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REMEMBERING THE FORGOTTEN GOD
An Interactive Workbook for Individual or Small Group Study
By FRANCIS CHAN, Mark Beuving
David C. CookCopyright © 2010 Francis Chan and Mark Beuving
All rights reserved.
I'VE GOT JESUS. WHY DO I NEED THE SPIRIT?
For more information on the material in this session, read the Introduction and chapter 1 of the book Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit.
Have you ever felt like you're missing something? Like you're getting by, but your life lacks something crucial, something extraordinary?
Somehow, we in the American church have managed to systematically neglect the power of the Holy Spirit. And the sad thing is that many people haven't even noticed. An increasing number of us recognize that there's a problem, but most of us still have no idea what we're missing out on.
In general, we don't value the Holy Spirit. But Jesus did: "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all" (John 6:63). And from a biblical standpoint, you simply cannot live the Christian life without the Spirit of God. Paul says, "Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him" (Rom. 8:9). We have no idea the power available to us through the Spirit. Romans 8:11 tells us, "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." Think of the power that it took to raise Jesus from the dead. Paul says that the same Holy Spirit who brings life out of death lives inside of us!
How have we missed this? I'm guessing that you've heard these verses before. But most of us have probably come to accept our experience of the Christian life as normal. It's time to question what we've always thought. None of us is as biblical in our thinking as we'd like to believe.
Think about it for a minute. Why do you believe what you believe? What process do you follow in forming your beliefs? Most of us would probably say that our beliefs are based on the Word of God, but really, our beliefs are often born more out of convenience and consistency than a careful study of the Scriptures. This is certainly true when it comes to our views about the Holy Spirit.
Chances are, you owe most of what you believe about the Holy Spirit to what you've seen and heard from the people around you. It's important to learn from other people, but at times we need to challenge our way of thinking. We are all in constant need of bringing our lives in line with the Scriptures.
1. Take a minute and list some of your beliefs about the Holy Spirit. (Even if you don't consider yourself a theologian, most of us have at least a few ideas about who the Holy Spirit is and what He does.)
2. Being as open as possible, do you think your beliefs are shaped more by the Scriptures or by what you've come to experience as the normal Christian life? What makes you say that?
At some point, we all need to get past what we think we know about the Spirit. If we are going to rediscover the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we will need to begin listening to His voice and following His leading—not in the ways we think He should speak and lead, but in whatever He may call us to do.
If you have the Forgotten God DVD Study Resource, watch the video for session 1 now, particularly if you are meeting with a group. After the video, work through the rest of this section.
In the busyness of our lives, we have developed a remarkable ability to miss the obvious. We overanalyze the things that don't deserve a second thought, and we blow right past the clear, obvious, important things in life.
We assume that we know what the Christian life ought to look like. But have you ever sat down and considered the way Scripture describes the Spirit-filled life?
3. The following passages offer a brief overview of what the Holy Spirit does in a person's life. Quickly flip through these passages and make some notes. (If you don't want to look up all of these passages, feel free to choose just a few at random.)
1 Corinthians 2:12–14
1 Corinthians 3:16
1 Corinthians 6:9–11
1 Corinthians 12:7–11
2 Corinthians 3:17–18
1 John 4:13
4. If you disregarded your own experiences and just read these passages, what would you expect to observe as the Holy Spirit entered a person's life?
5. For so many people in the church today, everyday life does not match these biblical descriptions. Why do you think that is?
The statement is so familiar to us that we sometimes overlook its significance: "The Spirit of God dwells in you" (Rom. 8:9). One obvious truth that we frequently overlook is that there should be a huge difference between someone who has the Spirit of God living inside of them and someone who does not.
Have you ever observed Christians and non-Christians interacting? In many cases, it is all but impossible to discern who has the Spirit and who doesn't. Sure, the Christians may be a little nicer or more morally conscientious, but is that really all the Holy Spirit came to do in our lives? Shouldn't the difference be supernatural?
Read Galatians 5:16–25.
Paul is telling the Galatians what the Christian life ought to look like. In Christ, we have been set free from the law. But without the law, how do we please God? How do we love our neighbors as ourselves? For Paul, the answer is simple: Walk by the Spirit.
6. According to Galatians 5:16–25, what does it look like to walk by the Spirit?
7. Based on what Paul says here, what should distinguish a Spirit-filled person from a non-Christian?
If the Holy Spirit is being neglected in our churches and in our lives, is it any wonder that we don't look much different from the rest of the world? Too often we work in our own strength to be the kind of people who stand out—the kind of people who look like Jesus. This is the right goal, but when we try to do this without relying on the Spirit, we're missing the whole point. Doesn't it strike you as odd that although we want to live out the attributes of Galatians 5:22–23, we don't rely on the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of the Spirit?
Look at Galatians 5:16 again: "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." Perhaps we've gotten so caught up in trying to live the Christian life that we've overlooked the Source. Life-change comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. At times we try so hard—but if we have forgotten about the Holy Spirit, then we're missing the whole point.
8. Every day, people try to live the "Spirit-filled" life without the Spirit. Based on your experience, what good things can we accomplish merely through human strength?
9. If the Spirit works through us, how should the supernatural results differ from what we can accomplish on our own?
I know that there are people in the church who live every day in the power of the Spirit, depending on and following Him in every aspect of life. Maybe you're one of those blessed few. Praise God if that's the case! But we all have room to grow. None of us has too much of the Spirit. We are all in danger of pursuing supernatural results through our own strength.
It's time for us to stop assuming that we know everything we need to know about the Holy Spirit. Some of us need to study a little deeper and find out who the Spirit is and what He does. This is an important step in the process. But all of us need to begin applying the obvious biblical truths about the Holy Spirit to our lives. Maybe you haven't missed the obvious doctrinally—maybe you've missed it practically. Until we actually apply a truth to our lives, we can't claim to believe it—at least not with any integrity.
Look again at the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22–23. Add to that list a host of other godly characteristics that we are called to pursue (such as faith, hope, compassion). These are not just abstract concepts. These fruits should be evident in our actions toward the people around us.
10. Don't just think about what the Holy Spirit can do for you. What are some clear and practical ways that the Spirit can work through you to bless the people around you?
Chapter 1 of the book Forgotten God ends with a powerful analogy about the confusion a caterpillar must experience:
For all its caterpillar life, it crawls around a small patch of dirt and up and down a few plants. Then one day it takes a nap. A long nap. And 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 and gorgeous wings?
As believers, we ought to experience this same kind of astonishment when the Holy Spirit enters our bodies. We should be stunned in disbelief over becoming a "new creation" with the Spirit living in us. As the caterpillar finds its new ability to fly, we should be thrilled over our Spirit-empowered ability to live differently and faithfully. (Forgotten God, 37)
11. For all practical purposes, we seem to have forgotten that the Holy Spirit is powerful—He radically transforms lives. Are you open to being transformed, no matter what that may mean for your life? If you do want to be changed, why do you desire this? If you don't, what is keeping you from desiring change?
12. Spend some time praying that God will give you the humility to be open to what He wants to teach you—even if it means you've spent years overlooking the obvious. Then ask Him to begin using these truths to change the way you live.
JOURNAL SOME REFLECTIONS ON ... I've Got Jesus. Why Do I Need the Spirit?CHAPTER 2
WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
For more information on the material in this session, read chapter 2 of the book Forgotten God.
Fear is an excellent motivator. Every American is taught from an early age to denounce fear. Our heroes are tough and fearless. We actually believe that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. But let's face it: We're all far more affected by fear than we'd like to let on.
1. Think about a time in your life when you were afraid (whether the fear was irrational or legitimate). How did you feel? How did you respond?
If I asked you whether your theology was formed by truth or fear, I doubt anyone would answer "fear." But the Holy Spirit has become a controversial topic of discussion. Whole camps have formed around particular understandings of the Spirit. Most evangelical churches could be categorized as either charismatic or non-charismatic. And deviating from your camp's position could cause you to be questioned or even rejected. Changing your views about the Spirit could mean finding another church or group of friends.
2. Why do you think it is so easy to become defensive and fearful of change when it comes to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit?
It's natural to develop specific views about the Holy Spirit. But unfortunately, we typically develop stereotypes about the other camp. While some aspects of these stereotypes are based on fact, most of the time they're exaggerated at best and unfounded at worst.
When all we know about the other position is based on stereotypes, it breeds fear. It is this kind of fear that keeps us stationary. We're afraid to move from our position because we don't want to become "like them."
3. Try to figure out where you're at with this. Which camp (if any) do you most identify with regarding your established views of the Holy Spirit, and what fears and stereotypes do you have of the other camp?
4. Being as honest as possible, do you think those fears would keep you from changing your views and practices, even if you found that the Scriptures teach that your views are misguided? Why, or why not?
If you're not afraid of becoming like the other camp, there are other kinds of fears that keep us from what God has for us.
Most of us have experienced a time when we asked God to do something, but He did not come through in the way we expected. Maybe you're afraid that if you ask God for the Holy Spirit, nothing will happen. I'm sure that more of us are guilty of this than are willing to admit it. You read the Bible and don't see any reason why God couldn't do today what He did then. But you don't see the miraculous in your everyday life, so you're afraid that if you ask God for His Spirit, you'll be disappointed.
5. If you are motivated by a fear that God won't act when you ask Him to, what does that say about your view of God?
If you are afraid that the Holy Spirit won't show up when you ask Him to, start by assessing your requests in light of James 4:2–3: "You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." Sometimes God doesn't show up because we don't ask Him to. Sometimes God doesn't answer our requests because our motives are all wrong. Rather than praying for the things that God has promised to give us (like the Holy Spirit—see Luke 11:13) we pray that God will give us what we want.
Many of us need to earnestly check our hearts at this point. If you find yourself doubting that God can and will do the impossible, you need to reexamine your view of God. Try reading through the book of Acts. As you read, ask yourself whether or not you believe that the God you worship is the same God who worked in all of these incredible ways.
There is one other fear that we ought to address. Perhaps the only thing scarier than the Spirit not showing up is the thought that He will! What if the Holy Spirit started to act powerfully in your life? I'm concerned that most of us are not prepared for what that might mean.
If you have the Forgotten God DVD Study Resource, watch the video for session 2, particularly if you are meeting with a group. After the video, work through the rest of this section.
Ignorance can be bliss. If we don't know exactly what God wants us to do, we can maintain our current lifestyle and still manage a perception of godliness.
6. Imagine that the Holy Spirit took complete control of your life and showed you exactly what He wanted you to do. Why might the thought of actually following the Holy Spirit be scary?
Have you ever found yourself fearful of this? If so, describe what you thought and did.
Read Luke 18:18–30. The ruler in this story had been going about his life in peace. Apparently, he was really striving to keep God's commandments. He seems to have been sincere in asking Jesus about the path to eternal life. He was confident in his efforts. But (as we often find) Jesus' answer required more than he was prepared to give.
7. Why do you think the ruler was so surprised when Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give to the poor? What do you think he was expecting Jesus to say?
8. What did Jesus mean when He said "follow me" (v. 22)?
Do you think the ruler understood what Jesus meant by this? Why, or why not?
Just like the blackjack game mentioned in the video, Jesus acknowledges that it's more difficult to follow when a lot is at stake: "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" (Luke 18:24). It's easier to go "all in" when we don't have much. In America, not many of us fall into that category.
9. Try to put yourself in the ruler's position. He was a wealthy man, yet he came to Jesus to learn what he should do. Picture yourself coming to Jesus and asking His Spirit to lead you in the right direction. Do you have any thoughts about what He might ask you to do?
10. Would you be willing to follow, no matter what that might mean? Why do you say that?
Most people are control freaks. It can be difficult to let someone else call the shots, especially when it comes to the way you live your life. "The truth is that the Spirit of the living God is guaranteed to ask you to go somewhere or do something you wouldn't normally want or choose to do" (Forgotten God, 50). Does that statement surprise you? No matter what plans we may have for our lives, none of us is perfectly in tune with God's will:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa. 55:8–9).
At this point, question yourself: Do you really believe that where the Holy Spirit would lead you is better than where you would lead yourself? That's a difficult question to answer, a question that the rest of this study will help you to answer. In fact, we will spend the rest of our lives becoming more and more convinced that God's way is the best way. For now, it's all about laying aside our fears and trusting the Spirit to lead us.
Fear paralyzes us for a variety of reasons. But there is one thing in particular that we actually should be afraid of when it comes to the Holy Spirit: "Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good" (1 Thess. 5:19–21). We shouldn't fear other people, the possibility that God won't show up, or the possibility that He will show up. But we should be afraid of quenching the Spirit. What hope does the church have if we actively suppress the power of God?
Excerpted from REMEMBERING THE FORGOTTEN GOD by FRANCIS CHAN, Mark Beuving. Copyright © 2010 Francis Chan and Mark Beuving. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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