Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ The Experience of Truth

          The doctrines of God are not doctrines alone. They are doctrines of experience. We do not live by every word that comes from the mouth of God without eating every word that comes from the mouth of God.[1] We do not live by a doctrine that God is good, but we taste and see that he is good.[2] We do not live by a menu, but we affirm that the menu is correct in telling us what God is like because we taste and see and know by experience that this is so.

          The reason that legalism is so deadly to the life of God’s people is that it dupes us into thinking that words are enough to get us through whatever life has to offer. We are deceived into thinking that a statement of correct doctrine is all that we need, and that it is good and necessary to fight with other believers over words and meanings because our faith is in those words and meanings.

          The Bible, the true words of God, consistently partner truth and experience, doctrine and practice, faith and works. This means that, to live by the words of God we must have the experience the words of God are revealing.

          For example, we cannot merely hold to doctrines about conversion; we must be converted by those doctrines.[3] We cannot limit ourselves to thinking we have faith no matter what we do; but must have a faith that does the deeds of faith.[4] We cannot pridefully hold to doctrines we believe are truer than what others believe; but must know the truth in the experience of love that sent truth into the world to seek us out, to find us, and to save us.[5] We cannot argue the truth of a matter as though knowing facts can make one group better than other; but must be the kind of worshipers who worship in spirit and in truth.[6]

          When Paul wrote about how people are saved, he clarified that there must be a partnership between inner experience of truth, and outer expression of truth. He wrote, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.[7] It is true that Jesus is Lord, and so our salvation requires us to confess this to be true. It is also true that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and so we must believe this in our hearts. The inner experience of believing the gospel is matched by the outer expression of confessing the gospel.

          Paul continued, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.[8] Paul knew what it was like to be positive he knew the truth about God while still dead in his trespasses and sins,[9] living in the flesh,[10] persecuting the very Christ he thought he was waiting for.[11] It wasn’t until he encountered Jesus Christ that he believed in his heart that Jesus truly was the Messiah of God, that he had truly died for his sins, and that God had truly raised him from the dead; and he confessed with his mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord in a way that continues to resonate throughout the world to this very day.

          The whole message of the Bible is presented as truth in life-experience. The Psalms are filled with expressions of worship that identify the wonderful attributes of God in the context of the life-situations where these attributes were experienced. David knew that God was, “the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel,[12] not only because it was true, but because he had already known God by experience when he was able to kill the lions and bears that were attacking his flocks.[13] For David, it was a natural conclusion that, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”[14] God was who he was, and David knew him that way by experience.

          The point of the matter is that having eternal life the way Jesus described it, And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent,”[15] means knowing both the truth of who God is, and knowing the experience of who God is. To say I am loved, I must experience being loved. To say I am saved, as the doctrines of salvation so gloriously describe, I must experience this salvation saving me from sin. To say I am forgiven, as biblical doctrine so graciously presents in so many revelations of truth, I must know in my heart of hearts what it feels like to experience the forgiveness of my sins.

          I could go on with examples of the ways that knowledge and experience partner together in the doctrines of God. For the moment I would like to encourage you that, if considering the Bible’s wonderful descriptions of the God of heaven and earth leaves you wondering if you have experienced any of these things at all, you only have to let your hunger and thirst for the righteousness you hear of[16] turn into the asking, seeking, and knocking that guarantees to lead you from knowledge to experience in answer to your prayers.[17]

          From my heart,


© 2013 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)
[2] Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (I Peter 2)
[3] Acts 2 shows how people who had come to Jerusalem based on their knowledge of the truth had to be converted by the truth they believed in.
[4] “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2:26)
[5] “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” (Ephesians 4:15).
[6] 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4) Note that this doctrine of worshiping in spirit and in truth is shared in the experience of a woman personally dialoguing with Jesus.
[7] Romans 10:9
[8] Romans 10:10
[9] Ephesians 2:1-3
[10] Romans 7
[11] Acts 8; “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (I Corinthians 15:9); “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13); “as to zeal, a persecutor of the church (Philippians 3:6).
[12] I Samuel 17:45
[13] 34Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” (I Samuel 17)
[14] I Samuel 17:37
[15] John 17:3
[16] “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)
[17] 7 ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.’” (Matthew 7)

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