I have come to realize that one of the worst things about lying to someone is what it tells them about trusting the Holy Spirit in their own life.
Having heard the phrase “squelching the Spirit”, but never giving it too much thought, I didn’t realize that I might have the ability to squelch the Holy Spirit’s prompting in the life of someone else. Last year I was fearfully trying to tame the Holy Spirit’s prompts in my own life, and I never considered His presence in the life of someone else.
After everything was out in the open, the truth of how the Holy Spirit had been moving became alarmingly clear.
The Holy Spirit was speaking to several individuals. In different ways the Holy Spirit was bringing thoughts, revelations, and a sense of awareness to them. With no physical evidence, some individuals approached me and asked me very direct questions about the things they were sensing. They mustered courage and trusted the Holy Spirit’s leading, but in an attempt to shut them down and keep them from seeing that they were correct, I flat-out lied to them.
In lying I was doing more than just covering my sin. Without thinking about the long term consequences for them, by lying, I was telling them NOT to trust the prompting of the Holy Spirit in their daily lives. I was teaching them NOT to trust what God was so clearly showing them. The Holy Spirit is alive and He was allowing Himself to be revealed to them in tangible ways, but when I lied I was saying “Don’t listen to God; listen to me.”
A longing to see God.
In Exodus 33:18 Moses tells God that he wants to see His glory. It is at the end of a conversation that Moses was having with God. In their exchange Moses speaks to God about his insecurities. Moses is concerned that others may not understand God’s preference towards the Israelite nation. Led by this fear Moses asks God join them so that they will be clearly distinguished as God’s people. God assures Moses that He will indeed join them. Moses then makes the request to see God’s glory, and God complies in the way that Moses was able to handle.
“…I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But, you cannot see my face for no one may see me and live.” Exodus 33:19-20
God is powerful. He is so powerful that even the Israelite leader with whom he had actual conversations could not see His face and live. This is the same God who created plagues of frogs and locusts. This is the one who created a plague which took out all of the first born males in one night. With His power He parted the sea for His people to pass, and He sustained them for four decades in a desert wasteland. This very same God prompted His Holy Spirit to speak to believers on my behalf in an attempt to bring me to repentance. He was revealing His glory inside of them by allowing them to hear from Him in a personal way.
He was revealing Himself, and I stopped them from seeing His glory.
It’s bad enough that I was willing to let myself travel down a path of destruction and self loathing, but in lying I was also willing to have people who love me feel a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit as He was revealing Himself to them.
Sadly, I am not alone in this, for it is not only those who wear a scarlet letter who have lied.
Many people lie, including some of you who are reading this blog post written by a sinner. Granted, most of our lies don’t have the power to end a marriage, but it does not mean that God is less saddened by the lie. When we lie we are always taking a chance of squelching the Spirit in the life of another believer. When we lie we are saying to them, “Don’t listen to what you may be hearing from God. Listen to me.”
It is not only the large lies that damage another person’s ability to trust in their own intuitive nature and promptings from God. In some ways, the small lies may do more damage–simply because the lie goes undetected. There is no formal announcement to reveal the truth, and often no one is held accountable for the harmless white lie. But for the person to whom the lie was told it could be an ongoing battle for them to be able to discern and trust the Holy Spirit in themselves.
None of us can go back and make a a lie not happen, and there are many lies that will have long-lasting effects on the tellers and the receivers. The damage from a lie may be huge, and it is up to us to strive to make repairs when possible. We can return to the ones who may have courageously confronted us, to apologize and to confirm in them that they were indeed hearing the Holy Spirit. By doing this we encourage them to keep listening to those promptings and to trust those promptings even more in the future.
Through a restless night I rolled these thoughts around, and I awoke feeling awful. Owning the severity of my lies made me feel so unworthy of God’s love.
I opened my Bible and hunted to find answers for times when God’s people longed to be in the presence of the Lord and perhaps had been denied. In Exodus 33:11, I learned that when Moses and God were done speaking, after both had left the tent, Joshua (the aide to Moses) would stay in the tent alone long after. Moses would leave the tent and return to the people–who had been standing and worshiping during the exchange. Joshua did not return to the camp with Moses. He stayed inside the tent. Perhaps he was soaking it all in. Reading this prompted me to sit in the tent with what I had read throughout the passage. Tears came to my eyes as God used the same passage for my comfort that He had revealed in my convictions.
“I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion”
God is the one who chooses on whom He will shower His mercies and compassion. We want to beat ourselves up for the mistakes we have made, and oftentimes we can do more damage to ourselves than anyone else is capable.
Sometimes others in our lives want us to suffer more shame for our own sins. Shame is somehow supposed to insure that we will not sin again. However, shame is not powerful enough to have a lasting impact in a person’s life–shame will only bring temporary outward behavior change.
Mercy and Compassion are the tools for heart change. It was always God’s plan to show mercy and compassion to His children–that is why the words He spoke to Moses are echoed in the book of Romans. God’s plan includes mercy and compassion, and as those attributes wash over us we are drawn to His Spirit and we long for His Spirit to be drawn out and revealed in the lives of others.