Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Grieving the Lord and Stifling His Spirit

Monday, July 22, 2019

Grieving the Lord and Stifling His Spirit

Why Are We Failing the Great Commission?
Chapter Fifteen
Grieving the Lord and Stifling His Spirit

          John chapter eleven is a faith reality check point.  Even though we believe in God and a spiritual existence/dimension called eternity, our mortality can barely grasp our immortality intellectually.  We are so anchored to this empirical “under the Sun” existence, our understanding and grasp of the spiritual is almost non-existent.  This weakness in our faith vision of reality creates a spiritual impotence that disconnects the professing believer from seeing and understanding the hidden workings of God within our existence.  

Simply because we cannot physically sense the spiritual and eternal does not mean we are separated from that existence.  We co-exist in both the spiritual and physical dimensions at the same time.  Physical death simply separates the physical body from the spiritual aspects of who and what we are.  Faith understands these things.  Faith understands that there are spiritual powers that transcend the physical, earthly limitations that exist within this temporal creation “under the Sun.”  

          The differences in personalities between siblings has never ceased to amaze me.  Children, raised in the same home by the same parents all under similar circumstances, can still be as different as strangers from different countries.  This dynamic of individuality is an aspect of the spiritual that transcends into the physical world.  In other words, the individuality of spiritual characteristics is as diverse as the individuality of human fingerprints and DNA sequencing.  This is certainly true of the siblings recorded in John chapter eleven; Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.  

In John chapter eleven, we are given the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  We also have a detailed accounting of Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha.  Jesus used the death of Lazarus to teach Mary and Martha (as well as all Bible believers) about His power over death.  Jesus purposefully waited two days after hearing about Lazarus’s death before He began the journey to Bethany.  Jesus wanted everyone to know the difference between His ability to raise the dead and heal the sick.  Jesus wanted everyone to know FOR SURE that Lazarus was DEAD!

1 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) 3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. 4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. 5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was” (John 11:1-6).

33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, 34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. 35 Jesus wept” (John 11:33-35).

          The reason Jesus “groaned in the spirit, and was troubled” was because the weeping of these people revealed the ignorance and lack of faith in His Creator abilities.  Their faith just did not grasp the Being with which they were communing.  What are the limitations you put upon God’s abilities?  Do you think the limitations of your faith about God’s capabilities grieve Him?  Weak faith is often due to ignorance, but it is more often due to the unwillingness to accept and believe in God’s unfathomable abilities that transcend all physical and human limitations.  Weak faith creates a false and weak god.  Weak faith is victory by degrees for the forces of evil because weak faith seldom attempts what God commands.  Failure should never be an excuse to stop trying. The “mystery of inequity” is powerful opposition to good.  Our new life in Christ is engulfed by the darkness of the curse. Poke a hole in the darkness and let your light shine through!

          In Ephesians chapters four, five and six, God instructs believers about the intricacies of a life of faith in what it means to “walk in the Spirit.”  Paul builds to the point of making a statement about the lack of a faith-life that fails to consistently “walk in the Spirit” by his statement in Ephesians 4:30; “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God.”  He begins this instruction about the faith-life of the “just” living the faith-life by walking in the Spirit with an all-encompassing statement Ephesians 4:1-3.  A believer’s failure here is the same as what grieved the Lord in John 11:35 causing Him to weep over the weak faith of even the best of his disciples. 

1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit {a faith vision reality} in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

          From this point through the end of this epistle, Paul gives specific instructions with tangible details of what it means to walk in the Spirit.  Just before He instructs about the responsibilities of our Christian walk in various roles and relationships, He interjects a dramatic statement about our responsibility in our personal relationship with the Holy Spirit.  It is the springboard for His instruction regarding all other relationships.

30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:30-32).

          Most Christians seldom consider that the way we live and the things we fail to grasp by faith can grieve the Spirit of God.  When we fail to do what John 11:21 and 32 say (as well as chapter five and chapter six of Ephesians), we touch the heart of God in a way that brings Him great grief.  Failure to believe is as great a failure as blatant unbelief; perhaps even more so because failure to believe never really moves us or anyone else in the direction God intends for us to move.  Failure to believe ALWAYS results in spiritual stagnation. 

7 Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. 8 His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? 9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. 10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. 11 These things said he: and after that he {Jesus} saith unto them {the strongest disciples}, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep {God’s view of dead ‘born again’ people is merely a separation of the body from the spirit/soul.  The spirit/soul have eternal life the moment the believer is ‘born again.’  The believer’s body is viewed as merely in the sleep of death until it is resurrected, recreated, and glorified.}. 12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him” (John 11:7-15).

We do not like it when life does not fit into our little plan.  Often our little plan for life must be completely toppled before we ever become aware of the God-factor in our existence.  What must God do to get us to look at what only faith can see?  “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes” (John 11;14-15).  Again, this is a faith reality check! 

In most cases, every believer suffers from the lack of real faith.  We require great miracles performed before our eyes by God before we truly believe in God’s abilities.  Our prayer life often reflects the real weakness of our faith and our vision of hope for what we expect of God each day.  It is critically important for believers to confront the weaknesses of our faith in God if we ever really hope to see our lives blessed in fulfilling the Great Commission.  We are very much like the father of the demon possessed child in Mark 9:14-29, where the father in utter destitution and desperation cries out hopelessly, “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”  We all live somewhere between belief and unbelief.  This is what I call Inbetweenism. 

One aspect of the fall of mankind in sin is that we have lost touch with the heart of God.  We are amazed at all His wonderful attributes.  We wonder at the holiness of God.  We are overwhelmed at His capacity to love such wretched creatures like ourselves.  We stand in awe of His power.  We fall at His feet amazed at His grace.  Yet there is one attribute of God we seldom consider.  God grieves when His children live selfishly and sinfully.  However, God grieves also when His children live in ignorance of what He has so fully revealed through His inspired Scriptures.  Ignorance always generates some degree of unbelief.  I wonder how many times my life and ignorance has brought tears to God’s eyes.  I wonder how many times my life and ignorance has broken His heart and grieved Him in His Spirit.  However, it is NEVER enough to simply be remorseful about past failures.  We MUST repent and begin to correct those failures. 
          Seldom do children realize the pain they cause their parents when they choose to live selfishly.  This new life “in Christ,” that God has given us, is not about us.  Selfish people cannot see the grief they cause in the lives of others.  Doing and getting what they want is so important, they are blinded to the pain it causes others.  Even when they are aware of the grief they cause, they do not consider it important.  Another person’s pain is inconsequential compared to their own enjoyment.  The reason: THEY DO NOT FEEL THE PAIN THEY CAUSE!  Selfish people cannot see that spiritual failures pass under the bridge and into the past with no consideration of the damage and scars they leave on the present and the future.  Inconsistencies of faith are like whirlwinds that blow in, destroy and make a mess, then pass on to somewhere else with no consideration of the damage they have done BECAUSE WHIRLWINDS ARE HEARTLESS AND FAITHLESS.

          Although God’s emotions are never out of control, none the less they exist.  God has feelings too.  Our lives can bring Him joy or grief.  When we walk in the Spirit in obedience to our heavenly Father’s will, we bring Him joy.  When we do not, we bring Him grief.  Can we imagine God’s love for fallen sinful creatures, professing to believe in Him, but give little or no consideration to the constant pain His relationship with us and our constant inconsistencies brings to His heart?  We profess to love the Lord while seldom considering His heart for us.  

          When Christians live in careless selfishness, we grieve the Lord.  Such lifestyles are a contradiction against a faith-life before the eyes of God.  In John chapter eleven, we have the record of two ladies whose attitudes towards the Lord grieved Him in His Spirit to such a degree it brought Him to tears.  However, each of the disciples had similar problems with their faith vision of possibilities!  Mary and Martha are simply physical examples of everyone of us and our lack of genuine faith in Christ’s abilities.  To Jeremiah’s fatalistic and hopeless view of the future of the pending Babylonian captivity, like Thomas’s view in John 11:16, God responds “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me (Jeremiah 32-27)?

          Fatalism, cynicism, and pessimism are all equal forms of unbelief.  Real faith is the ability to see passed life’s circumstance and see the spiritual good God is purposing (Romans 8:28) through those difficulties. 

16 Then said Thomas {Aramaic for ‘twin’}, which is called Didymus {Greek for ‘twin’}, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. 17 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. 18 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: 19 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother {Jesus waiting long enough for a crowd of mourners to gather and the body of Lazerus to seriously begin to decompose}. 20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. 21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. 23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (John 11:16-27).

The subject of this story is as much about Martha and Mary as it is Lazarus being raised from the dead (John 11:2). Transpondency is the capacity to listen beyond what is said to hear and understand what is not said.  This is not allegorizing what is said, but merely seeing the invisible spiritual aspect of the communication hidden from those deaf to the spiritual.

          John 11:2 tells us of a different Mary than the one we see in John chapter twelve, where Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with expensive oil and wipes His feet with her hair.  In John 11:2, God wants to remind us of the Mary of John 12:1-3 before He shows us the Mary of John eleven.  In John eleven, Mary was upset with the Lord.  She was angry, hurting, disappointed, and full of resentment.  This is what happens when we can only see life’s disappointments through our “under the Sun” perspective of life.  Such a perspective will ALWAYS produce short comings in our view of God’s love and such a perspective will ALWAYS bring grief to God. 

          Mary’s brother was dead.  From her “under the Sun” perspective of life, if Jesus would just have come when He was asked to come, He could have healed Lazarus and prevented his death.  Why did He delay?  Hopelessness, resentment, and bitterness were consuming her.  I can imagine the thoughts going through her mind: Jesus doesn’t care about us.  He is too busy for us.  He said He loves us, but if He loves us, He would have come right away.

Jesus had a faith building plan that transcended Lazarus, Martha, or Mary (John 11:4 and 11-15).

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out” (Romans 11:33)!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

          Jesus was training twelve men to be the foundation stones of His Church.  Raising Lazarus from the dead was part of their training program.  They needed to see that physical death was not an end to their lives.  Before He created heaven, earth and all that are in it, He had planned this day in the history of the world to increase the faith of these disciples.  Often, such lessons require considerable inconveniences for the people needing these life lessons of faith.  Real faith changes life perspectives and doing that is not an easy task.  

          Don’t ever forget that God’s plan transcends the human predicament.  One thing we learn from this text is that God’s plans do not transcend the human predicament in the sense they are above or beyond pain or suffering, because God is involved in our pain and suffering.  He chose to join Himself to the human predicament.  Man deserves his predicament, God does not.  The fallen nature views the human predicament with man at its center.  Man’s needs and wants then become the focal point of history.  In this mindset, God exists only to alleviate pain and eliminate suffering.  Instead, the proper faith perspective of life sees God entering the human predicament due to the curse and sharing the pain caused by the fall.  God is grieved by sin and the suffering sin causes.  God is separate from the sin but is not separate from the people suffering from its consequences. 

          The plan of God in this chapter of history was for mankind to understand His powers transcending even death itself.  God exists OUTSIDE of the human predicament, but not FROM the human predicament.  The plan of redemption draws mankind to God in faith whereby He removes them from the existence of the human predicament and into His existence.

Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus (John 11:5).

          Do not miss the “therefore” in John 11:6; because Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, He purposely waited two days until Lazarus was dead before He began the four-day journey to Bethany.  These people (and many others) NEEDED to see this miracle.  These three people were chosen to be an intricate part of God’s plan in bringing many people to saving faith (John 11:45).  Facing death and seeing loved one’s die for their faith was going to be a regular part of their Christian experience. 

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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