The Spirit Plays our Lives like a Piano Concerto before God

grand piano

Joel Beeke wrote an interesting paper on the Puritan Richard Sibbes’ view of the day to day leading of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians.  It’s called “Richard Sibbes on Entertaining the Holy Spirit.”:

Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) was one of the greatest Puritans of his age. He greatly influenced the direction and content of Puritan preaching, theology, and writing in England and America. Sibbes’s theology of the Holy Spirit is especially important because of its emphasis on how the Spirit operates in the daily life of the Christian. Sibbes winsomely referred to that process as “entertaining the Spirit” in the soul. For Sibbes, that entertaining meant to nurture the friendship and hospitality of an indwelling Spirit. “There is no one in the world so great and sweet a friend who will do us so much good as the Spirit, if we give him entertainment,” Sibbes wrote. . . .

The believer is like a musical instrument, tuned and played by the Spirit. Sibbes wrote, “Let us lay ourselves open to the Spirit’s touch. When the Spirit has ruling sway in our lives he fine-tunes our souls much like a musical instrument, and then he plays our lives as a piano concerto before God.” . . .

The Spirit’s Indwelling

Sibbes went on to describe this process of tuning and the touch of the Holy Spirit: “The Holy Spirit must rule; he will have the keys delivered to him. We must submit to his government, and when he is in the heart he will subdue by little and little all high thoughts, rebellious risings, and despairing fears.” . . .

Sibbes’s conclusion was inevitable: “Where there is no conflict, there is no Spirit of Christ at all.” In this he echoed the apostle Paul’s teaching that if you mortify the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit, you are led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:13). You then, by grace, entertain the Spirit. You befriend and show hospitality to that Spirit who gives you the victory over all enemies by faith (1 John 5:4). . . .

The Spirit’s Sealing

So the second kind of sealing Sibbes wrote about was a process. It was the kind of assurance that could increase gradually throughout our lives by means of singular experiences and by daily, spiritual growth. This sealing had degrees; it could grow with spiritual maturity. Sibbes wrote: “The Spirit sealeth by degrees. As our care of pleasing the Spirit increaseth so our comfort increaseth. Our light will increase as the morning light unto the perfect day. Yielding to the Spirit in one holy motion will cause him to lead us to another, and so on forwards, until we be more deeply acquainted with the whole counsel of God concerning our salvation.” . . .

Would you be comforted and quieted in your soul? Labor to entertain the Spirit. Give room to His motions in your soul, remembering as Sibbes concluded, “The soul without the Spirit is darkness and confusion, full of self-accusing and self-tormenting thoughts. If we let the Spirit come in, [he] will scatter all and settle the soul in a sweet quiet. . . .

Grieving the Spirit

At such times we grieve the Spirit, Sibbes said in A Fountain Sealed. Sibbes cried, “What greater indignity can we offer to the Holy Spirit than to prefer base dust before his motions leading us to holiness and happiness. What greater unkindness, yea, treachery to leave directions of a friend to follow the counsel of an enemy; such as when we know God’s will, yet will consent with flesh and blood in leaving a true guide and following a pirate.” . . . 

Sibbes offered still more ways in which we grieve the Spirit. He wrote, “We commonly grieve the Spirit of God when the mind is troubled with a multitude of busyness; when the soul is like a mill where one cannot hear another; the noise is such as takes away all intercourse.” That is to say, when we fill our lives with things other than spiritual concerns, we bring grief to the blessed Spirit. Activity is not synonymous with spirituality, as popular Christian culture would have us believe. Rather, we are called to humble dependence and meditation upon the Spirit. As Sibbes said, “This grieves the Holy Spirit also when men take the office of the Spirit from him,” that is, when we will do things in our own strength and by our own light. We all too willingly, go about our Christian tasks in our own strength, never realizing that in doing so, we become our own end, and with a theft of God’s honor our activities become meaningless. . . .


Today, the relationship between believers and the Holy Spirit is too often like a bad marriage in which a husband takes advantage of his wife’s contributions but fails to appreciate and celebrate his relationship with her. To reverse this situation, Sibbes advised that we should make a daily effort to appreciate the Holy Spirit, and to share our thoughts and plans with Him in prayer as we gaze by faith into the face of God. We should walk in daily communication with the Spirit, through the Word, relying upon every office the Holy Spirit provides, as described in Scripture. In this way, the blessed Spirit, who speaks not of Himself, but of Christ and the Father, also reveals Himself to the believer, through display of His attributes, as true God, the third Person of the Holy Trinity. As Sibbes wrote: “The Holy Spirit being in us, after he that prepared us for a house for himself to dwell in and to take up his rest and delight in, he doth also become unto us a counselor in all our doubts, a comforter in all our distresses, a solicitor to all duty, a guide in the whole course of life, until we dwell with him forever in heaven, unto which his dwelling here in us doth tend.”

Lord, ever more grant us to entertain Thy Holy Spirit. Sanctify us by Thy Spirit. Indwell us, seal our souls, comfort us, keep us from grieving Thy Spirit. Prepare us for eternal communion with Thee.

You can read the whole thing here:

You can listen to a sermon on this theme here:

About savedbygrace1976

Mark Chanski (author of Manly Dominion; Womanly Dominion; and Encouragement: Adrenaline for the Soul) has labored as a full-time Pastor since 1986 in churches in Ohio and Michigan. He has been Pastor of Harbor Church in Holland, Michigan, since 1994. He has also been elected as Coordinator of the Reformed Baptist Network. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Cornerstone University, and a Master of Divinity degree from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He teaches Hermeneutics for the Reformed Baptist Seminary in Sacramento, CA. Mark is married to his wife Dianne, and has fathered their four sons and one daughter, whose ages stretch from 36 to 26 (born 1983 to 1994).
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