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.
The following is another lesson from my Sunday morning Bible study, covering about four weeks!
In James 2, he discusses the subjects of godless favoritism and godly faith. Immature people talk about their faith; mature people practice their faith. James gives the simplest of tests to see if one is mature or immature: the way we treat other people really indicates what we believe about God. A man can’t say he loves God and yet hate his brother (1 John 4:20).
Let’s take an overview of what we find about favoritism:
- The Command Against Favoritism (James 2:1-8)
- The Examples (James 2:1-4): His readers are guilty of the following sins:
- Treating rich visitors with great respect (James 2:1-2a, 3a)
- Treating poor visitors with no respect (James 2:2b, 3b-4)
- The Enigma (James 2:5-7): James cannot understand this, for often it was the rich who persecuted them and ridiculed their Savior.
- The Exhortation (James 2:8): James says, “Obey our Lord’s royal command found in the Scriptures.”
- The Examples (James 2:1-4): His readers are guilty of the following sins:
- The Consequences of Favoritism (James 2:9-13)
- To break this law is to break all laws (James 2:9-12).
- To show no mercy is to receive no mercy (James 2:13).
Here is the meat of the four lessons. In the beginning of James chapter 2, the author examines four basic doctrines in light of the way we treat other people:
The Deity of Christ (James 2:1-4)
- Jesus was not a respecter of persons (Matthew 22:16)
- Jesus did not look at outward appearance, but at the heart.
- Jesus was not impressed with status and riches (Mark 12:41-44)
- Jesus saw potential in sinners (Matthew, Peter, the woman at the well)
- Jesus was a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19)
- Paul was judged by his past (Acts 9:26-28)
- Jesus was despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:1-3)
- Jesus had no home to call his own (Matthew 8:20)
- Jesus grew up in despised Nazareth (John 1:11, 46)
- Jesus was judged by human standards, and rejected by his own people (John 7:24)
- Jesus used Peter, Zaccheus and John Mark in spite of their failures in the past.
- A prescription for us:
- Look at people through the eyes of Jesus.
- Look at people as children for whom Christ died.
- Check our prejudice and motives (James 2:4)
The Grace of God (James 2:5-7) the emphasis is on the fact that God chooses, which involves grace. We are his children by his sovereign choice, not our merit. No one deserves salvation (Ephesians 1:4-7, 2:8-10).
- God ignores national differences
- Peter at the home of Cornelius (Acts 10:34)
- Must one become a Jew before becoming a Christian? (Acts 15)
- No distinction between Jew or Greek (Galatians 3:28)
- No condemnation for those in Christ (Romans 2:6-16)
- God ignores social differences
- Masters and slaves, rich and poor all equal to God (Ephesians 6:9)
- Who makes one poor or rich? (1 Samuel 2:7-8)
- God chooses the poor (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)
- Poor in this world and rich in the next (1 Timothy 6:17-18). God promises the kingdom to those who love him
- James slams the people (a stern rebuke) in James 2:6-7.
- The doctrine of grace forces us to relate to people based on God’s plan and not the basis of human merit or status. Jesus broke down the dividing wall (Ephesians 2:11-22) between Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, male and female, educated and ignorant, young and old, black and white.
The Word of God (James 2:8-11) James reaches back into the Old Testament laws (Leviticus 19:18), and teaches a lesson like what we find in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
- Why is love of neighbor called the royal law?
- Love affirms that we are his disciples (John 13:34): true believers are taught to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9).
- Love rules all other laws: love is fulfilling the law (Romans 13:10). Who needs other laws if we would only love one another?
- Obeying out of love makes you a king: since hatred makes one a slave, love sets one free from selfishness and enables us to reign like kings.
- Take any of the Ten Commandments and you will find ways to break it when you respect a person’s position or status. For example:
- It makes you lie to some people.
- It leads to idolatry, lifting some people up.
- It even leads to mistreatment of parents.
- Christian love does not mean I have to like the other person, or agree with him on everything; but treating that person as God would treat them, and the way God has treated me.
- It is an act of my will.
- The motive is to glorify God.
- Christian love does not leave a person where I find him: love helps people to reach higher and go better, helping the poor, love builds up others.
- We only believe as much of the Bible that we practice. If we fail in this most basic challenge, then we will not do other lesser matters of the Word. Let’s not be like the Pharisees and careful about lesser matters and careless about the important foundational stuff (Matthew 23:23).
The Judgment of God (James 2:12-13) believers will not be judged for our sins (John 5:24, Romans 8:1) but our works will be judged (Romans 14:10-13, 2 Corinthians 5:9-10).
- Our words will be judged
- The two visitors mentioned in James 2:3.
- Careless words (Matthew 12:36).
- Words from the heart (Matthew 12:34-37).
- The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-26, 33-37, 7:1-5, 21-23).
- Our deeds will be judged
- Additional insight (Colossians 3:22-25).
- Sins are not held against us (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 10:17).
- But our sins affect our character and works.
- Our attitudes will be judged (James 2:13)
- Contrasts: showing mercy, showing no mercy.
- The lie: that we can earn mercy by showing mercy.
- The law of liberty (obedience sets us free).
- We are able to walk in liberty (Psalm 119:45)
- The law prepares us for liberty: a child under rules is not mature enough to handle himself. He received outward discipline until the time he develops inward discipline.
- Liberty is not a license to do whatever you want, but the freedom to become who we are meant to be in Christ.
This is just the first half of James 2; next time we will dissect various types of faith.
The first step after knowing God’s will is to discover our motivation for doing God’s will. Much of this outline comes from Thomas Merton’s classic, No Man is an Island, and then I have elaborated on his thoughts. *
- I have an instinct that tells me that I am less free when I am living for myself. Living for self is really a basic natural function. In a way, living for my self is not freedom, because I am a slave to the old selfish nature.
- My freedom is only freedom when it is brought into the right relation with the freedom of others. This is the essence of community, all members exercising freedom of self-sacrifice on behalf of others. If one fails to be in relation to others, we are not able to exercise the freedom to choose to follow a cause higher than our own natural instincts.
- I don’t find in myself the power to be happy merely by doing what I like. There is joy in being in relationship with others and seeking to look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).
- To give my freedom blindly to an equal or inferior is to degrade myself and throw away my freedom, I can only become perfectly free by serving the will of God. God calls us to a higher purpose, which adds meaning to our existence. Serving ourselves is not freedom because it is evidence that we are slaves to instinct.
- Obedience to man has no meaning unless it is primarily obedience to God. As believers, we do all as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:17, 1 Corinthians 10:31). As we understand the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) we are to first love God and then love others.
- Conscience is the soul of freedom.
- A rational being who does not know what to do with himself finds the tedium of life unbearable. He is literally bored to death. Life outside of a relationship with Christ brings no purpose of higher meaning. Life is hard, and if there is no call toward a higher life, there is hopelessness and despair.
- I cannot make good choices unless I develop a mature conscience that gives me an accurate account of my motives, my intentions and my moral acts. It is not enough to just do the right stuff or believe the right stuff; the motivation behind our actions is of great interest to God and our true selves.
- We must have right purposes: conscience is the light by which we interpret the will of God in our own lives.
- Our happiness consists in doing the will of God. It makes sense that if we resists the will of God and we know it, we find ourselves feeling guilty that we knowingly disobeyed God’s will.
- The essence of this happiness does not lie in the agreement of wills, it consists in union with God.
- The union of wills which makes us happy in God must ultimately be something deeper than just an agreement. We must develop conviction.
- God’s will is more than a concept–it is a reality, a secret power which is given to us, from moment to moment to be the life of our life.
- It is not an abstraction.
- It is not a static center drawing our souls blindly to it
- We find ourselves in relationship with the Creator and His purpose and desire transcends our being.
- The will of God is the movement of His love and wisdom ordering and governing all free and necessary agents.
- Ponder this: Shall I be content to do God’s will for my own advantage? This is the essence of being obedient because of what I get out of it.
- Our intentions are pure when we identify our advantage with God’s glory. Receiving a blessing for obedience is different from doing something expecting a blessing.
- In order to make our intentions pure, we do not give up the idea of seeking our own good, we simply seek it where it can be found–in a good that is beyond ourselves.
- Question: what is an impure intention?
- One that yields to the will of God while retaining a preference for my own will. I still do this out of selfishness.
- This drives my will from His will, since I am not losing myself in the pure intention of following God alone because He deserves it and it is the right thing to do.
- It doubts in theory that God wills that which is generally best for me. Do we really believe that all God asks and wills is for my best interest? If we doubt it, we are not able to act on God’s will without reservation.
- To this man, the will of God becomes rich when it is pleasing to him, poorer when it offers less immediate satisfaction.
- Question: who is this man of impure intentions?
- Is hesitant and blind.
- Is always caught between two conflicting wills.
- Cannot make simple and clear-cut decisions.
- Has twice as much to think about: worrying about God’s will and his own at the same time.
- Is deceiving himself.
- Blinded by his own selfishness.
- Plunged into a confusion of doubtful choices, endless possibilities.
- Sanctity consists not in merely doing God’s will, but in willing God’s will. Obedience without pure intention is not attractive.
- It is not always necessary to find out what God’s will is in order to do it. Often times we know what His will is, the question is whether we embrace His will over our own.
- But if we are to will what He wills, we must begin to know something about what He wills. Study of God’s Word is helpful.
- How can I find out what is the will of God for my life?
- Before He wills me to do anything, He first wills me to be. This is a key concept in having a dynamic relationship with Christ. We are to be with him (Mark 3:14) before we are to do things for Him.
- What I do depends upon what I am (gifts of the Spirit).
- It is His will that we not only live as rational beings, but as new men regenerated by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).
- Seek Him where He is to be found: His Church, His Word (john 14:26).
- When we speak of God’s will, usually we are speaking of some recognizable sign of His will.
- It is one thing to see a sign, it is another to interpret it correctly.
- The vision of the prophets: being alive to the divine light concealed in things and events, they saw glimpses of the light where other men saw nothing but ordinary happenings.
- Signs show us the road, but only a few paces, as a lamp lights only the steps in front of our feet.
- If I am to know God’s will, I must have the right attitude toward life, to know what my life is and to know the purpose for my existence. Many people are simply clueless about the purpose of life and the mission of God in the world.
- His will for me points to one thing: the realization, discovery and fulfillment of my true self in Christ (in order to save my life I must lose it, Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24).
- I cannot work out God’s will for my life unless I am consciously helping other men find God’s will in theirs. Here again is the idea of community.
- His will is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3), our transformation in Christ (Romans 12:2), our deeper integration with other men (Hebrews 10:25).
- The book is called, No Man is an Island: we need others that God has also regenerated.
- Remember: we must will the will of God, not simply do it. This is a lot of work, it is easier to just do something than it is to make such an effort to be something or to will something.
- So, we must know what it is that He wills.
- We must will His will because we love it.
- It is better to say “no” and then go, than to say “yes” and not obey (Matthew 21:28-31, which did the will of his father?).
- Right vs. simple intention.
- Right intention is pure: attention is placed upon the work to be done, then we rest in the accomplishment and hope in reward.
- Simple intention: we are less occupied with the thing to be done, we are more aware of the One who works in us.
- The man of simple intention works in the atmosphere of prayer.
- Simple intention is a rare gift from God.
- Rare because it is poor.
- It seeks nothing but the supreme poverty of having nothing but God.
- With right intention, you risk losing the fruit of your work.
- With simple intention, you renounce the fruit before you begin and you don’t expect it.
* Thomas Merton was a contemplative monk, who on December 10th, 1941 entered the Abbey of Gethsemani, a community of monks belonging to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists), the most ascetic Roman Catholic monastic order. While on a trip to a monastic East-West dialogue conference in Thailand, Merton died in Bangkok on December 10, 1968, the victim of an accidental electrocution. The date marked the twenty-seventh anniversary of his entrance to Gethsemani. The monastery is located near Bardstown Kentucky, not far from Louisville, where I went to seminary.
I love the stories found in the book of Nehemiah. He was a brilliant example of leadership, devotion, prayer and faith. In the midst of difficult times he was able to motivate people in the direction that led to peace, strength and security. After inspecting the situation and seeing the city of Jerusalem in ruins, Nehemiah addressed the people:
But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” (Nehemiah 2:17)
Did you notice the words we and us in this verse? In order to motivate the people of Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, Nehemiah had to personally identify with their problem, their need, and their future. It was no longer their problem; Nehemiah saw the broken wall as our problem. Imagine the kind of response Nehemiah would have received if he had said, “You folks have gotten yourselves into a bad mess. You know what you need to do? You need to rebuild that wall. If you need me, I’ll be in my office. After all, I wasn’t part of the problem. You people will have to get busy and do the work. Let me know how it turns out.”
Identifying with the problem encourages motivation.
When Lee Iacocca became chairman and CEO of Chrysler at the height of the auto giant’s problems in 1979, he knew he would have to ask employees to take a pay cut to keep the company out of bankruptcy. Although he persuaded Congress to guarantee the company loans, he was still deeply distrusted by Chrysler’s union members. He knew that he had to find a way to persuade these workers that he had Chrysler’s best interests at heart.
Iacocca called a meeting of key management and union executives. He announced that for the next year his salary would be $1. The plan worked. By sacrificing his own salary, Iacocca proved that he placed the welfare of the company over personal gain. He identified with the workers. He was saying, “We are in this together, and together we can make it through.” He knew that people will accept a lot of pain when everybody is going through the trial together. If the followers know that the leader is in with them, together they can move a mountain or, in Nehemiah’s case, rebuild a wall.
So Nehemiah did it right. Did you know the meaning of his name? Nehemiah means, “Yah (or God) comforts or encourages.” I see that the best leaders are not the ones who tell others what they need to do for the leader, but are able to inspire others to get done what is best for the people.
Not everyone was happy. Trouble arose from without and from within. Sanballat and his friends tried to stop the work, but without success (Nehemiah 4:1, 2, 7, 8, 16, 17, 20). Trouble from within was economic. Building the walls caused a labor shortage; farms were mortgaged, and high rates of interest were charged (Nehemiah 5:2, 3, 4, 5). Nehemiah said, “The thing you are doing is not good” (Nehemiah 5:9). He corrected the problem and even gave financial aid to those in need (Nehemiah 5:10, 11, 12, 1518, 19). Again Sanballat and other non-Jews made several attempts to lure Nehemiah away from the job and shut it down, but they failed (Nehemiah 6:2, 5, 6, 8, 10, 14). Nehemiah proved to be a person of strong will and unusual boldness. “So the wall was finished… in fifty and two days” (Nehemiah 6:15).
Application: In what ways can you identify with the people you lead? How can you say to them, “We are in this together?” Have you come to terms that not everyone will be happy and excited about your leadership? But notice that Nehemiah remained connected to God in the midst of trouble (Nehemiah 1:5-7, 8-11, 2:4, 4:4-5, 9, 15, 6:9, 12). He was a man of prayer and faith. The Christian life is to be shared, all of us are in this together. Leaders and followers are in this together. That is what the Bible calls koinonia, which is fellowship, or sharing a common life.
I like the model of leadership that Ken Blanchard has promoted all over the country, the Lead Like Jesus model, he says, “Great leaders lead like Jesus.” The essence of this style of leadership is servanthood; we are to be servant-leaders. I will be leading a small group on this in the spring of 2011.
Leadership is an influence process – any time you influence the thinking, behavior or development of another person, you are demonstrating leadership behavior. So if you are a parent, CEO, pastor, Sunday School leader, electrician, accountant, then you are a leader and following the greatest leadership role model only makes sense. We should desire to be a Jesus-like leader, where God is glorified, people are served, and organizations are more effective in impacting the world for the Kingdom of God.
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