There is a tension between what the Bible says, what we think the Bible says, and what we think God should say to us as a race of people trying to get through life. We naturally tend to cling to sources of knowledge about who God is that fit who we want Him to be. In doing so believers can get out of balance in their spiritual walk, focusing on sources of information that may ultimately be contrary to Scripture.
Of course, non-Christians easily discredit God’s Word by saying it is worthless, written by biased men thousands of years ago having no credibility today.
Christians are much more subtle in their approach to God’s written Word. To be clear, I believe, as a Biblical Christian, men penned the Bible as they were perfectly inspired by God. In other words, God wrote the original autographs of His Holy Text.
“Experiencing God”, by Henry Blackaby
Many years ago Henry Blackaby wrote the book and subsequent Bible study curriculum entitled “Experiencing God”. As far back as 2005, his approach to growing one’s faith in God had sold over 4 million copies and was licensed in 62 languages. The reason was simple. Blackaby offered a summary of the ways we can strengthen our personal relationship with a living God. The material offered 4 ways one can ‘experience’ God… through “Bible study, prayer, circumstances, and the church”.
The Biblical Christian church is foundational to our faith, fellowship, and accountability. God established the church as a group of like-minded individuals seeking Him through all types of worship.
Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Whether the “rock” was referring to Peter or Jesus Himself, the point is that God established the church as an institution for experiencing who He is. Blackaby’s point was that we need to listen to our fellow Christians as part of the growing process in our faith journey.
However, as Christians engaging in “church”, we are often no better sinners collectively than we are as individuals. Sadly many get turned away from church because of this reality. They somehow expect Christian behavior to be devoid of sins such as pride, jealousy, and greed. The Bible reminds us that “the tongue is a restless evil” (James 3:8) and that we need to challenge our own sin nature (plank) before demanding perfection (speck) from our brother (Matt. 7:3-5). Therefore, the opinions of other believers (the church) need to be filtered through the lens of God’s commandments and precepts.
God intervenes in our lives on a daily, perhaps hourly basis. He is not a distant, disconnected entity as some would suggest and as other false religions impose on their followers. Events from Scripture document the Lord’s involvement in the lives of His children, both in direct intersession and through surrogates such as angles (Heb. 12:2). It is likely we will be amazed at how He has shown compassion, grace, and love towards us when viewed more completely on the other side of the grave.
However, we know that God is not the only one who desires to influence our thoughts and actions. There is a tension between our own sin nature, coupled with an evil, outside deceiver, and God’s best. Since we are not omniscient and live in a morally gray world, often having to decide between the “lesser of evils”, being directed by circumstances in our lives will not always have Christ as its source.
1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Prayer is critical to a growing relationship with Christ. In its ideal, it is a two-way communication with the divine, not a one-way rote speech repeated before a meal or in a church setting. Clearly, our prayer to God often becomes a petition for help, either for ourselves or for others. And God desires that fellowship with His children. It is likely that one of the most powerful behaviors the born-again believer can engage in while on earth is intercessory prayer. When the Lord wipes away our tears in Heaven (Rev. 21:4), I believe, a major part of our sadness will come from lost opportunities in serving Him through fervent prayer.
The truth is that Christians are more motivated to DO rather than PRAY. Our prayer life is anemic, in part because we do not see or recognize the results of the time spent on our knees. As a culture desiring the tangible over the abstract, we prefer “working for the Lord” rather than “engaging with the Lord”. Further, two-way communication with God is hampered by our lack of knowledge of His Word. God uses Scripture memorization to communicate to us in prayer, His wisdom, and judgments. If we do not have those tools, we are left with “feelings” that are hard to pin down as we pray for His engagement in our lives, and the intercession in the lives of those we love.
It was not unintentional in discussing the first three ways of “experiencing God” that they seemed Bible-dependent. Said best by God Himself….
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
For Christians to wisely discern wisdom from the opinions of other church members, from circumstances that occur in our lives, and from the time invested in prayer, we need a foundation, a baseline of understanding of who God is, and what He expects of us. There is only one single source for that insight, the Bible.
There is a balance in seeking God in multiple ways. However, mankind, as a race of people on a pendulum of spirituality, typically falls out of balance by focusing on “feelings”, which include circumstances, prayer, and the opinion of other Christians (the Church). Without the Bible as a foundation, these other sources of knowledge can easily misalign with an evolving cultural morality, rather than on the unchanging Word of God.
There is no question we, as sinners, trying to understand the teachings of an all-powerful sinless Creator, can misinterpret His written Word. In fact, Christian denominational differences are founded on varying understandings of God’s commands and competing emphases. Prayerful theology founded on the Bible remains superior to other valid forms for spiritual enrichment. The danger of rejecting God’s Word culminates in turning away from the church (founded on His Word), the fellowship of other Biblical Christian believers, and reliance on “feelings” (that come from circumstances and even prayer) which can also emanate from dubious sources.
Author – Jeff Hilles | BCWorldview.org
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