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    “See to it no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

    « Why Not Participate in Other Religious Ceremonies? | The Still, Small Voice »
    Tuesday
    May012012

    "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan (Review) 

    I enjoy listening to, and reading Francis Chan’s works. I echo his sentiment and frustration with church-goers who call themselves Christian, but fail to display the Holy Spirit’s power in their lives. I also whole-heartedly agree that Christians need to go back to the Bible alone for understanding God and His will for our lives. Exegesis is the name of the game.

     

    However, I think Chan may be putting the cart before the horse so to speak, when it comes to seeking Holy Spirit experiences.

    The Bible tells believers over and over again to live holy lives according to a careful reading of Scripture. If people want to experience God/Holy Spirit (are they not one and same anyway?), He needs to know they can be trusted with the “basic” (actually, these are the life-changing things) things first.

    “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matt.25:23)

    and

    “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much (Luke 16:10).

     

    In my own life I have witnessed this paradox: when I neglect Bible reading and genuine prayer (and therefore also neglect living according to His word), but pray/ask for experiences (dreams, visions, words, healing, etc.), it doesn’t happen. And really, how could I expect it?

     

    But if you are looking for supernatural experiences, there is another side (evil) who will gladly accommodate. The flip side is when I am faithful to read my Bible, research it in order to understand it better, pour out my heart to God in prayer like King David, and think and talk about God so much (because He is just on my mind that much) it bugs people, then He speaks to me in dreams, visions, etc.

     

    In other words, when my focus is getting to know and understand God more (and not on experiences), and live my life for Him and according to His word, then I receive “experiences”.

    **Note: Chan does actually address these issues in a balanced, Biblically accurate manner later on the book.

     

    Chan cites Scripture which says that believers have the Holy Spirit living in us. We don’t need “more” of Him, we need to humble ourselves and live the way He has asked us.

     

    If a person consistently fails to display the Holy Spirit’s power in their lives (not experiences, mind you but genuine, Biblical, “holy” living) how can they be a Christian? A Christian humbly submits to God’s will and not their own.

    “You cannot serve two masters…” (Matthew 6:24).

    So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:16).


    If we dig deeper into the issue, maybe the reason we are not seeing the Holy Spirit moving in people’s lives is because He isn’t there to begin with. Churches have lost their focus for God and fellow believers, trying to fill up seats instead.

     

    It is beginning to be obvious just how many false converts there are, but we are too nice and naive to tell someone they are not Christian. The lack of true community contributes greatly to this problem as well. (I was excited to read that Chan addresses these issues too.)

     

     To review:

    1. Churches try to manipulate and entice non-Christians (“seekers”) to come and learn about God.
    2. False conversions are made based on emotional manipulation and a “just ask Jesus into your heart” routine that lacks conviction, thought, soul-searching, or humble submission to do God’s will over one’s own.
    3. The church is now filled with unbelievers who volunteer, go to Bible study, maybe even teach.  
    4. The church is now filled with unbelievers who have been led to think of themselves as Christian, who still struggle with deep, cyclical sin (“bondage”) (not the same as strong temptation), a love for the things of this world, lack of personal prayer and/or personal Bible study, lives only temporarily changed, and no true commitment.
    5. All this (in my opinion) is evidence of no Holy Spirit from the start. It isn’t that people need more experience or knowledge of the Holy Spirit, it’s that they don’t have Him to begin with.

     

    One major concern I have with this book is that the language sometimes has mystical tendencies. I don’t know what Chan believes as far as that, but phrases like, “intimacy with the Holy Spirit” (forgot to properly cite before I returned my borrowed copy, but it is in the first few pages he writes this several times) really bother me in light of all the mystical junk being foisted upon both serious and casual readers in theology/spirituality-book-land.  

     

    I think he also contradicts himself with a popular fallacy (especially among pastors) that the Word of God can only be fully understood within the context of a group of Christians. On the one hand, Chan quotes scripture stating, (If this wasn’t the verse, this was the idea, that the Holy Spirit-which resides in all Christians-illumines scripture for the Christian)

    The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Cor. 2:14).

     

    But a few pages later and especially page 56 (I know this is a terrible citation job. I apologize and will try to put actual page numbers in), he writes that the truth of Scripture can only be determined within a Christian community. If only Chan had continued to quote 1 Cor. 2:15-16,

    The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 

     

    The idea that one can only understand the Bible in a church-type setting, implies those who are in jail, hospital, bed-ridden, house-bound, etc. are at a spiritual disadvantage since they can’t come to church (or maybe the church should be coming to them…). This in turn implies those who go to church are spiritually superior, which the Bible never states.

    For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

     

    This passage does not imply that the word of God is only active when other Christians are around. It’s power is inherent, not dependent.

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