Sabbath School Lesson for March 11-17, 2017
We’ve come at last to a feature of the Holy Spirit that has caused discomfort and even anxiety for many people. When Jesus spoke clearly about blasphemy and grieving the Holy Spirit as being an unpardonable sin, we can’t help but feel a desire to know more about what resisting the Holy Spirit is all about.
- The Holy Spirit has been shown to be a Person, partly due to the fact that He is capable of being saddened and grieved concerning our spiritual condition.
- He is also a very powerful Being, providing us with armor capable of giving us victory over the most powerful temptations Satan can throw at us (Ephesians 6:16).
- Jacob wrestled with a Being that proved His strength that night before crossing the Jabbok River (Genesis 32). And yet, as mighty as this holy Being is, He is powerless if we have hardened our hearts to the point of not being able to receive His entreaties of mercy and forgiveness.
- God does not force His will on un-receptive hearts. If this were true, He would cease to be a God of love. We would serve Him out of fear. It’s this same love of God that persists in doing all He can to reach us, convict us, and empower us to follow righteousness, and not evil.
- In addition, if we have any feelings of insecurity about whether we personally have committed the unpardonable sin, we can be certain that His Spirit is still working with us and we are not beyond His reach.
Memory Verse: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30 NJKV
In connection with grieving the Holy Spirit, notice that sealing is mentioned in this verse. Of course, we may first think of the sealing that is referred to so often in the book of Revelation, when it speaks of the end of time. So, just what is this seal of redemption and how do we receive it?
A seal consists of a guarantee, a lock, an instrument to indicate ownership or to ratify covenants or treaties. 2 Corinthians 1:22 points out the purpose of a seal: “who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” NKJV
Being sealed by having the Spirit in our hearts means then that we have the assurance, the guarantee that the Holy Spirit does, in fact, reside in our hearts, at least for that moment, that day.
Even though we may ignore His presence occasionally and at times even act contrary to His guidance, the Holy Spirit is still available and more than willing to forgive us and help us do better next time.
It is only when we have kicked Him out totally, by repeated offenses and rebellious actions, which over time has worked to harden our heart, that the Holy Spirit is powerless to help us. This extreme hardening of the heart can result in a complete withdrawal of His blessings and He then has no power to convict us of sin, leaving us in a hopeless, unsaved state.
Sunday: Resisting the Holy Spirit
One usually thinks of resisting the Holy Spirit as it occurs for individuals…but the Bible actually describes the process as also applying to a group of people.
In the Old Testament we find the Israelites being called a very stubborn, stiff-necked people, which of course, accounted for their resistance. Israel had resisted the entreaties of the Spirit so much that most of them didn’t recognize Jesus when He came as the Messiah.
The Jewish nation as a whole seemed to have been left alone by God by the time Jesus came. After Jesus came, their rejection required God to look elsewhere for a people on earth who would rightly represent Him.
Discussion Questions: Read Acts 7:51 and Exodus 33:3. Why is the word “stiff-necked” a good way to describe stubborn people? What made the Israelites so stubborn, and when do you think God’s Spirit was withdrawn from their nation?
Read Isaiah 53:2, 3 and John 1:11. Why were so many in Israel unable to appreciate or even recognize Jesus as the Messiah? How are rejecting Jesus and resisting the Spirit similar? How are we guilty of rejecting Jesus today?
Read Hebrews 10 :24, 25. Why does God prefer to have a group of people who serve Him? Why and how are we to work together with others in these last days?
Monday: Grieving the Holy Spirit, Part 1
How does one grieve the Spirit, as it was mentioned in our memory verse? Remembering that He is called the HOLY Spirit informs us of His sinless nature. Therefore, anything in our lives that even borders on sin is something that will grieve the Spirit.
You might think of the feelings of a parent for their son or daughter. Nothing saddens the heart of a mother or father more than for their offspring to totally disregard their instruction and desires for them. But even a parent, despite the love they feel for their child, will have to back away and allow their loved one the freedom to live as they wish, even though the parent knows it is a way that leads to destruction.
This is undoubtedly how the Holy Spirit operates in our lives. It’s the only loving way for God to “parent” His children. God can’t forgive us for things we have no desire to be forgiven for, just a parent can’t help their children when they refuse help or counsel.
Discussion Questions: Read John 16:8 and Ephesians 4:30. How does conviction of sin lead to our day of redemption? What part does sin play in our grieving the Holy Spirit?
Read Ephesians 4:25-31. What are some of the things that grieve the Spirit?
Read Ephesians 4:2, 3, 15, 23, 24, 31, 32. Besides all the bad things we should not do, what good things should we do instead? How can these good deeds promote our unity as a people?
Tuesday: Grieving the Holy Spirit, Part 2
The most obvious way to grieve the Spirit is to be actively engaged in willful sin. That was Part 1, yesterday’s study. But now we touch on the other side of the grieving coin.
Imagine if you will, the parent analogy again. Let’s say your son or daughter isn’t engaged in drug abuse, illicit sex, or anything illegal. For this we are thankful that they are at least productive citizens, making their own way in the world without doing anything that would get them unfavorable coverage in the press.
You, as their parent, however, know that this mask of civility is covering a heart that has no tender feelings for God or maybe even their fellow man. This doesn’t just include withdrawal from church, but the actual withdrawal from God’s influence in their life, having no desire to be spiritually fed in any way.
This also grieves a parent, as much as the parent of one caught up in addictions or other negative behaviors. We can still pray for both situations, and God wants us to plead for these lost children. He longs for them to return, as much as we do. For only God, thankfully, will know when their hearts are totally sealed against Him.
This constitutes the other part of how to grieve the Holy Spirit. Sinning, or doing wrong, will do it; but not doing right and having a relationship with Him also saddens the heart of God. We must do all we can to surrender ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s guidance each day. We can then become all that God intends for us to be: fully-equipped ambassadors for Him in this sin-laden world.
Discussion Questions: Read Ephesians 4:32-5:2, 8. How do we walk as children of light? Where does this light come from, and what does it do for us and for others?
Read Ephesians 5:2, 2 Corinthians 2:14, 15, and I Thessalonians 4:9. What constitutes a sweet-smelling aroma to God?
Read Matthew 10:14, 15 and Acts 8:25. How do you take these verses from Jesus? How does this indicate how we should interact with individuals in our life now?
Wednesday: Quenching the Holy Spirit
Quenching indicates a fire somewhere. Remember Ephesians 6:16 which mentions quenching “the fiery darts of the wicked one”. Not only is God’s Spirit represented by fire (such as at Pentecost, with the disciples receiving “tongues, as of fire”–Acts 2:3), but Satan himself uses fire as a weapon to attack us. As with water, fire can either cleanse or destroy.
Three short verses in 1 Thessalonians help us understand how we go about quenching the Holy Spirit:
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 NKJV
God’s prophecies are contained in the Bible. Therefore, in order to keep the light of God shining bright, we must use the light of God’s Word to keep us safe from the spirit of darkness. The reminder to “test all things” is a reminder that not all spiritual manifestations are from God.
In order to keep God’s cleansing fire burning brightly, we must fight Satan’s destructive fire with the “sword of the Spirit”, identified as the Word of God in Ephesians 6:17.
Even Jesus, when tempted by Satan in the wilderness, responded to Satan’s deceptive invitations with words from the prophets.
Discussion Questions: Read 1 Thessalonians 5:19-24. How can we quench the Holy Spirit? What are these prophecies we are not to despise, and why are they important?
Read I Thessalonians 4:7, 8 and Galatians 5:25. Why must we be careful to walk in the Spirit, when we’ve asked Him to be in us?
Read Ephesians 6:16. What should we be quenching, instead of the Holy Spirit? What part does faith have when it comes to quenching the Spirit and abstaining from evil?
Thursday: Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
Participating in sinful behavior will quench the Holy Spirit, temporarily leaving us without His blessing and help. But there comes a time when our willful rejection of God becomes blasphemy, because it leaves our heart so hardened that the Holy Spirit cannot convict us any more.
Jesus warned about an attitude of persistent hostility toward God. It can lead to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Continual tuning out the voice of God can separate us from the spiritual apparatus needed for our repentance, namely that still small voice called our conscience.
It’s not that this blasphemy cannot be forgiven, but that it will not be forgiven. And it will not be forgiven because we have lost our power and desire to be forgiven.
Remember, however, that this does not happen as a single episode or event. It is experienced as the result of a determined way of life that has shown itself to be in rebellion against God.
Discussion Questions: Read Mark 3:28, 29, Luke 12:10, and Matthew 12:31, 32. How is it different to blaspheme Jesus, as opposed to blaspheming the Holy Spirit? Why is one unforgivable?
Read Romans 8:14 and 1 John 5:3. How do we know we are walking in the Spirit? What two ways are there of keeping the commandments of God? How is this related to walking in the Spirit?
Read John 14:15. How is our love for God related to the way we keep the commandments? How are love and our commandment-keeping safeguards in keeping us from committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
- Resisting the Holy Spirit by stubborn choices (Sunday)
- Grieving the Holy Spirit by sinful acts–Part 1 (Monday)
- Grieving the Holy Spirit by ignoring God–Part 2 (Tuesday)
- Quenching the Holy Spirit by not lovingly following His Word (Wednesday)
- Blaspheming the Holy Spirit by rejecting God’s ability to forgive (Thursday)
Although each of these describes a similar action we take against the Holy Spirit, these behaviors all tend to separate us from God and His ability to work in our hearts.
Several points were made this week…
- It’s possible for a group (such as the Jewish nation) to resist God to the point of losing His protection and support. (resisting the HS)
- Since the Holy Spirit is holy, we must demonstrate holiness in order to secure His presence in our hearts. This affects us, but also our mission to others. (grieving the HS)
- By not adhering to Scripture, listening to the prophets, we quench the Holy Spirit’s power to make us fit for the kingdom of God. (quenching the HS)
- Totally eliminating the Spirit’s influence is not a one-time event, but a lifetime culmination of negative attitudes, leading to God’s inability to forgive us, making it the unpardonable sin. (blaspheming the HS)
Songs give us a way of expressing our emotions and praise to God. Refer to the Topical Index of a hymnal and read the words to hymns that speak of the Holy Spirit. Some of them include:
- Baptize Us Anew
- Breathe On Me, Breath of God
- Come, Holy Spirit
- Holy Spirit, Light Divine
- Open My Eyes
- Sweet, Sweet Spirit
The words to these songs will educate and edify you, as you use them to invite the Holy Spirit into your heart this week.
Next Week: The Work of the Holy Spirit
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/