Wise as Serpents: What Does the Holy Spirit Look Like? (Part 8 of a sermon series by Jeff Crippen)
And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.”
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.” (1 Sam 17:41-47)
We do not recognize the leading and working of the Holy Spirit in us as clearly as we might think. And in fact most Christians are confused about recognizing the Spirit in them because they have been falsely instructed about His nature and character. As a result, evil remains disguised, Christians wear false guilt, and the Spirit of God in us is quenched.
How did the Spirit of God in David react to evil? That is to say, how did David, led by and filled with the Spirit of God act as he faced Goliath, this taunting enemy of the Lord?
This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth…
I want us all to consider this very carefully and compare David’s words with the typical claims of so many pillars of the church today. I will strike you down and cut off your head. Do you see? That is nothing less than the Spirit of God speaking in David. That is how the Spirit reacts to evil. And yet,
- David should have shown love for Goliath and tried to lead him to Christ,
- David should not have been carrying any weapons of any kind,
- David should have chosen to suffer, knelt down, and passively let Goliath cut off his head.
But David killed him. The Spirit of God enabled David, guided that stone, and killed the evil one. And then he cut off his head.
One of the tactics of evil by which its emissaries work to remain hidden under a cloak of “holy light,” is to quench the working of the Spirit in us so that we do not recognize it and act by it. The Spirit is quenched by the lies of the evil one. Lies such as:
- “It is always sinful to show anger”
- “We must never speak negatively of anyone”
- “Passivity and pacifism is what we are called to”
And so, Goliath is left to oppress and to kill and destroy because Christians are duped and do not follow the leading of the Spirit in them.
How does the Spirit of God react when evil comes into its presence? Here are some answers:
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1Th 5:19-22)
The Holy Spirit is at work in us, leading and directing us in righteousness. He directs us to abstain from every form of evil. EVERY form. That means that we must:
- Be wise about what evil is, what it looks like, and
- Be innocent of it ourselves
To fail to heed the Spirit’s leading in this is to ally oneself with evil. We are to TEST things. We are to hold fast to what is good, but we must necessarily judge and say “this is evil, this is good,” or we will inevitably quench the leading of the Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit will immediately sound off warnings to us when evil comes into our presence.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (19) Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, (21) envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:16-21)
Do you see this? The desires of the Spirit are AGAINST the flesh. Powerfully. When sin and unrighteousness and evil rise up in His presence, He opposes it. Paul is here dealing with the flesh, but we must also understand that this is not our own flesh and sin, but includes the wickedness in others. The Spirit actively opposes evil. The Spirit is against evil.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (22-23)
Did David exercise these fruits of the Spirit when he opposed Goliath? Was he at peace with Goliath? Was he patient with and kind to Goliath? He killed him and cut off his head!
Many supposed Christian teachers and preachers today would have David quench the Spirit. They would have told him that he was wrong to do what he did, that he should have been more patient, more kind, and should have tried to get Goliath to see the error of his ways and repent!
We have been taught wrongly and at best this wrong teaching is rank naivete, but more often I believe that it is evil that is working to cloak itself in righteousness.
[Jeff gives several examples to illustrate his point.
- a anecdote from his own life
- Nehemiah being led by the Spirit in how to respond to Sanballat’s attempts to undermine the re-building of the wall
- Samson shaking the pillars of the Philistine’s meeting house till it fell down
- The Apostle Paul calling Elymas the magician “You son of the devil!’ ]
Do you see that if you have been taught a distorted, milk-toast version of God and specifically of the Holy Spirit’s leading in the believer, then you are going to quench that leading when evil comes into your presence and is revealed and opposed by the Spirit. Which means you will be left to act in a fleshly manner of cowardice or denial, enabling the evil. You will confuse the leading of the Spirit with the flesh and the other way round as well.
Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. (John 8:43-45)
Was Jesus led by the Spirit? And yet today a response like this to the wicked is branded as being “un-Christian, unkind, un-spiritual.”
Where the Spirit of God is quenched, there is no fear of the Lord. Evil flourishes unchecked and unexposed.
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. (Act 5:1-11)
Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit killed them. Was Peter unspiritual and unkind and unloving to them?
Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Mat 15:12-14)
Was the Lord Jesus speaking by the Spirit when He offended the Pharisees? What about when He told the disciples “tough. Don’t worry about them.”
When evil comes into our presence, the Spirit of Christ in us mightily opposes it and exposes it.
We must understand that this is indeed the Spirit in us or we will be duped. Do not be so quick to condemn your reaction as “sinful”.
Let me give you an example that I saw just this last week. I was driving through the little town I live in and I saw a person alongside the highway hitchhiking. They had a walker and as I went by they lifted the walker up and kind of shook it to call my attention to their disability so I would give them a ride. I knew that is what the person was doing (I wasn’t able to tell if the person was male or female), and I just kept driving.
The next day I was in a local business and I asked the owner about the hitchhiker with the walker. He told me, “oh yeah, that guy has been around here for months sponging off people. And I just found out that he stole that walker from someone’s yard. The churches here have been helping him and paying his bills and I don’t understand it because he is obviously a charlatan.”
So what does the Holy Spirit say about sluggards and con artists? If they won’t work, then they don’t eat. We are not supposed to support such a person. And yet here, as a very poor example to the non-Christians in town, it is the professing Christians who claim they are showing this guy the love of Christ!! In fact they are participating in his sin.
The Holy Spirit is not a wimp. The Son of God is not a wimp. But we have been taught that he is. So evil flourishes among us. God is not feared. The Day of the Lord is presented as some fun-filled Day when most everyone is going to happily walk into heaven.
This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. (2Th 1:5-10)
Are those the words of the Spirit of God? I hope that we all understand that they are indeed, and the we each one carefully give thought to what the leading of the Spirit in us really looks like. We must be wise as serpents in regard to the nature and tactics of evil while remaining innocent as doves as to participation in it.
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Audio and PDF of this sermon here.