Reflections Posts: These are a special type of book review where I will just comment and “reflect” upon what I have just read. A book that would get a reflection instead of a review would be books that deal with religion and philosophy, nonfiction memoirs, or other nonfiction books that I feel I cannot review in my normal manner.
So, with that being said, here is my first Reflection.
F: Forgotten God—Francis Chan
“The Christian’s life in all its aspects—intellectual and ethical, devotional and relational, upsurging in worship and outgoing in witness—is supernatural; only the Spirit can initiate and sustain it. So apart from him, not only will there be no lively believers and no lively congregations, there will be no believers and no congregations at all.”—J. I. Packer
Though this book is considered “Inspirational,” I feel that Chan’s narrative voice is very distinct—he is not preaching at his readers, but rather working through what he is writing for himself and sharing it with those who decide to pick up his book and take this journey with him. This book is not merely another instructional guide for living a better life according to so-and-so’s personal opinion. Instead, this book delves into the Word of God, and Chan lets the Scripture do most of the talking. Yes, he interprets and remarks upon his thoughts and feelings, he also lets his readers know that he acknowledges the fact that he does not know everything, and that this is as much of a challenge for him as it is for anyone else.
“So while hopefully you will learn something new about the Holy Spirit in this book, my prayer is that it will draw you into deeper communion with the Spirit and greater experience of His power and presence in your life.”—Francis Chan, pg 36
With that being said, Forgotten God: Revising Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit addresses the sad truth that the people of the church are neglecting the Holy Spirit. We tend to focus so much on God the Father and God the Son in the church that many times we tend to gloss over The Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is a necessary part of a Christian life, one that both we as individuals and the church as a whole desperately needs yet tends to forget about. Chan uses this book to walk himself and readers through the importance and power of the Holy Spirit.
He states that his purpose in writing this book is “to explore how God has called us to more, through the presence and strength of the Holy Spirit” and invites us on a Scriptural study of the Holy Spirit. He tells us from the beginning that he is reflecting exegetically on the Scripture he includes—meaning, he is starting with the text and then drawing out meaning from it—rather than starting with the idea he wants to portray and then searching for Scriptural evidence (eisegesis).
He begins this book by focusing on the power of the Holy Spirit from the very beginning, as recorded in Acts chapter 2. The early church embraced the Holy Spirit when it came down to dwell within them, and through the Holy Spirit they were able to do miraculous things for the message of Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit proves to be so incredibly radical in the days of the early church—so why has that radical-ness died out in the church of today? Why does the church tend to focus on “rules” and not on the power and the movement of the Holy Spirit of God? That seems like such a bogus question to me, yet it is completely relevant and ringing with truth. Francis Chan challenges his readers [of the church] to re-evaluate the importance, purpose, and power that the Holy Spirit can have in each of our lives and the life and love of the church.
One thing that I realized after reading through this book that I never really thought about before is that the Holy Spirit is His own being—He is God the Holy Spirit, He is the Spirit of God, He is the God who indwells within us, who we house as believers. How radical is that? Yet how hard it is to think of the Holy Spirit as His own being. We can identify God the Father as our Heavenly Father, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Moses, and we can identify God the Son as Jesus Christ who walked among us and died for us. So why is it a little strange to think of God the Holy Spirit as the indweller of our bodies, who walks with us day by day, who guides us, who comforts us, who encourages us?
Chan continues to pose questions: Why do you want the Holy Spirit? Do you try to lead the Spirit or follow the Spirit? If God led you to where you are right now, then are you making a difference there? Would anything change if you were gone?
“The Spirit is not a passive power that we can wield as we choose. The Spirit is God, a Being who requires that we submit ourselves to be led by Him. Do you really want to be led?” –Chan, 89-90
According to Scripture, the Holy Spirit is our source of security, intimacy with God, and encouragement. He leads us towards a life of holiness, which tends to be an uphill trudge through distractions and difficulties. Yet He is there to support us, strengthen us, and encourage us every step of the way—So why do we spend so much time neglecting Him? Why do I spend so much time neglecting Him? As a believer in Christ, He dwells within me. Because of that, my body is transformed into a Temple of God, just like those of the Old Testament—where people were struck down if they entered into the inner-most part of that Temple without a repentant heart. Because of the promise of the Holy Spirit, I have become that inner-most part of the Temple of God—why doesn’t it matter more? For such a powerful thing that each believer experiences, why don’t we care more?
“The God of the universe is not something we can just add to our lives and keep on as we did before. The Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is not someone we can just call on when we want a little extra power in our lives. Jesus Christ did not die in order to follow us. He died and rose again so that we could forget everything else and follow Him to the cross, to true Life.”—Chan, pg. 122
The Book of Acts depicts a church that is completely unstoppable in their listening and following the Holy Spirit, in allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to move through them so that God is glorified. What are we doing today? Why are we discouraging and dissuading the movement of the Spirit of God in our churches and in our lives rather than embracing and encouraging and celebrating it?
“God is not a coercive God. And though He desires for His children to know peace and love and to have wisdom, I have noticed that often He waits for us to ask.”—Francis Chan, pg. 146
What is stopping us from asking? What is stopping us from acknowledging, from seeking, from embracing the power of the Spirit of God like the early church did unashamedly?
This is the challenge Francis Chan leaves his readers with. These are the questions he asks himself everyday and encourages us to do the same. Chan acknowledges these challenges and questions and encourages us to search, to seek, to journey with him as we learn more about the Holy Spirit of God and commune with Him more and more.
This book is not just another “how to live better” book. This book reminds us of the things that we typically take for granted, the things that the church has engrained in our heads, and challenges us to shed new light on the Holy Spirit for ourselves, to delve deeper into the Word, and to learn, acknowledge, and ask for the promises of God.
This book challenges, inspires, and makes you think and rethink things. Definitely Fourth Shelf Worthy.