As a believer, you entered into a relationship with the Holy Spirit the moment you became saved. And just like in any relationship, you can hurt or wound the other party by the things you do and say. The Bible makes it clear the Holy Spirit will never leave or forsake you, but when you grieve Him, He will recede. When He begins to recede and be grieved in this way, there’s a lack of joy and excitement in your life. You’ll notice supernatural activity begin to disappear. These signs will cause you to realize something’s wrong. Many times, people immediately rebuke the devil — and sometimes, it is the devil provoking their wrong behavior toward the Spirit of God.
But I’ve learned from my own life that if my joy disappears and I begin to lose my feeling of victory, I need to stop and say, “Holy Spirit, have I done anything to grieve You?” And if I have, I ask for forgiveness. The goal is to become so sensitive to the grievance of the Holy Spirit that you’ll immediately know when you’ve said or done something that has grieved Him.
I remember a specific time in my life when I said something I shouldn’t have said, and at that very moment, I knew my words had grieved the Holy Spirit. Immediately I said, “Holy Spirit, I’m sorry.”
My friends, we need this partnership with the Holy Spirit, and we have to make sure the conduct of our lives never causes Him “harm” or His presence to retreat.
Let’s look at a shocking statement in the Bible found in the book of James. For context, keep in mind that James was speaking to believing Jews in this verse. Even before they were saved, they were good, moral people who tried to obey the Old Testament Law. James 4:4 reads:
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
It must have shocked these Jewish listeners when James said these words because even before they came to Christ, they would have never committed adultery. In fact, the Old Testament Law, they could be stoned to death for committing the act. So when James called them “adulterers and adulteresses,” it was almost like a slap across the face. I’m sure they were standing there in shock, thinking, What? Why would he call us adulterers and adulteresses?
However, in the original Greek text, James 4:4 only called the Jews “adulteresses.” Why? Because he was speaking to the Church, the Bride of Christ. And in some way, the church James was writing to in his epistle was committing spiritual adultery.
But what is spiritual adultery? To answer this, we have to go back to James 4:4, which says:
…Know ye not that friendship of the world is enmity with God?
Notice the word “frienship.” Used here, the word “frienship” is the Greek word philia, which describes a romantic preoccupation or attraction. Now look at the word “world” in verse 4. In the Greek, “world” is the word kosmos, which describes fashion, society, and the way the world thinks. In the context of James 4:4, these translations tell us that the believers James was referring to were being attracted and seduced by the ways of the world. They were Christians who loved God, but they were allowing their minds to go placed they should never go. They literally felt an attraction to the world.
You must understand that anytime your mind or affection is on something else more than on the Lord, the Bible calls it spiritual adultery. The believers James was addressing were thinking and talking like the world. They were even beginning to adapt to and behave like the world.
Let’s dig a little deeper by examining the next section James 4:4. It says, “…Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” Specifically, notice James said, “…Whosoever therefore will be….” The word “whosoever” is the Greek word boulomai, which means to advise or counsel. Let’s say you had a problem in your marriage. You might go see a therapist or counselor who would counsel and advice you on your marriage problems. But what’s interesting is that “whosoever” in verse 4 refers to the believers who have sinned as counselors. In other words, these believers took on the role of counselor and advised themselves!
The kind of people James described in verse 4 are those who were filled with the Holy Spirit and at one time loved Jesus and continually had Him on their minds. These believers desired to please the Lord — they read their Bible daily, prayed in tongues, and never missed a church service. But as time passed, they began to let their spiritual disciplines slip away.
That’s exactly how sin begins! No one just wakes up and suddenly wants to commit sin — it’s a gradual transition. As they start to slip, they’ll begin “counseling” or talking to themselves, saying, “Well, I’m too tired today. I don’t always need to go to church. There are plenty of other Christians who don’t go to church every week Maybe it’s okay if I don’t go for a while.” They talk this way to themselves so often that they begin to talk themselves into doing, saying, or thinking something they previously would have never done!
When Denise and I were young adults and living in the United States, Christians woulldn’t go to a movie that had bad words, sex, or violence because they knew it was wrong. We knew our eyes and ears weren’t meant for those thigns, so we didn’t go to those kinds of movies or listen to that kind of music. But gradually, Christians began to talk to themselves, saying things like, I can close my eyes during that scene, or, It’s just a few bad words! It’s amazing to me that in today’s word, Christians will go to movies filled with vulgarity and violence, looking at and listening to those things without being bothered by them — whle just ten years ago, the same Christians would have never exposed themselves to such things!
Let me give you a natural example of how a Christian can gradually become calloused in their heart. When I was learning to write as a child, I pressed so hard on my pencil that I formed a big callus on my finger. When I was at school, I would take a pin and say to the other kids, “Watch this!” While my classmates stared on wide-eyed, I would push that pin all the way through the part of my finger with the callus on it — I couldn’t feel a thing! To this day, I still have that callus on my finger, and it had no feeling in it whatsoever. Why? Because I had put so much pressureon that part of my finger when I was young that it caused it to harden, and it lost its ability to feel. This is precisely what happens to Cjrostoams when they violate their conscience over and over again and grieve the Holy Spirit.
When you do something you know you shouldn’t do, yet you continue to do it, eventually your conscience becomes so callous that what you’re doing doesn’t even bother you anymore. You then begin to see yourself doing and saying things you previously wouldn’t have imagined or even tolerated in the past. Once you violate your spirit and fail to acknowledge it in with an attitude of penitence, you become less and less sensitive to your conscience and to the nudging of the Holy Spirit, and it becomes easier and easier to continue doing those things that violate your spirit and grieve the Spirit of God. You’ll eventually fall out of regular church attendance, your language might become foul, or you might even begin drinking, even though you know it’s wrong and God already delivered you from it. You’re a Christian, but if you continue this life of sin, you’ll begin living in a state of spiritual violaiton.
Once blazing hot for Jesus, you find yourself walking away from Him, just by taking one little step of sin at a time. Eventually you end up caught in the ways of the world — hard, calloused, hardly thinking about the Lord, rarely attending church, no longer giving tithes and offerings, not participating in worship, and thinking of the things and the ways of the world. What happened? Just like James 4:4 describes, you’ve “counseled” yourself contrary to Scripture until finally, you’ve become backslidden.
Let’s look back to the book of James. There’s something noteworthy in the following scripture, which says:
Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? — James 4:5
Most people think of the word “lust” with a negative connotation, but it can actually be used in both a positive and negative sense. In its general usage, it means to yearn over something one absolutely must have. It can describe someone like a drug addict — no matter how much they had yesterday, they’re going to need a brand-new fix every day. A drug addict will lust for their drug of choice and will do anything to get their next fix.
But what does the Holy Spirit “lust” for? Remember, to “lust” means to earnestly crave or yearn for something or someone. Well, the Holy Spirit lusts — yearns — for you and me! When we respond, a divine exchange takes place as we yield ourselves to Him. In return, He delights in filling us with His Spirit.
Take another look at James 4:5. Notice where it says, “…The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy….” The word “envy” in the Greek is the word phthonos, which describes the feeling a man gets when he discovers his wife has given her heart to someone else. This man discovered his wife’s unfaithfulness, yet he is so committed to his spouse that he won’t divorce her. Specifically, the word “envy” in verse 4 refers to a plan a man must put into action in order to get his wife out of the hands of the one who stole her affections and bring her back into the marital covenant she shares with him. In other words, “envy” can be translated as a rescue operation.
This idea of a rescue operation is depicted in the next verse in James 4, which reads:
But he giveth more grace, Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. — James 4:6
In other words, if you’re not going to repent of being hearhearted on your own, God isn’t just going to stand idly by and let you go your own way. Instead, He says, “You are Mine, and if you’re not coming back on your own accord, I’m going to do something to bring you back. My grace is going to do for you what you’re not willing to do for yourself.” God launches a rescue operation to bring you back from the world and directly where you need to be — in His loving grace and mercy. He will continually work to get the proper response from you and deliver you from a state of spiritual callousness or hardness of heart.
That is one facet of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the life of a wandering believer — He “…lusteth to envy…” to bring an erring Christian back to a place of humility and tenderness before the Lord.