"I felt a warmth rising in my throat, and laughter burst forth which
I could not contain. I roared with the delight of it and a shaking surged
through my body." These sort of "experiences" have flooded through Christendom
in the recent false "revival" movements, which are sweeping millions into
an altered state of consciousness which parallels New Age religious phenomena.
Bible-based Christians have reacted with a justified rejection of these
strange, occultic ecstasies! However, has this rejection over-balanced
into a denial of all "experiences", as being non-scriptural, even of the
devil? For some otherwise sound believers this could well be the case.
As with all controversial developments in the Church scene, a Scriptural
balance must be Imagestained. By this is meant, not dialectics, or coming
to a compromise, but keeping on an even keel. In terms of balance and truth,
the following questions should be addressed:
1....IS THERE SCRIPTURALLY CORRECT EXPERIENCE?
To even mention that Christianity involves "experience" with God is
akin to using a "naughty" word in many circles today. This is understandable,
responsible people have had quite enough of the exotic displays of the
existentialists in their midst. To polarize into no-experience-accepted
groups, versus truth-equals-experience groups, is not the answer however
to the shame the Christians are feeling in regard to the extremes and errors
of our day. After all, Godliness means more than just cold adherence to
doctrine, Godliness is walking in reality with a Living Being who loves
us, and knowing Him and worshipping Him always brings experience of HIM
and His dealings with us. The Bible is full of the reality of God, and
the stories of the blessed characters of Scriptures who have experienced
God first-hand. There certainly is Scripturally correct experience, and
there are those of us who would never accept such disasters as the Toronto
Blessing, yet would witness with joy of our own experience of God Himself.
(Exodus 13:21-22; Joshua 3:14-17; Ezekiel 1:27-28;
Daniel 3:21-25; Acts 9:3-6; Acts 18:9-10;
11 Corinthians 12:1-4; Revelation 1:17-20. Many, many more).
Is God greater than the Bible? Of course He is, He is the Maker of Heaven
and Earth, and of all that is in limitless Space. He inhabits Eternity.
God has no beginning and no end, He is both transcendent and imminent,
He is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. We live and move and have
our very being in God - of course He is greater than just a book, the Bible.
This does not mean though that he has NOT limited His revelation of Truth
and of Himself to a certain Book, as we shall discover under question three
later on. (Genesis 1:1; Exodus 3:14; Psalm 50:1-6; Isaiah 57:15; Revelation
2.... ARE THE PRESENT "REVIVAL" EXPERIENCES ALIEN TO THE BIBLE?
Mature Christians are shocked by the roarings, shakings, laughter extremes, fallings, visions and prophecies of the Faith Movement and Latter Rain Revivalists. Why is this, if the Scriptures teach authentic Christian experiences? The reason is simple, the Bible does not teach that such experiences are of God, quite the contrary. The false revivals of today are New Age demonic experiences under another banner. What then constitutes Biblical experiences which are of God, and what constitutes demonic counterfeits? (Deuteronomy 18:10-12; Galatians 5:20; Matthew 7:22; 24:24; 11 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:13).
If any should seek "visions" or "revelations" or "prophecies" for their own glory, enjoyment, or to pamper their own desire to boast of their "spirituality", the adversary will answer with his counterfeits! The Spirit of God is Holy, He cannot deny the Lord, the Holy Spirit responds only for the Glory of God. (11 Peter 1:19-21).
(Romans 12:1-2). (1 Corinthians 14:20; Col. 3:10).
A blank mind and a passive, yielded body are not what God requires of a believer. Letting go in such a manner is the very way the emotions (the soul) and physical being is opened to evil spirits, the natural senses are then possessed. God, however, deals with the spirit of man, who opens his mind to the transforming enlightenment of the revealed Word of God, and the spiritual power of the Living Word thus brings life to his spirit. God works with the believer, never dominates and overthrows him. ( Proverbs 20:27; 11 Corinthians 6:1; Hebrews 4:12).
Church-goers in the 1990s, in the majority, believe that all spiritual
experience which is pleasant is from God, they imagine themselves to be
beyond deception. If deceptions are detected, the confused victim may still
hang doggedly to the concept of the deception. The church cliche "if there
is a counterfeit there must be an authentic experience, for Satan is only
a counterfeiter and he must have copied something that is real in God!
is embraced fervently. Sadly it is not consistently true that every false
experience has an authentic Godly one which is being copied. What kind
of world would it be if we all based our lives on the idea that if something
is wrong and evil, there must be something good and right which it is counterfeiting?
It would be a nonsense world. No, Satan is certainly a master of the counterfeit,
however, the True must stand on its own merits, with the only proofs accepted
being Scriptural. i.e. Satan is NOT counterfeiting a Biblical "drunk in
the Spirit" experience, which is a fake of a legitimate "drunk" experience
from God etc. (Deceived. James 1:22; 1 John 1:8; Galatians 6:3; 1 Corinthians
3:18; James 1:26; Galatians 6:7; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 15:33).
3.....IS THE LEGALISTIC DENIAL OF ALL EXPERIENCE REALLY WHAT THE LORD REQUIRES?
The back-lash against the modern day experience-centred fiasco has become
extreme in itself. If one opposes an error too strenuously one often goes
too far, and ends in a counter error. A legalistic, doctrine-centred, coldly
faith is NOT the Faith of our Fathers, it is not New Testament teaching.
There are two Images areas in the doctrine-centred concept, one is perfectly
Scriptural and sound, the other is almost Bible idolatry. The Faith Movement
accuses the "funda-mentalists" of worshipping a God who extends no further
than the leather covers of their Bibles. In some instances, the critics
may be quite accurate.
TWO AREAS OF BIBLE-CENTRED BELIEF.
Here, it seems to the writer, lies the problem area with many, sincere Bible-based Christians, They rightfully are appalled by the extreme experience-centred movements, and may then retreat into a cold legalism, which is presumed to be Godly Christian living. However, the Scriptures instruct the believer to "walk in the spirit" to be "filled with the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25; Ephesians 5:18), and this is far more than mere intellectual agreement, and more than only a mental belief in God. To live Godly lives, we must have faith and belief, we also enter into fellowship with God, we should obey the Father in His Grace, and His Son will become manifest unto us. The latter being an "experience" with Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit. (11 Corinthians 4:10-11; John 14:21). Can we really imagine that breath-taking words such as the following can be know in fullness without knowing and experiencing God?
"The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit." (Psalm 34:18).
"And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7).
What are just a few of the ways that a Christian can experience God, without these experiences being counterfeit and demonic?
Examples might be:
To subject ourselves to the Scriptures as the only source of Truth does
not mean that we must reject Godly, doctrinally sound experience. All that
we need to understand about God's nature, purpose, revelation to man, plan
for the future of this earth, plan of salvation, God's love, justice, judgement
and Sovereignty have been already given in the Word of God. The guidance,
instruction in righteousness, revelation of doctrine, exhortation and wisdom
of a thousand, thousand lifetimes are all there in God's Word. We should
never go to "the spirit" alone without the Word, to do so is to open ourselves
up to delusion and deception from the enemy. The Spirit and the Word must
agree. It is one thing to rejoice in the experience of the Lord God as
a living reality in our lives. It is quite another thing to base guidance,
truth, revelation, prophecy and doctrine on experience. To do so is to
throw the gates of our souls open to the doctrines of seductive and wicked
IS LIVING A CHRIST-CENTRED LIFE ABOUT "EXPERIENCE",
AS WELL AS DOCTRINAL CORRECTNESS & HOLINESS OF LIFE?
Really there is no Christ-centred life without experience of Him. There is no real revival without Christ as the Centre. There is no Godly doctrinal correctness and holiness of life without knowing a Living Lord, day by day. If we truly yield to the Lord, obey Him through the instructions of the Scriptures, worship Him in devotional prayer, seek HIM with all our hearts, we will have experience with Him. HE LIVES! "O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name." (Psalm 63:1-4).
The Lord will make us aware of Him in His way and time. We do not have to help Him do so, as is the practice of many in the 1990s. We should never try to sense God, feel Him, image or visualize Him. God reveals to us His character in the Bible, our devotional life with Him must be also centred upon the revelation of Scripture. God the Father and the Spirit have no bodies, they are incorporeal. Jesus Christ is seated, at this period of time, at the right hand of God in Heaven. He is not now in the flesh, we apprehend Him through the agency of the Holy Spirit who draws us to Him, never to the Holy Spirit Himself. Paul was determined to not know Christ after the flesh (11 Corinthians 5:16).
The carnal practices of today which image Christ standing before us,
holding out His arms of love, or walking down the corridors of the past
with us, are hindrances to authentic Christianity. These practices are
no better than making images of stone or metal. Habitual use of such "aids"
will produce spirit-guide oppression! Let God Himself reveal Himself to
the obedient, totally surrendered believer as He will. May the Lord warm
sad, cold hearts again to the glory and rest of precious communion with
CONSIDER THESE SIMPLE RULES.
1. Realise that we can know nothing that we can be sure about, apart from the revelation of the Divine Word.
2. We can only have a sure relationship with the God of the Bible as we get to know His character shown in His Word.
3. If we rely on our own confused, partial and distorted ideas of who and what God is, we will open ourselves to deception by evil spirits.
4. God has been revealed in the Divine book in all His beauty, delightfulness and perfection. We must make it top priority to find Him as He is in His own revelation to mankind.
5. Feed spiritually upon His Word. Read devotionally the passages which show who God, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit really are. The Bible will lead you into knowing God personally, and into worship and adoration of the Glorious Creator.
Knowledge is the way to Truth, not experience. Jesus Christ, the uttered thought of God, is Truth revealed in the Bible, the Logos. Francis Schaeffer wrote:
"We cannot assume that, because we are Christians, in the full biblical sense, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, automatically we shall be free from the influence of what surrounds us. The Holy Spirit can do what He will, but the Bible does not separate His work from knowledge..." ("The God Who Is There", p.139).
Experience with the Divine Lord will bring sweet contentment, precious
communion, happiness and peace that the world can never know, and growing
understanding of the depth and height of the loving Father's compassion
towards His people. "...for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor
forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will
not fear what man shall do unto me." (Hebrews 13:5-6).
*This article was requested and written for the USA magazine "Christian
by Despatch's Editor...W. B. Howard .
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