Who Needs the Spirit?

Here are my notes for the first session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

Our western mindset: we tend to assume that God won’t work supernaturally in our lives. We read some crazy stuff in the book of Acts but we don’t expect the supernatural.

In John 14:16, Jesus promised “another” counselor to be with them. This is not another of a different kind, but another of the same kind! Jesus says the Spirit would be like him!

When we are honest, we would prefer a real and physical Jesus we can see and touch over an invisible Spirit… but Jesus said it is BETTER that he go away and his followers have the Holy Spirit.

We don’t value the Holy Spirit or his importance in the Christian’s life:

  • John 6:63
  • John 16:7
  • Romans 8:9
  • Romans 8:11

How have we missed this? How have we come to except our experience of the Christian life as normal?

In general, how did you learn your theology, that which you believe about Christianity? What process do you follow in forming your beliefs? MANY people get their knowledge of God and theology from people we know; pastors, teachers, friends, parents, rather than from our only source of faith and practice, the Bible. One problem with the American church is that we are full of believers who possess a second-hand faith who have never discovered on their own who God is or received personal inspiration from his Word. God help us develop a first-hand faith.

1. Take a moment and list your beliefs about the Holy Spirit?

2. Are these beliefs shaped more by Scripture or what you have come to see as the normal Christian life?

3. What the Holy Spirit does in a person’s life: Acts 1:4-8, Acts 2:1-13, Acts 4:31, Romans 8:1-17, Romans 8:26-27, Romans 15:13, 1 Corinthians 2:12-14, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, Galatians 4:4-7, Galatians 5:16-25, Ephesians 1:13-14, Ephesians 3:14-16, 1 John 4:13.

(You may download my Holy Spirit Scriptures document HERE.) The bottom line, does the Holy Spirit make a difference in our lives?

4. What would you expect to observe as the Holy Spirit entered a person’s life? The fact is that when you get outside the church walls, you can’t tell believers from non-believers. When they see no difference, they question our integrity, our sanity, or even worse, our God.

5. Why do you think that everyday life does not match these biblical descriptions?

6. According to Galatians 5:16-25, what does it look like to walk by the Spirit?

7. What would distinguish a Spirit-filled person from a non-Christian?

8. Every day, people try to live the Spirit-filled life without the Spirit. What good can we do in merely human effort?

9. How should supernatural results differ from what we can accomplish on our own?

10. It’s not about you. What practical ways can the Spirit work through you to bless people around you?

It is impossible for finite humans to fully know God, in fact, we don’t need more cerebral knowledge but experiential knowledge. We can never go back, only forward, seeking what it means to live faithfully in the time and culture where God has placed us.

Caterpillar Confusion: Life Transformation (a parable of our new life in Christ)…

Have you ever wondered what caterpillars think about? Just imagine what a caterpillar experiences. For all its life it crawls around on a small patch of dirt and up and down a few plants. Then one day it takes a nap. A long nap. Then, what in the world must go through its head when it wakes up to discover it can fly? What happened to its dirty, plump little worm body? What does it think when it sees its tiny new body with gorgeous wings?

Francis Chan quotes from The Forgotten God:

  • If you are still alive on this planet, it’s because He has something for you to do.
  • God calls us to pursue Him, not what He might do FOR us or even IN our midst.
  • When we are at our wits’ end for an answer, then the Holy Spirit can give us an answer. But how can He give us an answer when we are still well supplied with all sorts of answers of our own? – Karl Barth
  • Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the “Helper” or “Comforter.” Let me ask you a simple question: Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable?
  • Our lack of intimacy (with God) often is due to our refusal to unplug and shut off communication from all others so we can be alone with Him.
  • A lot of people in churches have added Jesus to their lives. People who have, in a sense, asked Him to join them on their life journey, to follow them wherever they feel they should go, rather than following Him as we are commanded. The God of the universe is not something we can just add to our lives and keep on as we did before. The Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is not someone we can just call on when we want a little extra power in our lives. Jesus Christ did not die in order to follow us. He died and rose again so that we could forget everything else and follow Him to the cross, to true Life.
  • Some of you would like it if I said we were going to find a healthy balance between unhealthy extremes. That’s not what we’re going to do. When we are referring to God, balance is a huge mistake. God is not just one thing we add to the mix called life. He wants an invitation from us to permeate everything and every part of us.
  • And perhaps the core issue is really about our holding back from giving ourselves to God, rather than our getting “too much” of Him. Perhaps when a person says, “I’d just like a little God, thank you very much,” she or he is really saying, “I’d rather not give the parts of my life that I really care about over to God, so I’ll just hold on to this, that, oh, and that, too….” It doesn’t work that way. When I read Scripture, I see the truth and necessity of a life wholly surrendered to and dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
  • Most of us assume that what we believe is right but have never really studied for ourselves.
  • When those outside the church see no difference in our lives, they begin to question our integrity, our sanity, or even worse, our God.
  • Thousands of years later, I think most of us would also choose a physical Jesus over an invisible Spirit. But what do we do with the fact that Jesus says it is better for His followers to have the Holy Spirit? Do we believe Him? If so, do our lives reflect that belief?
  • I am tired of living in a way that looks exactly like people who do not have the Holy Spirit of God living in them. I want to consistently live with an awareness of His strength. I want to be different today from what I was yesterday as the fruit of the Spirit becomes more manifest in me.

Are you tired of living in a way that looks exactly like people without the Spirit? Let’s live in the awareness of his strength, and grow…

Pray for humility to be open to what the Spirit want to teach you, even if you have overlooked the obvious.

Portrait of the Lukewarm

I’ve been reading Crazy Love, by Francis Chan, which is simply one of the “must read” books on my list. I see so often men just limping along in their spiritual lives, with no power, determination, passion or calling to rise up to what God wants them to be. What would it look like for men to be totally sold out to Christ, and actually take his commands seriously?

Chan gives a portrait of what a lukewarm person looks like, so I will only mention the points, but for his commentary, please buy his book.

He challenges us as we look at the parable of the sower, that if we are believers in Christ, DO NOT assume that you are the good soil. How often do we allow the worries, cares and distractions of the world change our course and effectively choke out the life that is in us? I suspect that most American Christians may be what Jesus called, “thorny ground.”

Where do we read about lukewarm people? In the Revelation of John.

‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,” (Revelation 3:15-17)

So here is Francis Chan’s profile of the lukewarm:

  1. Lukewarm people attend church fairly regularly, doing what is expected of them since “good Christians” go to church, so they go (Isaiah 29:13)
  2. Lukewarm people give money to charity and the church, out of their extra,  as long as it doesn’t impede their lifestyle (1 Chronicles 21:24, Luke 21:1-4)
  3. Lukewarm people choose what is popular over that which is right, they want to fit in and are concerned what people think about them (Luke 6:26, Revelation 3:1, Matthew 23:5-7)
  4. Lukewarm people don’t really want to be saved from their sin, they want to be saved from the penalty of their sin, and are not convinced that the new life Jesus offers is better than the old sinful life (John 10:10, Romans 6:1-2)
  5. Lukewarm people are moved by stories of people who do radical things for God, yet they do not act; they belief that behavior is for extreme Christians (James 1:22, 4:17, Matthew 21:28-31)
  6. Lukewarm people rarely share their faith, they don’t want to be rejected or uncomfortable by talking about private religion (Matthew 10:32-33)
  7. Lukewarm people gauge their morality or goodness by comparing themselves to the secular world, I’m not as bad as so-and-so (Luke 18:11-12)
  8. Lukewarm people say they love Jesus, but he is only a part of their lives, sections, but not control of their lives (Luke 9:57-62)
  9. Lukewarm people love God, but not with their whole heart, mind, soul and strength; total devotion is reserved for pastor type people and radicals (Matthew 22:37-38)
  10. Lukewarm people love others, but do not seek to love others as much as themselves, loving those who love them in return (Matthew 5:43-47, Luke 14:12-14)
  11. Lukewarm people will serve God and others, but there are limits to the amounts of time, money and energy they give (Luke 18:21-25)
  12. Lukewarm people think more about life on earth than eternity in heaven (Philippians 3:18-20, Colossians 3:2)
  13. Lukewarm people are thankful for their comforts and give little to help the poor (Matthew 25:34, 40, Isaiah 58:6-7)
  14. Lukewarm people do whatever is necessary from feeling too guilty, they like “good enough” (1 Chronicles 29:14, Matthew 13:44-46)
  15. Lukewarm people are concerned with playing it safe, slaves to the god of control (1 Timothy 6:17-18, Matthew 10:28)
  16. Lukewarm people feel secure because they attend church, professed faith at age 12, vote Republican, or live in America (Matthew 7:21, Amos 6:1)
  17. Lukewarm people do not live by faith, their lives are structured so they don’t have to (Luke 12:16-21, see also Hebrews 11)
  18. Lukewarm people think and swear less than the average person, besides that their lives are not much different than typical unbelievers (Matthew 23:25-28)

The challenge is to count the cost of following Jesus (Luke 9:23), and take a self-evaluation inventory of where you are with Christ (Luke 14:31-33, 34-35)

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