READERS GUIDEA Leader’s Guide for Group Study
So that you make the most of each session, this study guide is designed to be used after the chapters assigned for each session have been read. Whether you are studying The God I Never Knew as an individual or in a group, the goal is for you to think a little more deeply, contemplate and pray about what you are learning, and apply the truths of God’s Word to your
The study guide has eight sessions. However, if your group wants to move more slowly, just adjust the reading assignments and use of questions accordingly.
Read the Chapters Prior to Each Session
Each session covers designated chapters of The God I Never Knew. As you read the chapters, make notes and highlight passages in the book that speak to, challenge, or apply to you personally. In your reading and reflection, ask the Lord to reveal insights so that when you come to the study-guide section, you will be equipped to benefit the most from the questions.
Introduction and General Feedback
At the start of each group session, ask about answers or updates to prayer from prior sessions. Then spend some time in prayer together. Next have someone read the brief introduction aloud to remind everyone of the focus of the discussion. The leader should then invite the group to share any questions, concerns, “ahas,” insights, or comments arising from their personal time with the material.
The God I Never Knew is about the wonderful person and ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. As you might imagine (and as the author readily admits in his personal testimony), it’s possible that your group members represent a variety of backgrounds and teaching about the Holy Spirit. That’s okay! There are only three prerequisites for group participation:
(1) a humble desire to grow in Christ and learn from His Word, (2) hearts and minds truly open to what God may reveal through the author’s insights into His Word, and (3) a commitment to interact gently and respectfully with one another and with the material presented.
Group facilitators and participants need not be afraid of the topic or of differences of opinion. A healthy approach for handling disagreements or concepts that may be new to someone is to say, “Let’s see what God’s Word has to say,” and then review the pertinent scriptures referenced by the author. If after discussion it’s obvious that a participant continues to struggle with a
concept, consider moving on by saying, “Let’s agree to take this concept to the Lord in prayer this week and report back, okay?” This will not only help keep discussions calm and on-target, but it will also help the group refocus on the Bible as the final word on an issue.
Above all, there should never be any pressure or browbeating for others to see things in a certain way. You’re on a journey of discovery together. Gentleness is the key—trusting the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and, if necessary, change hearts and minds. You just never know: the heart or mind He changes might be your own!
Go Through the Questions
The reflection and discussion questions are designed to focus on how each person relates to the main topics of the chapters. Most questions are designed to serve the group and encourage discussion, not to elicit a particular answer. With that mind, don’t race through the questions. Take your time and allow the Holy Spirit to work. It isn’t necessary to go around the circle before moving on to the next question. The best discussions occur when people feel free to speak into the discussion. Group discussions are actually opportunities for God’s Spirit to minister uniquely through one believer to another in very specific ways. If you don’t get through all the questions for a session, no worries. Relax and trust God to take the discussion where He wants to take it.
Each session offers a theme verse that connects to the session’s content. Groups should read the verse out loud, and if someone in the group has a different Bible translation, ask him or her to read it aloud so the group can get a bigger picture of the meaning of the passage. Encourage participants to memorize these verses to enrich their understanding and appreciation of the personal ministry of God the Holy Spirit.
Close Each Session in Prayer
Praying together is the most powerful way to make your discussion effective, authentic, and relevant. Do not leave too little time for prayer! Be sure group members have opportunity to share their requests. In several of the sessions, we also suggest that you begin the prayer time with a few minutes of silent prayer, in which each participant can talk with God personally regarding anything He may be telling them.
Assign Chapters for the Next Session
Prior to session 1, group members should read chapters 1 and 2 of The God I Never Knew. Then, as you wrap up each session, remind participants of the book chapters to be read before the next meeting.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
I. Session 1 Am I Missing Something?
(Chapters 1 and 2)
While many believers have made the wonderful discovery of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in their lives, too many other Christians virtually hold the third member of the Trinity at arm’s length-from fear, confusion, or misinformation of who the Holy Spirit is and of the personal friendship, power, and guidance He offers everyone who believes in Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, such hesitancy only prevents believers from thriving in their faith. In fact, Jesus considered the Holy Spirit’s ministry so crucial that, on the evening prior to His crucifixion, He told His disciples, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever-the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” ( John 14:16-17).
Jesus knew that once He ascended to heaven, He would no longer be physically available on earth to help and instruct His followers. But God had a magnificent long-term plan in place: to give us the Holy Spirit (“another Helper”) to indwell and abide with all believers-empowering, teaching, and guiding us to live God’s way in a hostile world.
In this study we’re going to explore who the Holy Spirit is, His ministry in the hearts and lives of God’s people, and His role in helping us live the joyful, successful Christian life.
Reflection and Discussion
1. Do you identify with the author’s experience of not really knowing much about the Holy Spirit earlier in his Christian journey? In the early days of your faith, what was your understanding of the Holy Spirit’s identity and role in the Christian’s life?
2. As Robert was departing for Bible college, his pastor advised him, “Watch out for people who talk about the Holy Spirit.” What do you suppose was behind this pastor’s warning? Have you ever felt this cautionary about the Holy Spirit? Why?
3. Robert writes, “Most Christians hold a distorted, inaccurate, or incomplete view of the third member of the Trinity…. Too many have resigned themselves to perpetual defeat in their battles with temptation or to stumbling through life making decisions with nothing more than their own flawed reason to guide them. Others live a dull, powerless brand of Christianity.” Do you agree or disagree with Robert’s assessment of most Christians? Explain your thoughts. If indeed many or most believers are not as strong, loving, joyful, or effective as they can be, to what would you attribute their weakness?
4. Jesus promised His followers “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name” ( John 14:26). Think back on your own Christian walk: how has the Holy Spirit helped you along the way? Share a recent example.
5. Jesus goes on to say, “He [the Holy Spirit] will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” What does this passage mean to you personally regarding the Spirit’s ministry in the Christian’s life?
6. Robert writes, “Hearing God’s voice begins by recognizing which member of the Trinity is tasked with speaking to us in this season of history. It is, of course, the Holy Spirit. The Father is on His throne. Jesus has been seated at His right hand and, according to Hebrews 10:12-13, will remain there ‘waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.’ The Holy Spirit, however, is active and present and commissioned to interact with us on the earth today.” What are some ways in which a Christian might hear the voice of God? In such instances, who is doing the speaking? Can the Holy Spirit’s guidance ever be contrary to God’s Word or God’s will? Why or why not?
Between now and session 2, claim Jesus’s promise as your own: “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:25-26).
Take time to share needs and requests for closing prayer. Be sure, too, to thank God for providing His Holy Spirit to help, teach, guide, and empower His children.
For Next Time
To prepare for the next study and discussion, read chapters 3 and 4 of The God I Never Knew.
II. Session 2 Who Is the Holy Spirit?
(Chapters 3 and 4)
If you’re like many Christians, you may have encountered-even embraced- some negative stereotypes regarding the Holy Spirit and the “Spirit-filled life.” The author of The God I Never Knew sure did. It took Robert a while, but once he finally opened his mind and heart to the Bible’s truth about the Holy Spirit, he quickly realized the incredible benefits he had been missing!
In session 2 we will continue our look at who the Holy Spirit is. Notice the emphasis on who, not what, for the Spirit is indeed a person and not some vague cosmic force. In chapters 3 and 4, Robert clarifies from God’s Word that the Holy Spirit is God, just as God is God and Jesus is God. The Spirit is God’s glorious way of being a very present and active friend in the life of everyone who trusts Christ as Savior and Lord. We saw in session 1 that God sent the Holy Spirit to be our helper. Today’s study builds on the identity of the Spirit by showing that He is also our friend…and that He is God.
Reflection and Discussion
1. The author writes, “These stereotypes are indeed alive and thriving today among huge numbers of Jesus-loving people. Many are sincerely reluctant to embrace the opportunity of a life transforming relationship with the Holy Spirit because of such stereotypes.” Robert contends that Satan is the author of the world’s “weird” stereotypes of Spirit-controlled living. Why do you suppose Satan would not want God’s people to embrace the help, friendship, and godhood of the Holy Spirit?
2. From your own observation and experience, what are some of the tactics Satan uses to convince us that embracing the Spirit’s personal ministry might make us uncomfortable or weird? Have you struggled with such fears? Share your story.
3. In chapter 3, Robert cites four amazing benefits that the Holy Spirit brings into the life of the believer. Which one of these benefits stands out as particularly meaningful to you today? Why is this benefit significant to you? When the Holy Spirit is truly in control of your thoughts and actions, what kind of difference would this particular blessing make in your life?
4. Summarize the author’s teaching of how the Holy Spirit speaks to us. If we, as Christians, do not believe we’re hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit, what might be impeding such communication?
5. Robert writes, “The witness of Scripture is that the Holy Spirit is a full and equal member of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is not a force, a thing, or an it. The Holy Spirit is God in one of His three persons. Treating Him as some sort of heavenly afterthought or a lower order of supernatural being we can choose to ignore is grievous.” Look up and read aloud Matthew 28:19, John 14:16 and 15:26, and Acts 5:3-4. After each passage, address this question: what does this passage affirm about the person of the Holy Spirit?
6. Focus for a few moments on the final paragraph of chapter 4: “I encourage you to realize three truths before we go further on this journey: (1) the Holy Spirit was sent to be your helper, (2) He wants to be your intimate friend, and (3) the truth that makes those two statements most amazing of all is He is God.” What do these truths mean to you personally, today? How would you assess the state of your present relationship with the Holy Spirit?
Between now and session 3, focus on this admonition from the apostle Paul: “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16, niv).
Take time to share needs and requests for closing prayer. Be sure, too, to thank God for providing His Holy Spirit as your personal helper and friend.
For Next Time
To prepare for the next study and discussion, read chapters 5, 6, and 7 of The God I Never Knew.
III. Session 3 What Is This Person Like?
(Chapters 5, 6, and 7)
“The Christian life is an upward journey,” the author writes in chapter 7. “The moment we’re born again, we are made righteous-put in right standing with God. But sanctification-becoming pure and more Christlike in our behavior-is a process. The Holy Spirit wants to be our partner and friend in that process.”
In chapters 5, 6, and 7, Robert expands on the fact that the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal entity, but He is a person-with personality and a soul consisting of mind, will, and emotions. Knowing this assures us that God the Holy Spirit is a friend we truly want to know intimately, a helper we can trust absolutely, and a comforter we can lean on in times of distress. What an honor and privilege it is to have God living within us!
Reflection and Discussion
1. Numerous places in the Bible describe or demonstrate God to be omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful), and omnipresent (simultaneously everywhere). What does this tell you about the knowledge, strength, and presence of God the Holy Spirit? Why is this significant to you as a child of God?
2. Look up and read aloud Ephesians 3:20. What (or, more correctly, Who) is “the power that works in us”? How does it feel to know that your personal helper and friend is omnipotent? Are you taking full advantage of His power within you?
3. Robert writes, “The amazing news is that you have the Holy Spirit living within you, and as God, He has that same level of wisdom and knowledge [as God]. The Holy Spirit knows everything about everything, and He has committed Himself to be your teacher. He promises to lead you into all truth.” What does the above paragraph help you appreciate about the mind of the Holy Spirit? Think of some specific ways in which He leads believers “into all truth.”
4. In your own words, explain the basic differences between God’s general will and God’s specific will. What is the best way for us to learn and know God’s general will? How are we most likely to learn and know His specific will?
5. Did it surprise you to read that the Holy Spirit has emotions- that we can cause Him grief or pain? What does this mean to your friendship with Him?
6. Look up and read aloud Ephesians 4:25-32. Robert writes, “Notice some of the specific behaviors that cause the Spirit to grieve: lying, sin, stealing, neglecting to give to others…. Because the Holy Spirit lives in every believer, mistreating any one of them involves mistreating the Holy Spirit in them.” When you grieve the Holy Spirit, what happens to your intimacy with Him? Why? What do you need to do in order to restore intimacy with Him?
7. The author writes, “[A speaker asserted that] when the Holy Spirit warns us about something and we ignore His warning, it’s the equivalent of ‘stiff-arming’ Him. In essence, we tell the Holy Spirit, ‘I don’t want You in my life. I don’t want to listen to You. I don’t want to follow You-even though You only have my best interests in mind.’ The speaker then described how we can’t stiff-arm the Holy Spirit about sin one moment and then expect Him to speak to us about another matter a few moments later.” Can you think of a time when the Holy
Spirit was speaking to you and you “stiff-armed” His loving guidance? As you look back on the experience, do you think your action (or lack thereof) grieved the Holy Spirit? How did the situation turn out when you followed your own way instead of His? Is there an area of your life in which you’re still clinging to your own way? What is God’s Spirit telling
you to do about it?
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Take time to share needs and requests for closing prayer. Then let the group know that at the start of prayer time, there will be a few minutes of silence to allow participants to engage in private prayer to deal with anything the Spirit may be telling them.
For Next Time
To prepare for the next study and discussion, read chapters 8 and 9 of The God I Never Knew.
IV. Session 4 The Grand Entry
(Chapters 8 and 9)
Just before He ascended to heaven, Jesus instructed His disciples that they were to wait in Jerusalem for “the Promise of the Father, ‘which you have heard from Me.'” What was this Promise? “You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5). So wait they did, in faith, and history records that the Promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descended upon 120 of Christ’s closest followers like a gale-force wind. Eyewitnesses saw what they described as “tongues, as of fire” as God the Holy Spirit entered the lives and hearts of these early Christians. The Spirit empowered them to boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, and even in foreign languages so that Jerusalem’s international visitors would understand and embrace the worldchanging message. The Bible says that more than three thousand people believed in Jesus Christ that day alone.
But that was then and this is now, right? How does today’s Christian receive the Holy Spirit along with His help and friendship and power for living? This session, based on chapters 8 and 9 of The God I Never Knew, explores the exciting truth that the Pentecost experience of being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” wasn’t just a one-day event in history; it is for every believer, here and now.
Reflection and Discussion
1. In light of the author’s description of Jerusalem during the celebration of Passover and Pentecost, in what ways were the timing and manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s entrance strategic to the spread of Christianity?
2. According to the author, “On Pentecost Sunday, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit changed everything.” What were some of the most startling changes that took place? Why were these changes significant-then and now?
3. Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” What does walking “according to the Spirit” look like to you? What difference does (or should) His presence make in the daily life of the believer?
4. After being filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter preaches to the crowds. Look up and read aloud Acts 2:38-39. What is the gift Peter tells the people they will receive if they believe in Jesus Christ? Was this promise meant only for those to whom Peter was preaching on that day? If not, to whom, and for how long, is the promise valid?
5. Based on chapter 9 of The God I Never Knew, how would you respond to someone who contends that “Pentecost was a one-time event in history. It’s not for Christians today”?
6. Robert recalls placing conditions on his desire to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit, wanting to do so only on his own terms. Why do you suppose he didn’t see much change in his life as a result? What should be the attitude of someone who wants to receive this gift of God?
7. When he finally caught on that we receive the Holy Spirit’s fullness wholeheartedly, by faith, Robert prayed, “God, I trust You and I want everything You have for me. I want to be the most effective servant of Yours I can possibly be. I want to be empowered the same way the disciples were in the upper room. I want Your gifts. I want Your empowerment. I want You, Holy Spirit of God.” What differences are apparent to you between his initial prayer and this one? Why do you suppose God honored this prayer and helped Robert appropriate the full presence and power of the Holy Spirit in his life?
“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call ” (Acts 2:38-39).
Take time to share needs and requests for closing prayer. Let the group know that you will begin prayer time with a few minutes of silent prayer for participants to talk personally with God.
For Next Time
In preparation for the next session’s reflection and discussion, read chapters 10, 11, and 12 of The God I Never Knew.
V. Session 5 The Power Transfer
(Chapters 10, 11, and 12)
Most modern-day Christians are aware of the biblical doctrine of water baptism. After a person receives Christ as Savior, being baptized with water is an act of obedience to God’s Word that symbolizes the death and burial of our former, sin-centered life and our appropriation of new life in Jesus Christ.
But what many well-intentioned believers do not realize, and may not have been taught in their churches, is that there are actually three baptisms for the Christian-not just one. These three baptisms can be embraced with joyful enthusiasm because they bolster the believer with new life, comfort, power, and guidance from our Creator God Himself, through the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit.
In this session we will examine the three baptisms, with special focus on the third. Many Christians, including some famous and revered leaders of the faith, were not fully aware of this third baptism until later in their Christian walk-and their lives were never the same once they embraced it. Does God have a similar discovery in store for you?
Reflection and Discussion
1. In your own words, highlight the key differences between the three distinct baptisms detailed by the author: (1) baptism of the Holy Spirit, (2) water baptism, and (3) baptism in (or with) the Holy Spirit. In each case, who does the baptizing? What is signified by each baptism-and what is the end result?
2. At the start of chapter 11, Robert tells the story of the great evangelist D. L. Moody, who for years of Christian ministry felt he had “received all the Holy Spirit there was to get” when he was saved. But years later, Moody experienced a life-changing, ministry-empowering baptism in the Holy Spirit. What was your reaction as you read this story?
3. Look up and read aloud Acts 8:12-16. What does this passage tell us about the need for every believer to receive baptism in the Holy Spirit?
4. Regarding Acts 8:12-16, Robert observes, “Notice what this passage doesn’t say. It doesn’t tell us that when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent Peter and John who gave them the right hand of Christian fellowship because they had everything they needed. In the early years of my Christian walk, this is precisely what I was taught. I was told that once I was saved and water baptized, I had everything I needed to live the Christian life. Of course, now I know that without receiving the Holy Spirit, I was living a powerless and defeated life of minimal effectiveness in God’s kingdom.” Has your previous instruction or experience with baptism been similar to that of the believers in Acts 8, D. L. Moody, and Robert? Why do you suppose so many Christians are not aware of (or are skeptical, or even frightened by) the “third baptism”-baptism in the Holy Spirit?
5. Robert writes, “Moody later said that he was never the same after the day he was baptized in the Holy Spirit. He realized that almost everything he had accomplished in ministry prior to that moment had been done in the power of his own limited flesh. Afterward, he saw tens of thousands saved in revivals everywhere he went.” We may not be called to evangelistic ministry as was D. L. Moody, but what benefits do God’s people miss out on if pride, fear, controversy, or confusion prevents them from opening their hearts to the fullness of the Holy Spirit? Be as specific as you can.
6. In chapter 12 Robert observes, “Note that to turn Sarai into Sarah, God had to first take out the i. We can learn a lot of truth in thatlittle detail. Receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit requires humility and selflessness. Prideful and self-centered people simply don’t yield themselves to the baptism in the Holy Spirit.” From your reading of The God I Never Knew and God’s Word, describe the heart and mind of someone who is not open to receiving the “third baptism.” What, in your opinion, holds him or her back from asking for this blessing? What heart qualities are essential prerequisites for receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit?
7. Has God been speaking to you regarding your relationship with Him through His Spirit? What is He saying to you?
“Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:1-2).
Take time to share needs and requests for closing prayer. Let the group know that you will begin prayer time with a few minutes of silent prayer for participants to talk with God personally about what He may be revealing to them.
For Next Time
In preparation for the next session’s reflection and discussion, read chapters 13, 14, 15, and 16 of The God I Never Knew.
VI. Session 6 The Giver
(Chapters 13, 14, 15, and 16)
God’s Word clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit bequeaths supernatural aptitudes and abilities, or “spiritual gifts,” to Christians in order to edify one another and advance the kingdom of God. On that there is little debate. But over the years, and especially during the past century, contention has arisen regarding some of the specific spiritual gifts listed in God’s Word. Many Christians believe that some of the spiritual gifts were provided only to help leverage the initial launch of Christianity, while many others believe that all of the gifts remain fully operational today.
The author of The God I Never Knew counted himself among the first group-until some of those “temporary” gifts were manifested in his own life. Now he believes wholeheartedly that “a loving and good God designed these gifts expressly for our benefit and blessing. What a tragedy that so many of God’s children have rejected these gifts. Their rejection grieves the Holy Spirit and hinders the body of Christ.”
Whatever your personal background, approach this session with an open mind and heart, and be loving and respectful with any participants who might disagree with you. The concepts presented here may affirm what you already believe, or they may help you gain greater understanding and appreciation for Christians whose beliefs are different from your own. Regardless of your view on the subject, the triumphant message of these chapters is that “if you will open yourself up fully to the Holy Spirit, He will give you what you need, when you need it. Ask Him now to manifest His gifts through you ‘as He wills’ for the ‘profit of all.'”
Reflection and Discussion
1. When you hear the word charismatic in connection with the Christian faith, what comes to your mind? How does the author distinguish between cultural stereotypes and the biblical meaning of this term?
2. In the New Testament’s original language, the term charismata means “grace gifts,” particularly in reference to spiritual gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit. In your own words, define spiritual gift. Are spiritual gifts exclusive to pastors, evangelists, and other Christian workers? What is the general purpose for which Christians are given such gifts?
3. Robert presents examples of what he calls discerning gifts of the Spirit, which include a word of knowledge, discerning of spirits, and a word of wisdom. Briefly explain what each gift is, what it is not, and how its responsible use can benefit others in the body of Christ.
4. Can you imagine ways in which the above spiritual gifts might be used irresponsibly by an egocentric Christian? What negative consequences do you envision from such misuse?
5. In chapter 15, Robert discusses declarative gifts of the Spirit. These include messages of encouragement, messages in unknown languages (commonly referred to as tongues), and interpretation of unknown languages. In your own words, briefly explain each of these spiritual gifts and how its intended use can edify and benefit the body of Christ.
6. If you do not personally exercise the gift of speaking in unknown tongues, does the author’s treatment of the subject in chapter 15 open your mind to the gift’s viability for modern times? Why or why not? Would you be willing to take this particular manifestation of the Spirit before the Lord in prayer?
7. Chapter 16 explores what Robert calls dynamic gifts of the Spirit, including faith (supernatural confidence in God’s promises and provision), healings, and miracles. Define each of these spiritual gifts. How might the Holy Spirit use each in your life to minister to others?
8. While 1 Corinthians 12 deals extensively with spiritual gifts, the apostle Paul follows this chapter with his famous discourse on what subject in 1 Corinthians 13? What important message do you think Paul is conveying regarding our use of spiritual gifts?
“For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:8-11).
Take time to share needs and requests for closing prayer. Be sure to also pray that a spirit of love would trump any disagreements that may have surfaced during the discussion…and that God would clarify any confusion or doubts that may linger in the hearts of group members.
For Next Time
In preparation for the next session’s reflection and discussion, read chapters 17, 18, 19, and 20 of The God I Never Knew.
VII. Session 7 The Language of Friendship
(Chapters 17, 18, 19, and 20)
There’s no way around it: The spiritual gifts of speaking and praying in unknown languages have prompted fear, contention, and confusion among Christians for decades. Without a doubt, there are very loving, authentic, effective, Spirit-filled Christians on both sides of the issue, and 1 Corinthians 13-14 make clear that the last thing our Lord wants is for us to be judgmental or divided over these gifts.
Because the issue has created so much uncertainty and confusion among believers, Robert devotes four entire chapters to examining the topic. As you read these chapters, you’ll have no doubt about Robert’s viewpoint on these spiritual gifts. And while his views may or may not align with your own background and beliefs, we think you’ll find that Robert has made every effort to present and support his perspective calmly, fairly, with love, and by “rightly dividing” the Scriptures with integrity. As you process his presentation, ask the Holy Spirit to verify or clarify His truth and His will for you. Listen to His voice with a heart and mind open to whatever He may have in store.
Reflection and Discussion
1. What was your reaction to Jack Hayford’s story at the start of chapter 17? In your opinion, did the “well-known minister” respond the way Jesus would have responded? What would a more loving response look and sound like?
2. Robert writes, “I believe one of the great tragedies of the last one hundred years of church history has been the way Satan, the enemy of the church, has successfully made this particular gift so controversial and successfully made huge segments of the body of Christ reluctant to embrace any of the empowerments of the Holy Spirit. I know because I was one of them.” If the author is right about Satan’s role in this issue, why do you think Satan has engaged in such a strategy? Do you agree that the controversy has made many believers reluctant to embrace the ministry of the Holy Spirit at all? Have you, or people you know, been missing out on the fullness of the Spirit because this particular issue has been “off-putting”?
3. Explain the key differences between the gift of tongues and the grace of tongues. (To review, see chapter 17.)
4. Robert cautions how some believers have developed “a rigid obsession with ‘the initial evidence of speaking in tongues’ as being the only valid indicator of Holy Spirit baptism.” Why is this emphasis a misinterpretation of the Bible’s teaching? What do you think are some of the practical and spiritual dangers of this obsession?
5. Look up and read aloud 1 Corinthians 14:4-19. In your own words, summarize Paul’s guidance regarding speaking and praying in tongues in public settings and private settings.
6. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:4, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.” What does the term edify mean to you? Is Paul saying, “Don’t speak in tongues”? Describe the balance Paul is advocating.
7. If you speak and/or pray in tongues, do you relate to the author’s experience and counsel on how to receive this gift? Share your own experience. If you do not speak or pray in tongues, what was going through your mind and heart as you read the author’s account along with his supporting scriptures? Are you open to this gift if God indeed has it in store for you?
8. The author writes, “You can trust Him. As James tells us, ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning’ (1:17). If there ever was a good and perfect gift that came down from the Father, the Holy Spirit is that gift. He is good. He is perfect.” Is every spiritual gift a good and perfect gift from above? As you process the concepts presented in these chapters, what is the Lord telling you-about Himself, about His Spirit, and about your journey with Him?
“Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God…. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:26-28, 33).
Take time to share needs and requests for closing prayer. Let the group know that you’ll begin prayer time with several minutes of silent prayer. During this time, encourage participants to place any questions, confusion, or struggles regarding the content of this session before the Lord and to trust Him for answers.
For Next Time
In preparation for the next session’s reflection and discussion, read chapter 21 of The God I Never Knew and review key points you have noted in chapters 1-20.
VIII. Session 8 Your New Best Friend
God the Holy Spirit is available to all Christians. He thrives on being your helper and friend, a close companion who daily empowers and enables you to make better choices and honor God with your life. He wants to be your new best friend. All you need to do is ask, in faith, believing that God the Father and God the Son keep their promises.
· They do, and they will.
· What an incredible gift! Just ask, receive, unwrap, and enjoy.
· Your life will never be the same.
Reflection and Discussion
1. After sharing the story of the poor man who sailed the Atlantic on an ocean liner and skipped meals because he didn’t think he was entitled to them, Robert writes, “Jesus sent the Holy Spirit as a wonderful gift-a gift better than having Jesus Himself with us-and the price for His presence in our lives was fully purchased by Jesus on the cross. The Holy Spirit came with all the other amazing blessings of salvation. But some believers never receive and unwrap the gift. Instead, they live lives of cheese-and-crackers Christianity. They muddle through this world powerless and deprived of the richness of God’s presence, consoling themselves with the knowledge that heaven awaits by and by.” Do you personally know Christians who are living the way the author describes? Without naming names, what about their lives indicates to you that perhaps they have not received and unwrapped the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit’s fullness?
2. Jesus says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13). What do Jesus’s words tell us about God’s desire for every Christian to be filled with the Holy Spirit? According to this verse, how does one receive the Holy Spirit?
3. Robert affirms, “Experiencing His power and presence really is as simple as just asking and receiving. Our heavenly Father receives joy and pleasure when He gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask. Just as with the salvation experience, baptism in the Holy Spirit is a free gift from the Father that you can receive by faith.” Why do you think appropriating such an important gift is not more complicated than merely asking and receiving? If you have not yet received baptism in the Holy Spirit, is there anything that would keep you from asking God and receiving this wonderful, free gift today?
4. In chapter 21, Robert reminds us of several of the benefits and blessings that friendship with the Holy Spirit brings. As you review that list, which of these are especially welcome in your life today? Why?
5. Looking back over the previous chapters of The God I Never Knew, what would you identify as your most meaningful “aha” discoveries about the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit? Why are they significant to you?
6. What has God been saying to you during this study? Is there an area of your life in which you’ve learned to trust Him more than before? As a result of reading the Scriptures and the book, has the Holy Spirit prompted you to take any new steps in your spiritual journey?
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13).
Ask the group for needs and requests for closing prayer. Tell them that, as you’ve done in previous sessions, the first few minutes will be silent prayer so group members can talk privately with the Lord regarding their relationship with the Holy Spirit.
From Here On
Now it’s time to enjoy your relationship with your new best friend, God the Holy Spirit. He’s there for you! Walk closely with Him, and take delight in His counsel.