Here are my notes for the fourth session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my small 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.
The first step in reversing the neglect of the Holy Spirit is to desire to see him at work in us. So ask, “Why do you want him?” We can’t assume our hearts are right in our motivation. Why does it matter?
1. What are a few possible motivations for desiring the Holy Spirit?
2. Can you detect any of these in your heart?
Read Acts 8:9-24
3. It appears that Simon was intrigued by the power of the Holy Spirit. Why did he want the Spirit?
4. What would Simon’s motivation look like if it were transferred into the American church today?
5. Have you seen examples of this?
Peter calls Simon’s motivation into question. Seeing the Spirit working is one thing, but your heart must be in the right place. What is the purpose of the Spirit working in a believer’s life?
- The Spirit works to glorify God (John 16:14)
- We work to glorify God (Matthew 5:16)
6. When was the last time you saw someone do something amazing, yet received all the glory for himself?
7. When was the last time you saw someone do something amazing, yet all the glory went to God?
- Jesus was very clear that their mission could not be accomplished on their own, they needed the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2)
- We fixate on flashy manifestations of the Spirit, but when a proud person exhibits humility, is this any less supernatural?
8. What are some less glamorous ways the Holy Spirit’s power can be manifested in a person’s life.
9. Why are these expressions just as powerful?
10. Another trap we can fall into: we could be trying to lead the Spirit. We start with our dreams & desires then ask the Holy Spirit to accomplish our plans.
11. Practically, what does it look like to be led by the Spirit rather than trying to lead the Spirit for your purposes?
12. What is the right reason for desiring the Spirit?
- 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, it is for the common good.
- 1 Corinthians 12:31, there is a more excellent way: love people placed in our lives.
If we are open to the Spirit’s working in our lives, we must first let go of things that keep us from close fellowship with him.
Having the Spirit is not about being everything you want to be, but about God working through you to help people around you grow.
If the proper motivation for desiring the Spirit is love, ask yourself how much you love the people around you. Francis Chan challenged us in the room to speak the truth in love, and recognized how difficult this is for people to do this…
- Are you willing and humble to do this for someone else?
- Are you willing and humble enough to receive this from others?
Quotes from The Forgotten God book:
- Recently, a man dying of cancer asked the church elders to anoint him with oil and pray for his healing. Before we prayed, however, I asked the man a question I don’t normally ask: “Why do you want to be healed? Why do you want to stay on this earth?” The man, as well as everyone else around, seemed a bit surprised that I would ask such a blunt question. The reason I probed like this is because in the epistle of James, we are reminded that we often don’t receive the answers to our prayers because we ask for the wrong reasons: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). Our desire to live should be for the sake and glory of the God who put us on this earth in the first place.
- Right now I want you to take a break from reading and spend some time asking yourself why you want the Holy Spirit. Is it for power? Is it for your own betterment and purposes? Or is it because you want to experience all that God has for you? Is it because you love the church and desire to be a better servant to your sisters and brothers?
- First Corinthians 12 tells us that each follower of Christ is given a “manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). As we’ve seen, these manifestations, or gifts, are “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). So these reflections of the Spirit’s presence and activity in us have nothing to do with our natural abilities, and we have not received them because we have earned or somehow deserve them. Since these gifts come according to God’s will and not ours, it should be clear that they should not be used for our own boasting or entertainment.
- The Holy Spirit has given you a supernatural ability to serve the people God has placed around you. If God cares enough about His church to give you this Spirit-empowered ability, shouldn’t you care enough about the church to use that gift for the same purpose?
- The Holy Spirit works to glorify Christ (John 16:14), yet so many who emphasize the Holy Spirit seem to draw attention to themselves. The Corinthian church was notorious for this.
- I have yet to meet someone who wouldn’t want to see a miracle. My concern is that I’ve met many people whose pursuit of miracles is greater than their pursuit of God. A lot of people want to talk about supernatural things like miracles, healing, or prophecy. But focusing inordinately on these things quickly becomes misguided. God calls us to pursue Him, not what He might do for us or even in our midst.
- It used to be that if I had a great worship experience, I asked God to duplicate it the next time I came to worship. Like the kid impressed by a silly magic trick, I would pray, “Do it again!” One thing I’ve learned about God over the years, however, is that He rarely “does it again.” He’s the Creator, which means that He is (among other things) creative.
- The Spirit is not a passive power that we can wield as we choose. The Spirit is God, a Being who requires that we submit ourselves to be led by Him. Do you really want to be led? Even people who are natural leaders don’t get to lead the Spirit. Everyone is called to be led by Him.
- What if He asks you to give up something you’re not ready to give up? What if He leads you where you don’t want to go? What if he tells you to change jobs? To move? Are you willing to surrender to Him, no matter where He wants to take you? Am I?
- The fact is that God is calling. The Spirit is beckoning. The real question is will you follow? Will you listen? I know I prefer a multiple-choice option for what God is asking me to do. That way, if I don’t like A or B, there are always options C and D. Sometimes, of course, this is exactly how the Spirit leads us. There can be two equally good choices that God lets us choose between.
- My purpose in these questions is to get you to take 1 Corinthians 12 seriously, to believe that you have been given a manifestation of the Spirit and that your church, the worldwide body of Christ, and the world are crippled without your involvement. I write this because I love the church and want you to trust that you are more than just a helpful addition. You need to believe you are a vital member.
- If you are still alive on this planet, it’s because He has something for you to do. He placed us on this earth for purposes that He orchestrated long before we were born (Ephesians 2:8–10).
- When we submit to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit, He helps us become more holy—more like Jesus. It is a lifelong journey of putting our flesh to death, or as Paul puts it in Galatians 5, of walking by the Spirit and not gratifying the desires of the flesh.
- The phrase crucifying the flesh is not exactly a friendly, appealing group of words. I think this is because God wants us to be clear on what we are getting into. He wants us to know that His gift of the Holy Spirit is really not for our own pleasure or purposes. The Spirit is meant to lead us toward holiness. The Spirit is here with us to accomplish God’s purposes, not ours.
I’ll probably preach on this one day, but I like this simple acrostic on PRIDE.
P – Preoccupied with the opinions of others
R – Refusing wise counsel
I – Ignoring your prayer life
D – Depending on self effort
E – Expecting all the glory
This is lesson four in my class on the words of Jesus. To see the others, click the “notes” tab above and choose the lesson you want to see.
At the Heart of it All Today: Parables, other teaching and the foot washing episode emphasize the role of servanthood in the life of a disciple. Jesus promises eternal rewards to those demonstrating self-denying love for others.
Key Term: Servant; Jesus cast himself in this role and he demands we do the same. In a world were status is everything, Jesus turns the world’s value system upside down.
Key Verse: Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
A Hundredfold Investment: (Matthew 19:27-30)
- The rich young ruler just walked away and Peter responds to Jesus’ statement about rich men entering the kingdom of heaven. There is an obvious contrast since the disciples have given up much to follow Jesus.
- Peter was not really accurate by saying they gave up “all” to follow Jesus; he still owned a house (Mark 1:29) and a boat (Mark 3:9, 4:1), but he is correct that they have given up on a comfortable life with security.
- One’s true family – while it is great loss to leave one’s family, new friends are made along the path of a disciple, ones that share the same values and goals. There is fellowship (koinonia) that at the root means to share a common life.
- Receiving back a hundredfold – not really a material investment but a spiritual one. From a material investment, faith is a poor risk, but from an eternal perspective, all things are possible with this ultimate long-term investment.
- The term palingenesia is translated “new creation,” “new order of things,” “renewal” or “regeneration.” It is only used here in the gospels. Paul used it in Titus 3:5 to refer to the individual believer’s spiritual renewal. So, in the new world, things will be radically different. Those who gave up all in this life will see a radical difference in the next.
- Judging the twelve tribes of Israel – this is quite a shocking statement for the twelve. They will have positions of authority in God’s kingdom, much like the rich young ruler had in this life. No one would have guessed these men where “ruling” material, but Jesus sees potential in people.
The “No Seniority” Story: (Matthew 20:1-16)
- The Old Testament often describes Israel as a vineyard (Matthew 21:33-46, Psalm 80:8, 14, Isaiah 5:1-2, Jeremiah 12:10, John 15:1). Jesus is not nationalistic, but focuses on individuals who make up this new kingdom.
- The land owner is God – calling people to work in the vineyard. The workers from the start of the day expected a day’s wage.
- The eleventh hour – literally “at the last minute; before sunset.” The men were not lazy guys wasting the day; they just had not been hired yet. They wanted a job and the owner was generous with payroll. Those who worked all day were grumbling at his generosity; literally it means, “Is your eye evil because I am good?” Maybe the beginning of the phrase, “give him the evil eye.”
- The target audience – often the Jews since they did not believe the Gentiles were welcome in the kingdom. The grumblers may be similar to the older brother in the Prodigal Son. Jesus is likely warning the disciples they are not privileged characters in the kingdom just because they were called first (Matthew 19:27). Those who follow Jesus should not be so concerned with place, position or rewards. Do we serve God for what we get out of it, or do we serve him because he deserves it and it is the right thing to do?
Not One of Us: (Mark 9:38-40)
- This passage comes immediately after Jesus telling the disciples that striving to be the greatest was wrong, and that service to others was what mattered. John, a part of the inner circle, declaring that this other man was “not one of us” may be an indication that they had an inflated opinion of themselves. After a failed exorcism in Mark 9:14-29, they complain that this power was showing up in someone else; in one not officially a part of the group.
- Tolerance may be the lesson; not like today where beliefs don’t matter, but be willing to accept others who have the same goal. John wanted to narrow the circle while Jesus says it is ok to widen it.
- This is quite similar to Matthew 12:30 (he who is not with me is against me) but Jesus’ meaning is different. One cannot remain neutral toward him; each person must decide to follow or oppose Jesus. In Mark, (whoever is not against us is for us) refers to the disciples being accepting of others who do good work for Christ.
Sisters with a Difference: (Luke 10:38-42)
- This story follows the Good Samaritan, who also put love into action. Perhaps the point in pairing these two stories is that while doing good deeds is commendable, we are not saved by doing good works.
- Martha wanted everything just so, and Jesus gently scolds her. She had too many irons in the fire, and probably was not enjoying Jesus’ visit too much. The “one thing” probably meant “one dish” for a meal, but with a deeper meaning. Martha’s desire to serve was commendable but she could have served one dish to spend more time with the Master.
- Mary at Jesus’ feet – contrast to the rabbis looking down on the intelligence of women. Women had a vital role in the early church.
Duty Above All: (Luke 17:7-10)
- The is a story of a farmer with a worker who serves I the field and in the house, too. At the end of the work day, he cannot just sit down and have dinner, there is inside work to be done, he is still on duty and cannot expect to be thanked for doing his duty. A human master can make demands, and so can God.
- This can be directed at people who take pride in their accomplishments for the Lord. When Christ-followers lead a godly life or do good works, they are not going above and beyond the call of duty, but rather this is what is expected on earth and we should not expect praise.
- This is in the face of the Pharisees, who had a system of rewards and merit, which Jesus discounts. There is no call to boast in our service of God. We are his servants, not his peers.
- Main theme is God’s grace – when a disciple has done all he can for the kingdom, he has no right to expect salvation, but only accept it as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:27, 11:35).
The Lowest Form of Service: (John 13:4-8, 13-16)
- A clear and straightforward story but also not understood by the disciples at the time. In those days there were no facilities to take full baths every day, so they did what I call, “a bird bath.” Attention was given to the exposed parts, which was the task of a slave; a humiliating work for the lowest of slaves. Here, doing this act was one of love and devotion.
- This undignified act was setting the disciples up for an even more humiliating and undignified event, the crucifixion.
- Wash feet or have no part of me – “part” is literally “inheritance” or “heritage” which may indicate Peter would not share in the joys of heaven. Peter reacts to the foot-washing in the same way he objected to the prediction of Jesus’ suffering. Jesus knew that suffering and humiliation are the roads to glory.
- Roles are reversed in this scene. To accept this is to embrace a new order where humility is honored over vanity and pride. The twelve had been arguing about who had precedence. Jesus emphasized that greatness consisted of servitude.
- Key point often overlooked – Jesus does this act of service and love for people who would in the matter of hours desert him and run away; being a devoted servant to those who will prove to be disloyal. Also, Judas was present; can it be that this was an act of forgiveness, and him telling them to “do likewise” was a reference to the disciples forgiving Judas because it is what he had to do to fulfill prophecy?
A New Commandment: (John 13:34-35)
- Jesus may be gone soon, but the love he has shown them will live on. They already had a few commandments like loving their neighbor as themselves (Leviticus 19:18), now they are to love others as Jesus loves them. This love will be distinctive of a Christ follower.
- This command must have made a deep impact on John, since he writes about it in his gospel and returns to the theme in his letters (1 John 3:11, 16, 4:19, 2 John 1:5).
Disowning the Master: (Matthew 10:32-33)
- There is a picture of a believer being dragged into court to testify of his devotion to Jesus, but the image is wider to any word or deed where one denies their faith. He is addressing lukewarm believers, those who are half-hearted. Pharisees love the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43). Paul was not ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16) and encourages Timothy to not disown Christ (2 Timothy 2:12).
- Disowning Jesus is not so words of denial, but of missed opportunities, not speaking up when the situation calls for it. Actions may deny him as well, hypocrisy is an appropriate term. We would not be studying the Bible of following Jesus if it was not for those in the first century who stood up of their faith.
Forgetting Everything but God: (Matthew 10:38-39)
- The ultimate paradox: to possess life we must give it up. Some men would commit sin to keep on living (situation ethics). This phrase of Jesus might be a reference to Leviticus 18:5, “Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.” Like, God wants you to live, so sinning in order to keep on living is not wrong. Losing earthly life was not the worse thing that could happen.
- Too many jewelry crosses around the necks of those who don’t stand for Christ (Madonna, anyone?). In New Testament times, people did not need gold crosses, they saw real ones every day. It was a barbarous form of execution used on slaves and rebels. So, the believer might not only die a martyr’s death, but die with the lowest form of execution possible.
- Today we are to deny self, use self-discipline, and live for Christ more than ourselves (Galatians 2:20).
A Cup of Cold Water: (Matthew 10:40-42)
- Jesus words of the cross are balanced with a promise of reward. He is speaking to the disciples, the ambassadors for the faith, similar to 2 Corinthians 5:20 (see Ephesians 6:19).
- This water symbolized hospitality. While the world would harass, harm and kill people of faith, there are those who will stand up and offer kindness. Each act of compassion makes a difference. God will not forget your work of helping his people (Hebrews 6:10) and whatever you do for the least of these, you do it for Christ (Matthew 25:40).