When Jesus invited people to follow Him, many responded faithfully. Their lives were forever changed. But some, like the Rich, Young Ruler, rejected the Lord’s invitation to discipleship. “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?” asked the Rich, Young Ruler. “Jesus said to him, ‘go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard that, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions” (Matthew 19:16–23, CSB).
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13, CSB). Though the Eternally Omnipotent Spirit speaks, commands, draws and directs, every Christian must respond. We must choose to be obedient and faithful.
When Stephen, the faithful deacon and first Christian martyr preached his inspired sermon, he accused the religious leaders of resisting the Holy Spirit’s leadership. “You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit. As your ancestors did, you do also. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They even killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become” (Acts 7:51–52, CSB).
In a most dramatic fashion, Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, disciples in the fledgling church in Jerusalem, resisted and rejected the Holy Spirit. They “sold a piece of property. However, he kept back part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge, and brought a portion of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. ‘Ananias,’ Peter asked, ‘why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds of the land?’ ... When he heard these words, Ananias dropped dead, and a great fear came on all who heard. The young men got up, wrapped his body, carried him out, and buried him. About three hours later, his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. ‘Tell me,’ Peter asked her, ‘did you sell the land for this price?’ ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘for that price.’ Then Peter said to her, ‘Why did you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’ Instantly she dropped dead at his feet” (Acts 5:1–11, CSB).
Paul warned his readers, “Don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30, CSB) and “Don’t stifle” (1 Thessalonians 5:19, CSB) or “quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19, ESV).
The ultimate act of disobedience, and the only unforgivable sin, is to stubbornly refuse to heed the Holy Spirit’s conviction to accept the saving forgiveness offered by Christ. Jesus said, “people will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31, CSB).
As 2021 begins, I’m certain that the Spirit is leading me to a new resolve. I must endeavor to hear His gentle guidance and be filled daily with His powerful presence.