Last night I read Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan. This was very refreshing to read after the disappointing Why Leaders Can't Lead...
Francis clearly fears writing this book, or rather the reception it might receive. It's astonishing to me that a topic as central to the Christian Faith as one of the members of the Godhead could be considered risky to write about, but this is an area that is misunderstood and fraught with disagreement within the church. In short there is one side that looks at events like the "Toronto Blessing" and other rather out of control worship experiences, and rejects the idea of the activity of the Spirit altogether. The other side of the argument accuses the church of ignoring and suppressing the Spirit of God.
It is into this rather divided ground that Francis steps with his book on The Holy Spirit. He has awesome things to say. I loved this conversation, with his wife, about what a caterpillar must think:
"For all it's 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."
I stared at this sentence for a long, long time. I'd simply never thought about what it truly means to be a new creation in Christ. Suddenly I got it. Admittedly, I have been a Christian for a long, long time. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't seek to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in my life.
Chan has an excellent chapter on the theology of the Holy Spirit in which he lays out, biblically, facts about the Spirit according to scripture. He then has a very specific list, with verses, that shows the role the Holy Spirit should be playing in our lives. I spent time looking up the verses and dwelling on it, and this was the very best part of the book. Great, great stuff.
He then talks about motives in the chapter, Why Do You Want Him. The most important point is this: Do you want the Holy Spirit in your life so you can accomplish your goals, or God's? He also is quite honest about the fact that turning yourself fully over to God and what the Holy Spirit wants to do in your life is pretty frightening, because we don't like not being in control.
The chapter entitled "The Real Relationship" really hit home for me when it identified two things that might be limiting the activity of the Spirit in my life: Comfort (Maybe Your Life is Too Safe) and Volume (Maybe Your Life is Too Loud). I've been struggling with the idea that God doesn't call us to be comfortable lately, so this really hit home. But the volume portion of this chapter is really what I needed to hear. I live life with iTunes on, with my car stereo on, checking my iphone constantly etc. I very rarely can stop and just reflect and listen. I've blogged in the past about how profound it impacts me when I do that. Maybe I need to listen and do that more :-)
Chan closes by looking a bit at what a church looks like when it begins to take the Spirit seriously, and it is an awesome thing. The book of Acts has a lot to teach us about sacrifice, loving one another, and forsaking materialism in the name of Christ. Chan is working to put these things into play in his own life and in the life of his church.
This is an excellent book. Highly recommended.