The illustration I used in this message came from R.T. Kendall. The Holy Spirit is a (or like a) dove, not like a pigeon, which can be tamed. A dove cannot be tamed and reacts to loud noises and disturbing movement by flying away to a safe distance. The illustration is useful in that we cannot make the Holy Spirit do what we want, when we want or how we want. Furthermore, I don’t get to decide what irritates and bothers (grieves) the Holy Spirit. When we consider the God of the Old Testament we understand more fully how God is grieved and sensitive to sin. God turned His back on his Son when the weight of our sin was placed on Jesus at the cross. The earth shook and broke apart, the sun was blackened but with no stars or moon. There was great fear in the land. Our sin is weighty. If we take our sins lightly then we will be ignorant of how we grieve the Holy Spirit.
I spoke of the dove “flying away” when we sin - the Holy Spirit leaving us. What did I mean? Am I no longer saved and therefore need to ask God for salvation again (and again) when I respond to his prompting for repentance and confession? Absolutely NOT! The Holy Spirit comes to me at salvation and is the “deposit” guaranteeing my eternal inheritance - living in God’s presence forever (Eph. 1:13-14). When I accept Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for my sin, my sin is forgiven - past, present and future. My relationship with God is not in doubt because the basis of my relationship with Him is Jesus Christ and what He has done for me on the cross and at the resurrection. My relationship is secure with God because of the work of Jesus.
So, what happens when I grieve the Holy Spirit? What happens whenever I knowingly sin or knowingly ignore a sin the Spirit is convicting me of? Why does the North American church seem so powerless - is this a result of ignoring sin, of making our own rules and in a sense telling God that we know better what is right and wrong (trying to tame the dove)? Is taking sin lightly, or ignoring sin altogether, causing God to draw away from us? I believe it is.
A better way of understanding the activity of the Spirit might be to use the illustration of filling. The concept in Eph. 5:18 is of a continual and continuous filling. The Holy Spirit needs to be filling us up every moment of every day. What is it that blocks this filling? Our sins hinders the flowing of the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance in our lives.
Finally, the best word is found in Gal. 5:25 – “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (emphasis added). Our constant desire should be to walk in step with the Spirit of God. Not to fall behind through sin or neglect, not to run ahead with impatience, but to listen and heed the voice that will guide us.