If you had never before interacted with Christianity and simply picked up with the New Testament, you would be overwhelmed with the importance and primacy of the Holy Spirit in the early church. Looking at the influence and role of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, it becomes quickly apparent that the church was entirely dependent upon the Holy Spirit’s power.
Yet when you look at today’s typical church, you tend to see just the opposite: a tragic neglect of the Holy Spirit. This overriding concern is the impetus that drives Francis Chan’s short yet poignant book on the Holy Spirit. The reasons evangelicals neglect the Holy Spirit are numerous:
- wary of the perceived abuses of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit by our charismatic brothers and sisters
- an Enlightenment-driven skepticism of anything that seems too supernatural or mystical
- a culture of self-reliance that causes us to rely on God the Holy Spirit only in times of extreme duress
The result is a generation of churches that has little to no knowledge or interaction with the Holy Spirit on a practical level. Chan gives a stinging rebuke that cuts to the heart of the hypocrisy of many Christians, “If it’s true that the Spirit of God dwells in us and that our bodies are the Holy Spirit’s temple, then shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not? (32)” The fact that there seems to be little to no difference between many Christians and non-Christians speaks to just how far we’ve missed the mark in this regard. As he states later, “You don’t need the Holy Spirit if you are merely seeking to live a semi-moral life and attend church regularly. You can find people of all sorts in many religions doing quite nicely without Him. You only need the Holy Spirit’s guidance and help if you truly want to follow of the Way of Jesus Christ” (122).
Chan states from the beginning that this book is not meant to be a definitive theology of the Holy Spirit. Nor is it a theological rebuke to those who stray into the fringes of biblical teachings on the Holy Spirit. Rather, it is a well-written and passionate plea for Christians to interact with and depend more upon the Holy Spirit.
My only regret for the book is that I wish he would have written more. Growing up as an evangelical, I did not have much teaching on the Holy Spirit. Neglect, fear and distance seemed to drive my interactions with the Holy Spirit for decades. The result? I learned to treat the Holy Spirit as someone unknowable, better to be left alone, lest I go too far and turn into a crazy pentecostal. How tragic.
1. I don’t depend on the Holy Spirit as I should. This is something I’ve always felt, but have never really acted on. Francis Chan’s book helped crystalize what I’ve known as I should: I neglect the Holy Spirit. I’m too comfortable operating under my own power. The result? I miss out on the Spirit-led life that God has for me.
2. I need to learn more. Growing up in a culture hesitant about the Holy Spirit, it’s still a taboo subject among many of my brethren. This book reinforced that I need to continue to learn and grow in this subject. The trick is to find teachers that aren’t merely pushing a particular viewpoint across.
3. Just because I’m uncomfortable with something, doesn’t mean it’s not true. I’ll be honest, the idea of speaking in tongues and prophecy and healing services makes me uncomfortable. That’s not my background. But just because it makes me uncomfortable doesn’t mean that it’s not true. The Bible speaks on these issues, and I need to have an open and willing heart to see what the Holy Spirit would teach me in this regard.
4. I want to the see the Holy Spirit work in my life. I want to see the the Holy Spirit lead me like he did the first century Christians. I want to see the Holy Spirit lead Mt Vernon like He led the early church. I don’t want to look back on my life and realize that everything I accomplished was done under my own power. I want to be a part of something bigger than myself.
QUESTION: What was your interaction/teaching of the Holy Spirit growing up? How has it impacted your interaction with Him as an adult?