When thinking of God, or praying to God, what is it that Christians usually have in their minds? Quite often the image is “God” as a somewhat generic supreme being, if God can be considered generic in any way. Another image is of God as “Father,” one where God is again supreme and also embodying all of the best qualities a person may think of in a parent, without having any of the human characteristics that are somewhat unsavory and may be found even among the best persons, such as fits of temper when exasperated.
And there is always “Jesus” as the God to whom we pray. Jesus lived on earth as God’s divine Son, and lives today in heaven at “the right hand of the Father,” to cite the Apostles Creed. There are numerous Bible verses that instruct Christians to pray to, and through Jesus, so praying to Jesus is another easy image to hold in mind as we pray.
But to be Christian is to also know that God has revealed himself as Triune, having three distinct persons of Father, Son and Spirit, and yet always being God. This last person of the Triune God, the Holy Spirit, is the subject of Francis Chan’s Forgotten God: Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit (Colorado Springs, CO: David Cook, 2009). Chan’s thesis is that the Holy Spirit is frequently neglected among Christians and the aim of his book is to help Christians understand the absolutely essential nature of the Spirit to being a follower of Jesus. He wants us to love the Spirit as deeply as any other aspect of God, including Jesus, and to be empowered to discern the presence and follow the lead of the Spirit in every aspect of our lives.
Chan is a gifted preacher, with the ability to clearly express deep and powerful thoughts in ways that make his audience want to love and follow God more than anything else. His writing has a similar style, and in the seven chapters of this book he leads his readers to a greater understanding of who the Spirit is, what the Spirit does, and what the Spirit can do in the lives of Christians today, should they take the time to listen and follow God’s voice as made known in the Spirit.
Each chapter addresses a way in which the Spirit impacts Christian living, such as why Jesus alone is insufficient, or what a personal relationship with the Spirit might look like for the person who doesn’t yet have one. Each chapter also includes a brief story of someone that Chan knows who is living in a way that demonstrates the Spirit at work in their life.
Chan believes that many Christians often look to God to meet their own needs, rather than seeking God and submitting themselves to God’s purposes. He writes, “[God] wants us to know that His gift of the Holy Spirit is really not for our own pleasure or purposes. The Spirit is meant to lead us toward holiness. The Spirit is here with us to accomplish God’s purposes, not ours.” (93) It is the Spirit, living within Christians, that guides, strengthens, and comforts Christians for a life of joyful submission to God in the world, come what may.
I really liked this book and thought it was a good follow-up to his preceding book, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God. In Crazy Love Chan wrote about the greatness and goodness of God, a God so wonderful that, in faith, we should be head-over-heels in love with him. In Forgotten God we are shown that it is the Spirit active in us that makes that type of love of God possible.
Forgotten God ends with this heartfelt word of prayer, “Come, Holy Spirt, come. We don’t know exactly what that means and looks like for each of us yet, in the particular places You’ve called us to inhabit. But, nonetheless, whatever it means, we ask for Your presence. Come, Holy Spirit, come.”