Recently I was talking with someone who was very anti-experiential Christianity.. claiming that really we had recognize the Word (by this they meant the scriptures) over a person's experience with God. That “You may say, ‘I have never known such love. I have never known such peace. I have never known such joy.’ The people who belong to the cults will often tell you exactly the same thing. So we must not rely upon our own subjective feelings (or anybody else’s).”
I was glad to talk with them and listen to their point of view. Overall I also believe in the importance of the scriptures, but I have some issues with the church body wanting to stop at doctrine rather than pushing into a Holy Spirit led life.
Now I recognise that some denominations are very focused on the experience of God over teaching. But in my opinion, at the moment people are far too concerned with reading their daily devotional books and being satisfied with that kind of comfortable christianity. This to me is just as dangerous as sensationalizing faith. This behavior modification Christianity, focuses on rules and accountability, rather than getting to know the person of Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father personally and becoming changed in a way that simply can't happen with out God - a way that will be more than an in the moment encounter - or "experience" (though that may be part of it) but to get to know and walk with God in a way that changes your mindsets and brings freedom into your person in ways impossible by self help - ie in ways impossible minus the Holy Spirit... This is what it means to follow Jesus.
I'm frustrated by and tired of "self-help" Christianity, when recently reading Ephesians I noticed it pours out words after words about the power of God belonging to us (YOU AND ME!!!) now that we are united to Jesus. We are not meant to be like unbelievers we are meant to be radically different.
Why is it many Christians prefer to read about others encounters and experiences with God rather than form their own, claiming God doesn't work that way anymore but at the cannonisation of the bible He apparently changed. God has not changed, and neither has His word- which biblically is not the bible but the person of Jesus "I am the word".
Now please do not think that I discount the scriptures, I am an avid bible reader... but as much as in the scriptures there is "life" and the divine, they are not to be worshipped. As someone once put it "don't worship the principals, worship the Prince". I love the word of God - the scripture is so alive, and truly revives the soul, but it quickly becomes "law" like the old covenant if we just try to mimic what the New Testament believers had without the Holy Spirit. In my experience - the church tries to control things down to the last letter so much that they really restrict the movement of God. Reading the bible with the Holy Spirit as teacher is a very different experience than going to a dry bible study with "Sunday School" cloze procedure questions that require no enlightement and are not that different from a literature comprehension question I might set my class.
Does God speak mostly through "His word" (the bible)?
In our western midset this is inconcievable, we never think about it, but there are christians all over the world who are illiterate (can't read the word), who live in communities where they recieve limited teaching because they are so rural, there are Christians who are living here in China who are under oppressive government rule who have limited access to the word of God, there are countries where its illegal to mention Jesus name in public or to hold pocession of a bible, even privately. Does God just not speak to these children of His because they are ignorant of His word...
In the western church we are so black and white and "task task". We forget that we are dealing with people in all kinds of situations and so we forget to show grace.
(**I can speak for Ireland that for 100's of years Christians didn't own bibles, and once they were commonly own many people didn't read- they were taught in church Latin about the Lord most of which didn't speak Latin** Now this may not have ALWAYS been the case, but for many it was... did these people go through life and not experience a relationship with God because they were not educated?)
God has OFTEN moved in ways that were unusal- that biblically that He had never done before. Job is a perfect example. All his friends were saying "God would never contradict His word, you must have sinned, He doesn't allow the righteous to be cursed... God doesn't do this" and they had scripture to back it up look at the psalms- well He did allow those things to happen to Job. Job pleased the Lord cause he wasn't willing to box God but (though complainingly) allowed God to be God and didn't loose faith in His goodness or His worthiness of worship. Ironically God was not pleased that job's friends scripturally accused him in this way and in the end he asked Job to make a sacrifice before Him on their behalf. Job's experience of God at that time contradicted the mindset of the religious people.
People also accused the apostles in acts of being drunken after they received the Holy Spirit because the people had no biblical grid for what was going on with them. Sometimes God works outside of the confines of what has happened before. And why shouldn't He? He loves diversity, He is the most intelligent being and He is also the most creative. If we are following Him and not just His principals then through relationship we will be able to discern if it is His Spirit that is moving.
I am not attempting to defend one denomination, that word has little meaning to me. I do not try anymore to define my faith by where I have fellowship, but instead enjoy the diversity that there is within People connected to God, the whole spectrum from conservative to charasmatic.
I realise there is alot of counterfeit "experience" out there, sensationalism etc. But at the same time I am reluctant to tar all charasmatics with the same brush - as all being sensationalist and not being grounded in the word... I know some amazing charamatics that are grounded in the word but who in certain times choose grace and love over beating people who have fallen with their principals.. and in that they have been accused of having weak biblical understanding. A good example I have read before is "one counterfeit hundred bill doesn't affect the value of a authentic one."
I am also reluctant to tar all conservatives as "spiritually dry and unversed in grace and love" - because I have friends that are conservative and that this is simply not always true.
I will end with these quotes
"I think we have made relationship with God into not a relationship but about meeting requirements"
"Jesus said I'm the truth... truth is not a teaching... truth is a person..."