On the 17th of March, 1997 at 10:30 am, I experienced God. I become born again. I encountered God in such a way that I knew all my sins were forgiven and that I was in a right relationship with him. A few weeks later I experienced another encounter of God which can be likened to a rushing wind where I was praising and praying in my car and burst into what is known as tongues. I was filled with a sense of tremendous joy, incredible peace, and a deep awareness of God.
And within those few weeks I became what is known in some circles as a Pentecostal / Charismatic Christian, even though I was fellowshipping in a Anglican church at the time. Since 1997 I have developed, tweaked, changed, nuanced and been challenged in many of my doctrinal beliefs. Perhaps the hardest of all to change was regarding the subject of tithing; it was one I wholeheartedly embraced as being biblical, whereas now, I believe that we are called to a life style of generosity and not to one of the tithe. But, I digress.
Within Christian circles I see two excesses. The first is an over spiritualisation of the Christian faith. Experience is everything. And because experience is everything, little discernment takes place as to the real nature of just what is happening. To give an example, I once had a vision of a large sword. A voice said to me, take hold of this sword. It is the two edged sword of the Holy Spirit. It will empower you for life and ministry. But I suddenly had the heeby jeebies and asked the Lord if this vision was really of him, and the sword turned into a snake and slithered away. It was a demonic experience. I was later to encounter someone else at a Bible college who also was to have encountered spiritual experiences that were demonic and not of God. He would hear a voice telling him to walk up to the shops and to wait on the next direction. He would do that and in doing would skip his classes. I tried to counsel him that I didn’t think he was hearing God, and during that week I prayed for him. The next week he refused to talk to me, because I was an ungodly person and he said God had told him not to listen to me.. the reason being I was then married to a women who had been divorced. He insisted that God was teaching him obedience.. but, this overseas student who was here on a student visa eventually was sent back home because he had failed to attend to his classes.
But, I was also to experience a number of Godly prophetic encounters in which God was clearly speaking to me. One was in 2001. I was walking in the back paddock, holding my 3 year old son’s hand. We were talking about the grass hoppers, sky, grass and as I was aware of just how much I loved my son and was proud of him, my left hand suddenly lifted up and I had a vision of sorts where God had hold of my hand, as I had hold of my sons hand. I heard God say to me, “Craig, just as you are proud of and love your son, I too am proud of you and love you, only much much more!”
Fast forward to 2009. I was going through one of the most horrible times of my life. I was in the midst of a divorce. Crap had hit the fan. I felt dirty and alone. I was even asking God if I had lost my salvation. Ostracised from many Christians and I felt so far away from God. A friend rang me up and said Craig, I have been fighting God for three days now, but I have to share what I believe he wants me to say to you. He said, “Craig, God wants you to know he still has you by the hand and has not let you go!” With an instant flash back to that previous experience of God, I had the deeper revelation that while I was in trouble and turmoil, God was still for me and not against me.
And this leads me to the second part of my post. There are many reasons why as Christians we dry up. And the biggest reason is that we become people of the word and not people of the God of the word. By this I speak of those whose sole relationship and experience of God is in the word, and not the God of the word. They speak well of the word, the foundation of their belief is to be found in the word. Many know the word. But, they do not experience the God of the word. They say that the early church experienced God in ways for the word to be written, but now, we have the word and that is all we need, we no longer need to experience the God of the word.
These kind of Christians are what I call pornographic Christians. Its like they put God into a magazine and perve on what is written in the magazine. They are like someone who knows all about sex. They know all the various positions and ways to have and enjoy it. They speak much of it and often with great authority and urgency… BUT, they have never actually experienced it for themselves. And they themselves urge others not to ever experience it for themselves also, because all they need is to understand what the word says about it. Can you imagine standing before a bride and a groom and telling them both, you can talk about sex, but you can’t actually look forward to enjoying it.
I know for many this is a shocking paragraph.. and its meant to be.
Christ calls the church his bride. He has given himself to us. Not only has he given us himself, God has given us all of himself. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The creator of all that is seen and unseen has given himself to and for us. And just as words can inform us about sex, its only through experiencing it, that we truly come to know about it. For words, no matter how skilfully used, are limited in revealing God to us.
Those words are important to inform us, but they speak of God and not meant to constrain God. The fullness of the God who is spoken of in the Scriptures is to be found and experienced outside of reading the scriptures. We are made for God and created to experience God. The Scriptures describe God’s people experiencing him in many tangible and authentic ways, and wrote about it so we too can know about this real and tangible God. But they didn’t just write for our own knowledge sake. No! They wrote so that we too can know what to expect in our own walk with God and how to experience God.
And old pastor drummed into me the following quote:
All word we dry up. All Spirit we blow up. 100% of both, we grow up.
We need to know the word of God. We also need to know the author of the word of God. And we can only know the author of the word of God when we personally encounter God, in and through his glory and majesty of the the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We need to know the word so we don’t go astray. But we also need to deeply know the author of the word so we likewise don’t go astray. The Bible is not God – it speaks deeply and clearly about God and so I pray, Come Holy Spirit, Come!