Posted on 11/19/2011 by Charles
Chan really does ask the tough questions that shoot straight to the center of our heart's desires. He starts this chapter with an illustration and then the question, "why do you want the Holy Spirit?" Is it for your own desires or is it to be used for his kingdom? How would I answer this question? I'll attempt.
Why does Charles want the Holy Spirit? Trying to be as transparent as possible (sorry for the political term), I feel my urges fight strongly to try to use God as a genie of sorts. I look around and see what others have and then struggle, fight, and work hard to get their positions in life. Not all comparisons are bad, if we're doing bad then a comparison to good is a good and right comparison. Is this a good heart? A root of jealousy within to motivate a covetous heart to get what I want? Thankfully that is not the only thing I feel deeply though. Cuing into Mr. Chan's earlier question in chapter one, "when was the last time you saw the Holy Spirit at work?" I am led to a place where I deeply desire; brokenness that forces dependence on Him.
The Spirit was very obvious when I broke up with my last serious girl friend. I felt God convicting me in how to lead our relationship and protect her and after a long while, I finally listened. When we stopped our illicit behaviors God took me to the next level...."you need to break up with her." I didn't want to. I fought it and just couldn't believe it. Why would God ask such a thing right now? I loved her during the last year and half of our relationship helping her through the loss of her mom. I was such a child inwardly and didn't know how to help a woman through a bereavement process, let alone with the loss of her only mother. But I knew what God was telling me was as clear as the day was bright. Adding another layer of complexity to this relationship was the fact that I was laid off of my job for almost 6 months now. Getting a job was always easy, but I just couldn't find work anywhere and my unemployment was about to run out.
After a short set of unremarkable circumstances God helped me make the decision and I broke up with her. What happened next still fills me with joy when I think back to these days. The very next day I got a contract....in Dallas, which was far away from her. A good friend of mine had a partially 'under construction' house on a lake close to Dallas and let me stay there for free. Off to Dallas I went.
When I got there I plugged immediately into a local church, worked and caught up on my bills, and felt a freedom I had never felt before. I wasn't pursuing just what I wanted, was still in the dumps materially, but felt more alive than I had ever felt before. God blessed me with new friends in the church from the first day and we connected musically together playing at a few different venues for Christ (I played guitar). It was like waking up from a deep dark painful sleep, I honestly don't know what other cliche to use, but that's how it was. I could feel alive again and in a fresh new freeing spirit that was only from God. The story gets even more amazing, but I'll stop there and just say, God pursues us and I'm so thankful for that truth. I was pursuing dust and dirt (all our future demise) and God shook me out of it.
Further into chapter 4 Chan trips along a few subtle concepts I disagree about. He mentions the Spirit's work (page 92) through us for "the common good," but I disagree, I think that this statement would more accurately be stated as "God's common good." If you leave the term as 'the' then it becomes relativistic on who the 'the' is. He definitely empowers us to be his witnesses, but what the common good is can be a slippery slope to major issues. He doesn't just leave it there in his book though.
Another statement that surprised me was his statement (page 92), "Do they see a person who lives according to the Way of Jesus or someone who does business according to capitalistic and self-centered standards, just like everyone else?" I understand what he is saying about 'like everyone else,' but he trips on a word that isn't evil in itself...capitalism gets picked on a lot these days. It is a word used and abused in many social circles today and I'm not afraid of the word myself. Maybe a definition can help pull us through the confused thoughts about capitalism. One definition of capitalism is, "An economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit." The key is 'private owners for profit,' which I would argue that Paul, Jesus and a slew of other examples in the Bible would agree with. Paul was a tent maker (Acts 18:3) and made his own money in order to provide for others and he even mentions for those who used to steal to now work for a living so they can give to others (Eph 4:28) and that those who don't work shouldn't eat (2 Thess 3:10). Capitalism doesn't = selfishness, it means working for personal profit, which can be used for whatever you feel the profit should be used for. Is profit bad? No, but selfishness is. Money is not bad, but it should not be our life's goal either. I'll drop this argument and move on, but just think about the fact that both rich and poor can both be greedy. Capitalism should not be delegated as a negative by-word of working hard.
I also disagreed with this statement on the bottom of page 92, "When we submit to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit, He helps us become more holy - more like Jesus." If he had replaced 'more holy' with 'more sanctified' I would have agreed. The scriptures tell me I'm broken and dead apart from Jesus and with Jesus I am purified before a Holy Father. Are we automatically just like Jesus in all of our ambitions in life? Of course not. When we begin to believe we start an amazing painful, soul crushing and soul joyful process call sanctification. It is the process of being transformed into the likeness of his Son Jesus. The Holy Spirit begins testing our hearts through trials (not punishment, but discipline) as he trials those he loves (Heb 12:6). What good father would let his son continue to hurt himself? Does this make us more holy? No, because holiness is a question of righteousness, which we have none apart from Christ and can't build up a bank of holiness. We either are dead and belong to the kingdom of this world or we are alive and belong to the kingdom of righteousness, there is no between.
Now Chan jumps us into an amazing foundation that I struggle with remembering...love trumps all (1 Cor 13:1-3). Chan reminds us of Paul redirecting our focus from supernatural gifts (gifts of the Spirit) to love. God will do many amazing things in our lives and around us as we live, but those 'things' are not life's goal, love is. But what does that mean? Love? What about love? Loving others requires unselfishness and courage to focus those we're loving to our source of love, Jesus Christ. Remember what Jesus said (Luke 10:27), "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, and all of your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself." First love God then love those of us who will usually hurt you because we are fighting within ourselves to be selfish (James 4:1).
In the midst of talking about capitalism and the possibilities of selfishness and materialism we'll end today with a thought that hit me in the face like a refreshing breeze yesterday. I wasn't scared of this thought and it actually brought joy to my heart as I continued to ponder it:
"I do not want to die an old comfortable life, but I want to die for God however he would call me."
This world is so very temporary so let us let go of our idols and hold onto Jesus with all of our hearts. It will be over soon.