Forgotten God

Reversing our tragic neglect of the Holy Spirit

by Francis Chan with Danae Yakoski, 2009

Good book about how we have ignored the Holy Spirit in our American churches and as a result, it’s become irrelevant and is dying. We’ve become consumers of religion an hour or two a week, looking for the best entertainment. Chapter One: “I’ve Got Jesus. Why do I need the Spirit?” Chapter Two: “What Are You Afraid Of?” Chapter Three: “Theology of the Holy Spirit 101.” Chapter Four: “Why Do You Want Him?” Chapter Five: “A Real Relationship.” Chapter Six: “Forget About His Will for Your Life!” Chapter Seven: “Supernatural Church.”

Here are some quotes:

In the Introduction:

The benchmark of success in church services has become more about attendance than the movement of the Holy Spirit. The “entertainment” model of church was largely adopted in the 1980s and ’90s, and while it alleviated some of our boredom for a couple of hours a week, it filled our churches with self-focused consumers rather than self-sacrificing servants attuned to the Holy Spirit.

If I were Satan and my ultimate goal was to thwart God’s kindgom and purposes, one of my main strategies would be to get churchgoers to ignore the Holy Spirit. The degree to which this has happened (and I would argue that it is a prolific disease in the body of Christ) is directly connected to the dissatisfaction most of us feel with and in the church. We understand something very important is missing. The feeling is so strong that some have run away from the church and God’s Word completely.

I believe that this missing something is actually a missing Someone–namely, the Holy Spirit.

The light of the American church is flickering and nearly extinguished, having largely sold out to the kingdoms and values of this world.

The Holy Spirit is absolutely vital to our situation today. Of course, He is always vital but perhaps especially now. After all, if the Holy Spirit moves, nothing can stop Him. If He doesn’t move, we will not produce genuine fruit–no matter how much effort or money we expend. The church becomes irrelevant when it becomes purely a human creation…

I am tired of merely talking about God. I want to see God move though me, through Cornerstone Church, and through the worldwide body of Christ. I know there’s more. We all know there’s more. That’s why I wrote this book–to explore with you how God has called us to more, through the presence and strength of the Holy Spirit.

I refuse to live the remainder of my life where I am right now, stagnating at this point. Don’t get me wrong: God has already done so much in my life, and I am grateful for it. I’m just convinced there’s more. There’s more of the Spirit and more of God than any of us is experiencing. I want to go there–not just intellectually, but in life, with everything that I am.

As we begin this book, may our desire to experience more of the Holy Spirit be our starting point. And may we open our hearts and lives to His presence and action more fully than we have ever done before. By the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, may we be different people when we finish from when we started.

From Chapter 1: “I’ve Got Jesus. Why do I need the Spirit?”

And this is the question I just can’t get around: If it’s true that the Spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not?

…There is much more to God and following in the Way of Jesus than getting a bunch of talented people together to hold a church service.

Have you ever thought about the significance of having “another” Counselor who is “just like” Christ? Right now, imagine what it would be like to have Christ standing beside you in the flesh, functioning as your personal Counselor. Imagine the peace that would come from knowing you would always receive perfect truth and flawless direction from Him. That sounds amazing, and none of us could deny the benefit of having Jesus here physically, guiding and enabling us every step of the way.

Yet why do we assume that this would be any better than the literal presence of the Holy Spirit? Those of us who believe in Jesus would never deny the truth that we have the Spirit of the living God, the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead, living inside of us. I’m just not convinced we’ve internalized this truth and enjoyed His blessings as He intends. It seems like this is mostly head knowledge to us, and that we have not owned it. It has not really made much of a difference in our lives, to the degree that if we woke up tomorrow and discovered that it is not true the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, most likely our lives wouldn’t look much different.

…Take a moment and ask yourself this question: When was the last time I undeniably saw the Spirit at work in or around me?

…It really is an astounding truth that the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you. He lives in me. I do not know what the Spirit will do or where He’ll lead me each time I invite Him to guide me. But 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.

I want to live so that I am truly submitted to the Spirit’s leading on a daily basis. Christ said it is better for us that the Spirit came, and I want to live like I know that is true. I don’t want to keep crawling when I have the ability to fly.

After Chapter 1, he tells the story of Joni Eareckson Tada who was paralyzed from the neck down at the age of 17 from a diving accident. She wanted to end her life but instead gave it to God and she has done amazing things since then, bringing comfort to others, writing her autobiography, Joni, founding ‘Joni and Friends’ and ‘Wheels for the World.’

In Chapter 2: What Are You Afraid Of? he discusses things like being afraid of what others think of you, and “What If God Doesn’t Come Through?”

…I realize that some of you reading this book have asked the Holy Spirit to do something and have not experienced the results you anticipated. Now you fear asking again because it would weaken your faith if God “fails to act” again. I’ve herd many people question God for not responding when they prayed in faith. I don’t doubt that these people prayed in faith, but the question is whether they prayed for things God has promised. Often, it’s the un-promised requests that God answers with a no.

The flip side of fearing that God won’t show up is fearing that He will. What if God shows up but then asks you to go somewhere or do something that’s uncomfortable.

…The Holy Spirit of God will mold you into the person you were made to be. This often incredibly painful process strips you of selfishness, pride, and fear. For a powerful example of this, read in C. S. Lewis’s book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader about the boy, Eustace, who becomes a dragon. In order to become a little boy again, he must undergo a tremendous amount of pain as the dragon skin is peeled away and torn from him. Only after he endures this painful process is he truly transformed from a dragon back into a boy.

Sometimes the sin we take on becomes such a part of us that it requires this same kind of ripping and tearing to free us. The Holy Spirit does not seek to hurt us, but He does seek to make us Christlike, and this can be painful.

So, if you say you want the Holy Spirit, you must first honestly ask yourself if you want to do His will.

I live in Southern California, where people care more about appearances than most of the rest of the United States combined. If you’ve lived in or even visited So Cal, you know exactly what I mean. Southern California is the land of tanning beds, plastic surgeons, designer boutiques, three-hundred-dollar jeans, nail salons, expensive real estate, excessive shopping, and hot cars…

In much the same way, many believers care too much about appearances.

…As disciples of Jesus, being in relationship with Him must be our focus. When we allow others’ perceptions of us (or even our perceptions of their perceptions!) to control how we live, we are enslaved…

Take some time to consider what fears you have about the Holy Spirit. It may take a while to pinpoint exactly what your attitudes and responses toward the Holy Spirit have been. Don’t hide your fears. Admit them, first to yourself, and then to God (who knows all of them already yet desires to have us share our fears with Him). As you come to Him, be honest about how you fear disappointing people more than quenching His Spirit, or how you Don’t really trust Him to come through on His promises, or whatever else you may be feeling toward Him.

…Allow the Spirit to continue His work of freeing you from unnecessary fear and inhibition or from unrestricted license. Surrender yourself and invite Him truly to dwell within you, whatever that may mean and wherever it may take you.

In Chapter 3: Theology of the Holy Spirit 101:

Know that even as you seek to understand the Spirit more, He is so much more and bigger than you will ever be able to grasp. This is not an excuse to stop seeking to know Him. The point is not to completely understand God but to worship Him. Let the very fact that you cannot know Him fully lead you to praise Him for His infiniteness and grandeur….

Now these are the same disciples who were dedicated to following Jesus no matter what, but who scattered as soon as Jesus was arrested…Yet when the Holy Spirit descended and indwelt them, a radical change occurred. From that point on, none of these disciples was ever the same. The book of Acts is a testament to this fact. We read of Stephen, the first martyr. We see Peter, a changed, courageous man. We see Paul (formerly Saul) go from killing Christ followers to becoming one and showing many others how to do so too. They were no longer timid or confused; they were bold and inspired and began to declare and live the gospel of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit….

First, the Holy Spirit is a Person…

Second, the Holy Spirit is God…

Third, the Holy Spirit is eternal and holy…

Fourth, the Holy Spirit has His own mind, and He prays for us…

Fifth, the Spirit has emotions…

I believe that if we truly cared about the Holy Spirit’s grief, there would be fewer fights, divorces, and splits in our churches. Maybe it’s not due to a lack of belief but rather a lack of concern. I pray for the day when believers care more about the Spirit’s grief than their own. In fact, I pray that some of you readers would be broken over the grief you’ve placed on the Holy Spirit. So broken that you actually put down this book and work to resolve any conflicts you have with other believers…

Sixth, the Holy Spirit has His own desires and will. In 1 Corinthians we read that the gifts of the Spirit are “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (12:11). This is an important reminder of who is in control. Just as we don’t get to choose which gifts we are given, so also we don’t get to choose what God intends for us or for the church. The Spirit has a plan for our lives, for each of us. and He has a plan for the church, including your individual church body and the worldwide body of Christ.

If you are like me, you probably have a plan for your own life, for your church, and maybe even for the larger body of Christ. That’s why we all desperately need to pray, as Christ did, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Seventh, the Holy Spirit is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.

From Chapter 4, Why Do You Want Him?

The Right Reason: …The most obvious and stated purpose of these manifestations [of the Spirit] is for the good and edification of the church. The Spirit desires to use us when our hearts are aligned with this vision, when we are filled with genuine love for the church, and when we desire to see the church grow in love for God and others. On a scale of one to ten, how much do you love the church? As you look around at your brothers and sisters, do you think to yourself, I love these people so much. I pray God empowers me in some way to encourage these people toward a deeper walk with Him?

…When the Holy Spirit truly moves, God is the one praised. Jesus is the one lifted up…

I honestly believe that most of us–while we might say we want to be led by the Spirit–are actually scared of this reality. I know I am. What would it mean? 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?…

We all have to answer the question: Do I want to lead or be led by the Spirit?

In Chapter 5, A Real Relationship:

I was raised in a home where performance was everything. Unconditional love may have existed, but I never saw it…Perhaps you’ve subconsciously taken the failures from sinful human relationships and imposed those shortcomings onto a perfect God. Now uncertainty creeps into even your relationship with God.

It is the Holy Spirit who keeps us from this path and gives us confidence so we can enjoy intimacy with our Creator. Though I do not beliee God gives us His Spirit solely for our personal benefit, it is undeniable that one of the greatest aspects of being in relationship with the Holy Spirit is the intimacy, security, and encouragement He brings us. It is then we can serve God as a beloved child rather than a stressed-out, guilt-ridden slave…

If you have received by faith the promise of the Holy Spirit, you are also His temple. As you drive your children to school. As you go to work every day. As you embark on a new, unknown season. As you go to school. As you face tragedy and pain. As you buy groceries. As you give of yourself in relationships. As you walk the dog. As you make decisions. As you live your life, the Holy Spirit is dwelling in you.

Please don’t let this reality slip past you like an interesting piece of trivia that might catch your attention for a minute but that you’ll never take the time to really investigate. You are a temple of the Holy Spirit. You are not just a person living your life by human power. The Spirit of God is in you; that is why Jesus said it was better for Him to go and the Spirit to come. Don’t walk away from this. Delve into it and let it impact you deeply, first internally and then outwardly…

God said to Israel, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD” (Jer. 29:13-14). When is the last time you sought after God with all your heart? We are not Israel, but God still desires to be sought and found by His people. Ask the Holy Spirit to enable you to set everything else aside right now so that you can seek Him wholeheartedly. Tell God that you want intimacy with Him, no matter what, even if it necessitates suffering on your part. When this relationship with Him is as it should be, there is nothing more satisfying or meaningful.

From Chapter 6, Forget About His Will for Your Life!

How many times have you heard someone say, “I jus wish I knew God’s will for my life”? I know I’ve longed for this before. But now I see it as a misguided way of thinking and talking.

There are very few people in the Scriptures who received their life plan from God in advance (or even their five-year plan, for that matter!). Consider Abraham, who was told to pack up his family and all his possessions and start walking…

God wants us to listen to His Spirit on a daily basis, and even throughout he day, as difficult and stretching moments arise, and in the midst of the mundane. My hope is that instead of searching for “God’s will for my life,” each of us would learn to seek hard after “the Spirit’s leading in my life today.” May we learn to pray for an open and willing heart, to surrender to the Spirit’s leading with that friend, child, spouse, circumstance, or decision in our lives right now…

Nowhere in Scripture do I see a “balanced life with a little bit of God added in” as an ideal for us to emulate. Yet when I look at our churches, this is exactly what I see: a lot of people who 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…

So if a little bit of spirituality added in to our lives is not what God has in mind, what does He want for His children? How does He desire that we live? The fact is we were called by Jesus to give up everything. His call is to come and take up the cross (Luke 9:23).

“Taking up my cross” has become a euphemism for getting through life’s typical burdens with a semi-good attitude. Yet life’s typical burdens–busy scheudles, bills, illness, hard ecisions, paying for college tuition, losing jobs, houses not selling, and the family dog dying–are felt by everyone, whether or not they follow the Way of Jesus.

When Jesus calls us to take up our cross, He is doing much more than calling us to endure the daily, circumstantial troubles of life. The people in Jesus’ day were very familiar with the cross. Having witnessed crucifixion, they understood the commitment and sacrifice of taking up a cross

It is a call to radical faith.

Jesus is calling us to be willing to suffer anything and forsake everything for the sake of the gospel. His call is to love those who have cheated us in business; those who have spread nasty rumors about us; those who would kill us if they could; those who disagree with us politically, practically, and fundamentally. His call is to consider everything a loss for His sake. His call is for total surrender. He calls us to give up all that we have, to give even to the point of offering up our lives as a living sacrifice. His call means realizing that His power is made perfect in our weakness, that when we are weak we are also strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10)…

The crux of it, I believe, is realizing that being filled with the Spirit is not a one-time act…

Christians can’t ever lose the Spirit, but His filling is something we should constantly pursue. This business of sanctification is a lifelong process we are engaged in…

It’s obvious when someone is not walking in the Spirit (at least not consistently). What you see and experience from such a person is usually along the lines of rage, selfishness, dissension, bitterness, and envy. However, when a person is habitually and actively submitted to the Spirit, what comes out of his or her life is the fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will not–cannot–lead you into sin. If the Holy Spirit is in you, as a believer, then when you sin you are not listening to the Spirit’s leading…

Living by the Spirit implies a habitual, continual, and active interaction with the Holy Spirit. While this sounds exhausting, it really isn’t because all of this living and action is done in the power of the Spirit. It is not by your own strength.

This, however, brings up a whole other confusing issue: Is it God’s work or my work? God’s responsibility or mine? Paul addresses this when he writes to the Galations. He calls them out, asking whom they had been bewitched by (quite an accusation!). He asks, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (3:3).

I think each of us has a strong tendency to attempt to wrestle control from the Spirit and “do” this life on our own. Each of us tends to switch from living the gospel of grace to trusting in a system of works…

In the book of Philippians, Paul writes, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (2:12-13). I love the apparent contradiction in this passage. Paul says in one breath, “Work out your own salvation,” and in the next, “It is God who works in you.” The both-ness here doesn’t allow us to escape with a simple conclusion. Yes, it is God who works in you. And, yes, there is work for you to do. Yes, the Spirit empowers you to do the work. And, yes, you do the work.

He tells the story of Dave Phillips who started Children’s Hunger Fund in 1992 out of his garage:

Six weeks after CHF was launched, in January of 1992, he received a phone call from the director of a caner treatment center in Honduras asking if there was any way he could obtain a certain drug for seven children who would die without it. Dave wrote down the name of the drug and told the director that he had no idea how to get this type of drug. They then prayed over the pone and asked God to provide.

As Dave hung up the phone, before he even let go of the receiver, the phone rang again. It was a pharmaceutical company in New Jersey asking Dave if he would have any use for 48,000 vials of that exact drug! Not only did they offer him eight million dollars’ worth of this drug, but they told him they would airlift it to anyplace in the world! Dave would later learn that the company was one of only two that manufactured this particular drug in the United States…

The uniqueness of CHF is that they train and equip volunteers from local churches to distribute the food through home deliveries in the United States and other countries. Going from family to family, they find the poorest of the poor and share not only food but love and the gospel. consistently rates CHF at the top of their list of America’s most cost-effective charities…

…As a close, personal friend of Dave’s, I don’t know that I’ve ever spenttime with him without spending time in prayer.

Dave lives a life we should long for and, incredibly, the kind of life that is offered to us as well. A life in which people know that our accomplishments could not have been attained by our own power. A life that brings glory to God in heaven.

In Chapter 7, Supernatural Church:

There was a time when I got excited over a crowd showing up to hear me preach, but those days are long gone. Now I deeply desire that the Spirit of God would do things that I know are not of me and that cannot be faked or accounted for by human reason.

I don’t believe God wants me (or any of His children) to live in a way that makes sense from the world’s perspective, a way I know I can “manage.” I believe He is calling me–and all of us–to depend on Him for living in a way that cannot be mimicked or forged. He wants us to walk in step with His Spirit rather than depend solely on the raw talent and knowledge He’s given us.

But instead of living this way, we’ve created a whole brand of churches that do not depend on the Spirit, a whole culture of Christians who are not disciples, a new group of “followers” who do not follow…

God is not interested in numbers. He cares most about the faithfulness, not the size, of His bride. He cares about whether people are lovers of Him…Perhaps I can talk people into praying a prayer, but I cannot talk anyone into falling in love with Christ. I cannot make someone understand and accept the gift of grace. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. So by every measure that actually counts, I need the Holy Spirit. Desperately…

You are most likely familiar with the “fruit passage” in Galatians 5, which says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (vv. 22-23 NIV). You may even have the list memorized. But look over those traits right now and ask yourself if you possess each to a supernatural degree. Do you exhibit more kindness and faithfulness than the Mormons you know? Do you have more self-control than your Muslim friends? More peace than Buddhist? More joy than atheists? If GOD truly lives in you, shouldn’t you expect to be different from everyone else?…

Instead of mustering up more willpower, let’s focus our energies and time on asking for help from the One who has the power to change us. Let’s take the time to ask God to put the fruit of His Spirit into our lives. And let’s spend time with the One we want to be more like.

He tells about a former gang member who came to their church, became pretty involved, and then stopped coming. When asked, the former gang member said, ‘”I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I though it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week–we were family.” That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body.’

…Without the Spirit of God in our midst, working in us, guiding us, and living and loving through us, we will never be the kind of people who make up this kind of community. There is no such thing as a real believer who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit, or a real church without the Spirit. It’s just not possible. But what is possible is that we would individually and corporately quench and hinder the Spirit’s activity in and through our lives.

As for me, I am tired of talking about what we are going to do. I am sick of talking about helping people, of brainstorming and conferencing about ways we can be radical and make sacrifices. I don’t want to merely talk anymore. Life is too short. I don’t want to speak about Jesus; I want to know Jesus. I want to be Jesus to people.

A few months ago, the elders at Cornerstone Church began to ask the question “Why don’t we live like the believers who made up the first church?” [Acts 2:42-47]…

From there, we began going to some of our friends in the congregation and expressing our commitment to them. And now this mentality is spreading. New life is permeating the church as individuals back up their words with sacrifice. Cars and homes are being sold or given away. Expensive vacations are joyfully replaced with caring for others. People are being welcomed into others’ homes–not only for meals, but to live. This is a small example of the kinds of things that happen when people start to walk with the Spirit and ask the Holy Spirit to affect every part of their lives…

My prayer as I’ve written this book is that it would not merely add to your knowledge. Maybe that sounds strange, but I mean it. Often in Christian circles we talk about truth in lieu of applyingit to our lives. We hear an incisive sermon, discuss at lunch afterward how “great” or “Powerful” it was, and then never think about it again, much less allow the Spirit to change us through it. The truth is that greater knowledge does not necessarily equal greater intimacy and a deeper relationship with God, but this is not an automatic effect…

May we not merely gain knowledge. Instead, as we learn, may we grow and confess and change more into the people we’ve been created to be by the power of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

In “The Final Biography:”

…Don’t be discouraged if there is not a lot of the Holy Spirit’s working in your past. Pray in complete faith right now. Ask God to have His Spirit work so mightily in you that it would make for an amazing biography. A biography that speaks of a life so supernatural that no one would even consider giving you the glory. A biography that displays the power of the Spirit and lifts up the name of Jesus to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

His final prayer with us, the readers:

Spirit, we know that we have done wrong by You. Please forgive us for grieving, resisting, and quenching You. We have resisted You through sin, through our rebellion, and through our hardness of heart. At times, we have been spiritually blind. At other times, we knew what You wanted us to do, but we chose to ignore Your promptings. Yet this is not how we want to live now.

We need You to change us. Only through You can we truly worship. Spirit of the Lord, You are the one who brings us to a place where we can worship. You are the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of holiness, the Spirit of life. Thank You for the truth, the holiness, and the life You give us.

We need Your wisdom and understanding as we seek to live this life. Keep us from disbelief, from fear. We need Your strength to help us do what you are asking us to do and to live how You are asking us to live. Speak loudly and drown out the other voices calling us to conform to the patterns of this world.

You are the Spirit of self-control and love. Give us the self-control needed to deny our flesh and follow You. Give us a love strong enough to motivate courageous action. Manifest Yourself through us that we may serve and love Your bride, the church, as You do.

Come, Holy Spirit, come. We don’t know exactly what that means and looks like for each of us yet, in the particular places You’ve called us to inhabit. But, nonetheless, whatever it means, we ask for Your presence. Come, Holy Spirit, come.