Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit Grieve

One mark of a successful sermon is that it satisfactorily answers some questions while provoking still others. On Sunday I visited a little church in an eastern-Ontario village and heard just such a sermon. The pastor preached on Ephesians 4 as part of a series on the Christian’s identity in Christ, but as he continued through the text he was only barely able to speak to verse 30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” I later found myself asking, What does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit? My initial reaction to the word grieve in reference to the Holy Spirit was a negative one: Surely the Spirit of God does not actually grieve, does he? Perhaps this is a poor translation. Isn’t sorrow a too-human reaction to ascribe to the holy God? Doesn’t it diminish the Spirit to suggest that my sin can make him feel genuine sorrow?

Thankfully I take my entire theological library on the road with me thanks to the magic of Logos, so I was able to first meditate on the text and then to research it a little bit. What I found is that grieve is actually a very faithful rendering. It is, in fact, the preferred rendering of the word for every major translation, new or old, with the exception of the NLT which prefers the synonymous bring sorrow to. The Bible dictionaries agree: the Greek word λυπέω indicates grief, sorrow and distress. So somehow our sin really can bring grief to God and, according to the immediate context, this is especially true for the sins of the mouth that cause disunity between believers.



The Duty of Diligence

But as the Reformers returned to the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word, they found that while full-time ministry was a vocation, it was by no means the only one. They saw that each of us has a vocation and that every vocation has dignity and value in the eyes of the Lord. We can all honor God in the work we do. We must discern our God-given vocation and then devote ourselves to it.

Still today, we can lose sight of what the Reformers recovered, and if we do not constantly return to God’s Word and allow it to shape us, we will soon drift back to a disdain for ordinary work. It is encouraging that today we find many Christian pastors and authors exploring what it means to be ordinary Christians doing ordinary work as part of their ordinary lives. It is encouraging to see these leaders affirming the worth of all vocations from plumbing to writing, from pastoring to homemaking, from engineering to piloting. It is encouraging to see Christians responding with confidence to embrace the duty of diligence, our next area of consideration in “The 10 Duties of Every Christian.”

A Life Pleasing to God

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3 Godly Ambitions for the Christian

Some of my favorite biblical commands are the ones that most counter our culture, and even our little Christian subculture. We find just such a series of commands near the end of 1 Thessalonians. There Paul tells this church to “…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands” (4:11). The ESV is nicely complemented by the NIV’s slightly different rendering: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you.”

When Paul says “make it your ambition” he indicates that this is the good, right, and honorable way for them to live their lives—and for us to live our lives. Over against all the other things we could aspire to, we are first to aspire to these, for these are matters of first importance. He highlights three godly ambitions for the Christian.

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Is Your Church Messy Enough?

I love my church. I love the people I gather with week-by-week. They are fun and safe and easy to be with. But who said church should be safe and easy? What if one of the marks of a good church, a blessed church, is that it’s a messy church?

I’m sure you know of the parable of The Lost Sheep in Luke 15. We call it “The Parable of The Lost Sheep” but it is actually “The Parable of the Kind and Loving Shepherd.” The sheep aren’t the point of the story. Like so many of Jesus’ parables, this parable was told in the presence of two groups of people—people who were convinced of their own badness and people who were convinced of their own goodness. And in this case Jesus was speaking primarily to those good and religious people.

The parable is simple: A sheep has wandered off from the flock and become lost. The shepherd will not rest until he has found it and restored it to himself. He goes, he searches, he finds, he restores, he rejoices. Just think about that silly, helpless sheeping, wandering lost and alone in the wilderness. Think about that tired shepherd who had to go wandering far and wide to find him. Think of the ways he could have responded when he finally tracked it down.

The shepherd finds his sheep and rebukes it: “You stupid, ignorant sheep. How dare you wander off from me?” No. He doesn’t rebuke it.

The shepherd finds his sheep and punishes it: “You dumb, disobedient sheep. I’ll teach you to wander off!” No, he doesn’t punish it.

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The Duty of Introspection

What is an inch? What is a kilogram? That’s easy: An inch is the distance between two notches on a ruler and a kilogram is the weight that makes the needle point to “1” on a kitchen scale. We take such weights and measures for granted, forgetting that they have no meaning and no definition in themselves. For an inch to be an inch it must conform to an accepted measure; for a kilogram to be a kilogram it must match an exacting standard. Governments have entire departments tasked with ensuring weights and measures are accurate, that they conform perfectly to accepted definitions.

Every human being lives according to some kind of a standard. There is some outside criterion each of us uses to measure our morality, to weigh our ethics, to judge our successes or failures. We may compare ourselves to parents or peers or great heroes of days gone by; we may compare ourselves to the laws of the land or the laws of the universe; we may compare ourselves to religious leaders or sacred texts. But none of us lives entirely disconnected from outside standards, from some measure of comparison. We are no more independent than an inch or a kilogram.

As Christians, we are sure of our standard of comparison. We compare ourselves to Jesus Christ, for “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). He is our standard. He is our measure. He is our criterion. If we wish to live moral lives, ethical lives, successful lives, significant lives, we must live as Jesus lived. He is our inch, he is our kilogram.

But how can we know if and how we are “walking in the same way in which he walked”? Through the Christian duty of introspection.

The Purpose of Introspection


How To Grieve Like a Christian

This life is full of loss and full of grief. Though there are times we experience great swells of joy, we also experience deep depths of sorrow. No sorrow is deeper than the sorrow of loss. At such times it is important to consider how Christians grieve. Christ has Lordship over all of life, even grief. The gospel informs all we do, including our grieving. When dealing with the loss of a fellow believer, it is a privilege to grieve in a distinctly Christian way—to grieve in one way instead of being left to grieve in another way.

What is that way? How do Christians grieve? Paul provides helpful instruction and begins with these words: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

The first thing is this: Grieve! It’s good and right to grieve. We grieve genuinely and unapologetically. Death is tragic; death is sorrowful; it is good to grieve and this text gives us permission to do so. While it’s always important to ask “what does a text say?” it’s equally important to ask, “what does a text not say?” In this verse Paul could have said something like, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve.” He could have ended his sentence there are forbidden all grief. He could have been a good Stoic and insisted that Christians must not waste their time and emotional energy in crying. But no, he doesn’t say that. He doesn’t tell us we must not grieve at all. Rather, he tells us we must not grieve in a certain way. There is a way that Christians must grieve. What is that way?


The 10 Duties of Every Christian