Brothers & Sisters,
I’ve been reading off and on, “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan throughout the course of this semester. I’ve finally finished the book! Perhaps having to visit the doctor on Saturday was a hidden blessing as it gave me much time alone with God, without many distractions to spend studying, praying, reading, etc. The book is essentially about the power of the Holy Spirit and the way that today’s churches are set up in ways that do not display a dependence or apparent need for the Spirit to come through.
Francis Chan writes, “I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for Him to come through. That if He doesn’t come through, I am screwed.“
Challenging perspective, right? Do we live our lives for Christ to such a degree that we are desperate for Him to come through in the body of Christ? More specifically, in our personal lives do we live in such a way?
Read the following passage:
“I think that we all could agree that living ‘according to our sinful flesh’ is not what is intended for us as children of God. Yet even so, we often choose to face life’s issues and circumstances in exactly the same way as someone without the Spirit of God. We worry, strive, and grieve no differently than unbelievers. While it is true that we are humans like everyone else, it is also true that we are humans with the Spirit of God dwelling in us…”
Here’s the kicker…
“…Yet, whether consciously or not, we essentially say to God, ‘I know You raised Christ from the dead; but the fact is my problems are just too much for You and I need to deal with them myself.“
Personally, I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve looked at my problems through this lens, to where I said to God, “but wait a minute, what are you doing, LORD? I think I know a better way…” He must be up there laughing as He patiently waits on me to realize just the opposite, that I need Him to take the reigns.
The truth is that “He desires to do more than ‘help out’ a bit. He wants to completely transform us. He wants to take a timid heart and set it ablaze with strength and courage, so much so that people know something supernatural has taken place–life change just as miraculous as fire coming down from heaven.” A few pages later, Chan writes, “God wants the praise for what we do in our lives. But if we never pray audacious, courageous prayers, how can He answer them?” O that we would develop a heavier heart for prayer, to seek the LORD for wisdom regarding every matter of our lives. What will it take before we surrender and realize our absolute desperate need for the Creator to assist in the lives of the created?
Finally, I want to share with you a story that I believe we should read and be mindful of, going forward as “the church”…
“A while back a former gang member came to our church. He was heavily tattooed and rough around the edges, but he was curious to see what church was like. He had a relationship with Jesus and seemed to get fairly involved with the church. After a few months, I found out the guy was no longer coming to the church. When asked why he didn’t come anymore, he gave the following explanation: “I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week–we were family.” That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body. The church is intended to be a beautiful place of community. A place where wealth is shared and when one suffers, everyone suffers. A place where when one rejoices, everyone rejoices. A place where everyone experiences real love and acceptance in the midst of great honesty about our brokenness. Yet most of the time this is not even close to how we would describe our churches.”
Can we, as the church, with confidence, say that this has not happened within the context of our gatherings? Have we loved deeply to the degree that shortcomings and flaws have been overlooked, that we may love unconditionally and share the grace which has been so mercifully shared with us? Unfortunately, I believe that there are times when this is not the reality. Only one thing is capable of changing hardened, apathetic, and stubborn hearts like ours (notice that I include myself), and that is prayer. Prayer, I believe, is the most under-utilized resource that Christians have at their fingertips, yet never seem to fully use it to its’ potential. “Let’s pray that God would build His church, an unstoppable force, empowered and sustained by the Holy Spirit.“ (Francis Chan)
In conclusion, I have some questions to consider. Will the Holy Spirit continue to be the “Forgotten God” that Chan writes about in his brilliant book? Will we continue to live our lives in such a way that they could have been lived without the LORD? Shall those that witness our lives say that we lived no differently than the rest of the world and that nothing stood out, or set us apart, from the rest? “My prayer as I’ve written this book,” Chan writes, “is that it would not merely add to your knowledge. Maybe that sounds strange, but I mean it. Often in Christian circles we talk about truth in lieu of applying it to our lives. We hear an incisive sermon, discuss at lunch afterward how ‘great’ or ‘powerful’ it was, and then never think about it again, much less allow the Spirit to change us through it.“
I pray that we would choose to live in a such a way that truly reflects the glory of the LORD, that leads us to repentance and to a way of life that would truly, desperately, need a Savior to save. LORD, “speak loudly and drown out the other voices calling us to conform to the patterns of this world. You are the Spirit of self-control and love. Give us the self-control needed to deny our flesh and follow You. Give us a love strong enough to motivate courageous action. Manifest Yourself through us that we may serve and love Your bride, the church, as You do.” Amen.