One of my favorite Christian songs, and a frequent prayer of mine, is “Create in Me a Clean Heart,” which is based directly on Psalm 51. Many times I have sung that song when convicted of sin, and I have lingered in particular on the line, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” Psalm 51 was written by King David shortly after the prophet Nathan had confronted him for adultery, wife-stealing and the treacherous murder of Uriah the Hittite – a man that King David had battled side by side with, a teammate. When you actually read what David did – the depths of his wickedness – it is enough to make you shake your head in shame, even thousands of years later. His desperate cry to God’s Spirit to not abandon him is not mere religious dressing; I believe David felt genuinely in danger of that very thing.
I find myself quite more disillusioned with politics in 2016 than normal. It is literally astounding to me that the BEST candidates our two major American political parties could come up with are the ones that have just been nominated by their respective parties over the past few
weeks. Both candidates are seemingly surrounded by various levels of scandal, and neither seem ideal choices. Indeed, politics in general has a reputation for corruption, ethical trouble and shameful behavior. That said – I can literally think of no American political scandal in my lifetime that measures up to what King David did. He desired a beautiful and married woman (Bathsheba) to be his wife, and so he ordered the chief commander of the military to intentionally have Uriah killed. Uriah was a hero of the Israelite armies – a man of remarkably noble character (See 1 Samuel 11:11) and he was fiercely loyal to David. David, blinded by lust and pride, repaid that loyalty with treachery, and then had Bathsheba added to his group of wives. A most heinous series of crimes, committed by a man who boldly worshiped God in public, and spoke often of his faith to the people that he governed.
It is no wonder then, that David pleads with God not to withdraw His Spirit from David’s presence. “Do not banish me from your presence, or take your Holy Spirit from me.” Writes David in Verse 10 – seemingly his chief concern once he’s realized his guilt – that God’s Spirit would abandon him just like God’s Spirit had left his predecessor, King Saul. (1 Samuel 16:14) In the Old Testament – prior to Jesus, God’s Spirit did NOT live with/in believers in the same way that the Holy Spirit does today. (e.g. John 20:22) That this would be a monumental and fundamental change is revealed by Jesus when He comforts the disciples in John 16. In that passage, the disciples of Jesus are sorrowful, because they are finally understanding that Jesus will be leaving them soon, and that He is destined to die. Jesus assures the disciples that all of this – including His coming ascension into Heaven – will be better for them than HIS DAILY FLESH AND BLOOD PRESENCE!
John 16:5-7 “But now I am going away to Him who sent Me, and not one of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ Yet, because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you.”
I will repeat that, because it is so remarkable: Jesus tells His disciples that the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit is SO beneficial – that it would actually be BETTER for them than having Him there with them by their side. In other words – those who are genuinely saved followers of Jesus are in a BETTER position now than the original disciples were prior to Jesus’ resurrection. They had a physical relationship with Jesus – but we have a relationship with the Holy Spirit of Jesus – The Great Counselor – who lives INSIDE us. Closer than even Jesus was to the disciples. Indeed, as Paul notes, all who are saved by Christ and in Christ have the Spirit of Christ:
Romans 8:9 “You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”
When New Testament Christians sin, are we in danger of the abandonment of the Holy Spirit? I do not believe so – things appear to be different now than they were when David wrote Psalm 51. Jesus’ death, resurrection, and subsequent “sending” of the Holy Spirit changed everything. The promise of Jesus, made to His disciples, is that the presence of the Holy Spirit would be with them – and us – forever. Soak in these encouraging words from John 14:
John 14:16-17, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
Also, see this quote from Clinton Arnold, as quoted in Tim Challies’ excellent article on Grieving the Spirit. “Under the new covenant, the Spirit does not depart when sin is committed. Instead, the Spirit deeply grieves over it. Paul presents this as a truth that should motivate believers not to indulge their sinful desires—whether this might be filthy talk, stealing, uncontrolled anger, lying, or any other vice.” Source: http://www.challies.com/articles/do-not-grieve-the-holy-spirit In response to Arnold’s quote, Tim writes, “The true believer does not need to fear that God will respond to sin by giving up and moving out. We are sealed by the Spirit for all eternity.” Yes, and amen!
Today the danger is not abandonment, but grieving and quenching. The Holy Spirit is PROMISED to believers forever, but it is still possible, by our actions, to grieve Him and even quench the Spirit. For reference, look at these two passages from Ephesians and Thessalonians:
Ephesians 4:30, “And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him for the day of redemption.”
1 Thessalonians 5:19, “Do not quench the Spirit.”
So – we do not necessarily pray the exact prayer that David did. But we DO avoid grieving the Spirit by not giving ourselves to activities like: Lying (Ephesians 4:25), ungodly anger (Eph. 4:26-27), stealing and cursing (Eph. 4:28-29), bitterness/unforgiveness (Eph. 4:31-32), and sexual immorality. (Ephesians 5:3-5)
Some closing and encouraging passages on the ministry of the Holy Spirit:
Romans 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.“
Romans 5:5, “This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Acts 9:31, “So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and it increased in numbers.”
John 14:26, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”
Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
P.S. One compelling bit of thought for a later post, perhaps: What impact should the fulfillment of the Old Testament by the New Testament have on our song-singing – especially when those songs are derived from the Psalms? To be a bit more specific: Is it improper, in some way, to sing “Create in Me a Clean Heart,” given that the Holy Spirit does NOT abandon genuinely saved followers of Christ?