In the previous post entitled “The Unforgiveable Sin” I commented on blaspheming the Holy Spirit. If an unbeliever blasphemes* the Holy Spirit, Billy Graham** calls that an unforgiveable sin. If that person never finds Jesus as their Savior and never asks forgiveness for this sin, they are doomed.
Pretty rough stuff, wouldn’t you say?
This raises questions about sins against the Holy Spirit that believers commit? Are there any?
The answer is yes. Graham writes about one called “grieving the Holy Spirit.”
Before reading The Holy Spirit, I had never encountered this concept, but I know I do this sin because I am a believer. Graham says that “almost any wrong action we take” can be included under either grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit [more on quenching in upcoming posts].
Before we go any further, it is very important to say that grieving does not lead to impending doom at the end of our earthly lives. The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:30 that we are “sealed” for our day of redemption, which means that even though we commit this sin, we will remain Christians.
But what specifically is grieving? Generally, it is doing things that are inconsistent with the nature of the Holy Spirit. Graham says we hurt His heart [the Holy Spirit’s heart] and wound Him [the Holy Spirit]. “We can bring pain to the Spirit by what we do” [Graham, 158]. In Ephesians 4: 20-32 Paul says that whatever is unlike Christ in conduct, speech, or disposition grieves the Spirit of grace.
This covers a lot of territory.
Even though our conduct can be unlike Christ, Graham says when the Holy Spirit is grieved it is a “love word”. We may hurt or anger someone who has no affection for us but we can only grieve someone who loves us. Everyone knows what it feels like to sin. When I commit a disobedient act, I have the same feeling over and over again. My pipeline to God has been ruptured, my telephone line to God has been cut, or my feeling of closeness to my Holy Father is lost. Whatever your metaphor, the sin makes things “not right.”
If you believe in God, the “glorious and gracious” aspect of this sinning is that you do not lose the Holy Spirit. God does not refuse to “seal” you. He does not become permanently removed from you. Graham says of the Holy Spirit that “a believer cannot grieve Him so much that He goes away totally.” Some refer to this as “backsliding” but backsliding does not mean you have fallen from grace, or you have the Holy Spirit withdrawn from you permanently.
Some things are lost and as a believer you know it. Sinning can lead to an absence of joy in daily life. I feel anger and frustration with myself because I have been too weak to fight temptation. Often, my wife will tell me I am irritable when I have sinned. That is a shame because I am not irritated with her. I live with her and she is the unjustified recipient of these feelings. I literally begin to feel weak when I have sinned. I don’t have good mental focus. I can’t get things done. When I have sinned, the hypocrisy of presenting a “good” image to the world drains me. I think things like “if others only knew how weak I am, how dishonest I am.”
Let me explain further by using a personal example. One of the great blessings of my life has been to be a father. My son and I are very close even though I don’t get to see him that often. When we talk on the telephone, the closeness is evident. When we are together, I accept him, love him and respect him.
It was not always smooth sailing with my son. As a teen, my son acted in ways that my wife and I did not approve of. We made it clear that his behavior was wrong, but for a time, he went on doing what he pleased. He was not concerned with being the “good boy” that we expected. Never once did I say to him, “if you don’t stop doing ‘this or that’, I will stop loving you.” The fact of the matter is his behavior was very frustrating and discouraging but I still loved him. There were times when I wondered about his future, if he would make it to adulthood and have a chance at a happy, productive life. When I think about those times, I recall feeling pain, sorrow and anguish mixed in with my love for him.
But I never turned my back on him. I never told him I was withdrawing my love for him. I just rode out the rough times and kept hoping that he would see the error of his ways.
I am a fortunate father. He did get beyond this rough time in his life. He did make it to a happy productive life as an adult.
When Graham says “grieve is a love word”, I can understand because my son grieved me for a time, but I am so glad that I saw those days as only a period in his growth and not a permanent state.
It is exaggerating the circumstances to say that my son renounced his sins and confessed his sins to me. What young person actually does that to his father? But he has regrets about his past behaviors; he has expressed those.
He needn’t have them though; I loved him all through his life, the good days and the bad.
Just like my Father loves me.
Just as my Father loves me, the Holy Spirit loves me.
He never left me, no matter what I did…
*defined as “to speak irreverently about God or sacred things”
**from his book The Holy Spirit