Monday, 18 June 2007

Holy Spirit and Experience 2

In a seminar I did on Saturday I made 3 basic points about the role of experience in our walk with God.

1. Experience is part and parcel of our walk with God. Our knowledge of Him is not merely conceptual (though all knowledge involves that) but is personal, real and living. We know Him as living Presence in our lives e.g. Ps 27, Ps 63, Eph 3:14-19.

There are, though, some qualifications here. Firstly, experience is not an end, but a by-product of our relationship with God. Secondly, experiences are always unstable and go up and down - and experiences of God's absence can also be given by God. Thirdly, experiences can be deceptive - we may be growing far more when we feel 'cold' and less when we are 'warm'.

2. Experience means gaining a deeper realization about who God is and the gospel. It is these things becoming more real to me so that they change me and transform me. It is about not just knowing about honey as food, but actually tasting honey. Eph 1:15-21 is very helpful here as Paul prays for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation for the Ephesians. They are already CHristians but he prays that the Spirit would 'reveal' to them the greatness of the power of Christ (see also Eph 3:14-19). Here, we can distinguish between 'Revelation' (objective, historical) and 'revelation' (subjective, appropriation). The objective, historical needs to be appropriated, not simply understood conceptually, and this is the Spirit's work in me. Yet, experience cannot be disconnected from the the 'Revelation' - otherwise it's free-floating. Really, this is simply the doctrine of illumination. The Spirit is driving me to 'see' the wonder and glory of the gospel, not simply to know in an abstract way that is wonderful and glorious.

3. I suggested ways in which we can attain to a deeper experience of God.

Firstly, we need to keep the gospel of free grace first. Legalism destroys joy. We cannot hope to experience God while we are living out a kind of Christianized Islam. We need to know that we are "in Christ", and keep the gospel primary in our relationship with God.

Secondly, we need to re-orientate our prayer lives so that we are mainly seeking God, asking to know Him and not simply bringing petitions before Him.

Thirdly, we need to meditate on the Word. We need depth and a grasp of the implications of the gospel/Word. Breadth is not enough (though it is also important). The danger is that we simply becoming dictionaries of information and not living stones of a new temple. We need to learn to dig down and dig out the riches of God in the gospel and His word.

What we need most of all is not more experience, and certainly not less experience, but a deeper experience that goes beyond mere emotions and self-preoccupation. We need to seek Lord Jesus as the end of all things.