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Don’t Quench the Spirit

Do not quench the Spirit. – 1 Thessalonians 5:19

Such a small verse with considerable implications. Opinions abound over how we do this. I’ve been leading worship in churches since 2001. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve heard about quenching the Spirit.

  • You plan too much.
  • You plan too little.
  • You’re not playing the right music.
  • You’re playing the music too softly.
  • You’re playing the music too loudly.
  • You’re not giving the Spirit enough time to move.
  • You’re not giving the preacher enough time to preach.
  • You’re singing songs about how you feel about God and not about God himself.
  • The new songs don’t have depth.
  • The hymns are archaic.

I’ve heard all these things said to me, plus many more, concerning quenching the Spirit. WE’RE DOING XYZ AND QUENCHING THE SPIRIT!!! These comments come from all over the body of Christ – young, old, and in between. Age and experience have no bearing on this. Nearly without exception, everyone who has been bold enough to comment on this does so with certainty. They were sure the Spirit was being quenched because of what they complained about.

Now, let’s be reasonable. Some of these complaints came from two different people at the same church. Who’s right and who’s wrong? I’m just going to say it. They were both wrong. Why? And why are all of these complaints ultimately not ultimate? Because they’re all, in some way, presupposed upon personal preference. And yet, if any of the people with these complaints were told they have personal preference presuppositions, they’d deny it. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with preferences. Everyone has them, even me. They only become problematic when we equate them with pleasing the Holy Spirit (or, conversely, in their absence, quenching Him).

How, then, do we quench the Spirit?

First and foremost, we quench the Spirit by preaching a less-than-full Gospel. (In case you need a refresher, here is the Gospel.) When we limit our preaching to denominational norms, we quench the Spirit. When we avoid verses or entire sections of Scripture because they’re weird or don’t fit the narrative we understand, we quench the Spirit. When we minimize the supernatural aspect of the Christian life, we quench the Spirit. When the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ no longer take center stage in our preaching, we quench the Spirit. When we emphasize God’s love to the exclusion of our need to repent from our sins, we quench the Spirit. Any preaching that adds to or takes away from what has been written in Scripture – you guessed it – quenches the Spirit.

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. – 1 Corinthians 4:6 (emphasis added)

We must not go beyond what is written, but I also contend that neither should we fall short of what is written. Paul wrote this while making a case for unity in the church, which leads to the next Spirit-quenching factor.

We quench the Spirit when we lack unity. Disunity can take many forms, mainly because the most common factor of disunity coalesces around the aforementioned personal preferences. A sure sign that you register somewhere on the narcissist spectrum is when you can’t get along with people who view things differently. When differences with others stir up a desire to draw lines in the sand, circle the wagons, and gather like-minded people to yourself, you likely are wrestling with some kind of insecurity. It’s these insecurities that usually fuel disunity. We insist on our preferences and try to build consensus with other people to get what we think is right, to the exclusion of those who have other ideas, and create factions. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about their divisions that centered around favorite teachers. Today it would be like the John Piper followers naysaying the Robert Morris followers who also naysay John MacArthur followers when none of these men actually shepherd your local church.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:1-3 (emphasis added)

Walking in a manner worthy of our calling means we are eager to maintain the unity of the Holy Spirit and not quick to form sides on preferential matters. But notice, it’s not a unity that we manufacture from a sense of camaraderie or common interest. We are to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit. It’s His unity that He provides. This leads me to my last quench factor.

We quench the Spirit when we ignore the Spirit. In the book of Acts, Luke frequently records that the Holy Spirit spoke to a person or an entire congregation. Jesus told each of the seven churches in Revelation to hear what the Spirit says to the church. It’s curious that He didn’t say to read what the Spirit has said but hear what the Spirit is saying. In other words, hearing the Holy Spirit is an ongoing matter. To be sure, the Holy Spirit will never contradict what He has already said through the authors of Scripture. Therefore – and this is of utmost importance – hearing and knowing the Holy Spirit’s voice is inseparably linked to knowing the Scriptures. But believing that we only hear from God when we read the Word falls short. The Word itself teaches us this isn’t true! I occasionally have told people that if they want to hear the voice of God, read the Scriptures out loud. I no longer say that because while I don’t think that’s technically wrong, it’s an understatement of how the Bible teaches us to live in a relationship with Jesus.

…pray without ceasing… – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Relationship implies conversation. Conversation implies speaking and listening. It’s noteworthy that for the last 500 years, we’ve lived in a time where the Word of God has been printed for the masses, and because of that, we can say with little difficulty, read your Bible every day. But for 1,500 years before the printing press, copies of the Scripture were hard to make and resided in libraries, churches, and institutions, not on the shelves of every believer’s home. In Paul’s day, obtaining a personal copy of the Scriptures wasn’t probable because of the cost involved in getting one. Few could afford it, so it was typically a community possession of the entire church. So the Holy Spirit inspired Paul with this instruction. Pray without ceasing. Why? Because few could read without ceasing. Today, I have no problem telling someone to read the Word daily. At the very least, we should because the Word is so accessible. But I fear that many have traded unceasing prayer for endless reading. That is a problem.

It’s actually a problem in any relationship. My marriage wouldn’t be healthy if I only listened to Radene by reading her love letters from over the years. She wants to speak to me now and in person about things that are in the present. While I understand that God’s Word and Radene’s love letters are not apples to apples, the principle is sound. In complete agreement with the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit speaks the heart of Christ to us. He leads us in the will of the Father for us. He gives us understanding of what God has written for us. Ignoring the Holy Spirit is to our spiritual peril. He is God as much as Christ is God and as the Father is God. He is a Person, and as such, we should cultivate friendship with Him as God, who lives within us.

Ok. I’m over my word count. I hope this is helpful. I’ll probably write more on this subject in future posts. Until then, grace and peace.

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Last modified: January 12, 2023