I mean, none of that stuff could have happened without the power of the Holy Spirit.
And it would be easy to look at the book of Acts and say, "Oh yeah. It's a historic account of what God did right after Jesus ascended into heaven, but the church is different now."
And it is, for the most part, but I want to know why.
After all, God's still pretty powerful. He hasn't changed.
Is the book of Acts a historic account? Or is it a model for the Church of today?
And what's the role of the Holy Spirit in today's Church?
You'll note that I capitalized "Church," and that's significant because I'm not talking about Newbreak, where I go to church. I'm talking about the collective group of Christ followers, past, present, and future, in this country and around the world.
In this book titled Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, Francis Chan claims that the "benchmark of success in church services has become more about attendance than the movement of the Holy Spirit" (15) and as a result we're more interested in creating services that provide exciting entertainment that brings "self-focused consumers" in through the doors than we are in training "self-sacrificing servants attuned to the Holy Spirit" (16).
I think Chan might be right.
I know at times I spend more time trying to figure out problems than seeking the face of God. Sometimes I forget to ask the Holy Spirit to guide me. I forget to ask Him for help. I just forget.
When Life Groups started up a few weeks ago, I was nervous. My desire is that women connect to each other through the Life Group, of course, but more than that, my desire is that they fall more deeply in love with Jesus, that they become dependent on Him, that their lives are transformed by God's power.
And I can't make any of that happen through study or planning. Those things only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Chan notes that when we read the book of Acts, we see that the "Holy Spirit is as essential to a believer's existence as air is to staying alive" (16). Followers of Jesus Christ could do crazy things. Like healing men who couldn't walk and raising people from the dead. And despite the persecution, people kept getting baptized in the name of Jesus.
Chan asserts that there is a "big gap between what we read in Scripture about the Holy Spirit and how most believers and churches operate today" and observes that most of the time you'd have to look pretty hard to see the power of the Spirit at work in any obvious way.
And most of the time this doesn't even bother us.
We're kind of like those men and women in Acts 19 who get baptized with John's baptism, a baptism of repentance, and then meet Paul. They're convicted of their sin--they know they need to change--but they don't really know Jesus, and when Paul asks them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed, they respond, saying, "We've never even heard of that--a Holy Spirit? God within us?"
I wonder if failure to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and invite him into our lives is one of the reasons we don't see lives transformed when people receive Jesus into their hearts.
I wonder if this is one of the reasons why so many young people, who still believe in God, are walking away from the church. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, church attendance and behavior modification just doesn't make much sense.
And I wonder if this is one of the reasons why so many of my friends, men and women who have served wholeheartedly for so many years, prefer to worship at home.
Chan suggests that people are running away from church and even God's Word because they feel like something is missing in our churches, and he concludes that the "missing something is actually a missing Someone--namely, the Holy Spirit" (16).
Without Him, people operate in their own strength and only accomplish human-size results. The world is not moved by love or actions that are of human creation. And the church is not empowered to live differently from any other gathering of people without the Holy Spirit. But when believers live in the power of the Spirit, the evidence in their lives is supernatural. The church cannot help but be different, and the world cannot help but notice.I don't want to walk into my Life Group without being filled with the Holy Spirit, God's Spirit. I don't want to minister to anyone without it. I don't even want to go to school without it. I think I'm a better teacher, and I'm convinced my students sense God living within me when I'm filled with the Spirit.
I don't want to do what I can do on my own. I want to live empowered by God's Spirit, listening to his voice.
And so lately I've been asking God: What does that look like? What have I settled for? How can I seek the filling of the Holy Spirit?