Book Review- “The Forgotten God…” Part Two
The weakest area of Chan’s book is his neglect of really developing the many ways that we are led by the Spirit. In his effort to not appear overly “charismatic,” Chan avoids almost all mention of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He seems to come down squarely in the non-Charismatic camp that says, “If God wants to give me spiritual gifts, He can do it. He is sovereign and can do what He wants.”
While this sounds spiritual and pious, in reality it is the exact opposite of the advice that the Apostle Paul gave to the Christians in Corinth. “Pursue love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts and above all that you may prophesy,” (1 Cor. 14: 1). Paul conveys his own desire for them in verse five, “I wish that all of you spoke in tongues, but even more that you prophesied.” Paul provides guidelines and instructions for the use of the various spiritual gifts, but the main purpose that he sees for them is the edification of the church. “So also you- since you are zealous in matters of the Spirit, seek to excel in building up the church,” (1 Cor. 14:12).
Clearly the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not Christian “parlor games.” They are tools to be used to build up ourselves and other people in their faith. I am not saying that Charismatic Christians have some sort of “handle” on the Holy Spirit because some of them speak in tongues or operate in other spiritual gifts. The reality is that there are many Christians that attend Charismatic/Pentecostal churches who have no more of a grasp of the spiritual gifts than some who attend mainline churches.
While Chan makes a strong case that the Church as a whole needs to be more open to the work of the Holy Spirit, we can’t pick and choose which areas we want and which areas He can keep. Chan, for example, talks about the importance of the fruit of the Holy Spirit and how important it is to develop them in our lives. He is exactly right. This is an area in which Christians must do better.
While acknowledging the need for the fruit of the Spirit, however, we can’t say of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, “I’m seeking the Giver, not the gifts. If He wants me to have a spiritual gift, He will just give it to me.” Paul said to “eagerly desire” spiritual gifts. In a similar way, God does not just give us His fruit. It is developed and cultivated in our lives through prayer and practice over time. The gifts are the same way. They come in response to prayer and must be developed over time as well.