“The God I Never Knew gives life-changing insight into the mystery of the Holy Spirit.”—Craig Groeschel, senior pastor of Life.Church and author of Dangerous Prayers
Many people find the Holy Spirit mysterious and confounding. Why is the third person in the Godhead—the one Jesus said would be the believer’s ultimate source of truth and comfort—the source of such confusion?
In The God I Never Knew, Robert Morris clearly explains that the Holy Spirit’s chief desire is for relationship—to offer us the encouragement and guidance of a trusted friend. This insightful and biblically-based book—including a small group study guide—moves beyond theological jargon, religious tradition, and cultural misconceptions to clarify what the Holy Spirit promises to do in your life:
· Dwell within you
· Be your helper
· Guide you into all truth
· Comfort you
· Pray for you
· Show you things to come
· Never leave you
It’s time to experience the Holy Spirit in a fresh, new way to meet the God you may have never known.
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
ROBERT MORRIS is the founding senior pastor of Gateway Church in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX. Since it began in 2000, Gateway has grown to more than 26,000 active members. He is the best-selling author of several books, including The Blessed Life, The Power of Your Words, and The Blessed Church. Robert and his wife, Debbie, have been married for more than thirty years and are the parents of three grown children.
Read an Excerpt
The God I Never Knew, Chapter 1
The knock at the door startled Irene Adkins. The seventy-nine-year-old great-grandmother wasn’t expecting any visitors. A cautious peek through the peephole revealed a well-dressed silver-haired gentleman with a kind face that struck her as vaguely familiar. It was something about the eyes and nose. As she opened the door, her certainty grew—the stranger definitely reminded her of someone. But who?
It would take her a while to realize that the man’s face indeed bore an uncanny resemblance to one she knew better than any other—her own. Irene’s seventy-three-year-old brother, Terry, had come for a surprise visit. It was quite surprising because Irene never knew she had a brother. Back in 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, a desperate and confused young English couple unhitched their tattered camper trailer on the side of the road and drove away. Police later found three small, hungry children inside. Irene, at ten months of age, was the youngest. The three were placed in separate foster homes and grew up unaware of the others’ existence. Meanwhile, the young couple eventually achieved some stability a few years later and had another child—their son, Terry.
When Terry was fourteen, his parents revealed their shameful secret. They told him of the desperate straits in which they’d found themselves and of the wrenching decision to abandon the trio of hungry mouths they could not feed. Shortly thereafter Terry began a lifelong quest to find his siblings, especially the sister his parents had named Irene. He searched in vain for almost sixty years. Then came a breakthrough. He learned the name of the agency that had placed Irene and her siblings in foster homes.
Not long thereafter came the day—April 3, 2010—when Irene Adkins discovered the wonderful brother she never knew. In the discovery the rootless orphan found a source of answers to questions she had carried around in her heart all her life.
I believe I know how Irene felt. Several decades ago, after many years of struggling to live the Christian life and even working “successfully” in fulltime ministry, I finally discovered the God I never knew. And in the discovery I found not only the source of answers to every question I’ve ever had but a dear friend as well. One who has made my life richer, fuller, and more exciting than I ever dreamed possible. I am referring, of course, to God—the Holy Spirit.
An Amazing Relationship
I grew up in church. However, this church was part of a denomination that avoided mentioning the Holy Spirit whenever possible. Our denominational leaders treated Him a bit like the crazy uncle who shows up at Thanksgiving once every few years and horrifies everyone with his inappropriate behavior. You can’t help being related to this uncle, but you hope that if you don’t mention his name or send him a Christmas card, he will stay away.
In fact, many years ago when I prepared to leave home to attend Bible college, my pastor had just one parting word of counsel for me. I had recently given my life to Christ, and I was burning with desire to serve Him. So I eagerly waited to hear what encouragement my pastor would deliver as I entered this season of learning and preparation for ministry. His only advice to me was, “Watch out for people who talk about the Holy Spirit.”
At the time I didn’t know any better. So I simply nodded and filed his warning away in my mind. Now—after twenty-five years of discovering what a wonderful, kind, helpful, gentle, and wise person the Holy Spirit is; after developing an intimate friendship with Him that has made my life better and more fulfilling in countless ways; after watching the Holy Spirit help and bless people—I am grieved to think back on my pastor’s advice. To be honest, it offends me. Of course, most of us feel offended when someone thinks badly of a person we love and respect, especially when the opinion is based on lies or misunderstandings. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of hearing bad things about someone through a third party and forming a negative impression, only to meet that individual later and discover that he isn’t the bad person you envisioned at all. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably been misinformed about the Holy Spirit to some degree. After more than twenty-five years of experience in ministry, I’ve seen firsthand that most Christians hold a distorted, inaccurate, or incomplete view of the third member of the Trinity. In fact, many frustrated believers are just as Irene Adkins was for most of her life—utterly unaware that a loving and amazing person desires to know them and to fill their empty lives with good things. Too many have resigned themselves to perpetual defeat in their battles with temptation or to stumbling through life, making decisions with nothing more than their own flawed reason to guide them. Others live a dull, powerless brand of Christianity, completely at odds with the picture of the vibrant, overcoming, advancing church of the book of Acts.
The dynamic, full life Jesus promised to believers is a natural outgrowth of intimate friendship with God, the Holy Spirit. Today I have an amazing relationship with the Holy Spirit, though that wasn’t always true. By the time we’re finished exploring this topic, you’ll realize what an amazing relationship you can have with Him too.
Chapter 2: Who Is This Person?
Like a lot of newly married couples, Debbie and I didn’t have much at first. Even the possessions we could call our own were mostly hand-me-downs from our parents. Our financial situation improved after a couple of years of marriage, and one day Debbie asked if I was okay with her buying a new comforter. Our current bedcover was so faded and threadbare that you could practically read the newspaper through it. Being a typical guy, I thought we’d buy a plain bedspread. So when we went shopping, I was shocked to learn that the comforter Debbie had in mind might require taking out a second mortgage on the house. Of course, I’m exaggerating. But the big and soft and puffy and colorful comforter we purchased was much fancier and more beautiful than I could have imagined.
Despite its cost, I was excited about our new acquisition. On the day we bought it, several times I caught myself imagining what it would feel like to slip beneath that soft comforter and be all toasty warm. At bedtime I walked into our room and, to my horror, the beautiful new comforter was gone. With my best exasperated yet perplexed voice, I asked Debbie, “Sweetie, where’s the new comforter?” She gave me that look. You know the one—the “you can’t seriously be that dense” look. The truth is, yes, we husbands really can be that dense!
Realizing the level of my denseness in this moment, Debbie explained, “That new comforter isn’t for use. It’s for looks.” In the years since that night, we’ve accumulated many household items that I’ve discovered are for looks, not use. We have plates I’m not allowed to eat on and fancy goblets I can’t drink from. We have beautiful towels that you can use if you stay at our house, but I can’t. In fact, there are towels hanging in my bathroom right now that I’m not allowed to use.
In the same way, millions of Christians have been given a comforter, but they treat Him as if He’s just for looks. If we think that way, we’re wrong. The wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit is meant to be so much more than an ornamental feature in our lives.
Introducing a Helper
Just who is the Holy Spirit? That’s a big question—one as big as God Himself. When you want to get to know someone new, often the first step is to be introduced by someone who already knows that person well. During His years of ministry on earth, Jesus knew the Holy Spirit better than any human ever had or has since. So perhaps the best place to learn about the Holy Spirit begins with Jesus and the words He used to introduce the Spirit to the disciples, as recorded in John 14.
It’s helpful to know chapters 14–16 of John’s gospel contain a record of Jesus’s conversation with His disciples at the Last Supper. Jesus isn’t publicly teaching a large crowd of casual followers and curious gawkers on a Galilean hillside. He’s not debating the Pharisees or speaking cryptically in parables to the Sadducees. Instead, Jesus is in a small room, having dinner with His closest friends. He knows that in just twelve short hours, He will be put to death on the cross. In this unbelievably serious moment, a leader who knows He is about to be killed gives vital instructions and information to His followers.
Jesus begins with words of comfort: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. I’m going away, but I will come back” (paraphrased). Then, in John 14:16–17, Jesus gets to the core of what He wants these men to understand: And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. Don’t get hung up on the fact that Jesus says, “I will pray the Father.” Using the word pray this way sounds a little odd to our modern ears. But the Greek word translated “pray” here is translated “ask” in many other parts of the New Testament. Jesus is simply saying, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper.” Note the word “Helper.” The person the Father will send sounds mysterious, but Jesus tells the disciples that the role and nature of this person is to “help.” Jesus also assures them that the Helper won’t be a complete stranger. “But you know Him,” Jesus says.
How could they already know this coming helper? Jesus explains by saying, “For He dwells with you and will be in you.” The verb “dwells” is in the present tense, while the phrase “will be in you” is clearly future tense. At the moment Jesus was speaking, the disciples had experienced the Helper dwelling “with” them to a certain extent. But the Helper was about to be sent in a way that would make Him not only “with” them but “in” them.
Although Jesus spoke these words to a small group of His closest friends and followers, they are also meant for us. The truth of the Holy Spirit’s living with and in us assures us that we never have to feel alone.
How the Holy Spirit Helps
What kind of “help” will the Holy Spirit provide? Jesus gives part of the answer in John 14:25–26: These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
This is the second time Jesus chooses the word “Helper” to describe the One the Father is sending. Here Jesus lists two of the many ways this person will be of help.
First, “He will teach you all things.” What an incredible promise. There’s no subject in which God isn’t an expert. He has all the answers. The second way the Holy Spirit helps is by bringing “to your remembrance all things that I [Jesus] said to you.” This is one reason the Gospels are so detailed and in such agreement about the words of Jesus. The Holy Spirit helped the disciples remember everything Jesus said to them.
Jesus Must Leave
A little later in this conversation with the disciples, Jesus gives the third mention of the coming Helper being sent from the Father: But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. ( John 15:26)
Notice that Jesus calls Him “the Spirit of truth.” Jesus presents the Holy Spirit to us as the ultimate answer to overcoming and undoing the work of Satan, the great Deceiver and “the father of lies” ( John 8:44, NIV). For thousands of years, since the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind had stumbled in the darkness of the devil’s lies. Then Jesus, who declared Himself to be “the way, the truth, and the life” ( John 14:6), announced He would soon be sending a helper who would make it possible to live a life free from deception.
In John 16, Jesus gives the disciples His most thorough introduction to the Holy Spirit. “So wonderful is this One who will be sent,” Jesus tells them, “that it is a much better thing for you if I go away. Because if I don’t go, He can’t come!” That’s how I like to paraphrase it—here’s the actual translation: Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. ( John 16:7)
The first thing that always strikes me when I read this passage is that Jesus feels compelled to say, “Now, I’m telling you the truth here.” He knows that the next words He speaks will truly seem unbelievable to the disciples. The disciples were grief stricken at the idea that Jesus would be going away from them. They loved Him. They depended on Him. He was their miracle working leader. How could it possibly be good that He is about to leave them? Jesus immediately explains that only if He goes to the Father can the Helper be sent.
Jesus continues by explaining some more ways the Holy Spirit will provide help, and we’ll look at those in a moment. Right now, notice John 16:12–14. There, Jesus says,
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.
These verses contain an amazing promise. Jesus wants to tell the disciples the whole amazing story of what lies ahead, but He knows that the truths He wants to deliver would just overwhelm and confuse them at this moment. But He has good news for them. Who better to deliver important truths than the Spirit of truth? “When He…has come, He will guide you into all truth,” Jesus says. “All truth.” That’s quite a benefit of friendship with the Holy Spirit. No wonder Jesus refers to Him as the Helper. But Jesus mentions yet another form of help the Spirit will provide: “He will tell you things to come.” Let me put it a little differently. Jesus is saying, “The Holy Spirit will tell you the future.” Would it occasionally be helpful to know what’s around the corner? Have you ever been blindsided by some event and thought to yourself, If only I’d known this was coming, I’d have been better prepared?
One of the elders at the church I pastor is a wonderful model for allowing the Holy Spirit to show us things to come. Steve built a large and successful business in the ultracompetitive construction industry, largely by regularly getting alone with God and allowing His Spirit to direct him where his business is concerned.
In addition to having daily quiet times of Bible study, private worship, and prayer, Steve makes it a point to go away two or three times each year for several days at a time. He rents a cabin or lake house and takes little more than his Bible and a notebook. His testimony is that he invariably receives instruction from the Holy Spirit in these sessions of private communion about what lies ahead and how to lead his business accordingly. Steve can share instance after instance in which a seemingly counterintuitive instruction from the Holy Spirit resulted in a profitable breakthrough. Or in which a warning enabled him to avoid unnecessary losses or bad hiring decisions. Yes, a key role of the Holy Spirit is to lead us supernaturally into truth and reveal what lies ahead. No wonder Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Helper four times in three consecutive chapters! The promises in these passages are absolutely incredible. In each of these four instances, the Greek word translated “helper” is parakletos. The Greek word appears only five times in the entire New Testament, and we’ve just looked at four of them.
When the typical first-century Greek speaker or writer used this word, he was talking about a person who pleads your case like a lawyer before a judge, or someone who goes before you to intercede with someone on your behalf. What an amazing way to think of who the Holy Spirit is and how He is our helper!
The Bottom Line
The key message about the Holy Spirit’s role is very simple: He helps me. He helps me know what to say when I’m speechless. He helps me know when to speak and when to keep my mouth closed. I’m sure you can think of situations where both kinds of help would be welcome. For example, a friend shares a serious problem and you have no idea what to say that will help or encourage her. Then a thought suddenly comes to mind, you speak it aloud, and the person says, “Wow, that’s exactly what I needed to hear!” That’s what the Holy Spirit can do—giving you the very words you need to say.
Sometimes He tells you what not to say. Have you ever had that happen? Maybe you’ve been involved in a conversation with someone who got a little emotional. Just as you are about to throw out a really clever comeback, you have a little cautionary thought: I shouldn’t say that. Of course, the problem is that most of us say what we’re thinking anyway. Invariably, we end up concluding, I shouldn’t have said that! This happens a lot in marriage. Maybe you come home from work, and although you don’t know it at that moment, your spouse has had a tough day. You start to say something, and the Holy Spirit nudges you and whispers, I wouldn’t go there if I were you, My friend. Sometimes He adds, As a matter of fact, if I were you, I’d take her out to dinner. If you’re smart, you’ll listen and choose wisely in that moment. If you’re not so smart—like me sometimes—you’ll ignore that advice and speak your mind. I’ve learned to listen to that voice. I’ve discovered how wonderful it is to have a helper.
You might be wondering if the Holy Spirit really speaks to us in such clear ways. The simple answer is yes. The truth is that most of us don’t have any trouble believing that God speaks to us. We just get frustrated because we don’t know exactly what He’s saying. Almost every one of us has a desire, even a desperation, to hear with confidence the voice of God. Who wants to stumble through life without the benefit of the clear direction and inward peace that comes from hearing God’s voice? The great news is that God doesn’t want that for us either.
Hearing God’s voice is vital to breaking out of old comfort zones and into exciting new levels of effectiveness. Hearing God and responding to Him can take us to new places of intimacy and purpose in Him. Hearing God’s voice begins by recognizing which member of the Trinity is tasked with speaking to us in this season of history. It is, of course, the Holy Spirit. The Father is on His throne. Jesus has been seated at His right hand and, according to Hebrews 10:12–13, will remain there “waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.” The Holy Spirit, however, is active and present and commissioned to interact with us on the earth today. As we’ve just seen, Jesus went away so the Spirit could come to us and live in us. He leads us into all truth, shows us things to come, reveals heavenly mysteries, and imparts vital direction.
The main reason many people aren’t sure if they can really hear the voice of God is because they have refused to engage and embrace the member of the Trinity whose job it is to speak to them.
Other Ways the Spirit Helps
Let’s look at John 16:8–11. In these four verses Jesus gives additional detail about how the Holy Spirit helps us. In fact, He mentions three more key aspects to the Helper’s ministry. Let’s look at the whole passage and then analyze it one piece at a time:
And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Jesus names three areas in which the Holy Spirit will “convict” the world: sin, righteousness, and judgment. What does Jesus mean by the word convict? To our modern ears this word conjures up thoughts of a criminal prosecution. However, Jesus is talking about conviction in the sense of “belief ” or “persuasion.” Simply put, to convict means to convince. And in this role of helping, the Holy Spirit will convince the world of God’s truths concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. He will persuade people that certain things are true.
In verse 9, Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convict the world “of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” We need to understand that when the Holy Spirit convicts lost people of sin—in other words, convinces them that sin is ruling their lives—that’s a good thing! This conviction is the only way people become aware that they need the Savior. The truth is that no one ever comes to believe in Jesus as Savior without first coming to the conviction that he or she needs the Savior. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.
I was saved in a shabby little motel room. Of course, you don’t have to be in church to be saved. After all, you’re probably not going to die in a funeral home. It’s convenient if you do, but it probably won’t happen. More than anything else, during that lifechanging moment in a run-down motel, I remember the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I’d been in church my whole life, but in that encounter I was completely and thoroughly convinced—to the very core of my being— that I was a sinner and needed Jesus. That conviction was the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and I am more grateful than words can express that He brought it to my life. Think about the hour you were saved. Do you remember the conviction, your overwhelming sense of need? That was the Holy Spirit leading you to Jesus! In fact, 1 Corinthians 12:3 says that “no one can declare that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit also convicts us of righteousness. Before we explore this particular ministry of the Holy Spirit, we need to have a clear understanding of what the word righteousness means. Contrary to common belief, righteousness doesn’t mean “right behavior.” Perhaps you’ve even heard someone with high moral standards referred to as “a righteous person.” Of course, it’s good to have high moral standards, but that’s not righteousness. Instead, righteousness means having a “right standing” with God. Please note that this verse doesn’t say the Holy Spirit will convict us of the need for righteous living. While a right standing with God will indeed lead to righteous living, that’s not the message in John 16:8–11. Rather, Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convict the world of righteousness because, “I go to My Father.” The reason we can have a “right standing” before God is because Jesus ascended to the Father and sits at His right hand as an eternal reminder that our sins have been paid for (see Hebrews 10:8–14).
When Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convict us of righteousness, He is referring to the fact that we all need to be convinced that righteousness exists
—that it’s even possible to have a right standing with God. In addition, once we’re born again, the Holy Spirit’s role is to convince us that we have been made righteous through the blood of Jesus Christ. He helps by providing an inner confidence of the wonderful reality of 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Understanding that you have been made righteous is a wonderful gift. The Holy Spirit helps you become fully convinced that you have a right standing with God, and you can come to His throne with confidence and the full assurance that you are received, welcomed, and embraced by Him.
Finally, the Holy Spirit was sent to convince the world of “judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” ( John 16:11). To understand this aspect of the Holy Spirit’s activity, we need to know who Jesus refers to as the “ruler of this world.” A number of Bible passages establish that He is talking about Satan. For example, in John 12:31, Jesus says, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” In John 14:30, Jesus says, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.”
This is clearly the enemy Jesus is talking about. Satan was the ruler of the world, but he was judged two thousand years ago through Jesus’s sacrifice and subsequent victory over death, hell, and the grave. The Holy Spirit convicts us of this truth by convincing us that the former ruler of this world, Satan, has been judged and kicked out. He no longer has any authority in our lives. He’s an outlaw.
A Proper Understanding
It can be easy to misread and misunderstand the Holy Spirit’s role. We’ve just looked at how the Holy Spirit comes to convince us of sin, righteousness, and judgment. But many people interpret these verses to mean the Holy Spirit’s basic message is, “You’re a horrible person. God is mad at you. And He’s going to get you.”
That’s not the Holy Spirit’s ministry at all! In fact, that is Satan’s role. The Bible calls him “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10). If you allow him, Satan will keep you feeling unworthy of God’s acceptance and unwelcome in His presence by reminding you of every time you’ve blown it. The Holy Spirit was sent to make us aware that we’re lost and in need of Jesus; to lead us to Him; then to persuade us that we are in right standing with God through Him; and, finally, to fill us with the conviction that Satan is a defeated enemy who no longer has any authority over us.
When you open yourself to this ministry of the Holy Spirit, you’ll find that He helps you in every area of your Christian life. That makes sense, because the Holy Spirit is our helper. But that’s not all He is. He is also our friend, which we will explore next.
Table of Contents
1 The God I Never Knew 1
Part 1 Who Is This Person?
2 Helper 7
3 Friend 19
4 God 31
Part 2 What Is This Person Like?
5 His Personality 37
6 His Soul: Mind and Will 45
7 His Soul: Emotions 53
Part 3 The Grand Entry
8 Wind and Fire 65
9 Pentecost Now 75
Part 4 The Power Transfer
10 Immersed 87
11 Three Baptisms, Three Witnesses 95
12 Empowered to Live 105
Part 5 The Giver
13 Acts of Grace 115
14 The Discerning Gifts 123
15 The Declarative Gifts 131
16 The Dynamic Gifts 137
Part 6 The Language of Friendship
17 Why the Controversy? 147
18 The Word and the Language 155
19 Beneficial Language 161
20 The Choice Is Yours 167
Part 7 The God You Need to Know
21 Your New Best Friend 181
Study Guide 187
Reading Group Guide
A Leader's Guide for Group Study
So that you make the most of each session, this study guide is designed to be used after the chapters assigned for each session have been read. Whether you are studying The God I Never Knew as an individual or in a group, the goal is for you to think a little more deeply, contemplate and pray about what you are learning, and apply the truths of God’s Word to your personal life.
The study guide has eight sessions. However, if your group wants to move more slowly, just adjust the reading assignments and use of questions accordingly.
Read the Chapters Prior to Each Session
Each session covers designated chapters of The God I Never Knew. As you read the chapters, make notes and highlight passages in the book that speak to, challenge, or apply to you personally. In your reading and reflection, ask the Lord to reveal insights so that when you come to the study-guide section, you will be equipped to benefit the most from the questions.
Introduction and General Feedback
At the start of each group session, ask about answers or updates to prayer from prior sessions. Then spend some time in prayer together. Next have someone read the brief introduction aloud to remind everyone of the focus of the discussion. The leader should then invite the group to share any questions, concerns, “ahas,” insights, or comments arising from their personal time with the material.
The God I Never Knew is about the wonderful person and ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. As you might imagine (and as the author readily admits in his personal testimony), it’s possible that your group members represent a variety of backgrounds and teaching about the Holy Spirit. That’s okay! There are only three prerequisites for group participation:
(1) a humble desire to grow in Christ and learn from His Word, (2) hearts and minds truly open to what God may reveal through the author’s insights into His Word, and (3) a commitment to interact gently and respectfully with one another and with the material presented.
Group facilitators and participants need not be afraid of the topic or of differences of opinion. A healthy approach for handling disagreements or concepts that may be new to someone is to say, “Let’s see what God’s Word has to say,” and then review the pertinent scriptures referenced by the author. If after discussion it’s obvious that a participant continues to struggle with a concept, consider moving on by saying, “Let’s agree to take this concept to the Lord in prayer this week and report back, okay?” This will not only help keep discussions calm and on-target, but it will also help the group refocus on the Bible as the final word on an issue.
Above all, there should never be any pressure or browbeating for others to see things in a certain way. You’re on a journey of discovery together. Gentleness is the key—trusting the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and, if necessary, change hearts and minds. You just never know: the heart or mind He changes might be your own!
Go Through the Questions
The reflection and discussion questions are designed to focus on how each person relates to the main topics of the chapters. Most questions are designed to serve the group and encourage discussion, not to elicit a particular answer. With that mind, don’t race through the questions. Take your time and allow the Holy Spirit to work. It isn’t necessary to go around the circle before moving on to the next question. The best discussions occur when people feel free to speak into the discussion. Group discussions are actually opportunities for God’s Spirit to minister uniquely through one believer to another in very specific ways. If you don’t get through all the questions for a session, no worries. Relax and trust God to take the discussion where He wants to take it.
Each session offers a theme verse that connects to the session’s content. Groups should read the verse out loud, and if someone in the group has a different Bible translation, ask him or her to read it aloud so the group can get a bigger picture of the meaning of the passage. Encourage participants to memorize these verses to enrich their understanding and appreciation of the personal ministry of God the Holy Spirit.
Close Each Session in Prayer
Praying together is the most powerful way to make your discussion effective, authentic, and relevant. Do not leave too little time for prayer! Be sure group members have opportunity to share their requests. In several of the sessions, we also suggest that you begin the prayer time with a few minutes of silent prayer, in which each participant can talk with God personally regarding anything He may be telling them.
Assign Chapters for the Next Session
Prior to session 1, group members should read chapters 1 and 2 of The God I Never Knew. Then, as you wrap up each session, remind participants of the book chapters to be read before the next meeting.
I. Session 1 Am I Missing Something?
(Chapters 1 and 2)
While many believers have made the wonderful discovery of the Holy Spirit's ministry in their lives, too many other Christians virtually hold the third member of the Trinity at arm's length-from fear, confusion, or misinformation of who the Holy Spirit is and of the personal friendship, power, and guidance He offers everyone who believes in Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, such hesitancy only prevents believers from thriving in their faith. In fact, Jesus considered the Holy Spirit's ministry so crucial that, on the evening prior to His crucifixion, He told His disciples, "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever-the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you" ( John 14:16-17).
Jesus knew that once He ascended to heaven, He would no longer be physically available on earth to help and instruct His followers. But God had a magnificent long-term plan in place: to give us the Holy Spirit ("another Helper") to indwell and abide with all believers-empowering, teaching, and guiding us to live God's way in a hostile world.
In this study we're going to explore who the Holy Spirit is, His ministry in the hearts and lives of God's people, and His role in helping us live the joyful, successful Christian life.
Reflection and Discussion
1. Do you identify with the author's experience of not really knowing much about the Holy Spirit earlier in his Christian journey? In the early days of your faith, what was your understanding of the Holy Spirit's identity and role in the Christian's life?
2. As Robert was departing for Bible college, his pastor advised him, "Watch out for people who talk about the Holy Spirit." What do you suppose was behind this pastor's warning? Have you ever felt this cautionary about the Holy Spirit? Why?
3. Robert writes, "Most Christians hold a distorted, inaccurate, or incomplete view of the third member of the Trinity.... Too many have resigned themselves to perpetual defeat in their battles with temptation or to stumbling through life making decisions with nothing more than their own flawed reason to guide them. Others live a dull, powerless brand of Christianity." Do you agree or disagree with Robert's assessment of most Christians? Explain your thoughts. If indeed many or most believers are not as strong, loving, joyful, or effective as they can be, to what would you attribute their weakness?
4. Jesus promised His followers "the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name" ( John 14:26). Think back on your own Christian walk: how has the Holy Spirit helped you along the way? Share a recent example.
5. Jesus goes on to say, "He [the Holy Spirit] will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." What does this passage mean to you personally regarding the Spirit's ministry in the Christian's life?
6. Robert writes, "Hearing God's voice begins by recognizing which member of the Trinity is tasked with speaking to us in this season of history. It is, of course, the Holy Spirit. The Father is on His throne. Jesus has been seated at His right hand and, according to Hebrews 10:12-13, will remain there 'waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.' The Holy Spirit, however, is active and present and commissioned to interact with us on the earth today." What are some ways in which a Christian might hear the voice of God? In such instances, who is doing the speaking? Can the Holy Spirit's guidance ever be contrary to God's Word or God's will? Why or why not?
Between now and session 2, claim Jesus's promise as your own: "These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:25-26).
Take time to share needs and requests for closing prayer. Be sure, too, to thank God for providing His Holy Spirit to help, teach, guide, and empower His children.
For Next Time
To prepare for the next study and discussion, read chapters 3 and 4 of The God I Never Knew.
II. Session 2 Who Is the Holy Spirit?
(Chapters 3 and 4)
If you're like many Christians, you may have encountered-even embraced- some negative stereotypes regarding the Holy Spirit and the "Spirit-filled life." The author of The God I Never Knew sure did. It took Robert a while, but once he finally opened his mind and heart to the Bible's truth about the Holy Spirit, he quickly realized the incredible benefits he had been missing!
In session 2 we will continue our look at who the Holy Spirit is. Notice the emphasis on who, not what, for the Spirit is indeed a person and not some vague cosmic force. In chapters 3 and 4, Robert clarifies from God's Word that the Holy Spirit is God, just as God is God and Jesus is God. The Spirit is God's glorious way of being a very present and active friend in the life of everyone who trusts Christ as Savior and Lord. We saw in session 1 that God sent the Holy Spirit to be our helper. Today's study builds on the identity of the Spirit by showing that He is also our friend...and that He is God.
Reflection and Discussion
1. The author writes, "These stereotypes are indeed alive and thriving today among huge numbers of Jesus-loving people. Many are sincerely reluctant to embrace the opportunity of a life transforming relationship with the Holy Spirit because of such stereotypes." Robert contends that Satan is the author of the world's "weird" stereotypes of Spirit-controlled living. Why do you suppose Satan would not want God's people to embrace the help, friendship, and godhood of the Holy Spirit?
2. From your own observation and experience, what are some of the tactics Satan uses to convince us that embracing the Spirit's personal ministry might make us uncomfortable or weird? Have you struggled with such fears? Share your story.
3. In chapter 3, Robert cites four amazing benefits that the Holy Spirit brings into the life of the believer. Which one of these benefits stands out as particularly meaningful to you today? Why is this benefit significant to you? When the Holy Spirit is truly in control of your thoughts and actions, what kind of difference would this particular blessing make in your life?
4. Summarize the author's teaching of how the Holy Spirit speaks to us. If we, as Christians, do not believe we're hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit, what might be impeding such communication?
5. Robert writes, "The witness of Scripture is that the Holy Spirit is a full and equal member of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is not a force, a thing, or an it. The Holy Spirit is God in one of His three persons. Treating Him as some sort of heavenly afterthought or a lower order of supernatural being we can choose to ignore is grievous." Look up and read aloud Matthew 28:19, John 14:16 and 15:26, and Acts 5:3-4. After each passage, address this question: what does this passage affirm about the person of the Holy Spirit?
6. Focus for a few moments on the final paragraph of chapter 4: "I encourage you to realize three truths before we go further on this journey: (1) the Holy Spirit was sent to be your helper, (2) He wants to be your intimate friend, and (3) the truth that makes those two statements most amazing of all is He is God." What do these truths mean to you personally, today? How would you assess the state of your present relationship with the Holy Spirit?
Between now and session 3, focus on this admonition from the apostle Paul: "Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature" (Galatians 5:16, niv).
Take time to share needs and requests for closing prayer. Be sure, too, to thank God for providing His Holy Spirit as your personal helper and friend.
For Next Time
To prepare for the next study and discussion, read chapters 5, 6, and 7 of The God I Never Knew.
III. Session 3 What Is This Person Like?
(Chapters 5, 6, and 7)
"The Christian life is an upward journey," the author writes in chapter 7. "The moment we're born again, we are made righteous-put in right standing with God. But sanctification-becoming pure and more Christlike in our behavior-is a process. The Holy Spirit wants to be our partner and friend in that process."
In chapters 5, 6, and 7, Robert expands on the fact that the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal entity, but He is a person-with personality and a soul consisting of mind, will, and emotions. Knowing this assures us that God the Holy Spirit is a friend we truly want to know intimately, a helper we can trust absolutely, and a comforter we can lean on in times of distress. What an honor and privilege it is to have God living within us!
Reflection and Discussion
1. Numerous places in the Bible describe or demonstrate God to be omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful), and omnipresent (simultaneously everywhere). What does this tell you about the knowledge, strength, and presence of God the Holy Spirit? Why is this significant to you as a child of God?
2. Look up and read aloud Ephesians 3:20. What (or, more correctly, Who) is "the power that works in us"? How does it feel to know that your personal helper and friend is omnipotent? Are you taking full advantage of His power within you?
3. Robert writes, "The amazing news is that you have the Holy Spirit living within you, and as God, He has that same level of wisdom and knowledge [as God]. The Holy Spirit knows everything about everything, and He has committed Himself to be your teacher. He promises to lead you into all truth." What does the above paragraph help you appreciate about the mind of the Holy Spirit? Think of some specific ways in which He leads believers "into all truth."
4. In your own words, explain the basic differences between God's general will and God's specific will. What is the best way for us to learn and know God's general will? How are we most likely to learn and know His specific will?
5. Did it surprise you to read that the Holy Spirit has emotions- that we can cause Him grief or pain? What does this mean to your friendship with Him?
6. Look up and read aloud Ephesians 4:25-32. Robert writes, "Notice some of the specific behaviors that cause the Spirit to grieve: lying, sin, stealing, neglecting to give to others.... Because the Holy Spirit lives in every believer, mistreating any one of them involves mistreating the Holy Spirit in them." When you grieve the Holy Spirit, what happens to your intimacy with Him? Why? What do you need to do in order to restore intimacy with Him?
7. The author writes, "[A speaker asserted that] when the Holy Spirit warns us about something and we ignore His warning, it's the equivalent of 'stiff-arming' Him. In essence, we tell the Holy Spirit, 'I don't want You in my life. I don't want to listen to You. I don't want to follow You-even though You only have my best interests in mind.' The speaker then described how we can't stiff-arm the Holy Spirit about sin one moment and then expect Him to speak to us about another matter a few moments later." Can you think of a time when the Holy
Spirit was speaking to you and you "stiff-armed" His loving guidance? As you look back on the experience, do you think your action (or lack thereof) grieved the Holy Spirit? How did the situation turn out when you followed your own way instead of His? Is there an area of your life in which you're still clinging to your own way? What is God's Spirit telling you to do about it?
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23).
Take time to share needs and requests for closing prayer. Then let the group know that at the start of prayer time, there will be a few minutes of silence to allow participants to engage in private prayer to deal with anything the Spirit may be telling them.
For Next Time
To prepare for the next study and discussion, read chapters 8 and 9 of The God I Never Knew.
IV. Session 4 The Grand Entry
(Chapters 8 and 9)
Just before He ascended to heaven, Jesus instructed His disciples that they were to wait in Jerusalem for "the Promise of the Father, 'which you have heard from Me.'" What was this Promise? "You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:4-5). So wait they did, in faith, and history records that the Promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descended upon 120 of Christ's closest followers like a gale-force wind. Eyewitnesses saw what they described as "tongues, as of fire" as God the Holy Spirit entered the lives and hearts of these early Christians. The Spirit empowered them to boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, and even in foreign languages so that Jerusalem's international visitors would understand and embrace the worldchanging message. The Bible says that more than three thousand people believed in Jesus Christ that day alone.
But that was then and this is now, right? How does today's Christian receive the Holy Spirit along with His help and friendship and power for living? This session, based on chapters 8 and 9 of The God I Never Knew, explores the exciting truth that the Pentecost experience of being "baptized with the Holy Spirit" wasn't just a one-day event in history; it is for every believer, here and now.
Reflection and Discussion
1. In light of the author's description of Jerusalem during the celebration of Passover and Pentecost, in what ways were the timing and manifestations of the Holy Spirit's entrance strategic to the spread of Christianity?
2. According to the author, "On Pentecost Sunday, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit changed everything." What were some of the most startling changes that took place? Why were these changes significant-then and now?
3. Romans 8:1 tells us, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." What does walking "according to the Spirit" look like to you? What difference does (or should) His presence make in the daily life of the believer?
4. After being filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter preaches to the crowds. Look up and read aloud Acts 2:38-39. What is the gift Peter tells the people they will receive if they believe in Jesus Christ? Was this promise meant only for those to whom Peter was preaching on that day? If not, to whom, and for how long, is the promise valid?
5. Based on chapter 9 of The God I Never Knew, how would you respond to someone who contends that "Pentecost was a one-time event in history. It's not for Christians today"?
6. Robert recalls placing conditions on his desire to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit, wanting to do so only on his own terms. Why do you suppose he didn't see much change in his life as a result? What should be the attitude of someone who wants to receive this gift of God?
7. When he finally caught on that we receive the Holy Spirit's fullness wholeheartedly, by faith, Robert prayed, "God, I trust You and I want everything You have for me. I want to be the most effective servant of Yours I can possibly be. I want to be empowered the same way the disciples were in the upper room. I want Your gifts. I want Your empowerment. I want You, Holy Spirit of God." What differences are apparent to you between his initial prayer and this one? Why do you suppose God honored this prayer and helped Robert appropriate the full presence and power of the Holy Spirit in his life?
"Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call " (Acts 2:38-39).
Take time to share needs and requests for closing prayer. Let the group know that you will begin prayer time with a few minutes of silent prayer for participants to talk personally with God.
For Next Time
In preparation for the next session's reflection and discussion, read chapters 10, 11, and 12 of The God I Never Knew.
V. Session 5 The Power Transfer
(Chapters 10, 11, and 12)
Most modern-day Christians are aware of the biblical doctrine of water baptism. After a person receives Christ as Savior, being baptized with water is an act of obedience to God's Word that symbolizes the death and burial of our former, sin-centered life and our appropriation of new life in Jesus Christ.
But what many well-intentioned believers do not realize, and may not have been taught in their churches, is that there are actually three baptisms for the Christian-not just one. These three baptisms can be embraced with joyful enthusiasm because they bolster the believer with new life, comfort, power, and guidance from our Creator God Himself, through the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit.
In this session we will examine the three baptisms, with special focus on the third. Many Christians, including some famous and revered leaders of the faith, were not fully aware of this third baptism until later in their Christian walk-and their lives were never the same once they embraced it. Does God have a similar discovery in store for you?
Reflection and Discussion
1. In your own words, highlight the key differences between the three distinct baptisms detailed by the author: (1) baptism of the Holy Spirit, (2) water baptism, and (3) baptism in (or with) the Holy Spirit. In each case, who does the baptizing? What is signified by each baptism-and what is the end result?
2. At the start of chapter 11, Robert tells the story of the great evangelist D. L. Moody, who for years of Christian ministry felt he had "received all the Holy Spirit there was to get" when he was saved. But years later, Moody experienced a life-changing, ministry-empowering baptism in the Holy Spirit. What was your reaction as you read this story?
3. Look up and read aloud Acts 8:12-16. What does this passage tell us about the need for every believer to receive baptism in the Holy Spirit?
4. Regarding Acts 8:12-16, Robert observes, "Notice what this passage doesn't say. It doesn't tell us that when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent Peter and John who gave them the right hand of Christian fellowship because they had everything they needed. In the early years of my Christian walk, this is precisely what I was taught. I was told that once I was saved and water baptized, I had everything I needed to live the Christian life. Of course, now I know that without receiving the Holy Spirit, I was living a powerless and defeated life of minimal effectiveness in God's kingdom." Has your previous instruction or experience with baptism been similar to that of the believers in Acts 8, D. L. Moody, and Robert? Why do you suppose so many Christians are not aware of (or are skeptical, or even frightened by) the "third baptism"-baptism in the Holy Spirit?
5. Robert writes, "Moody later said that he was never the same after the day he was baptized in the Holy Spirit. He realized that almost everything he had accomplished in ministry prior to that moment had been done in the power of his own limited flesh. Afterward, he saw tens of thousands saved in revivals everywhere he went." We may not be called to evangelistic ministry as was D. L. Moody, but what benefits do God's people miss out on if pride, fear, controversy, or confusion prevents them from opening their hearts to the fullness of the Holy Spirit? Be as specific as you can.
6. In chapter 12 Robert observes, "Note that to turn Sarai into Sarah, God had to first take out the i. We can learn a lot of truth in thatlittle detail. Receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit requires humility and selflessness. Prideful and self-centered people simply don't yield themselves to the baptism in the Holy Spirit." From your reading of The God I Never Knew and God's Word, describe the heart and mind of someone who is not open to receiving the "third baptism." What, in your opinion, holds him or her back from asking for this blessing? What heart qualities are essential prerequisites for receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit?
7. Has God been speaking to you regarding your relationship with Him through His Spirit? What is He saying to you?
"Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment" (Hebrews 6:1-2).
Take time to share needs and requests for closing prayer. Let the group know that you will begin prayer time with a few minutes of silent prayer for participants to talk with God personally about what He may be revealing to them.
For Next Time
In preparation for the next session's reflection and discussion, read chapters 13, 14, 15, and 16 of The God I Never Knew.
VI. Session 6 The Giver
(Chapters 13, 14, 15, and 16)
God's Word clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit bequeaths supernatural aptitudes and abilities, or "spiritual gifts," to Christians in order to edify one another and advance the kingdom of God. On that there is little debate. But over the years, and especially during the past century, contention has arisen regarding some of the specific spiritual gifts listed in God's Word. Many Christians believe that some of the spiritual gifts were provided only to help leverage the initial launch of Christianity, while many others believe that all of the gifts remain fully operational today.
The author of The God I Never Knew counted himself among the first group-until some of those "temporary" gifts were manifested in his own life. Now he believes wholeheartedly that "a loving and good God designed these gifts expressly for our benefit and blessing. What a tragedy that so many of God's children have rejected these gifts. Their rejection grieves the Holy Spirit and hinders the body of Christ."
Whatever your personal background, approach this session with an open mind and heart, and be loving and respectful with any participants who might disagree with you. The concepts presented here may affirm what you already believe, or they may help you gain greater understanding and appreciation for Christians whose beliefs are different from your own. Regardless of your view on the subject, the triumphant message of these chapters is that "if you will open yourself up fully to the Holy Spirit, He will give you what you need, when you need it. Ask Him now to manifest His gifts through you 'as He wills' for the 'profit of all.'"
Reflection and Discussion
1. When you hear the word charismatic in connection with the Christian faith, what comes to your mind? How does the author distinguish between cultural stereotypes and the biblical meaning of this term?
2. In the New Testament's original language, the term charismata means "grace gifts," particularly in reference to spiritual gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit. In your own words, define spiritual gift. Are spiritual gifts exclusive to pastors, evangelists, and other Christian workers? What is the general purpose for which Christians are given such gifts?
3. Robert presents examples of what he calls discerning gifts of the Spirit, which include a word of knowledge, discerning of spirits, and a word of wisdom. Briefly explain what each gift is, what it is not, and how its responsible use can benefit others in the body of Christ.
4. Can you imagine ways in which the above spiritual gifts might be used irresponsibly by an egocentric Christian? What negative consequences do you envision from such misuse?
5. In chapter 15, Robert discusses declarative gifts of the Spirit. These include messages of encouragement, messages in unknown languages (commonly referred to as tongues), and interpretation of unknown languages. In your own words, briefly explain each of these spiritual gifts and how its intended use can edify and benefit the body of Christ.
6. If you do not personally exercise the gift of speaking in unknown tongues, does the author's treatment of the subject in chapter 15 open your mind to the gift's viability for modern times? Why or why not? Would you be willing to take this particular manifestation of the Spirit before the Lord in prayer?
7. Chapter 16 explores what Robert calls dynamic gifts of the Spirit, including faith (supernatural confidence in God's promises and provision), healings, and miracles. Define each of these spiritual gifts. How might the Holy Spirit use each in your life to minister to others?
8. While 1 Corinthians 12 deals extensively with spiritual gifts, the apostle Paul follows this chapter with his famous discourse on what subject in 1 Corinthians 13? What important message do you think Paul is conveying regarding our use of spiritual gifts?
"For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills" (1 Corinthians 12:8-11).
Take time to share needs and requests for closing prayer. Be sure to also pray that a spirit of love would trump any disagreements that may have surfaced during the discussion...and that God would clarify any confusion or doubts that may linger in the hearts of group members.
For Next Time
In preparation for the next session's reflection and discussion, read chapters 17, 18, 19, and 20 of The God I Never Knew.
VII. Session 7 The Language of Friendship
(Chapters 17, 18, 19, and 20)
There's no way around it: The spiritual gifts of speaking and praying in unknown languages have prompted fear, contention, and confusion among Christians for decades. Without a doubt, there are very loving, authentic, effective, Spirit-filled Christians on both sides of the issue, and 1 Corinthians 13-14 make clear that the last thing our Lord wants is for us to be judgmental or divided over these gifts.
Because the issue has created so much uncertainty and confusion among believers, Robert devotes four entire chapters to examining the topic. As you read these chapters, you'll have no doubt about Robert's viewpoint on these spiritual gifts. And while his views may or may not align with your own background and beliefs, we think you'll find that Robert has made every effort to present and support his perspective calmly, fairly, with love, and by "rightly dividing" the Scriptures with integrity. As you process his presentation, ask the Holy Spirit to verify or clarify His truth and His will for you. Listen to His voice with a heart and mind open to whatever He may have in store.
Reflection and Discussion
1. What was your reaction to Jack Hayford's story at the start of chapter 17? In your opinion, did the "well-known minister" respond the way Jesus would have responded? What would a more loving response look and sound like?
2. Robert writes, "I believe one of the great tragedies of the last one hundred years of church history has been the way Satan, the enemy of the church, has successfully made this particular gift so controversial and successfully made huge segments of the body of Christ reluctant to embrace any of the empowerments of the Holy Spirit. I know because I was one of them." If the author is right about Satan's role in this issue, why do you think Satan has engaged in such a strategy? Do you agree that the controversy has made many believers reluctant to embrace the ministry of the Holy Spirit at all? Have you, or people you know, been missing out on the fullness of the Spirit because this particular issue has been "off-putting"?
3. Explain the key differences between the gift of tongues and the grace of tongues. (To review, see chapter 17.)
4. Robert cautions how some believers have developed "a rigid obsession with 'the initial evidence of speaking in tongues' as being the only valid indicator of Holy Spirit baptism." Why is this emphasis a misinterpretation of the Bible's teaching? What do you think are some of the practical and spiritual dangers of this obsession?
5. Look up and read aloud 1 Corinthians 14:4-19. In your own words, summarize Paul's guidance regarding speaking and praying in tongues in public settings and private settings.
6. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:4, "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church." What does the term edify mean to you? Is Paul saying, "Don't speak in tongues"? Describe the balance Paul is advocating.
7. If you speak and/or pray in tongues, do you relate to the author's experience and counsel on how to receive this gift? Share your own experience. If you do not speak or pray in tongues, what was going through your mind and heart as you read the author's account along with his supporting scriptures? Are you open to this gift if God indeed has it in store for you?
8. The author writes, "You can trust Him. As James tells us, 'Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning' (1:17). If there ever was a good and perfect gift that came down from the Father, the Holy Spirit is that gift. He is good. He is perfect." Is every spiritual gift a good and perfect gift from above? As you process the concepts presented in these chapters, what is the Lord telling you-about Himself, about His Spirit, and about your journey with Him?
"Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God.... For God is not the author of confusion but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:26-28, 33).
Take time to share needs and requests for closing prayer. Let the group know that you'll begin prayer time with several minutes of silent prayer. During this time, encourage participants to place any questions, confusion, or struggles regarding the content of this session before the Lord and to trust Him for answers.
For Next Time
In preparation for the next session's reflection and discussion, read chapter 21 of The God I Never Knew and review key points you have noted in chapters 1-20.
VIII. Session 8 Your New Best Friend
God the Holy Spirit is available to all Christians. He thrives on being your helper and friend, a close companion who daily empowers and enables you to make better choices and honor God with your life. He wants to be your new best friend. All you need to do is ask, in faith, believing that God the Father and God the Son keep their promises.
· They do, and they will.
· What an incredible gift! Just ask, receive, unwrap, and enjoy.
· Your life will never be the same.
Reflection and Discussion
1. After sharing the story of the poor man who sailed the Atlantic on an ocean liner and skipped meals because he didn't think he was entitled to them, Robert writes, "Jesus sent the Holy Spirit as a wonderful gift-a gift better than having Jesus Himself with us-and the price for His presence in our lives was fully purchased by Jesus on the cross. The Holy Spirit came with all the other amazing blessings of salvation. But some believers never receive and unwrap the gift. Instead, they live lives of cheese-and-crackers Christianity. They muddle through this world powerless and deprived of the richness of God's presence, consoling themselves with the knowledge that heaven awaits by and by." Do you personally know Christians who are living the way the author describes? Without naming names, what about their lives indicates to you that perhaps they have not received and unwrapped the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit's fullness?
2. Jesus says, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke 11:13). What do Jesus's words tell us about God's desire for every Christian to be filled with the Holy Spirit? According to this verse, how does one receive the Holy Spirit?
3. Robert affirms, "Experiencing His power and presence really is as simple as just asking and receiving. Our heavenly Father receives joy and pleasure when He gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask. Just as with the salvation experience, baptism in the Holy Spirit is a free gift from the Father that you can receive by faith." Why do you think appropriating such an important gift is not more complicated than merely asking and receiving? If you have not yet received baptism in the Holy Spirit, is there anything that would keep you from asking God and receiving this wonderful, free gift today?
4. In chapter 21, Robert reminds us of several of the benefits and blessings that friendship with the Holy Spirit brings. As you review that list, which of these are especially welcome in your life today? Why?
5. Looking back over the previous chapters of The God I Never Knew, what would you identify as your most meaningful "aha" discoveries about the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit? Why are they significant to you?
6. What has God been saying to you during this study? Is there an area of your life in which you've learned to trust Him more than before? As a result of reading the Scriptures and the book, has the Holy Spirit prompted you to take any new steps in your spiritual journey?
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke 11:13).
Ask the group for needs and requests for closing prayer. Tell them that, as you've done in previous sessions, the first few minutes will be silent prayer so group members can talk privately with the Lord regarding their relationship with the Holy Spirit.
From Here On
Now it's time to enjoy your relationship with your new best friend, God the Holy Spirit. He's there for you! Walk closely with Him, and take delight in His counsel.