“What the soul is in our body, the Holy Spirit is in the body of Christ, which is the church.” Augustine
Sadly, in most of my interactions with believers (and this is often true in my life as well), I find a complete lack of the kind of power that marked the lives of first-century Christians. We claim that we need the supernatural power that only the Holy Spirit can provide in order to live the Christian life, and to be the church that Christ has called us to be; and yet our lives and our churches often do not seem to reflect that reality. In Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, Chan has issued a humble, yet convicting, reminder: the Holy Spirit does exist. And we mostly carry out our lives as if he doesn’t. “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,” says Chan. I agree!
While not an exhaustive study, Chan covers the following topics: the role of the Holy Spirit, fears and misconceptions, theology of the Holy Spirit, our motives for wanting more of the Spirit’s power, what a real relationship with the Holy Spirit looks like, letting go of manipulation and control, and the Spirit’s supernatural power in the church. Chan acknowledges there are plenty of abuses and misconceptions in the church about the Holy Spirit as well, and he does a good job of explaining those and clearing them up in the early chapters. In Chapter 7, Chan asks if our lives and our churches resemble the worship of idols more than the worship of the true God:
Sometimes I leave Christian events wondering if we resemble the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 more than Elijah, the prophet of God. If you’ve forgotten the story, it may be good to stop here and read that chapter – or else the rest of what I write in this section will make very little sense to you. The prophets of Baal had a loud, passionate worship gathering that lasted from morning ’til evening. When they were done, they had a great time of fellowship – I think you can call it that. But “no one answered; no one paid attention,” it says in verse 29. After all of that, Elijah prayed. God heard his prayer, and fire came down from heaven. My favorite part of that story comes when it’s all over and the prophets of Baal are saying, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” (verse 39) They didn’t say, “Elijah is a great speaker” or “Elijah sure knows how to connect with God. No. They were stunned by God. They were in awe of his power. They knew that what they experienced could not have been manipulated by Elijah. They experienced the power of God. Is this what happens at Christian gatherings you attend? Or does it feel more like what the prophets of Baal experienced, before Elijah prayed?
Do we live our lives in the fake power of the prophets of Baal, or in the real power of the Holy Spirit that Elijah knew?