Forced into Church

Notes on Francis Chan’s
Forgotten God
Chapter 7: Supernatural Church

My dad posed an interesting question at dinner on Sunday. He’d been talking to a number of new members of our church who had not been to church since their teens, when they felt that their parents had forced them to go to church. “Did you ever feel like you HAD to go to church?”

Well, yes. I never felt that I had an option to just NOT go to church.

But that doesn’t mean that I begrudged the obligation.

I wanted to be there.

Church was where I worshiped God. Church was where I spent time with my friends. Church was where I had a JOB to do. It was just a part of life.

Sure, there were days when I wanted to sleep in or read a book–but on the whole, I wanted to be in church on Sunday mornings, and Wednesday nights, and for Bible study or small groups whenever they were.

I can’t really identify with those who felt forced to go to church.

I wonder what the difference was?

Was it because I was homeschooled and church was one of my only social outlets? Was it because I never knew any other life? Was it because I had jobs, tasks to accomplish at church (whether babysitting or running sound or overhead projection or teaching Sunday school or children’s studies)? Was it because my church was just so amazingly hip? (That one is doubtful, by the way.)

In part, it was probably a combination of all of the above. But I think the real inducement was that God chose to call me to Himself at a young age. In His grace, He set a fire in my heart for the church, His bride. I remember praying fervently on the playground as an eight-year old, asking God to save the surrounding neighborhood–Lincoln’s Airpark. I remember shutting myself in the unfinished bedroom in the basement with a boombox, singing praises to God. I remember eagerly volunteering to help out with Missionettes (a girl’s group) as a 7th grader–and stepping in to teach the kindergartners when the teacher had to quit unexpectedly.

Why did I never feel forced into church? Because God, in His great mercy, called me His own–and church was the gathering of His own.

Do I have any advice for parents to ensure that their kids never feel forced into church?

Do I have any advice for churches to make church feel less of a chore for kids and youth?


Not really.

In truth, all your works are insignificant. It is only the Holy Spirit who can make a child, a teen fall desperately in love Christ. It is only the Holy Spirit who can instill in that youth a love for His church. It is only the Holy Spirit who can change lives.

As Francis Chan says in Forgotten God:

“…While I might be able to get people in the doors of a church or auditorium if I tell enough jokes or use enough visuals, the fact remains that I cannot convince people to be obsessed with Jesus. Perhaps I can talk people into praying a prayer, but I cannot talk anyone into falling in love with Jesus. I cannot make someone understand and accept the gift of grace. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. So by every measure that actually counts, I need the Holy Spirit. Desperately.”

Only the Holy Spirit can change hearts and lives. If the church is to be powerful and effective, if church is to be a pleasure rather than a chore, than the church–God’s people–need to be radically empowered by and obediently following after the Holy Spirit.

(See more notes on Forgotten God here.)

Walk in the Spirit

Notes on Francis Chan’s
Forgotten God
Chapter 6: Forget about His will for your life!

“I think a lot of us need to forget about God’s will for my life. God cares more about our response to His Spirit’s leading today, in this moment, than about what we intend to do next year. In fact, the decisions we make next year will be profoundly affected by the degree to which we submit to the Spirit right now, in today’s decisions.”
-Francis Chan, Forgotten God, page 120

I finished my last semester of classes on Monday. I still have a thesis to write, but my classroom days (at least for my MS) are done.

It’s terrifying. This is the last step of a dozen alternate routes, contingency plans I’d prepared. Now I’m left without a plan.

What’s more, the biggest dreams of my heart seem so far out of reach. Doors have been shut and paths redirected.

Faced for the first time in my life with no plan, without even a feasible dream, I cried to my mother–“What am I supposed to do? I’m going to be done with classes. I need to get myself a job. I might need to relocate. I need to make all sorts of life decisions. But I don’t even know what I want–much less what God’s will is.”

While I’m not a fan of personal prophecy, at that moment, I would have given anything for a direct word from the Lord telling me what to do with my next five years. My mom, being a women of wisdom, didn’t attempt such counsel.

Instead, she observed: “I think you do the next thing.”

I finish my thesis. I attain my MS. After that, who knows. For now, I just focus on the next step.

It’s completely unsatisfying advice. I would have much preferred something more long-reaching and with less immediacy.

What’s God’s will for my life? I ask myself. I ask God. I start writing out the options and begging God to just check His preferences:

Married or single?

Community nutrition or clinical nutrition? (Or maybe that “Wife” and “Mom” position I want so badly?)

Midwest or coasts?

Current church or different church?

“Give me direction,” I beg.

And He has. But it’s not the kind of direction I seek. It’s more like my mom’s undramatic “You do the next thing.”

“Trust Me,” God says. “To those who are faithful in the little, I grant much,” He reminds me.

I start to wonder: Does God ever lead by giving a five-year plan? Francis Chan doesn’t seem to think so–and I’m not sure Scripture really supports the idea either.

God tells Abraham to pack up and leave–but Abraham has to be obedient, listening to God for each step along the way. God leads Israel out of Egypt–but instead of telling them their path in advance, He guides them via a cloud and a pillar of smoke. Paul is continuously redirected by the Spirit along his missionary journeys.

And even when God revealed the destination in advance, He was pretty adamant that it was to be reached using His means as an individual or nation followed His day-to-day leading. Case in point? Abraham’s promised son and Abraham and Sarah’s botched attempt to make it happen on their own.

What is God’s will for my life? To read Scripture, it would appear that His will for my life is that I walk by the Spirit daily (Gal 5:16), heeding His voice as He directs the seemingly mundane decisions of my life: the attitude I have as I work, the way I respond to an unexpected situation, the people I talk to and what I say to them throughout the day.

The Spirit’s will for my life is evident in Scripture: He desires to conform me to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). He desires that I put to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom 8:13). He desires that I be filled with the Spirit rather than with drunkenness or dissipation (Eph 5:18). He desires that I hold fast to good doctrine (2 Tim 1:13-14). He desires that I set my mind on the things of God (Rom 8:5).

So why am I so intent on getting a five-year plan from God while paying little attention to the plan for right now that He has made perfectly clear?

Lord, forgive me for disregarding Your direction for today in pursuit of Your plan for tomorrow. Help me to live each day in step with Your Spirit.

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
Galatians 5:25

Forgotten God here.)

Intimate Stillness

Notes on Francis Chan’s
Forgotten God
Chapter 5: A Real Relationship

“While Jesus didn’t have to deal with emails, voice mails, or texts, He certainly understood what it meant to have multitudes of people pursuing Him at once. At any given moment of the day, people were looking for Jesus. Because of the priority of His relationship with His Father, He found ways to escape. He took the time to focus and be quiet (Mark 1:35). He was willing to remove Himself from people’s reach in order to pray and commune with God the Father. Our lack of intimacy often is due to our refusal to unplug and shut off communication from all others so we can be alone with Him.
-Francis Chan, Forgotten God, page 109

Why might I not be experiencing intimacy with the Holy Spirit? Chan suggests that one reason might be the loudness of our lives.

It’s funny–the very night I first read this chapter (before I read it), I was settling into my bathwater, singing a song of worship to the Lord and picking up a book to read, when I experienced that little nudge in my soul. “Don’t read, Rebekah. Just spend some time with Me.”

I was sorely tempted to disobey. I’d been so busy that day. I hadn’t had any time for pleasure reading. Bath time was my time–to relax and to read a book.

But I reminded myself that I’d said I wanted the Spirit. And if I truly want the Spirit, I must be obedient when He speaks.

I set the book down and spent the next twenty minutes or so in prayer–just communing with God and enjoying His presence. It was wonderful.

How often, I wonder, does the Holy Spirit speak to me, urging me into relationship with Him? How often do I ignore or not even hear His still small voice, so consumed am I with my blogs and books and papers to write and grade? How often do I rush through our morning breakfast date (I spend time in the Word over breakfast every morning) because I want to get on with my day?

Jesus, for all His busyness and all the demands on His time, made time to be alone with God.

If I truly desire the Spirit of God to be active in my life, I must be willing to rearrange my schedule, to make time to be still with Him.

**Let me make clear–there is no way that you or I can make the Holy Spirit move in our lives. The truth is that if you are a child of God, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. He dwells within you. But I believe that by our hardheartedness we can ignore the Holy Spirit–leading to a failure to experience His presence (even though He is present). Thus, the failure to experience the Holy Spirit is not the Holy Spirit’s failure to be present–but our failure to be sensitized to His presence. The disciplines of the Christian life, including that of stillness, can serve to sensitize our eyes and our hearts so that we can see and feel the Holy Spirit’s presence.**

(See more notes on Forgotten God here.)

Fear of Wrong Motives

Notes on Francis Chan’s
Forgotten God
Chapter 4: Why Do You Want Him?

Chan asks why I want the Holy Spirit. “What is your motivation?” he queries.

I search my brain and come up with this answer: “Because my vision is to glorify God by growing in daily relationship with Him, being conformed to the image of Christ; by growing in relationship with others, taking time to invest in their lives; and by growing as an individual, always learning and always practicing what I’ve learned.”

My life vision flows glibly from my lips and my pen. This is what I only pray that someday my life will exemplify. God’s glorification. Relationship with Christ. Relationship with others. Personal growth.

I fear, though, that this answer is too pat, too religious, too straight out of a Stephen Covey exercise. Surely, I have ulterior motives for desiring the Holy Spirit.

I set down the book for a few days. I pick it up again and reread Chapter 3.

What are my motives? I ask myself, digging for hidden selfish motives. “Because I want His kingdom to come and His will to be done.”

“Church answer.” My brain throws back its rapid-fire retort.

I try again. “I want the Spirit because…”

I’m at a loss. “I want the Spirit because more than anything, I want my life to be a testimony of Christ. I want the Spirit because I dream of being transformed into the image of Christ. I want the Spirit because God has put in my heart a dream for the church, His bride, walking in mercy and in truth. I want the Spirit because I know that it is He and He alone who can cause my life to reflect Christ, who can build the church, and who can draw the lost unto Himself. And if my life fails to reflect Christ, to build the church, and to draw the lost to saving grace, then all my achievements are worthless. I want the Spirit because I know that, apart from Him, I will have wasted my life.”

Chan is right–there are many wrong motives for seeking the Spirit. He names attention, miracle hunting, and desire for personal control. But these are not what motivates me at this point in my life. I need not be ashamed that, in God’s mercy, He has caused me to desire the Spirit for the right reason.

I need not spend hours trying to find a false motive. Should one arise, God will reveal that. For now, I can rejoice that God has granted me this pure desire–and I can seek the Spirit’s increased activity unbound by fear of wrong motives.

(See more notes on Forgotten God here.)

Our incomplete theology

Notes on Francis Chan’s
Forgotten God
Chapter 3: Theology of the Holy Spirit 101

“I’m reading this book by Francis Chan called Forgotten God–”

Forgotten God?” my dad quizzed.

I described the thesis of the book as I understand it now: Chan believes that Christians have “forgotten” the third person of the Trinity and need to remember Him again.

“I think he’s right.” Dad replied–and went on to tell me that he’d just been thinking that same thing in relation to the Nicene Creed. He quoted the pertinent passage:

“And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.”

And I thought, “Huh, yeah. He’s right.”

When was the last time I heard a sermon on the Holy Spirit–on who He is, not just what He does? I have no idea. When was the last time I heard a hymn of adoration to the Holy Spirit? I can’t remember. My church does not publicly recite the creeds, so I know it has been years since I heard or recited the Nicene creed.

This fundamental confession of our faith declares that the Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of life–and that He is worshiped and glorified together with the Father and Son–but I see little evidence that the church accords the Spirit the same adoration that they do the Father and the Son.

I remember one particular year where I found myself in a liturgical church on Pentecost Sunday. My own church is not liturgical and pays no mind to the liturgical calendar except for lighting advent candles (frequently in the wrong order, although I try to refrain from being nit-picky)–so I know better than to expect a Pentecost sermon on Pentecost there. But in a liturgical church, I had high hopes of hearing a true Pentecost sermon–a sermon on the Holy Spirit. Sure enough, the readings were rife with mention of the Holy Spirit. My anticipation mounted for the sermon–and then was quickly dashed when the pastor mentioned the Holy Spirit exactly…never…in his sermon. Forgotten God is right.

Recently, I was visiting the website of some churches in my area–and I found a “statement of faith” that quoted from Mike Yaconelli of Youth Worker Magazine from Nov/Dec 2003:

“We’re about Jesus. We know He’s a part of the Trinity and all the other important stuff we also believe, but if we’re honest, we’re partial to Jesus. Don’t get us wrong. God is like a Father-no, God IS the Father-and the buck stops with Him (if you’re going to have the buck stop somewhere it might as well stop with Someone who is…well…all about love with a capital L. Of course, He’s also about justice with a capital J, but we’ll take out chances that, in the end, justice will also feel like love!) And then there is the Holy Spirit-mysterious, windy, seems to like fire a lot, whispering, and always pointing us to…you guessed it…Jesus. We not only like Jesus a lot, He likes us a lot, enough to die for us. We know that when life gets tough (and it always does) He’ll be there for us.

I was absolutely shocked by the way this “statement of faith” treated the Holy Spirit. Mysterious, windy, pyromaniac whisperer who points at Jesus? Honestly? I understand that within the original context, this likely (hopefully) was never intended to be a distillation of belief about the Trinity. Yet I don’t doubt that this is the essence of many a Christian’s beliefs regarding the Holy Spirit.

Even as I look at my own church’s statement of faith–I see discussion of the Holy Spirit, but more in reference to the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” than in regard to WHO the Holy Spirit truly is.

It’s a hole in our theology. The word theology strictly means theos-God, -logy-study. The study of God. Yet we study the Father, we glorify the Son, and we forget about the Holy Spirit–or at best, turn Him into little more than a cosmic gift-giver. We’ve got an incomplete theology–only two-thirds formed. The Christian God is a triune God. Why then do we not include all three persons of the Trinity in our theology?

Seeing a hole in our theology makes me glad that Chan chooses not to jump right into the “practice” of the Holy Spirit–into charismata or the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” or even the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit that accompanies Christian witness. Instead, Chan takes the time to establish a basic (although non-comprehensive) theology of the Holy Spirit–both who He is and what He does.

Some of Chan’s main points:

  • The Holy Spirit is a person
  • The Holy Spirit is God
  • The Holy Spirit is eternal and holy
  • The Holy Spirit has His own mind, and He prays for us
  • The Holy Spirit has emotions
  • The Holy Spirit has His own desires and will
  • The Holy Spirit is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient

It seems to me that we can easily fall into a trap of either ignoring the Holy Spirit entirely or considering Him as a means to our own ends. Either way, we tend to deny Him His deity.

My heart, then, is to reverse this trend–starting with myself. I want to know the Holy Spirit so that I might worship and glorify Him together with the Father and the Son.

I love the description Chan gives of why the Christian should be interested in the theology of the Holy Spirit:

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

Why should I develop my theology of the Holy Spirit? In order that I might worship Him–and the entire Trinity–more fully.

(See more notes on Forgotten God here.)

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.)

The Undeniable Activity of the Spirit

Notes on Francis Chan’s
Forgotten God
Chapter 1: I’ve got Jesus. Why do I need the Spirit?

In the first chapter of Forgotten God Chan encourages his readers to ask themselves a seemingly simple question:

“When was the last time I undeniably saw the Holy Spirit at work in or around me?”

It seems simple but for the difficult corollary question: How can I incontrovertibly identify the Spirit’s working? How can I be sure that what I see is the Spirit at work?

Acts 2 gives an example of the undeniable activity of the Holy Spirit. The disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit. They start speaking in tongues. They’ve got tongues of fire sitting on them. Wind is rushing through the house they’re in. This is undeniably the action of the Holy Spirit.

But if you asked me the last time I saw something like that, I’d have to say…Never. I’ve never heard a rushing wind through a house. I’ve never seen tongues of fire resting on people’s heads. I’ve heard people speak in tongues–but then I’ve also heard people babble in imaginary languages. So I don’t know that I can claim that as an undeniable act of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve known people who would exclaim after a particularly emotional church service that “the Spirit was sure moving tonight.” But how do we know that? I’ve seen people emotionally moved by political speeches–but that doesn’t mean the Spirit was moving.

I’ve known people who identified “goosebumps” moments as the working of the Spirit. But I get goosebumps when it’s cold and shivers up my spine when I see a cool scene in a movie. That doesn’t mean the Spirit is at work.

So what is an undeniable act of the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit do that only the Holy Spirit does–so that when I see it, I can clearly identify the activity of the Holy Spirit?

A quick word study of “Spirit” in the New Testament highlights a few main activities of the Spirit.

Scripture is clear that the Spirit is active in salvation. He washes, justifies, and sanctifies the believer (I Cor 6:11, II Thess 2:13, Titus 3:5, I Pet 1:2). He grants access to the Father (Eph 2:18). He frees us from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2). He gives life (John 6:63, II Cor 3:6).

The Spirit gives the believer assurance of salvation. It is in the Spirit that we cry out “Abba, Father” (Rom 8:16, Gal 4:6). The Spirit is given as a guarantee (II Cor 5:5, Eph 1:13-14). At salvation, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13-14, Eph 4:30).

The Spirit of God is intimately involved in sanctification of the believer. It is by the Spirit that the believer puts to death the deeds of the body (Rom 8:13). When one walks in the Spirit, he no longer fulfills the lust of the flesh (Gal 5:16). The Spirit produces fruit of godly character in the believer: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, righteousness, and truth (Gal 5:22-23, Eph 5:9). The Holy Spirit transforms the believer into the image of Christ (II Cor 3:18).

The Holy Spirit gives understanding of the things of God. He teaches and brings to remembrance the things that Jesus said (John 14:26). He speaks what He hears from Jesus (John 16:13-15). In Him, the mystery of Christ is revealed (Eph 3:5). Indeed, Scripture says that no one can understand the things of God except by the Spirit of God (I Cor 2:10-12)

The Holy Spirit is a witness to God and enables believers to be witnesses. Jesus said that when the Spirit comes, He will testify of Christ (John 15:26). He promised that when the Spirit comes, the disciples would receive power and be witnesses to Christ (Acts 1:8). When the early church was filled with the Spirit, they testified boldly of Christ (Acts 4:31, 5:32; 18:5). John repeats that the Spirit of God witnesses (I John 5:6-8), and expands it to say that we can test the spirits to know if a spirit is the Spirit of God by whether or not the spirit confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (I John 4:1-3).

The Holy Spirit additionally enables tongues, prophesy, and a variety of other gifts (Acts 2:4, 10:45-46, 11:28, 19:6, 21:4; Romans 12:7-12). The Holy Spirit gives the believer hope and comfort (Acts 9:31, Rom 15:13, Gal 5:5). The Holy Spirit gives direction (Acts 8:29, 10:19, 13:2, 16:6-7, 20:28).

Ultimately, the Holy Spirit enables the believer to say that Jesus is Lord. I Corinthians 12:3 states that there is one thing that the Spirit and only the Spirit can do. No one can do this thing without the Holy Spirit’s enabling.

“Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” (I Cor 12:3)

So how can I know undeniably that the Holy Spirit is at work? I know if the word of God is being boldly proclaimed, if people are being saved, if the saints have assurance of salvation, if there is understanding of the Scriptures, if believers are being freed from the power of sin and are walking in godly character, if believers walk with a clear sense of direction, if believers have hope, if believers are walking in the gifts of the Spirit.

Ultimately, if the Holy Spirit is at work, the Lordship of Christ will be both proclaimed and demonstrated through the lives of believers.

In the Bible study Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby talks of things that only God can do. The aforementioned list is a list of things that only God, working through the Spirit, can do.

So tell me, does your life show evidence of the Holy Spirit at work? Does your church show evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work? Or does your life indicate that you are quenching the Spirit (I Thess 5:19)–not allowing Him access to do His thing?

When I answer that question, I have to say–yes, the Spirit is alive in me. My life does show some evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work. I have assurance of salvation. I have hope in Him. These are things only God can accomplish in me. But am I experiencing the full activity of the Holy Spirit? No. I do not have boldness as a witness of Christ. There are many areas in which I have not, by the Spirit, put to death the works of the flesh. My attitudes and actions only occasionally reflect Christ-like character.

Yet the Spirit of God dwells inside of me. That is true. I do not need to be “filled with the Spirit” as if He was not already inside me. I was sealed with the Holy Spirit at salvation. That’s a done deal. But, maybe, as Chan suggests, I have “forgotten” or ignored the Holy Spirit. Instead of walking according to the Spirit, I have walked according to the flesh–and in doing so, I have reaped of the flesh.

Like Chan, I have to say:

“…I am tired of living in a way that looks exactly like people who do not have the Holy Spirit of God living in them. I want to consistently live with an awareness of His strength. I want to be different today from what I was yesterday as the fruit of the Spirit becomes more manifest in me. I want to live so that I am truly submitted to the Spirit’s leading on a daily basis. Christ said that it is better for us that the Spirit came, and I want to live like I know that is true. I don’t want to keep crawling [like a caterpillar] when I have the ability to fly [as a butterfly, a new creation, alive by the Spirit].”

(See more notes on Forgotten God here.)

A Balanced Life (More of Him, Less of Me)

Notes on Francis Chan’s
Forgotten God

Variety. Balance. Moderation.

Buzzwords for healthy eating. Buzzwords for healthy living.

Try lots of different things. Have them in proportion. Don’t have too much of anything.

I’m by no means perfect, but this is how I try to live–finding a balance between the hundreds of things that attract my interest, trying to moderate my affections and attentions.

I find this spilling over into my spiritual life, where I’m constantly trying to find a balance–between holiness and grace, between spirit and truth, between orthodoxy and relevance.

But this is where I go wrong–and where Chan’s words hit me:

“When we are referring to God, balance is a huge mistake. God is not just one thing we add to the mix called life. He wants an invitation from us to permeate everything and every part of us. In the same way, seeking a “healthy balance” of the Holy Spirit assumes that there are some who have too much Holy Spirit and others who have too little. I have yet to meet anyone with too much Holy Spirit. Granted, I’ve met many who talk about Him too much, but none who are actually overfilled with His presence.

When it comes to God, I don’t need variety. Deuteronomy 4:35 says “…the Lord Himself is God, there is none other beside Him.”

When it comes to God, I don’t need balance. I don not need to walk a fine line between which character attribute I emphasize and which I de-emphasize. I need to emphasize them all.

When it comes to God, I don’t need moderation. I need everything.

When it comes to God, I need to see Him entirely, experience Him completely, and cling to Him wholeheartedly.

The imbalances I see in those who emphasize holiness to the exclusion of grace or spirit to the exclusion of truth are not solved by running a balancing act between the two. They are solved by emphasizing God to the exclusion of all else.

Imbalances come when I try to pick and choose between radicalism and stagnation–when instead, I should be choosing God.

Imbalances come when I, a human, try to balance God instead of recognizing that God needs no balancing. I need God. Period.

It is not possible to have too much of God. Imbalances occur not when I have too much of God (or even to much of a specific one of God’s attributes). Imbalances come because there is too much me.

My goal in life, then, should be like John the Baptist’s: that He would increase and that I would decrease. My goal should be to have all that He is, to embrace Him fully, to let Him take over my life.

It is not possible to have too much of God.

Lord, I repent of placing myself in Your place, trying to be the judge weighing You on my balance. I see now that the opposite should be true. You are the judge, the arbiter of right and wrong, of balance and imbalance. You are all that is good–and I have only to embrace all of You for my life to be balanced. I repent of picking and choosing which parts of You to embrace. I repent of trying to choose how much of Your control I’d allow. And today I choose to desire all of You. I want Your exclusive reign over every part of my life. I offer my life to You. Take it–until all that remains is You.

(See more notes on Forgotten God here.)