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A while ago we reviewed a book called "The Forgotten God" by Francis Chan on the subject of the Holy Spirit. Recently I picked up the book to check it out myself and it is challenging me in many ways so I thought I would challenge you with some of his thoughts. How often do you think about the Holy Spirit? I interned with Campus Crusade for Christ, a group who considers the Holy Spirit and living a "Spirit-filled life" essential to the Christian walk. Yet it is something I don't consider nearly enough.
I am currently attending a church plant here in Orlando. I have been a part of young churches before, some great, some not so great. I was challenged by Chan's thoughts on churches; "Even our church growth can happen without Him. Let's be honest: If you combine a charismatic speaker, a talented worship band, and some hip, creative events, people will attend your church. Yet this does not mean that the Holy Spirit of God is actively working and moving in the lives of the people who are coming." How challenging is that when thinking about why we even attend church? Do we go for the speaker and band or do we seek out where the Holy Spirit is moving and active?
Chan gets more personal later, challenging a common view that I am guilty of, the need to "cover for God." He highlights that many people have the fear that, "What if I pray for the Holy Spirit and nothing happens? What is I ask for more of the Spirit's fruit in my life and don't see any apparent 'results.'" I know that there have been times in my life that I have prayed for this, for good things, and nothing has happened. That hurts. "It's scary to pray boldly for change or freedom from sin, because if nothing happens, then doesn't that mean God failed?" Chan points towards God's promises; am I truly praying for what God promises or what I want? And what are my motivations, really, when I am praying? For my comfort and convenience or God's glory. "It really comes down to trust. Do you trust God that when He says no or "not in this way" to you, you still believe He is good and doing what is best?"
Just a few paragraphs later, Chan challenges if I even truly want to know what God's will is. If God's will for me is to move to India and live among the untouchables, would I want to do it? Would I be willing? Perhaps, for me, an example a little closer to home... If God wanted me to break up with my girlfriend whom I love very much, would I be willing to listen to His Spirit? Would I want to hear His Spirit tell me that? I want to say yes but there are days when I think, "No God, there is no way you could ask me that, that is an area of my life that is too good to change." And while it is an area of my life that is amazing, I bet Abraham thought the same thing when God asked him to give up Isaac. "The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be. The Holy Spirit of God will mold you into the person you were made to be." I dont think that God is telling me to give up my girlfriend, but the question is would I be willing if He was?
One of the challenges that I have felt as I have read this is why I want to experience the Holy Spirit working in my life. Chan asks "Do you want to experience more of the Holy Spirit merely for your own benefit? When the answer is yes, then we are no different from Simon the magician, who tried to buy the Holy Spirit's power from the apostles." Right now I am looking for a job and have found myself asking for the Lord's direction in what's next. Yet I am realizing that more often than not, I am doing that to try to get my life in order and not to glorify God with what I do with my life. It is not wrong to want to get my life in order, but when that is the end, well, it's not a good thing. Why do you want to experience the Holy Spirit? "The Holy Spirit was given to direct us. Desiring the Holy Spirit means that we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. By definition, it's ridiculous to desire the Holy Spirit for our own purposes. The Holy Spirit is not a passive power we can wield as we choose. The Spirit is God."
I am not done with the book but I am thankful for the challenges it is throwing my way. One of the last things I read talked about the reasons we can't hear what God is trying to tell us; the volume of our life drowns Him out. Jesus didn't have email, voicemail, iPod, text, twitter and whatever else yet he still found it necessary to escape to a silent place. "Our lack of intimacy is often due to our refusal to unplug and shut off communication from all others so we can be alone with Him." It is a challenge that I want to learn from and grow in this weekend.