It's hard to know the difference between grieving and quenching the Spirit, but they are slightly different.
- Grieving the Spirit refers to our actions that hinder the Spirit from being Himself — from being what He could be in us.
- Quenching the Spirit refers to our actions that hinder the Spirit from doing what He could through us.
When the Spirit is not grieved, our inward journey of being transformed into the image of Christ will happen as it should. When the Spirit is not quenched, our outward journey of living like Christ will happen as it should.
Inward Journey: How We Grieve the Spirit, and How We Can Avoid Grieving the Spirit
The Apostle Paul tells us that we can grieve the Holy Spirit:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30
The word "grieved," here means pain or sorrow. It is the opposite of joy. We can do and say things that hurt or grieve the Holy Spirit’s feelings.
Ephesians 4:30 and the surrounding verses are just one of many instances where we find God letting us know about the way He desires for us to live so that we can experience a full life in the Spirit.
Many of us like to talk about the gifts of the Spirit, and the power of the Spirit, but we neglect to talk about the presence of the Spirit (in us) that is necessary to transform our hearts and our hearts’ desires so that we can be used by Him to forward His work through us.
We must want to exemplify the personality of Jesus as much as we desire to demonstrate His power.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:27-28
That is what I felt like when I was lying on my bed (last week's blog). On the outside, I was nice, pleasant, and very attractive Antley. On the inside, I felt dead. We can all relate to this, because living this way is exhausting. There is no freedom in this kind of religious life.
The secret to freedom is becoming a slave to Christ, and cultivating an inward journey that reflects the fruit of the Spirit on the outside.
The goal is not to live a certain way. The goal is to become like Christ from the inside out. This will lead you to a lifestyle that is countercultural, but what that looks like for each of us will vary as we are led by the Spirit.
God is sovereign, and He can overrule this progression whenever He wants. This is not a formula to be like Jesus. I hope you're not thinking, “Oh, great, another set of rules to live by, another set of 'do’s and don'ts.'”
I'm trying to explain the way that we find freedom as God’s children. It begins by playing by His rules… not because they are boring, but because He knows best. He knows where “life to the full” is to be found.
Outward Journey: How We Quench the Spirit, and How We Can Avoid Quenching the Spirit
Quenching the Spirit refers to our actions that hinder the Spirit from doing what He could do through us. When the Spirit is not quenched in us, we may well manifest His power, perhaps through the expressions of the gifts of the Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:8-10)
We can be guilty of quenching the Spirit by trying to lure Him in for our own gain.
Pride, selfish ambition, and personal gain can be sources of quenching the Spirit. God has given us the gifts of the Spirit to edify and grow His church for His glory. When we expect Him to do what we want, when we want it, and how we want it, we are on dangerous ground.
We can also quench the Spirit in our personal lives by trying to mold Him into a comfortable Spirit or by desiring certain gifts or callings on our life and never really surrendering ourselves to what He wants.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Paul writes to the Thessalonians for the purpose of telling them how they should live. Included in this, he warns them not to quench the Spirit. In the NIV it is translated, “do not put out the Spirit’s fire.”
The word “put out” comes from the Greek word, “sbennumi,” which basically means “to quench.” In the Ancient Greek world, it referred generally to extinguishing fire or burning objects.
This may be the reason that Jesus was unable to perform miracles in His home town (Mark 6:4-5). They doubted Jesus’ miracles and, thus, quenched the Spirit, and the result was that Jesus was “unable to perform any miraculous signs, because they lacked faith.”
Obviously, the fire in Jesus was not diminished or put out. So, it must mean that the power of the Spirit in that situation was quenched. When this happens, the manifestations of the Spirit (gifts of the Spirit) cease.
If we are going to walk in the power of the Spirit, we need to start learning how to adjust to what He is doing, how He is leading us, and how to obediently work with Him.
This happens by becoming sensitive to the Spirit and to what He is saying and then obeying Him. This can happen only by spending time with God and learning to hear what His voice is saying and learning how to discern when He is speaking to our hearts.
This can be cultivated in the disciplines of the Christian life (prayer, fasting meditation, worship, reading the Bible, silence, solitude, etc.). Yet, if we let the Bible or any of these disciplines replace the immediate witness, guidance, and voice of the Spirit, we quench Him. The disciplines exist to help us experience and be led by the Holy Spirit.
As we learn to live a life “in the Spirit,” not grieving Him or quenching Him, we will naturally bear the fruit of the Spirit. We don’t seek to bear fruit; we seek to live a life in the Spirit, where we are being led by Him. The result of this life feels like freedom and hope… freedom from all the burdens we are carrying around as we are trying to be someone we are not, and hope, that when we give our burdens to Him, we will have a life that is full of the Spirit’s fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control.
We need to open our hearts to receive God’s blessings through the Holy Spirit as He sees fit. We do this by opening ourselves in prayer and time with Him and asking the Father to send us His Spirit to lead us and fill us.
A great starting point in your time with Jesus is to ask for Him for forgiveness and to repent of the ways you might have grieved or quenched the Holy Spirit. It is important to let go of what we want and receive what He wants for us through His Spirit.
That may come as it did for Samson in a supernatural way with great physical manifestations. But it will probably come as it most often does, in a thin, fine whisper like it came to Elijah. What we know is that the Father always sends the Spirit when we ask. So, start asking, and expect to see the fruit of the Spirit appear in your life!!
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! Luke 11:13
This is from a sermon I gave at River City Church a few years ago. The bulk of the material comes from a book I was reading at the time by RT Kendall, Sensitivity Of The Holy Spirit: Learning to Stay in the Flow of God's Direction.