Part 3 in a series
Think well both how holy the office and work of the Holy Ghost is, and how great a mercy it is to us. Shall God himself, the heavenly light, come down into a sinful heart, to illuminate and purify it? And yet shall I keep my darkness and defilement, in opposition to such wonderful mercy? Though all sin against the Holy Ghost be not the unpardonable blasphemy, yet all is aggravated hereby. (From “Directions for Hating Sin” by Richard Baxter, 1615-1691)
The dead cannot see beauty. They can’t hear anyone calling to them. They can’t give themselves life, raise themselves up, or in any way rescue themselves from their decaying condition.
But for some, light dawns. It is a gift, precious beyond words, beyond measure. Completely undeserved. The rotting heart revives; coldness becomes vibrantly warm; life draws breath, steps out of the tomb, and beholds creation with awe.
What is this death from which we are delivered? It is the condition of lost sinfulness. How is anyone raised back to life? God revives us by placing His Holy Spirit within us, purely by His grace which we did not and could not earn.
And yet, sometimes each and every revived person walks back into the tomb to play in putrefaction. To luxuriate in the very sin we’ve been saved from. It’s familiar, it’s comfortable (if we dull our senses enough to ignore the stench), and it offers some short-term pleasure for those times when God doesn’t seem to be coming through for us.
You know what I’m talking about. But I’m not going to give you the usual argument here. You know, the one that says, “Hey, look around you! You deserve better than this tomb! Wake up and get back out of there! You’re too good for this place!”
There may be a time and place for such a plea, but not here. Not now. For one thing, we don’t deserve better than the tomb. It’s exactly where we were when God found us, and we fit right in there. It’s pure grace, not our “deserving,” which has brought us out. Secondly, “you deserve better” is a man-centered plea, and this is a God-centered blog.
What does God deserve? What about His Holy Spirit within us, the One we are insulting when we ignore Him for the siren-song of evil? Are we going to roll like dogs in the smelly stuff with Him in our hearts?
Don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not inviting you to think of the Holy Spirit as a hyper-sensitive weakling who can’t handle the stench as well as you can. Having the Holy Spirit in you isn’t like having a 6-year-old who needs to be sheltered from the scary movie you’re watching. The Spirit can handle it, all right. He found you there, remember? He is working in the tombs even as we speak, seeing the horrors of corrupted souls far more clearly than you or I ever could, and working miracles of regenerating love.
So if I can’t appeal to anyone on the basis of man-centered interests, and I can’t appeal to a perceived need to somehow shelter the Spirit from the reality of sin, then how can I appeal to anyone to hate sin by considering the Holy Spirit?
The answer revolves around who the Spirit is. He is called both the “Spirit of God” and the “Spirit of Christ,” which makes perfect sense, since God and Christ are One. Of course Father and Son have the same Spirit. Everything you find to be true of the Father’s character, and true of the Son’s character, is also true of the Spirit. All of the holiness. All of the power. All of the love. All of the hatred for sin. All of it.
If you and I think we would act differently “if Jesus were right here in the same room,” then we don’t get it. He’s sees everything, everywhere. And if we are believers, He is within us.
Why should that make us hate sin? Because sin opposes God, exalts itself against God, spits in God’s face, and hates Him.
Can we love such an enemy?
Sin also works against every good thing that the Spirit tries to do in our lives. It blinds us to His blessings, deafens us to His voice, deadens us to the sense of His presence.
Will we love the one who does that to us?
Sadly, sometimes we will. Our remaining sinfulness is dark beyond words. But I have one more appeal here. One more call to hate sin because of the Spirit in us.
When we sin willfully, we don’t simply break fellowship with God. We join in open revolt against Him. We declare our allegiance, however temporarily, with the enemy. We become weapons in the enemy’s hands, discrediting God in both the visible and invisible realms.
People can only see what is visible about us. They draw inferences about the rest. And what inferences will they draw when an avowed Christian lies, or steals, or commits adultery, or does any of a thousand other deliberate, evil things?
Won’t they infer that the Spirit makes no difference in us? Won’t they infer that He matters less to us than whatever pleasure or reward lured us away from Him? Won’t they laugh at the very idea of a Holy Spirit who lives in us? Won’t they blaspheme because of us? Does the Spirit within us deserve this?
And what of the unseen realms? Holy angels and fallen ones see our choices as well. Will we mock God before such awesome witnesses?
The fact is that our fallenness makes us deceivable. Sin has the power to trick us, allure us, trap us into doing things we never wanted to do in finer moments. It persuades us to spurn our Lover even as He faithfully shines light into our once-blind hearts, and breathes life into our once-dead souls.
If we can hate the sins of those who are disloyal to us, or to what we value, how much more should we hate anything that can make us commit treason against our Lord?
Father, help us to honor and treasure your Holy Spirit within us, and to do nothing to grieve or quench Him!