Summary: Are you on fire for Jesus, or has the fire gone out? Some people are so afraid of spiritual wildfire that they settle for no fire.
Those who practice the religion of Buddhism learn there is an eightfold path that should take a person to place where they no longer experience suffering. There’s still suffering in the world, they are just no longer attached to it. Their idea of Nirvana is arriving at a state of blissful nothingness. That explains the joke about the Buddhist monk who got a wrapped birthday present from one of his friends. He unwrapped the box and opened and it was empty. The monk said, “Thanks! That’s what I’ve always wanted!”
As Paul completed his first letter to the believers in Thessalonica, Greece, he gives them eight short, succinct directives. I call this the better eightfold path. These eight admonitions will put you on the pathway to peace and blessing.
I started this message last week. I divided it into two messages because it has eight points. Now if you’re a deer hunter, an eight-point buck is okay. But for one message, that’s a little too many points, so I divided it, which reminds me of the preacher who had a twenty-six-point sermon one Sunday morning, one for every letter of the alphabet. It was a looooong sermon. He had so many complaints during the week that the next Sunday he stood up and said, “Due to so many complaints about my 26 point sermon last Sunday, this morning my sermon will be pointless!”
Hopefully, you’ll get the point of this message. Let’s read Paul’s inspired words again found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.”
Let’s do a quick review of the first three directives. First, we are to BE JOYFUL. We can make the choice to rejoice. After last week’s message Ann Powell wrote me and reminded me that when the artist was designing the stained glass window over our baptistery, he was asked us for one word that described the personality of Green Acres. We chose the word “rejoice” and although it’s hard to see from the congregation, the word “rejoice” appears in the window.
Second, we should BE PRAYERFUL. We can connect to God continually. You can’t pray aloud 24/7, but you can maintain a divine connection with God every moment of every day. Third, we are told to BE THANKFUL. And we learned this is God’s will for your life. Some people are humbly grateful, and others are grumbly hateful. Which are you?
I mentioned last week that these short commands are similar to someone tweeting a message today. So let’s look at Paul’s last five tweets.
4. BE SENSITIVE: Obey the Holy Spirit quickly
Six of eight of these admonitions are positive commands, but the next two are negative. Instead of two donuts, Paul serves up two “do-nots.” He wrote, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.”
All sin is against God, but the New Testament teaches there are three specific sins we can commit against the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 12 Jesus talked about the unpardonable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. If you want more information on that sin, I have an entire message about it in our message archive on our website (“Take Out the Trash Talk!” Parables & Miracles series, Matthew 12:33-37, April 18, 2010.). But to summarize, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the total and irrevocable rejection of Jesus Christ. It is the sin of unbelief, so only an unbeliever commits this sin.
The second sin against the Holy Spirit is grieving the Spirit. Believers can commit this sin. Paul wrote, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30) We commit this sin when we act or speak in a way that is displeasing to God. Just as parents grieve over the misbehavior of their children, the Holy Spirit grieves when we live in an unholy way.
The third sin against the Holy Spirit is the one Paul mentions here. In the King James Version it says, “Don’t quench the Spirit.” Here, the Holy Spirit is symbolized by fire.
In Revelation 4, when John has a vision of the throne of God in heaven, he reported seven torches of fire around the throne. Seven is the number of perfection, and these torches were seven Spirits of God. There’s only one Holy Spirit, but He is the third person of the Trinity, so He is perfect like the Father and Son are perfect.
When God called Moses, He spoke through a burning bush. And there was a pillar of fire that led them through the wilderness. The prophet Jeremiah wrote that he tried to quit preaching, but God’s Word was like fire in his bones.