Monday, February 20, 2017

Recipe for the Good Life: Part 6

            Are you in pursuit of the Good Life? Just daydreaming about having it? If you’ve been with me the last six weeks, you’ve been learning what the Good Life is and how to have it. We found the prescription for it in a letter St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church—seventeen-plus exhortations about behavior and attitude that will guide your life toward Good, fruitful, satisfying, intentional living. Today, we’re coming to the end of the list—two “Do not’s” and two (actually three if you break them down carefully) do’s that can guide and positively shape your life. So let’s dig in!

 In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Paul says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” But just what does “quench” mean, and what, or who, is the Spirit?
 By definition, quench means to “extinguish, stifle, or suppress” something. To literally snuff it out, like you snuff out a campfire with a bucket of water or sand, leaving nothing but the sound of snapping water molecules, fluttering ashes, and spiraling smoke spindles in its wake. And what’s left after you finish snuffing that fire out? Nothing but a cold, black mound that produces no heat, no function, no service. Just an odor and residue that clogs your nostrils and lungs. Remnants of what used to flame there.
And that’s what Paul’s talking about here—doing nothing in your life that would snuff out the Spirit working in you. And who’s the Spirit? It’s the Holy Spirit. The indwelling of God within you—the helper, friend, guider of those who belong to Christ. It is not your natural spirit, but God’s Spirit. The Spirit of Christ who lives and reigns in you. It is the third person of the Trinity.
            But just what could you do to quench the Spirit?

 One of our pastors gave a great sermon several weeks ago that included this discussion. And the bottom line answer is: sin. Sin in a believer’s life—either sins of omission or sins of commission—can and will quench the Spirit, throw water on Him. Dilute His power in your life.
  And what kinds of sins are we talking about? Well, anything that grieves God’s heart. There are plenty of them named in the Bible, but we can go back to the Old Testament to find God’s top 6 hates. You can go to Proverbs 6:16-19 to find the list. They are, in order:

1. Eyes that are arrogant.
2. A tongue that lies.
3. Hands that murder the innocent.
4. A heart that hatches evil plots.
5. Feet that race down a wicked track. (Feet swift to run to evil.)
6. A mouth that lies under oath.

 And then it adds one that God “loathes with a passion.” A troublemaker in the family (The Message). The New King James Version renders this passage as “One who sows discord among brethren.”

 Ever done any of those? Presented proud, haughty eyes? (Hello, parents?) Ever lied about anything? (White lies and deliberately misleading someone by leaving out pertinent information counts.) Ever murdered an innocent? In the NKJV this reads “shed” which means to spill. It doesn’t seem to mean killing, as would happen in war or defense, but premeditated murder. Murder and kill are not to be considered interchangeable in the Bible. (Many render the Commandment “Thou shall not murder.” as “Thou shall not kill.” The second translation is incorrect. It really has to do with premeditated murder. Never done that yourself? Maybe not, but may I ask a sensitive question: What is your view on abortion? Is a pre-born child not an innocent? Just asking.

            Have you ever concocted a plot to get revenge on someone, either physically or verbally? Ever post something nasty about someone on your social media page? It’s getting easier and easier to do, and it’s occurring evermore frequently.
            Ever pounded the pavement intent on doing something evil? The King James Version renders this the softer word “mischief” which could encompass so many things. But the word seems to favor something stronger, like calamity.

            Have you every lied under oath? Promised to tell the truth and then didn’t or hedged it? One of my son’s, who is studying communication and communication in law has learned that people, including those being questioned for jury duty, lie all of the time, and the lawyers know it. They deliberately omit information about themselves so they can chosen for jury duty. A famous cold case detective I just heard speak said that he doesn’t trust witnesses, because they lie all of the time. Disheartening, isn’t it? How do you rate on that one?

            And finally, when was the last time you acted as a troublemaker in your family? When was the last time you shared gossip about another family member, said nasty things about one of them to someone else? Chipped away at their character. What about someone in the church? They’re your family. They’re family that might be closer than your blood relatives. Have you stirred up strife among the brethren?
            All of these behaviors are destructive to mankind and civil society. We see all of them in practice right now, in overdrive, and it doesn’t bode well for us. Other things on the quenching list can be not spending time with the Lord in prayer, learning His will for your life; not spending time reading the Bible, which guides, teaches, and enriches our lives; actively indulging in worldly lusts and activities. Anything that “hinders our growth in grace,” as Matthew Henry put it.

            There are plenty of other actions that quench the Holy Spirit, and you can find those throughout the Bible. Paul has a list of them in several of his letters to churches. As Matthew Henry also noted: “We must search the Scriptures. And proving all things must be to hold fast that which is good. We should abstain from sin, and whatever looks like sin, leads to it, and borders upon it. He who is not shy of the appearances of sin, who shuns not the occasions of it, and who avoids not the temptations and approaches to it, will not long keep from doing sin.
            Do your own study and make a list. And then ask yourself: Lord, how am I quenching the Holy Spirit? He’ll reveal these to you.

            The next “do not” is “Do not despise prophecies.” The commentators define this exhortation as a problem the Thessalonians had with looking down their noses and disparaging the prophets who preached to them. This attitude then depressed the prophets and quenched the Holy Spirits work among them. They also could have been placing greater emphasis on the showy and dazzling gifts, like speaking in tongues. Evidently speaking in tongues seemed more miraculous to these baby Christians than inspired, anointed teaching.

 Then we move onto the last two instructions, which are both stated in the positive. “Test all things: hold fast what is good.” Hold fast in this sense means to retain. Keep what is good. Not the type of “good” we saw in verse 15, about doing good to ourselves and others; but the kind of good that is honorable and beautiful. Whatever we hear or read or learn is to be tested against the litmus paper of God’s word, by testing and proving; and whatever aligns with God’s word is to be grasped tightly and held firmly. We are not to accept all things as truth, because, while they can all be wrong, they can’t all be right! That is so critical to remember in our age of every-fluid “relative” thinking and teaching. What a fallacy we’ve swallowed.

          Finally, Paul tells us to “abstain (keep away from) every form of evil,” and that includes any action that even appears to be evil. It is self-serving and selfish to believe that you can do whatever you want to do and live any way you choose with no regard for people’s opinion of you and your actions. People are watching you. They’re making assumptions; they’re making judgment calls. They’re copying your behavior.

            These are ways we can indeed “live as shining stars in the midst of this wicked and perverse generation.” And, ultimately, live in such a way that man will see your good works—and your Good Life—and give glory to your Father in Heaven.
            So let the Good Life begin!

I’ll be on hiatus this week and next as I celebrate my and my son’s birthdays. So please plan to rejoin me on Monday, March 6 when we revisit peace, start delving into the other two meanings of this word, and learn what it means to practice and have real Peace!


May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

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