27. Quenching the Spirit

Meditations in 1 Thessalonians

Part 3 :  27. Quenching the Spirit

1 Thess 5:19   Do not put out the Spirit’s fire;

There is a temptation to link this verse with the one that follows about prophecy and although that could be of value, we’ll look at that verse and then link it back in the next meditation, but for the moment we will not link forward but simply consider this short little verse as it stands.

Older versions says, “Do not quench the Spirit”, but they say the same thing. Quench does seem to give the picture better, though, of dampening down the Spirit’s fire. There is an implication in this that God’s Holy Spirit will be burning in us and in the local church. What does that say to us? Well when the Spirit came in fire upon the apostles on the Day of Pentecost, He came with the sound of a mighty wind and whether it was the wind or the fire, suddenly new life burst forth and they all spoke with tongues praising God in the languages of the listeners who had come there to Jerusalem from many different lands. The presence of fire reminded us that normally the fire of God burns up sin and unrighteousness, destroying what is bad or evil, but on that day He rested on the heads of each person and they were not destroyed or even burnt a little bit. It was a sign of His presence with them in His most holy form but without them being destroyed, indicating the outcome of the wonderful work of Christ on the Cross. The Cross saved them from being destroyed by the holy fire of God.

And so today we have this same Holy Spirit living within us and Paul’s inference is that He will be burning within us. Now fire was also used to create heat or energy and used to be the means of energising turbines to create electricity. Today we still have coal fired power stations or atomic power stations with nuclear fuel, but the picture is still the same – the Spirit fuels our energy, He fuels the life of the Church, He burns to release creativity and new life.  Now Paul also warns that we can grieve Him (Eph 4:30) but that is more about offending His holy sensibilities by our wrong thoughts or words or even actions.  This present picture is more about us stopping His work, putting Him down, hindering or even rejecting His work.

So fire is energy and energy does work to achieve an end outcome. The Holy Spirit is constantly working in and through us and around us, to achieve the end outcome of God’s will that we considered in the previous meditation. If, therefore, we put out the fire of the Holy Spirit we are working against the will of God. How terrible! But what is the Spirit likely to be doing that we are likely to react against? Well, of course the most obvious things have got to be those things found in 1 Cor 12 – the gifts of the Holy Spirit – or even those things found in Eph 4 – the gifts of ministries. If we say, “Well those gifts are not for today, we deny that the Holy Spirit can bring wisdom (the knowledge of how to do something), knowledge (previously unknown information), supernatural faith (faith that stands in the face of the materialistic odds) healings, miracles, words of revelation for the future  or even the ability to discern the spirit operating in a person.  Each of those things are things that God uses to extend and build His kingdom but some say they are not for today. How foolish. So often, I suspect, people reject the 1 Cor 12 gifts outright because they are uncomfortable with tongues and they talk of excesses, but in so doing they write off the workings of God, they quench the Spirit and put out His works.

And then there are Eph 4 ministries. Some people are comfortable with the idea of evangelists, pastors and teachers because they can cope with that idea but apostles and prophets speak of authority in their eyes and they get scared at that thought and deny they are for today and thus deny the church the gifting of the wise and power-anointed church builder and the bringer of heavenly direction or correction, and in so doing they quench the Spirit.

Why do we do these things? Fear! And fear comes from lack of confidence in God’s love. Yes, it may come from, having observed bad uses of the gifts or ministries but merely because some human beings get it wrong, that shouldn’t mean we flee from the gifts for in so doing we also shy away from the Giver. How much better to seek the Lord for wise teaching how to minister graciously and in humility and put in safeguards to stop the human enthusiasm of people running amok.

But it may not be just about gifts. It may also be – and far more commonly – whenever the Holy Spirit seeks to lead us as an individual to step out in faith, whether that be to share the Good News of Jesus with another by word, or to share His love in some practical way with another. We shy away from such things because of lack of security in God’s love, not being sure that we can do these things, even when he prompts, or we listen to the enemy and fear the consequences thinking either, this won’t work, or what will I get myself into? In other words focusing on self (what others think of me, or what I will end up having to do) is at the heart of quenching the Spirit. We need to remember that whatever God leads us into He will also provide the enabling for, and the outcome will be good. But supposing it doesn’t work, I hear you wondering.  Well remember, John Wimber famously said faith is spelt R-I-S-K. All real faith is that. We hear God, or think we might be hearing Him, and then we step out; that is faith.

There will be times when we get it wrong and it wasn’t God or we only part heard Him. He’s not going to kick you out of the kingdom because you sought to do His will, even if you got it wrong. He knows your heart. The more you step out, the more you will get it right.   I am convinced the Spirit is quenched again and again in Christian lives because of fear and because of lack of security in God’s love. The Cross is there to deal with the times we got it wrong and were self-focused, but more often it is likely to be the Spirit – if we are listening – who will be there prompting us, encouraging us to step out to enlarge the kingdom of God. Learn to listen. Learn to step out. DO God’s will and He will be glorified. May it be so.

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