As followers of Christ, we are not supposed to impede the operation of the Holy Spirit who is in us. In fact, there is a sense in which we could not impede him, even if we tried. As Jesus told Nicodemus, the wind moves where it wishes, and the Spirit goes where he likes and does what he wants, especially regarding the regeneration of men.
But in another sense, things that we do and things that we think do affect the operation of the Spirit within us. We are told not to grieve him (Ephesians 4:30), not to quench him (1 Thessalonians 5:19), and to be filled with him (Ephesians 5:18). When we consider how to accomplish these things, we find that they are neither as simple as turning the tap to fill a cup with water, nor as complex as abiding by a sophisticated set of rituals.
From the passages in which these instructions are found, here are things that can stifle the Spirit and rob us of the grace and power he provides for our journey:
— speaking falsehood. This isn’t merely the avoidance of lies, or remaining silent, but speaking the truth to one another.
— being sinfully angry.
— stealing. And not merely the avoidance of theft, but engaging in honest labor so that we can share with those in need.
— speaking crassly. Unedifying speech: vulgar talk, dirty jokes, things that demean the worth of man, who is made in God’s image.
— not putting away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice.
— not being kind and forgiving.
— not respecting spiritual leaders.
— not being at peace.
— not admonishing the idle, or encouraging the fainthearted, or helping the weak.
— seeking our own revenge.
— not rejoicing and giving thanks in all things.
— being unwise and wasting time.
— being foolish and ignoring the will of God.
It is curious that in these three passages Paul lists everyday, mundane, pedestrian behaviors to either do or not do. But in the middle of each he inserts the seemingly incongruous admonitions, ‘do not grieve the Holy Spirit,’ ‘do not quench the Holy Spirit,’ ‘be filled with the Holy Spirit.’
The reality of it is that for followers of Christ there is no mundane, pedestrian behavior or thought. There is no realm of our being that is not continually subject to becoming the territory of the occupying Spirit or falling into the hands of our enemy, the devil. Much more than being a set of rules to obey, Paul’s list of behaviors and attitudes relate directly to the level of control that the Spirit has over us.
Do not get drunk with wine — slurring our speech, stumbling over our feet, muddling our thinking — but be filled with the Spirit.