning is your conduct motivated by, driven by a desire to live up to a standard or a moral code? That is the response of the unbeliever. They strive to live up to a standard for the sake of the standard.
Or would your response be a response of love? You don’t want to grieve the Holy Spirit because of the love that you have for the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. Remember you have a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit.
I’m assuming you love your wife, your husband, your children, and if you are lucky enough to have grandchildren you love them. Because you love them your love governs your conduct.
Because you love your husband or your wife that controls your actions, both towards them and members of the opposite sex. You don’t want your actions to hurt your spouse, you don’t want your actions to grieve them.
Your conduct is motivated and controlled by your love for them. The same is true of your conduct as a believer. It is your love for Christ that motivates your desire to be holy, to make progress in sanctification. It is your love for Christ that motivates you to become like Him, by making sure that you don’t steal, and that you work hard. That your speech is pure and builds others up and gives grace to those in need.
Your love for Christ motivates you to put away “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31, ESV)
Your love for Christ motivates you to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV)
Let me ask you which you would rather work on. Loving Christ or trying to be like Christ through sheer will power and self-discipline?
Love for Christ combined with the Holy Spirit’s fruit of self-control is an unstoppable combination.
Love is a powerful motivator. The key to your sanctification is love. How can you develop your love for Christ? How can you deepen your love for Christ? It begins with knowing Christ, learning about Christ. Trusting in Christ. Experiencing life with Christ. Traveling with Christ through the ups and downs of life.
You can deepen your love for Christ by spending time with Him in His Word, by spending time with Him in prayer. By spending time meditating on His greatness and His condescension on your behalf.
Again Martyn Lloyd-Jones is helpful he writes; “The analogy that we must bear in our minds is obviously this, that our relationship to the Holy Spirit is a relationship of love. And this is the very essence of the Christian doctrine of salvation. We have finished with law, we are no longer under law; but we are under grace, and we must never think of ourselves in those old legal terms. When a Christian sins, what he should be most conscious of is not so much that he has done that which is wrong, or even that he has broken God’s law; what should really trouble him is this, that he has offended against love. The very term grieve establishes that. Our relationship is now a personal one. And it is because we forget this personal relationship that we get most of our troubles and problems in our Christian lives and experiences. We will persist in regarding the Holy Spirit as no more than an influence or as a kind of power. But we must realise that He is a Person! You cannot grieve an influence, you can only grieve a person. You cannot hurt a power, you can only hurt a person. He can be disappointed in us. A principle cannot be disappointed, it is only a person who can be disappointed. And here, I say, is one of the most vital and important things for us ever to grasp, that we are in this relationship to the Holy Spirit; if we are Christians He is in us, He dwells within us! Wherever we are, He is! And let us never forget His tenderness. Is He not represented in the Scriptures as a dove? He descended upon our Lord at the baptism in the Jordan in semblance of a dove! And that is the Spirit who dwells within us. He is in us, our bodies are His very temple.
FINALLY, A WARNING
What happens if we disregard Paul’s command to not grieve the Holy Spirit?... If we persist in grieving the Holy Spirit, we run the risk of quenching His work in our lives.
When that happens, we forfeit the blessings and the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit may withdraw the assurance of your salvation, remember that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God but if we continue to grieve him He may withdraw His witness that we are God’s children. The Holy Spirit may for a time turn you over to your flesh so that you experience the consequences of your sin. He may remove your sense of joy. He may for let you dwell in misery and sorrow by withdrawing His comfort from you.
But because you are in Christ and because the Holy Spirit has been given to you to seal you for the day of redemption He will do whatever is necessary to bring you back. But why let it get to that point? Why not work on loving Him with all your heart mind soul and strength?
What should you do if you recognize that you are guilty of grieving the Holy Spirit? Perhaps you have reached the point of where you have not only grieved Him you have quenched His working in your life.
The communion table presents you with the opportunity to confess and forsake the sin of grieving the Spirit and then to take of the bread and the juice and recognize them as God’s seal, of God’s unbreakable covenant that He has made with you through Christ.
Confess and then take part, receive His grace anew and afresh and leave here this morning in the freedom and joy that comes from the knowledge of God’s commitment to you. Let that knowledge fuel your love for Him.