ARE YOU RESTRICTING THE SPIRIT ?

This was my very first motorbike which I got when I was 16, this was the bike that started my addiction to two wheels. It was a Yamaha FS1E 50cc, known to everyone as a Fizzie. I loved that bike, partly because it was my first bike but more because it was faster than all my friends 50cc motorbikes. It made me feel great that I was always faster up the hills and quicker in a straight line and left my friends behind. When you are 16 bragging rights are important.

There was a reason why I was faster, and it wasn’t down to my superior riding skills. At that time in the UK, when you were 16 you could only ride a 50cc motorcycle that was capable of no more than 30mph. My Fizzie could do 60mph! (downhill, with a tail wind, if I was lying flat on the tank) My friends bikes all had “restrictors” fitted to their engines, which restricted their power, so they could only manage 30mph. However, the previous owner of my FIZZIE had worked out how to disable the restrictor so my bike had full power, not only that but he had also “tuned” the bike for the best possible performance.

I was reminded of my days on my FIZZIE and my friends’ frustration at having to live in my trail of two stroke smoke when I read these verses last week preparing for Sunday.

“Do not quench the Spirit.”  1 Thess 5:19

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.”  Eph 4:30

In a nutshell, those verses tell us its possible to live our Christian lives like my friends 50cc motorbikes, with restricted power. Paul is warning us that there are things that we can do, and not do, that will restrict the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I wonder if you have taken seriously before that you can “quench” the Holy Spirit in your life? The idea here seems to be to put out a fire. The Holy Spirit is often portrayed as fire, remember the tongues of fire on Pentecost?  God’s Word is saying in 1 Thessalonians that we can have attitudes and actions that work like a fire extinguisher on the presence and power of the Spirit in our lives. Its as if as soon as the Holy Spirit’s fire begins to burn hotter in our lives, we blow out the flame by what we do. It’s sobering to think about how this might apply to whole churches.

I can remember sensing that someone who was a friend had become a bit “stand offish.” Our relationship had suffered, and they had grown colder and more distant. It didn’t seem they wanted to spend time with me or talk much to me. It turned out that I had said something that had hurt them. God’s Word is warning me, and you, that the self-same thing can happen in our relationship with the Holy Spirit. I can grieve, deeply hurt, the Holy Spirit. What we do can bring pain to God’s heart.

 I once had a debate with a Jehovah’s Witness who had come to my door about the Trinity. He said the Holy Spirit was just a source of power, like electricity. I showed him the verse from Ephesians and asked him if the electricity supply in his house had ever got upset over something he had done? He wouldn’t admit it, but I knew he understood, you cannot grieve, impersonal forces, only people you are in a relationship with. The Holy Spirit is a person and has a relationship with us and, as in any relationship,  we can do things that will hurt Him and damage our relationship and so make Him feel more distant to us.

What sort of things damages our relationship with the Holy Spirit? I find it interesting that Paul primarily points to our relationship with other people. He talks about how losing our temper with other people, being bitter towards others, bad-mouthing people, refusing to forgive them and acting with malice towards other people all grieve the Holy Spirit.

Let’s just ponder that for that moment. God’s Word directly links the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in your life to the quality of your relationships with, and treatment of other people. That applies to churches as well. When you understand this principle, you begin to understand why all too many disciples and churches are like the Christian equivalent of my friends 50cc motorbikes.

I wonder if this why the Holy Spirit is sometimes portrayed as a Dove? Doves are notoriously sensitive creatures; they fly away at the slightest threat or disturbance. I think we all too often forget that the Holy Spirit is sensitive.

Reflecting on this maybe it’s a good time to also reflect on whether there is anything we are doing, saying, or not doing or saying, or whether there is a broken relationship, that is acting like a restrictor on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I want my relationship, and our church’s relationship with the Holy Spirit to be like my beloved FIZZIE, unrestricted and tuned for maximum power.

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