Day 22 Study - What Hinders Us?


Do not put out the Spirit's fire. (I Thessalonians 5:19)


In some other versions of the Bible, this verse is translated as "Do not quench the Spirit." In the same way that a bucket of water will quench a fire, certain things will put out the Spirit's fire in our lives. So what is the Spirit's fire?


We've seen that God has repeatedly revealed Himself through fire.  When He appeared to Moses, it was in a fire. When He led the Israelites through the wilderness, it was in a pillar of fire. When He appeared on Mount Sinai, there was fire. John the Baptist spoke of Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit and with fire. When the Spirit came and filled the apostles at Pentecost, fire rested upon each of them. One apostle encouraged us not to think that our fiery trials are strange, but rather to compare them to the refining process of fine gold or silver.


We can briefly sum up the significance of fire in representing God in these ways:

1. Fire represents the Presence of God.

2. Fire represents purification.


These are the main works of the Spirit in our lives. The Spirit seeks to reveal the Presence of God to us in real living experience. He also seeks to purge the impurities from our lives and make us holy, as our Father is holy. These works are inseparable linked together. As the Presence of God purifies us, our purification helps us to realize the Presence of God. The Spirit is actually working from these two directions at the same time.


On the one hand, the Presence of God reveals His perfect holiness, and shows us our deep rooted sin. In the same way that the refining fire of the furnace separates impurities from purest gold, God's awesome glory burns away the impurities from our lives as we fix our gaze on Him. On the other hand, the purifying of our hearts makes it possible for us to know the Lord's Presence. As He purges the sin from our hearts which blinds us and separates us form Him, His constant Presence becomes a reality.


Keeping in step with the Spirit means working with Him, and following His leading in these areas. We must seek to cultivate the perception of God's abiding Presence at all times. We must also cooperate with the Spirit's refining work in us, examining ourselves daily, confessing and forsaking the sin that the Spirit reveals, and allowing Him to purify us. We can not do any of this by our own power, as you should well know. Our part is always to cooperate with Him and not resist His power working in us. We must be willing to let Him do His work and to be glorified as He wishes in our lives. When we resist His working and do not cooperate with Him, we are quenching the spirit. We are fighting against Him as He tries to reveal God's Presence and purify our hearts.


There are two main ways in which we quench the Spirit:

1. We take our eyes off of the Lord, and look to other things that severely distract us. When we choose to focus on things that displease Him, rather than looking to Him in all things, we cannot recognize His Presence.


2. We hold on to sin in our hearts which grieves Him, and ignore His conviction when He tries to show us the problem. When we resist Him like this, we seriously hamper His purifying work in our lives.


In this chapter we'll look at a few examples of ways in which we may resist the Spirit and put out His fire in our hearts. Because we only have a few pages, we'll look at hindrances that seem to be the most common. We'll look at some pet sins people often don't want to give up, and at some problems which people often do not recognize as the sever hindrances they really are. As you prayerfully study God's Word everyday on your own, He will surely show you much more than we have time to cover here.


Intoxication

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:17-18)


Trying to be filled with the Spirit while we are filled with drunkenness and debauchery is plain foolishness. Funk & Wagnall's Desk Dictionary defines the word debauchery as "gross indulgence on one's sensual appetites." All intoxication is debauchery, whether induced by alcohol or by other drugs, because it indulges our sensual appetites, and it will lead us into even greater debauchery.


All intoxication has the same effect - Spiritual emptiness. We cannot be filled with intoxication and be filled with the Spirit also. As you read the following verses, remember that the effects of drunkenness are also effects of all intoxication.


...Wine and new wine take away the heart and the mind and spiritual understanding. (Hosea 4:11 AMP)


Read Isaiah 5:11-12. At the end of verse 12, how does Isaiah describe the attitude of habitual drinkers?




Read Proverbs 20:1. What does this verse call wine and beer?




Where do wine and beer lead?




More On Other Drugs

The problem of drug use is dealt with in the New Testament as part of a larger evil that has existed for thousands of years. In the NIV, this practice is called witchcraft and magic arts. (In the NKJV & NASV it is translated sorcery.)


In Galatians 5:19-21, where Paul lists the acts of the sinful nature, we find a reference to witchcraft. In Revelation 9:21, John speaks of those people who refused to repent of their magic arts.  Again in Revelation 22:15, John identifies certain lost souls as those who practiced magic arts. In all three of these verses, we are talking about drug use.


Another Greek word study is necessary here. The Greek word that is translated witchcraft and magic arts in these verses is the word Pharmakia. This is the Greek word from which we get our English words pharmacy and pharmaceutical. Our pharmacies today are actually named after the witchcraft and sorcery of the past!


In the time of the apostles, drug use was a major part of the sorcerers' ceremonies. The mental, emotional, and physical state of the participants was altered by the various types of drugs that the sorcerer gave them. This altered awareness was some of the main reasons that the sorcerer's tricks had the appearance of "magic".  Many people who participated in these occult ceremonies must have done so just because of the intoxication they experienced. Many could only obtain they drugs they wanted from the sorcerer.


Once again, when we read about witchcraft in the New Testament, we are often talking about drug use. Since drug use was (and is) so conducive to witchcraft and sorcery, it's no wonder that it is so contrary to being filled with the Spirit! Drug use will completely distract you from focusing on Jesus Christ. It will open you up to many other kinds of temptations as well, and will largely take away your power to resist them. It's no wonder the sorcerers thought drug use was so important in their occult rituals. It blinded and weakened their victims!


Sexual Immorality

The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.


...He who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

(1 Corinthians 6:13b, 18b-20)


Our bodies are meant to be the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Through the filling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus wants to live in us in all of His fullness. This is how Jesus wants to come to us and be intimate with us now, while we are still on this earth. He deeply desires our love and devotion, and wants us to be completely sanctified (set aside) for Him alone. Just as a bride pledges that she will be faithful to her husband forever, we should love Jesus enough to be faithful to Him. In a very real spiritual sense, He is our husband, and we are His bride. We are to be completely devoted to Him alone, enjoying a private and wonderfully intimate relationship with Him.


As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:5b)


God created mankind male and female and joined them in the permanent bond of marriage for a special reason. This human love relationship was established to testify in some small way of the kind of relationship we will have with Jesus for all eternity. Our marriage relationships on this earth are supposed to be patterned after the example of our eternal relationship with Jesus. We are to be joined together permanently and intimately, and we are to be faithful to our partners for life. This faithful commitment pleases the Lord, who has also chosen us to have the same kind of relationship with Him forever!


If you have sex outside of marriage, or you are unfaithful to your marriage partner, the One you have really been unfaithful to is your eternal Husband, who loved you deeply enough to give His life for you. If you are spiritually "sleeping around" on Jesus, you are hurting Him deeply, and the intimacy of your relationship with Him will suffer greatly. Be faithful!


I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. - the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 11:2-3)


Notice that Paul talks about our minds being led astray. This is where all sin begins! Thinking about sin is the first important step towards the action. In the case of sexual sin, Jesus told us that a man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed sexual sin with her in his heart! (Matthew 5:27-28) We must be very careful not to dwell on sexual thoughts or fantasies in our minds.  Pornography and sexually explicit movies, etc. are major stumbling-blocks. The only good advice is: Don't!


Remember, we cannot expect to be filled by God's Holy Spirit if we fill ourselves with sexual sins against Him.


Divisions

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God... (Ephesians 4:30a)


Many of us have a hard time realizing that we can actually grieve the Holy Spirit. We think that because He is all-powerful and infinite, He is somehow immune to feelings. Nothing could be more untrue. The greatest depth of emotion we can imagine is nothing compared to the boundless ocean of pure emotion the Spirit feels for us.


As you look up the following verses, you will see some specific things that deeply grieve the Holy Spirit, but all of these things can easily be summed up in one word - divisions. You will also see some specific things that please the Spirit, but all of these things can also be summed up in one word - love. We are all called to be united as one in the body of Christ, and to live in God's perfect love.


You should remember from the last chapter that the filling of the Holy Spirit always brought great love and unity. Since one of the main works of the Holy Spirit when He fills us is to produce unity, it makes perfect sense that willfully destroying the unity of the body of believers seriously grieves the Spirit, and will keep us from being filled!


Read Ephesians 4:30-5:1 carefully. List the things in verse 31 which grieve the Holy Spirit.




What are we told to do with those things that grieve Him?




What  do verses 4:32-5:1 tell us we should do instead?




Why should we be forgiving each other?




Why should we live a life of love?




Read Ephesians 4:2-3. In verse 3, what should we make every effort to do?




In verse 2, how does Paul tell us that we should do this?  List the four ways.




The fruit of the Spirit is love... (Galatians 5:22a)

God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit...  (Romans 5:5b)


By this time, some of you will be saying to yourselves, "How can I possibly change myself and get rid of all my bitterness? How can I possibly just 'turn on' God's love and forgiveness for everybody? I feel helpless!"


We truly are helpless to change ourselves. Only God's Spirit in us can make those miraculous changes we desire and fill us with His supernatural love. He doesn't expect us to fix all the problems before He fills us. He'll do that! He simply expects us to cooperate with Him! It's one thing to wish that the Spirit would fill us and change us, but it's quite another thing to want it enough to yield ourselves to Him. It takes some of us a along time to get to the point where we're sick enough of our mediocre Christian lives that we'll finally give ourselves fully to the Holy Spirit.


The Holy Spirit does the work, but we must be willing. He blazes the trail, but we must follow. He sets the pace, but we must keep in step. He guides and directs our progress, but we must obey.


Disobedience and Rebellion

Read Acts 5:32. To whom does God give the Holy Spirit?




Read John 14:15-17. In verse 15, to whom will the Father give the Counselor, the Spirit of truth?




I Peter 1:2 tells us that we have been:

...Chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ...


God chose us and the Holy Spirit sanctified us (set us apart) for obedience to Jesus Christ. We glorify God in our lives and testify of His grace toward us by our obedience to Him. When we are willfully disobedient, we are rebelling against the work of the Spirit in our lives. Remember, the Spirit's work is to bring us into obedience to Jesus Christ. If we resist His work, we certainly cannot expect Him to fill us!


A Few More

Although time would fail to list all of the ways we can hinder the filling of the Holy Spirit, we have covered some of the major problems.


Some of the other hindrances to watch out for are pride, self-confidence, self-righteousness, self-satisfaction, self-centeredness, selfishness, spiritual laziness, impatience, fear, worry, unbelief, dishonesty, law-breaking, desire for recognition, desire for power, greed, love of money, love of possessions, trusting in earthly resources, trusting in our own wisdom or understanding, trusting in our own good works, and loving this sinful world.


Sound complicated? If you had to watch out for all these things on you own, it would be more than complicated - it would be impossible! But remember that it is the Holy spirit who does the work, As we stay focused on Jesus, the Holy Spirit will show us those things which hinder us everyday. He will speak to us through God's Word in the Bible, and He will bring the Word to memory when we need a warning. He wants to fill you, and He wants you to stay filled! So listen to Him, and obey Him!


Some Great Advice to Meditate on ...

Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness.    (Romans 6:13)


Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed ...   (Romans 12:1-2a)


• We'll be studying more about the filling of the Holy Spirit during the daily devos this week. Next month we'll study much more about the Holy Spirit's work, including spiritual gifts! 'Till then, here's your homework:  BE FILLED!