The Holy Spirit terrifies me

Notes on Francis Chan’s
Forgotten God
Chapter 2: What are you afraid of?

Chan’s first question made me think. His second question no less, but in a completely different way. To answer the first question, I had to dig deep into Scripture. To answer the second, I have had to plumb the depths of my own soul.

Chan’s second questions is: “What are you afraid of?”

It’s not an easy question to answer, for fear can be a subtle captor, binding one with chains so light they almost seem not to exist except for the inability to move.

I’m afraid I’ll lose things I value if I surrender my life to the Holy Spirit. I have known many who have given up houses, jobs, comfort, and possessions in order to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading to the mission field. I have known some who have lost friendships, even family, over differences in doctrine regarding the Holy Spirit. I, too, have experienced loss as a result of my beliefs regarding the Holy Spirit.

I am afraid of surrendering, of letting the Holy Spirit be my guide rather than setting my own agenda. What if He leads me where I don’t want to go? What if He leads me to take up my cross? What if He leads me to leave father and mother, career and family, dreams and aspirations? What if His plan for my life is different than my own?

I am afraid of the heresy I have seen in experientially-based charismatic movements. I have seen those who have latched on to the prosperity gospel, making God into little more than a cosmic gift giver. I have seen those who have replaced Scripture with prophecy, “words from God”, and ecstatic experiences. I have seen how this folly has borne destruction in my friends and peers, leading them away from God, from true doctrine, and from holy character.

I am afraid that saying “Yes” to the Spirit is turning off my brain. I have seen many for whom that is true. Convinced of the wisdom of following “the Spirit”, they throw all logic and thought to the wind. They act in ridiculous ways, following half-baked schemes with more enthusiasm than wisdom–and then wonder when the results aren’t what they expected.

Ultimately, I have two fears–both very valid but very different.

The first fear is the fear of having to die to self in order to let the Spirit reign. This fear is completely founded. As Chan says,

“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. The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be….The Holy Spirit does not seek to hurt us, but He does seek to make us Christlike, and this can be painful.”

There is no doubt about it: surrender to the Holy Spirit means dying to self, but it also means experiencing the greatest joy–knowing Christ and being conformed into His image.

The second fear is a fear of being experience-based rather than truth-based, and being led to error thereby. This fear is based on experience–on seeing many who have been led into error in their emphasis on the charismatic gifts. But the fruits I saw were not the fruits of the Spirit. They were the fruits of an immature faith, of believers who were tossed to and fro by every wind and wave of doctrine, not testing the spirits to see that they are from God.

This second fear need not be an issue, so long as I am truly led by the Spirit–because the Spirit does not lead into error but into truth. The Spirit does not lead into debauchery but into self-control. I must not equate the fleshy outcome of some charismatic indulgence with the actual activity of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion, error, and sin. He is the author of discernment, truth, and righteousness.

I tremble in fear as I approach the throne of God to ask that His Holy Spirit take control of my life. I beg Him that I might know His love–and that His love would drive away my fear of relinquishing control. I beg Him that He might lead me in all truth–and that my path would be kept far from the error of experientialism. My knees knock and I fall in terror. Lord, I don’t want to relinquish control. I don’t want to die to self. I don’t want to lose my life. But I want to be led by Your Spirit. I want to see and know You. I want to experience the power of the Holy Spirit. So despite my fear, I surrender. Holy Spirit, have Your way in me.

(See more notes on Forgotten God here.)

2 thoughts on “The Holy Spirit terrifies me”

  1. God is love, – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
    You already said “yes”, by the power of the Holy Spirit, when you were baptized, and God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) claimed you as His child.
    Live in Him, and don’t be afraid of anything.


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