Spiritual experiences can be extremely powerful and life changing. Many people have had a spiritual experience at one point in their lives. The experiences people describe as spiritual will range from the goose bump to the bizarre and difficult to believe. These experiences will come from people with varying religious beliefs and worldviews. The significance and source of these spiritual experiences needs to discovered and discussed. Who or what was experienced and what does it mean?
For the Christian all spiritual experience must be evaluated in light of the Bible. The tendency is for us to do the opposite; evaluate the Bible in light of our spiritual experiences or even natural experiences. When we do this we limit God and His word to our view of the world and our experiences. Christianity is us taking on the mind of Christ and beginning to see the world as He sees the world. Our experiences need to be evaluated and governed by the Bible. Let’s look at the scriptures:
God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? (Numbers 23:19)
I am the Lord, and I do not change… (Malachi 3:6)
Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the Law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. (Matthew 5:17-18)
Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)
For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.” And that word is the Good News that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:23-25)
We walk by faith, not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7)
To build your faith upon your own experiential theology is not Biblical. This practice limits God to your own narrow scope of experience and understanding. In reality it is the creation of a god that you can comprehend. The Bible teaches us that we are incapable of comprehending the totality of God, that He is greater than our capacity to understand. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Scripture is not invalidated or validated because of our experience. God’s word remains true and relevant for our lives regardless of our opinion or experience. The Word does not conform to our lives, but our lives are to conform to the Word. It is really important that we understand that this conforming is not to someone’s interpretation of the Word or a denomination’s dogma; the conforming I am referring is to the Word of the Lord:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
We should avoid making statements of fact based on our experiences that we are truly not qualified to make. My experiences with God or lack of experiences with God do not change the facts of the Bible any more than yours do. My experience does not qualify me as an expert in the things of God or theology. I may be qualified to provide testimony of what has happened to me, but my testimony or experiences should be studied in light of the declared truth of scripture. If my experiences have truly come from God they will confirm the revealed truth of the scriptures; they will not contradict or distort them. In the Christian life we should not find ourselves conflicting experience with scripture. I have titled this message “It is written vs. I have experienced”. What we want to be able to say is, “It is written and I have experienced it.”
God is a God who reveals Himself to His people. As you worship, study, pray, fast and minister the Spirit of the Lord will move upon and through your life and you will experience Him. The ways in which God moves will vary greatly from person to person and from minister to minister. The gospel will never change and the person of God will never change. How He manifests Himself to us does change.
“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. (1 Kings 19:11-12)
This is one of the more famous stories in scripture. The prophet Elijah had been used by the Lord to work many mighty miracles and he had just been through a direct showdown with the leadership of a false religious cult that many people in the nation were following and God had shown Himself very strong. Elijah is now in a cave and desperately wanting to hear the voice of the Lord.
- There was a wind
- There was an earthquake
- There was a fire
- There was a whisper
God spoke to Elijah in this instance in the whisper. Does this mean that God only speaks in a whisper? No. There are instances in both Old and New Testament where God manifested Himself in each of these four ways as well as other ways. Many have said it, “God cannot be placed in a box.”
Here are the points I would like to convey through this message:
- If the Bible declares a truth it remains true, regardless of our understanding or experience.
- All spiritual experiences must be interpreted in light of the truth of scripture.
- The Holy Spirit always confirms the written Word of God.
- The manifestations of the Holy Spirit change, but His fruit remains the same.
As a Christian we cannot build a movement or theology based on experiences we have or have not had. We must build our lives upon the Bible. We serve a Living God who is active and moving in the earth. Do not trade the truth of the Bible for spiritual manifestation. We do not have to choose between the two. The power of Christianity is the Word made flesh. God’s Word (Jesus) comes alive in us.
Never build your theology on an experience. Build your faith upon the eternal truth of the Word of God.
May the Word of God live richly inside of you and may the God of the Word move mightily through you.