| I started this ministry because I see something happening in our churches that is a deep concern to me. There are far too many of our members who attend worship services who are not, and are not becoming, grounded in the word of God. I also see many members who are drifting away from the fellowship of the church. If their faith was strong and their love for God mature, I don't think this would happen. |
Also, the reasons people give for staying away from the fellowship is puzzling to me. It seems that when the slightest occurrence of some out-of-the-way comment that tends to hurt someone's feelings is made, people simply "quit church." Does this mean that they no longer want to be a Christian? That is certainly what the term "quit church" implies. I've often said that I can't imagine what any person could do to make me want to end my relationship with my Heavenly Father.
The Holy Spirit is a real and vibrant part of every true Christian. In order for a true Christian to "quit church," there must be a tremendous quenching of the Spirit. Let's take a look at the Holy Spirit specifically as He relates to the life of a Christian. In this study I hope that we can learn more about what the Holy Spirit does, or at least should be allowed to do, in our daily Christian lives.
"And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you." (John 14:16,17) Jesus told us that we would have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that He would be in us, actually living in us. This is an awesome thought indeed, the Holy Spirit being in us and a part of us. However, He does not impose His will on us. We are not robots occupied by a "spirit" going about doing what the "spirit" wants us to do. Quite the contrary is true. We still have a free will, fully able to exercise it at our discretion.
The Holy Spirit is living with us to be a "Helper," someone to guide and direct us as we strive to live a Christian life. If we allow the Spirit to serve as our guide, He will give us those answers to questions that sometimes we seek. On the other hand, we can quench the Spirit and not allow Him to help us in this manner. The Apostle Paul says in Romans, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." (Romans 8:5) What we allow to occupy our minds determines the extent to which the Spirit can serve as our Helper.
If we dwell on the negative, always looking for a fault in someone or in the body as a whole, we are not thinking of things of the Spirit. If we dwell on soap operas, secular music, movies, our jobs, money, and a host of other worldly things, we are quenching the Spirit. As we allow these worldly concerns, activities, and things to take up all of our waking time, we have no time for things of the Spirit. Our minds and daily schedules are full of worldly activities and these things shove thoughts of the Spirit out. If, on the other hand, we dwell on the fruits of the Spirit, Bible study, prayer, helping the needy, visiting the sick, serving the church, and the like, we are allowing the Spirit to work in our lives. The fruits of the Spirit become more noticeable in our lives.
What are the fruits of the Spirit? "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22,23)
We really only have two choices; to set our minds on things of the Spirit, or things of the world. Paul puts it this way, "For he who sows in his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life." (Galatians 6:8) As we allow our lives to be corrupted by the things of the world, we quench the Spirit. Eventually, when we have quenched the Spirit so long, getting back into a right relationship with God is all but impossible.
There is another aspect of allowing the Spirit to work in our lives that is equally important. We must individually work for the unity of the church. We say that we believe that the church was instituted by Christ, and that we strive for the restoration of the church both in unity and practice on a New Testament basis. But how often do we practice this belief on an individual basis? Paul exhorts the church in his letter to the Ephesians, "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3) How does this tell us that we should behave as a member of a local congregation? We should love each other in the Spirit. That means that we should be very careful not to say things to each other that are hurtful. It also mean that if someone does say something that hurts us - even if they do it on purpose - we should forgive them and continue to love them! And I realize that each of us may on occasion accidently make a comment that hurts others. When we know that we have done this, we should show our love for the brother or sister and apologize. I truly wish that all our members would live by these principles.
The above principle is further emphasized in Philippians, "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,..." (Philippians 1:27) I sometimes wonder what we could accomplish if we would do as Paul tells us here, to be "with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel." Those things which so many of our people do which I am talking against here serve to destroy the body. Remember that we are speaking of the church which is "the bride of Christ." Jesus will be coming after His church. Will He accept a divided church? I would not think so.
Being selfish, saying spiteful or hurtful things to a brother or sister in Christ, gossiping, etc. are "dead works." Indeed, they are works of the devil himself. The devil probably gets a big laugh out of the way some "Christians" behave themselves in the church. But there is hope for those people: "... how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:14) Before this purging can take place the person must repent and turn away from the old life and turn to Christ. We need to pray for those people who appear to be in this situation. We need to ask God to convict them and help them to realize exactly what it is they are doing to hurt the church.
There are other ways in which we quench the spirit. The manner in which we worship God can, and I'm sure in some cases does, quench the Spirit. Jesus tells us that we must worship in "spirit and truth."(See John 4:19-24) In this passage a woman asks Jesus if they should worship on a mountain (as they had been doing), or should they go to Jerusalem to worship as the Jews had told them. Jesus tells the woman that it doesn't make any difference where you worship, it is how you worship. We are to worship in "spirit and truth."
So what does this mean? I am convinced that we have people who "play Christian." I think this is what Jesus is talking about. We should not just be going through the motion of worshiping. We need to get back to a worship where we allow the Spirit to lead us, and to show us the way. A worship where the hymns touch our hearts, where the word convicts us, and where the Lord's Supper moves us to a closer and more loving relationship with God. We need to get away from listening to the sermon, and start living the sermon. We need to get away from singing songs, and start singing praises to God and His precious Son, Jesus. And we need to get away from being served the Lord's Supper and start communing with God to remember with every fiber of our being the sacrifice which Jesus made for us and the fact that He was crucified so He could take our sins to the cross. Bible study and prayer are so very important to us if we are to remain in the Spirit. How can we please God and develop a loving relationship with Him if we never study His word and never take time to talk with Him?
We need to quit being afraid that we, or someone else, will show some emotion in worship service. I remember a few years ago (I was a deacon at the time), a young girl of about twelve years old was being baptized one Sunday morning. I was sitting on the second pew right next to her grandfather. As she was being baptized I knew how much her being saved meant to her family, especially her grandfather. A tear streamed down my cheek as she was lowered into the watery grave. I looked over at her grandfather and he too had a tear streaming down his cheek. I wonder how many times we could see two grown men crying in our services today?
We have been talking about quenching the Holy Spirit as He tries to work in our individual lives. What happens when an entire congregation (or at least most of them) begin quenching the Spirit? All too often, especially if the leaders do not take immediate steps to correct the situation, the congregation begins to die. Attendance begins to drop, people become very unhappy, many start looking for another congregation, and some just fall away.
It is up to each one of us as a member of a congregation to help the congregation to grow and prosper. We should dwell on the positive, and consider our blessings. We should reach out a loving hand to the lost in our communities and help them to come to know Christ. We need to build the church up. We need to support and care for each other in times of need and sorrow, as well as rejoice in times of joy.
I think I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to throw a little caution in here. There are so many people today who attribute things to the Holy Spirit that are simply not true. We need to be aware that this is happening and ask God to protect us from those false ideas. Paul wrote to Timothy concerning false spirits. He said, "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons..." (I Timothy 4:1) These deceiving spirits are real and are all around us in this society in which we live. Sometimes their message is so subtle while at other times so bold. The New Age movement is wide spread in America and gaining popularity with each passing day. John tells us in his epistle what we need to do in relationship to the teachings of these false spirits. He said, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits,whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (I John 4:1)
Do you need to get back into a right relationship with God? Or perhaps you need to strive harder to make your relationship all that it could be by allowing the Spirit a free reign in your life. In reality we all can seek to walk closer to God and give the Spirit more of our lives. I pray that every Christian will come to realize the need for a closer walk with God and earnestly seek His will in their lives. "Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us." (I John 3:24) Jesus abides in us if we keep His commandments, and allow the Spirit to move in our lives.
All scriptures quoted are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
About the Author
Stephen Kingery is an author, preacher, teacher and founder of The Home Bible Study Institute.
Visit our site at http://www.james1-22.org
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