10 Things You Should Know About Quenching The Spirit When You Preach

It is the aim of the Spirit in our preaching that by means of the meaning of the words to awaken the appropriate affections of the heart and bring about genuine transformation in how we live.

Our manner and delivery and energy in the pulpit should be a reflection of the glory and magnitude of the one about whom we speak. The delight and passion with which we preach must correspond to and adequately reflect the grandeur and splendor of the One we proclaim. Anything less will inevitably quench what the Holy Spirit is seeking to do through our preaching.

 

Last week I wrote an article that identified ten things we should all know about quenching the Spirit, or perhaps I should say ten ways to quench the Spirit that we must studiously avoid. Today I want to turn our attention to ten ways we tend to quench the Spirit in the act of preaching God’s Word.

(1) The first thing to remember is that nowhere in Scripture do we find the sin of quenching the Spirit explicitly linked to teaching or preaching God’s Word. The only text in which this language appears is 1 Thessalonians 5:19ff. However, insofar as it is with respect to the gift of prophecy that Paul warns us not to quench the Spirit, it seems entirely legitimate to me that we might extend the warning to any and all other spiritual gifts as well. Teaching is no less a gift of the Spirit than is prophecy.

(2) One of the primary goals in teaching/preaching is to awaken in the hearts of people a sense for the surpassing beauty and all-satisfying glory of God as revealed in Jesus. To the extent that you fail to make clear his beauty and to the extent that you fail to elevate his glory you make it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for people to savor and treasure Jesus above all else. And insofar as one of the Spirit’s primary purposes is to magnify Jesus, you are guilty of quenching him.

(3) Likewise, our goal in preaching is to elevate the affections of our people to the highest possible degree. Here is how Jonathan Edwards put it in his sermon on the Song of Solomon:

“Persons need not and ought not to set any bounds to their spiritual and gracious appetites. . . . [Rather they ought to] be endeavoring by all possible ways to inflame their desires and to obtain more spiritual pleasures. . . . Endeavor to promote spiritual appetites by laying yourself in the way of allurement” (Sermon on Canticles 5:1)

Do you endeavor in your preaching to “inflame” the “desires” of your people? Or does speaking in such terms frighten you? Do you preach in a way that invariably suppresses their desires and affections for God or makes people fearful and ashamed of their affections?

Edwards would go on to argue that “there is no such thing as excess in our taking of this spiritual food. There is no such virtue as temperance in spiritual feasting” (“The Spiritual Blessings of the Gospel Represented by a Feast”). There is no such thing as “excess” in the intensity and fervency with which your people go after God and hunger for him. Listen again: “there is no such virtue as temperance in spiritual feasting.” Therefore, your aim in preaching should be to intensify heart-felt affections for Jesus, not inhibit them. Some think that to make the awakening and heightening of affections a goal in preaching is inherently manipulative and dangerous. If in your preaching you are fearful of elevating the affections of your people too high, perhaps because you are leery of excessive emotion or are worried that people will get out of control, you should remember once again something Edwards said during the First Great Awakening:

“I don’t think ministers are to be blamed for raising the affections of their hearers too high, if that which they are affected with be only that which is worthy of affection, and their affections are not raised beyond a proportion to their importance, or worthiness of affection. I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with” (Yale 4:387).

Edwards emphasizes two points. First, we should aim in our preaching to articulate biblical truth so clearly and passionately that the affections aroused and sustained in the hearts of men and women are the immediate and inevitable fruit or product of it. Affections for their own sake are worthless. Emotions in the heart that do not arise from enlightenment of the mind accomplish nothing but fanaticism. Our duty, says Edwards, and I completely agree with him, is to elevate and intensify and increase the affections of the heart through or by means of the passionate articulation of theological truth.

Edwards also makes it clear that these “affections” must not be disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with. In other words, my aim, through the power of the Spirit, is not to stir up joy in joy, but joy in Jesus. My aim is to fan the flames of zeal and love and hope and gratitude in all that God is for us in Jesus.

To whatever degree I fail to do this I am guilty of quenching the fire of what the Holy Spirit longs to accomplish in the lives of God’s people. Likewise, as already stated, to the degree that I make people feel guilty for their affections or to the degree that I make them suspicious of the legitimacy of their affections or to the degree that I make them ashamed or embarrassed by their affections, I quench the Spirit.

Before I leave this point let me make something crystal clear. Neither Edwards nor I are suggesting that this is an excuse to whip up the emotions of our audience by using a fog machine or strobe lights or through the accompaniment of a sermon by background music on an organ or by any other of a dozen or more artistic or pyrotechnic devices. Remember that Edwards qualifies our efforts at awakening the emotions of men and women by insisting, “that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.”

(4) Yet another way we might be guilty of quenching the Holy Spirit, a way that is directly connected with the previous point, is when we preach in a boring, disinterested, lifeless and mechanical way. If the goal of preaching is to awaken godly affections for God that display his immeasurable beauty and the all-satisfying power of his person, then one cannot truly preach without passion.

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