Resisting The Holy Spirit!
Acts 7:51: "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost."
Just as it is possible for a believer to lie to the Holy Spirit,
it is also possible for a believer to resist the Holy Spirit.
It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to lead every Christian into a deeper
and richer experience with his risen Lord.
The Holy Spirit is jealous for the honor and glory for the Lord Jesus.
He will always provide for the supremacy of Christ in our hearts and lives.
Dr. James A. Stewart wrote that he was heartbroken as he preached in many churches
to proclaim the glorious Gospel with the power of the Holy Spirit
expecting if there was to be any resistance, it would come from the unsaved.
He goes on to relate that he discovered that God's people were the stumbling-block to to being blessed.
Stewart said that for some reason Christians resisted the message of the Holy Spirit.
He said that it might have been through coldness of heart, indifference, or complacency.
Sometimes, it was because of sin in the heart and life.
We must remember Stephen's charged to the unbelieving Jews, "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost."
This also applies to stiffnecked Christians.
It is sad to to see that not many years after Pentecost the risen Lord found it necessary
to speak in a very special way to the local assemblies founded in Asia regarding their sin
of resisting the Holy Spirit.
We see this in the second and third chapter of Revelation.
The message to each of these churches closes with the words,
"Listen, you that have ears, to the message the Spirit has for the churches."
Let's look for a moment to the message that our Lord spoke to the church at Ephesus.
After giving His commendations, He added:
"Yet, there is one charge I make against thee, of losing the love that was yours at first.
Remember the heights from which thou hast fallen, and repent, and go back to the old ways;
or else I will come to visit thee, and, when I find thee still unrepentant,
will remove thy candlestick from its place."
(Revelation 2: 5, 6 Knox)
The church at Ephesus was a busy, active church.
This is also true today that many of the most unspiritual Christians in our churches are active,
alert, and full of zeal.
There was no falling off in their love for their church.
They were proud of their church.
They sustained their church.
They defended their church.
And they were zealous for it.
I have known that the most fervent denominational loyalty also existed alongside the lowest spiritual life.
In our day some love their denominations, and even their independent assemblies
more than they love the Lord.
They had not relaxed in their faithfulness to the doctrine which they professed.
They were truly orthodox.
They earnestly contended for the faith.
They were willing to die for what they believed.
They were like many modern churches that I have known who fervently uphold
the fundamentals of the faith, and yet were ice cold and mechanical in their love for the Lord.
Along with the commendations, there was one terrible indictment from the lips of their Lord
conveyed to them by the Holy Spirit.
"Yet there is one charge that I make against thee; of losing the love that was thine at first.
You have resisted the ministry of the Spirit in your lives.
You have not allowed Him to lead you into the deeper and richer love-live with Me;
you have not obeyed His warnings of the possibility of backsliding.
You have sunk so low that you do not even love Me as you did at the first!"
Their first love was the response to His first love.
"We love Him because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19)
"Yea, I have love thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."
His love was first in operation: "But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love
for which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins
" (Ephesians 2:4, 5)
"Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love."
"He saw me ruined by the fall,
Yet loves me, not withstanding all.
To save me from my lost estate,
His lovingkindness oh how great."
Their first love was ardent and marked with all the dewy freshness of spiritual youth.
"I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals,
when thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown." (Jeremiah 2:2)
G. Campbell Morgan said, "You cannot define it or explain it, but you can hear it
as it passes by and leaves a song floating on the air -- not a regular song at a regular hour,
but like the lark on a spring morning -- a burst of song at a most unusual moment -- and through the day.
You cannot channel or organize it -- it jumped over the channel and bursts forth out
of any restrictions put on it."
Their first love displaced all other loves and affections.
Their first love put the Lord Jesus first. (Colossians 1:18; Song of Solomon 1:4)
Even the reproach of Christ was esteemed and embraced above all earthly joys or riches.
The Lord's indictment against them was that they had left all this.
Against the wooing of the Holy Spirit, they had abandoned their first love.
The church at Ephesus had a program, but had no passion.
The church stood strong, proud, orthodox, perfect in organization,
but stiff and starched with monumental coldness.
What a tragedy!
She who had rejoiced in Him as His glorious bride had lost the thrill of her relationship to the Lord.
The Lord Jesus prefers fanaticism to formalism.
The Lord Jesus prefers devotion to decorum.
Think of how the angels must weep and how the Lord Jesus must be grieved
over the abandonment of our first love!
It is an absolute impossibility for us to lose our first love without forfeiting something.
In the preaching there is not a sensitiveness to the presence of Christ.
Instead, there is a lower tone of love that means there is a lower tone
in all the realm of our spiritual life, our prayer and testimony.
"Listen, you that have ears, to the message that the Spirit has for the churches."
It is a crying shame today that the Church is not listening.
She is ignoring and resisting the voice of the Holy Spirit.
I believe that if every pastor began to preach the solemn messages of the seven epistles
of the risen Lord, something extraordinary would take place.
Some of the members would walk out in anger.
Some would leave the church for good.
There will be trouble in many churches because so many of God's people are resisting
the voice of the Holy Spirit.
They have abandoned their first love and do not want to be disturbed.
I am totally convinced that there will be no revival in any of our churches
until the members are disturbed, upset, aroused, and even angry.
I have never known revival to begin anywhere until believers become offended at the Word. (John 6:61)
I have never known revival to begin anywhere where smug Orthodox Christians
did not hate the message which disturbed them, as well as the Lord's messenger.
Some years ago, our church had a two-week cottage prayer meeting
which met in 40 different homes every night for two weeks.
These cottage prayer meetings preceded a revival meeting, and revival started in these meetings.
One of our most dedicated, Christian ladies told me that one of the ladies that she was praying for,
and for which many others were praying asked this Christian lady to stop praying for her
for she felt she was going crazy.
The messenger is useful only as long as his message disturbs our comfortable routine
and upsets our conventions.
So, what is the message of the Holy Spirit to the churches?
It is threefold: Remember! Repent! Return!
Remember the heights from which thou hast fallen.
The first epistle to the Book of Ephesians is the epistle of "Heights,"
while the second epistle of Revelation 2 is the epistle of "Depths."
What a tragedy!
They had fallen from the heights of the heavenly places to the depths of their own backsliding!
Look up and see the height from which you have fallen.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will show you where you were formerly seated in the heavenlies in Christ.
Remember when you first came to know the Lord as your Saviour and how fervently you loved Him.
Remember those precious experiences that you had in prayer with your Father in heaven.
Remember the agony for unsaved relatives and friends that you had in your first love.
Remember when you heard a message that stirred your heart.
Remember the days when you prayed the prayers of intercession.
Remember the days when the power and glory of the Lord rested continually upon you.
Remember the wooing and pleadings of the Holy Spirit when there was prompt obedience
to His voice and the holy thrill of being a child of God.
Remember when you were in such agony for known sin in your life that you could not sleep.
It is not enough to remember.
You must repent.
As you look back through your life and remember that you would weep and pray,
and remember that it is not enough unless you repent.
Change your attitude to your spiritual condition and to your Lord Jesus.
Go back to the old ways.
Get completely right with God.
Deal with the sin which separated you from God.
Deal with the doubtful indulgence which caused you to backslide.
Smash the idol that took the place of Jesus Christ in your life.
Obey the voice of the Holy Spirit in the matter of confession and restitution.
I believe it is at this point the Holy Spirit is resisted most because it is the humiliating act
of putting things right as the Holy Spirit guides you.
Return to your original love-life with your blessed Lord.
The Holy Spirit will help you.
Do not resist Him any longer.
Tell Him that no matter what it costs, you are prepared to go back to the blessed old ways.
Now we come to the warning.
Return, or else I will come to visit thee,
and when I find thee still unrepentant will remove thy candlestick from its place."
This is not an idle threat.
This is judgment, swift and sure.
The message is urgent.
There is no time for delay.
We must not wait to have judgment to come up on us.
The wrath of God can come upon us now.
God can write "Ichabod" which means the glory of the Lord has departed from our churches.
(1 Samuel 4:21)
Or it may be said of us of the warning in Matthew 23:38: "Behold your house is left unto you desolate."
We probably would be amazed if we knew how many churches today
who have had their candlestick already removed.
Their history is known to the Lord Who walks among the golden candlesticks.
As Revelation 3:1 says, "They have a name that they are living, but they are dead."
Along with the warning comes a word for the "over-comers."
The trouble with these local churches was that the "shortcomers" were in the majority.
In these last dark days of a dying dispensation of grace, the Holy Spirit is calling out a select company
from Christians of every kindred, tongue, people of every nation,
who will be burning hot in their love and devotion to the Lord God.
I truly believe that God is purging His Church and preparing it for revival
and for the coming of the Lord Jesus.
Have you returned to your first love?
Are you standing triumphantly as an overcomer?
Then, let us notice the message that the Holy Spirit has for the churches to which it is addressed
primarily to the "angel" or "messenger" of each local church.
This puts the pastors and Christian leaders in a very important place of responsibility.
Much of the coldness and indifference in our churches today can be attributed directly to the pulpit.
"Like people, like priest
" (Hosea 4:9)
Andrew Murray has said, "The standard of the ministry and the standard of the life
of the believers will correspond.
As in the life of the Church the Holy Spirit is known and honored,
the need of a spiritual ministry will be felt.
As the ministry becomes more deeply spiritual, the tone of the church will be raised.
The two will act and will react on each other.
The demand determines the supply, but how solemn the thought that an earnest,
learned and eloquent ministry is not necessarily a ministry of the Holy Spirit."
This is not a time for preaching soothing, comforting messages to a sleeping Church.
This is the time to blow the trumpet and to sound the Gospel blast,
that will so disturb and infuriate the backslidden Christians that they will stir themselves up
and stop their sin of resisting the Holy Spirit.
Have you resisted the Holy Spirit?
You can trust your loving Father to take care of the future
if you are completely committed to the Lord Jesus.
One thing, above all others, must be kept in mind:
"It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful."
(1 Corinthians 4:2)
"Out in the dew He stands,
The drops of night are on His hair;
In patient love He waits without;
And who, who keeps Him there?
Our ear is sealed, our heart is cold,
And we refuse both hearth and fire;
He speaks, we hear not: Ah, 'tis we
Yes, we, who keep Him there.
But now no more we shut Thee out,
Oh Thou, the fairest of the fair;
Come in, Thou blessed one; we will
No longer keep Thee there."
By Andrew Bonar
Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White