Do not resist the Holy Spirit

Recently we have been talking about the Holy Spirit – who he/she is and the function of the Holy Spirit in the God head and in us.

It is awesome that God deigns to come down and reside in us through his Spirit. But with those new privileges comes new responsibilities. And when there are responsibilities there are dangers to watch out for concerning those responsibilities.

Dr Campbell Morgan identifies 3 such dangers. Today I want to talk about the first one.  That one is Resistance to the Holy Spirit.[1]

Jesus said to Nicodemus, ‘You must be born from above.’ (John 3:7).  That is what is called regeneration – being born again. To be a follower of God means we need to be reborn of God, baptized with water and fire.

In a long speech by Stephen before he was stoned to death he concluded with an accusation against the people that rejected Jesus as the Messiah:

Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do…53 You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.”

In another version: “you always resist the Holy Spirit”

When we are reborn, we receive the Holy Spirit. Remember Jesus blowing on his disciples after his resurrection and before his ascension and before Pentecost, saying “receive my spirit.”

But it seems that some who attend church may be resisting the Spirit because they are not completely surrendered to him.

Resisting the Holy Spirit means having hostility to His purposes and work. Sometimes that hostility is not wilful; sometimes it is that we do not recognise the Holy Spirit at work when he is.

When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, they did not understand that they were selling their deliverer into slavery. It was blindness to the God plan that he had revealed to Joseph.

When the people failed to understand Moses and refused him, and murmured against him, they did not understand the divine mission for which he was raised and called, to bring them out of captivity.

They were hostile to the work of the Holy Spirit, and their hostility was the result of their blindness. 

 

Their hostility, like our hostility to the Spirit, was not wilful, but the result of blindness.  God looks at the cause of that blindness. Is it ignorance to the facts because we have not been exposed to the truth or is that blindness our own creation?

Jealousy and hatred blinded Joseph’s brothers to his call.  Malice and hatred made the people oppose Moses. The Jews who were accused by Stephen were blinded to who Jesus was because of their pre-determined view of what the Messiah would look like and they were hostile to the revelation that Jesus was the Messiah.

They were blind to the call on Joseph’s, Moses’ and Jesus’ lives, calls that were placed there by the Holy Spirit.

We may with hindsight have a view about how silly they were, but it is only in hindsight that we can see that.  But thinking of now: How do we know if we are in the same position? How do we know whether we are blind to what the Holy Spirit is doing?  How do we know if our own blindness is resisting the Holy Spirit?

Psalm 139:23-24 says:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

Remember last week I spoke of the Holy Spirit revealing the Truth to us, when we seek to know him. 

Just because we once gave our lives to Jesus does not mean that blindness has not crept in.

 

How amenable are we to new and different ways that God reveals himself to us or to the church, or are we blind to the possibility that God will do something new and different from our perceptions and comfort zone?

 

We also need to examine ourselves for the little foxes that spoil the vineyard. We need to check that the behaviours that should be evident as followers of Jesus have not been distorted by the whispers of the enemy who seeks to take our eyes of Christ.

 

2 Corinthians 13:5

Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves.

 

In this examination, Paul was not focusing on overt sin against others, but about attitude:

For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, …; I fear that there may perhaps be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

These are the same attitudes which constituted the blindness of Joseph’s brothers, the people in relation to Moses, and the people about to stone Stephen.  These attitudes and behaviours are the ones that caused them to resist the Holy Spirit’s work and purpose.

How are we with those little foxes in our lives? Have they blinded us to the work of the Holy Spirit?

Let’s spend a bit of time with Stephen’s accusation to the Jews about to stone him to death.  Remember we are talking here about people who claimed to know God.  The Jews knew the Law, they knew their Torah, and they knew the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.  They were religious and God lovers.  They were not heathens, they were not pagans, nor were they Gentile.  In modern terms, he was talking to people in the Church.

           

He called them “Stiff necked” which means with a neck or a back that will not bend or having a stubbornness about them.

 

Interestingly it is that term that God used against the Israelites when talking to Moses: (Exodus 32:9)

The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are.

 

And again, this time addressing the people directly, God said: (Exodus 33:3)

Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, or I would consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

 

 

Stephen also called them “Uncircumcised as to hearts and ears”. He was saying that outwardly they bore the marks of the covenant – the physical circumcision - but inwardly they did not. They had not changed in their attitudes and behaviours.  They were uncircumcised on the inside.  Remember man looks at the outside but God sees the heart.

 

Stephen was accusing the Jews of being no better than the uncircumcised heathen neighbours. They thought they were superior because of the covenant with God but Stephen accuses them of only giving lip service to that covenant.

 

He echoes the prophet Jeremiah who said (9:26): For all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.

 

He echoes God as he addressed the Israelites: (Deuteronomy 10:16)

16 Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer.

 

Stephen’s accusation: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do…

 

 

 

Our ears are the organs for hearing God’s Word and his will; and the heart is the organ for receiving, believing, obeying that Word and that will.

 

Stephen is accusing them of being deaf to God; in other words, resisting the Holy Spirit.

 

In essence Stephen is saying “In name and show you are circumcised Jews, but in heart and ears you are still uncircumcised heathens, and pay no more deference to the authority of your God than they do. You are under the power of lusts and corruptions that remain alive in you, which should be dead and are not dead, which stop your ears to the voice of God, and harden your hearts to that which is both most commanding and most affecting.”[2]

 

It is the Holy Spirit who comes to us in the Word in order to work contrition and faith. To resist him is to cut ourselves off from the very means by which alone we can be saved.

 

This resistance begins with individual acts and eventually becomes a fixed habit which permanently closes our heart so that the Spirit can no longer have his work in us.

This is hardness of heart or pig-headedness[3] - this uncircumcision and stiff necked-ness that causes us to resist the Holy Spirit.

 

We need to repent of that stubbornness in which we decide to do for God the way we want to do for him, rather than be available to the Holy Spirit to do what we wants us to do and what he wants to do through us.

 

Loosen your neck, soften your heart. Allow the Holy Spirit control over your life.

 

 

 



[1] G Campbell Morgan The Spirit of God 228-237

[2] Henry, M. Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2093).

[3] Lenski, R. C. H. . The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (pp. 298–299).