Summary: Practicing the ways of the ’flesh’ grieves the Holy Spirit in us, Who is in the process of sanctifying us. (#21 in the Unfathomable Love of Christ series)
“He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
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, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
I need to start out today, reminding you that I have as much need to be admonished concerning this subject as anyone who sits in front of me, or may read this sermon later.
When I come honestly before God and allow Him to bring to my mind the attitudes and behaviors still present in me, and occasionally demonstrated by me, that undoubtedly grieve His Spirit who lives in me, I find two responses taking place within me as He shines His all-revealing light. Shame, because I am not my own, I have been bought with a price, and my actions sometimes deny that wonderful truth; and a deep sense of relief and gratitude, because that same Holy Spirit in me assures me that yes, even this, is covered by grace. He will continue to lead me and teach me and change me, because that is the on-going work of sanctification.
Interestingly, I had a conversation just last evening with a brother of mine (the evening before I wrote this sermon), not realizing that I was going to be addressing this subject as I sat down to study today (the following morning).
We were discussing the tendency of worldly attitudes and actions to creep back into the lifestyle when a believer neglects the Word and the fellowship of other believers.
This wasn’t said then, but frankly, I think it might be more accurate to describe it not as a creeping, but a rushing.
I appreciated the words of MacKintosh on this, as he addressed the erroneous thinking on the part of many Christians, that sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in making the old man better; turning him into something fit for Heaven. This false doctrine makes them content and gives them a false sense of security that the person they used to be is behind them and they are somehow better than before.
“Is the reader a true believer? If so, has he found any improvement in his old nature? Is it a single whit better now than it was when he first started on his Christian course? He may, and should through grace, be able to subdue it more thoroughly; but it is nothing better. If it be not mortified, it is just as ready to spring up and show itself in all its vileness as ever. "The flesh" in a believer is in no wise better than "the flesh" in an unbeliever. And if the Christian does not bear in mind that self must be judged, he will soon learn by bitter experience that his old nature is as bad as ever; and, moreover, that it will be the very same to the end.”
So when a true believer in Christ becomes conscious of the flesh rearing its ugly head in his life, whether it be manifest in his behavior, or something passing through his own secret thoughts and contemplations, he should of course take it into captivity; subdue it, as MacKintosh said; confess it in prayer, and give himself to the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work.
But the believer can, at that same time, rejoice that he has a Savior. Because that same Holy Spirit of Christ whom we are admonished not to grieve, is the One dwelling in us to minister His grace and mercy and compassion on us and continue the work of cleansing us from all unrighteousness.
Now having said all that, and as we come to these verses of study today, I want you to be mindful as we enter into it, that the ‘flesh’ is not something we can blame our sin on as though it’s not really a part of us, and the Holy Spirit is not some divine fire extinguisher that puts out the little fires in our life as we go along, and all of this somehow takes place outside the realm of our personal involvement or responsibility.
“Oh, I’m a Christian now, and all my sin is forgiven, and I’m on my way to Heaven, and the flesh makes me sin once in a while, but the Father forgives and the Holy