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Holy Spirit uses Sinners?|
Q. I heard a televangelist say that the Holy Spirit won't use us if we are engaging in a known sin. He stated, "If you purposefully continue in a sin that God has convicted you of, the Holy Spirit cannot use you." Is that true? (K.D.)
There are a number of televangelists who say things like "our faith activates God," or "our lack of faith binds or inhibits God." Others say "we can speak things into being" or that "our faith causes God to be involved in our lives."
These kinds of claims are commonly associated with the "Force of Faith" or "Word of Faith" movements taught by popular preachers like Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and even Joyce Meyer (who is otherwise sound in giving selected scriptural advice for relationship issues and character building).
Dreaming to Doing
The pastor you mentioned in your letter did not "ring a bell." So I looked him up on the internet. But, the only one with that name is a preacher at a church in Wentzville, Missouri. I listened to excerpts of his preaching online and learned that he teaches "Nothing starts happening until someone starts dreaming." However, I do not know enough about him to form an opinion.
God Uses Sinners Repeatedly
Nevertheless, I do not concur with the idea that the Holy Spirit cannot use us if we are convicted of a particular sin. Scripture is filled with examples of people who deliberately and willfully disobeyed God to His face. Yet even while they were in rebellion God actively used them to fulfill His purposes.
One of the most intense examples of God using sinners is found in the Book of Hosea. Read the first six chapters - it will take your breath away!
Here the people of Israel (typified as the "wife of God") is deliberately being unfaithful to Him. Yet, God uses her all the same to accomplish His goals and ultimately brings her back into His loving arms.
God is sovereign. That means He can do what He desires. If He can use Pharaoh and Judas, then He can use you and me to accomplish His purposes!
As the esteemed Grudem notes we are all infected with inherent sin. It's in our genes (Grudem 1994, 494). Sin not only includes the wrong things you and I think or do but also includes our genetic tendency to sin, too.
Good grief! If God couldn't use any humans who have "inherited sin" then we're all useless to Him. Yet, we know that is not true. God makes it clear that we are all vitally important in the Body of Christ, His church.
Does God expect you to sin? You bet! But, He can still honor what we do for Him.
"For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Heb 6:10).
"And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward" (Matt 10:42).
All of that said, however, there is another side of this coin. Our sin does indeed have consequences. Christ is doing a work in all believers. This means that He will at times spank His kids.
The apostle Paul was concerned that even he could be disqualified from ministry and service if he did not discipline himself (1 Cor 9:27). We can mess ourselves up, to be sure. We can waste a lot of time and become ineffective for God.
But, in my opinion as long as we draw breath we have a responsibility to do what we can regardless of how we feel or what our motives may be. We can certainly be "benched" or put on the sidelines of Christian service.
If you are continuing in a sinful situation then expect to get whacked! But, that is not a reason to deny yourself the benefit and joy of working for Him. The very fact that you are concerned about it shows that He is already working on you. And that is wonderful!
If you want to be involved in a service project or working with the disadvantaged or poor, go for it! If you are truly a child of the King, trust Christ to make the necessary adjustments in your life. He is conforming us into His image and that will be very painful at times (Ro 8:29). Let the pain happen and work with Him:
"And we know that all things work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Ro 8:28).
Grudem, Wayne. 1994. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
NKJV Study Bible. 2007. Nashville, TN: Nelson.
Ken Emilio is the Director of the Gospel Rescue Mission in Grants Pass, Oregon. He holds an MA in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University and a Certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University.
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