Tag Archives: Truth

Experience or Truth?

“16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:16-21

A week or so ago I wrote a post entitled “The Danger of Abandoning Sola Scriptura”  and in it discussed the very dangerous and confusing practice of “hearing God’s voice” through internal promptings or messages such as that taught in the Experiencing God study, as opposed to using the Word of God as sufficient for all guidance and truth.  The former practice, perhaps without even knowing, is essentially claiming to receive prophetic word directly from God with no basis to support it.  This is commonly referred to as “extra-biblical” revelation.  The Bible contains the prophetic word of God written by Holy Spirit inspired men and it is “closed revelation”, meaning nothing new should ever be added to it as we read in the familiar passage of Revelation 22:18-19 18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”  When claims are made that God is continuing His revelation to people this is really saying that the Bible is not closed, but can continue to be added to.  For example, a pastor named Jack Hayford once claimed that God had revealed the coming of a new era to him, namely the second coming of Christ.  This private revelation of additional information on Jesus’ second coming literally adds to the closed revelation of the Bible and is in fact an unsubstantiated claim.  Now this is on a larger scale through a quite spectacular claim made by a somewhat well known pastor.  What then is the difference between someone like Hayford, Oral Roberts or Pat Robertson making a claim that God had given them special revelation versus an everyday person claiming the same thing to a lesser degree?

The Apostle Paul writing in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 is defending his apostleship against those false apostles who crept into the Church at Corinth.  In this passage Paul begins to tell the people that he has been given visions and revelation of heaven, though he subtly shifts the attention to “a man he knows” in order to steer clear of boasting.  In verses 6-7 he completely avoids telling of his vision, “6Though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 7So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” 2 Corinthians 12:6-7 Why doesn’t Paul go on to give great detail of his vision of heaven?  Because he wanted his words and his ministry to speak for themselves, if anyone had ever a cause to boast about revelation it was here, with Paul.  In fact, because of the great vision given to him, God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh to humble him and prevent him from boasting of what he experienced.

In our passage included above from 2 Peter, we get insight into one of the greatest recorded revelations that man has ever witnessed, namely the transfiguration of Christ.  Peter, James, and John were all witnesses and heard the audible words of the LORD say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Matthew 17:5  Yet notice what Peter says here; in verse 16-18 he has described what the disciples saw, but in verse 19 he makes a much stronger assertion.  “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word.”  This something “more sure” than the experience they witnessed is the prophetic word of God, in this Peter references the Old Testament, but the New Testament is likewise implied in this statement as it is a continued revelation of God’s Word.  These 3 disciples were part of an experience that was never again repeated, yet Peter is shifting the weight from that experience to the truths of the Word of God.  Dr. John MacArthur provides the following on relating experience to truth: “My experience and your experience is not the test or proof of biblical truth. It is the reverse. Biblical truth must validate or invalidate any experience.”  He goes on to say, “Once you allow experience to be the test of truth, then you can’t limit doctrine to the pages of Scripture.”  It would’ve been easy for Peter to build a theology around those things which he saw and heard, but instead he comes back to the Word of God as the foundation and asserts that it is sufficient to guide people, “which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.

As Peter continues his discussion on revelations received by men, he states that “that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  First he clearly affirms that the prophecy of Scripture did not come by way of man’s interpretation then he backs up to say that no prophecy is ever produced by the will of man but by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  I often wonder if in an attempt to commune with God, those who would follow the strategies and practices of “hearing God’s voice” aren’t employing a will of their own into the experience.  In essence, their strong desire to feel an impression or to hear an internal voice actually promotes the experience.  The question becomes though, how could anyone ever determine whether said impression or voice is: 1) Not from the flesh or 2) Not from Satan?  Let alone whether it is actually God speaking or moving.  Herein lies another danger because these experiences are “self-feeding” meaning that as they occur, regardless of the source, they feed into the person’s pursuit to “hear”, “listen”, or “obey” and continually push the person down this path of confusion.         

Pastor MacArthur describes a true spiritual experience as follows, “A true spiritual experience would be the result of the quickening of truth in the Christian’s mind. In other words, the Spirit, all of a sudden gives dramatic life to a truth. It does not occur in a mystical vacuum.”  Truth does not occur outside of the Bible, so the truth which the Spirit quickens in the mind of a believer comes directly from the Word of God.  Conversely MacArthur describes a false spiritual experience as “the experience that supposedly leads me to the truth. This must be true because look what I experienced. That’s backwards.”   Experience should be in response to the truth brought forth by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, not the other way around.  An old truth that I so frequently quote is, “your experience is never a substitute for your theology.”    

Is your experience a valid test for truth?  Or is the Word of God the only source for truth?

Jeremiah 23:16 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes.  They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.’”

Palm Sunday Pt. II – Symbolism and Stirring Emotions

There were a few key symbols that I pointed out in yesterdays Palm Sunday post, that I wanted to discuss in more detail.  The first was the choice to ride into town on a donkey colt, one that had never been sat upon.  To me, this means that the young donkey hadn’t even been broken in.  I think this points to the majesty of Jesus and shows His power and command over the animal.  I started thinking, what was the significance of it never being ridden, as we read in Mark 11:2, “…on which no one has sat.” The reason for this is that it has been set aside, or consecrated, for the specific purpose of transporting Jesus into the city of Jerusalem.  As we read in Numbers 19:2 Moses and Aaron were commanded by God to instruct the Israelites to bring them a heifer without blemish, one on which a yoke has never been placed.  The same principle applies here; the donkey hadn’t been “blemished” with a bridal and bit. 

So why was the donkey the chosen transportation?  Why not a horse and an entrance full of the grandeur fit for a King?  We’ve pointed out that the implication was to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, but why was a donkey referenced in the Old Testament?    Here’s where I think we need to understand a few things about Jesus’ time here on earth.  The people of Israel were looking for a king to deliver them from their oppression of the Romans.  The Old Testament had foretold of the Great King that would deliver the Israelites.  When Jesus was born, even Herod felt threatened by news of His birth and eventually ordered all of the children under the age of two to be put to death.  What the people misunderstood was that their King, was actually their Messiah, who came not to deliver them from their Roman oppression, but from the oppression and condemnation of sin.  The prophecy of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey was to signify that He was not coming as a warrior to lead a revolution, but as a Savior to lead in redemption.  The amazing parallel is to look at this first entrance into Jerusalem with Christ’s second coming, where He will be on a white war-horse (Revelation 19:11-16).  The first coming was with peace and humbleness on a donkey, the second coming is with the armies of heaven to judge and make war, quite the contrast of the King of Kings.      

The third and final point that I wanted to make was one that I had thought about yesterday, but omitted, because it stirred me emotionally and I thought it deserved specific attention.  When we read of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, it’s filled with beautiful imagery and symbolism of a King.  To read of the people singing praises as they laid down their clothes in submission and palm branches of triumph and victory, truly is a stirring scene and I wanted to paint that picture, as though all who read of it were there experiencing this with them.  But the truth is we know what this entrance is leading to.  Yes it is filled with the hope that Jesus brings us with His death on the cross and yes our sins would be buried with Him and we would be raised in newness of life with His resurrection.  But I can’t help but feel the sadness and emotions that Jesus was experiencing during this procession into the city.  To know that the sins of the world would soon be on Him.  To know that His heavenly Father would soon turn His back on Him, unable to look at the sin, as Jesus would cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 To know that my sins would help hammer the nails into His hands and feet…. 

We get a glimpse of the emotional pain Jesus was experiencing as He overlooked Jerusalem and began to weep saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:42-44 He wept for His people, knowing that if they had not rejected Him, how much easier it would be for them.

I think more than anything this triumphal entry signifies that soon our sins would be redeemed, that Jesus would triumph over those sins, triumph over the cross, and triumph over death.  How glorious His entrance must have been to the people that didn’t understand what was about to happen, but how heartbreaking must it be to those of us that know what was about to happen and that we were the cause.  But for this we’ve been given hope.  Hope in the bloodshed on the cross, that if we believe that Christ died for our sins, those same sins that helped nail him to the cross, and we repent of those sins, He will be faithful and just to forgive those sins; and that if in our belief of Christ’s death, we believe too that He rose again and we ask that he washes away our sins with His redeeming blood to cleanse us from all unrighteousness; and we receive Him into our hearts as Lord and Savior of our lives, then our hope is in Him; and how infinitely more glorious will His coming for the Church be.

If you’re ready to be forgiven of your sins that nailed Jesus to the cross and you believe that He died for those sins, just as I describe above, won’t you pray now and repent of those sins and ask Jesus to come into your life.  Your prayer might go something like this:

Dear Lord, I’m a sinner.  I recognize that as a sinner I’m not worthy of your mercy and grace.  But I believe that Your Son Jesus died on the cross for my sins and I believe that He rose again.  I repent of those sins and I ask now Lord for Jesus to come into my heart and forgive me of my sins and I accept him as my Lord and Savior.

In Jesus name, Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, I pray that the Holy Spirit seals that decision in your heart and sets your feet firmly on the path of continued growth in Christ.

Christians if you know of someone that has yet to make that decision and you’re struggling with ways to bring it up or talk to them about it, maybe something as easy as forwarding them a web address might help.  Because I believe in Isaiah 55:11, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  I know God can work through my sometimes clumsy prose and use it for His glory and maybe, just maybe, lead 1 to Christ.

Tithing Redux

A few weeks ago, I felt compelled to post a blog on the importance of tithing.  With this week’s trend of money posts, I’d like to continue to build upon those thoughts and readdress what some might consider a controversial subject, the tithe.  Yesterday’s post, Gain, Save, Give highlighted the importance of being a steward of God’s financial blessings, because as we learned in Luke 16:10-12, if we’re unable to manage worldly wealth, who will trust us with the true riches of heaven?  While few of us would debate the importance of gain, more might debate the importance of saving, and increasingly more might debate the importance of giving.  That’s the point I want to hammer home. 

To be a truly unselfish giver, we must first realize that our money, our income, our possessions are not ours at all.  They’re all God’s; blessings that he’s entrusted us with.  The second truth that we need to understand is to realize that it’s not about giving out of abundance.  Again, I’m not focusing on the amount or quantity of any of that, but instead how you manage what you’ve been given.  This very point is illustrated in Mark 12:41-44, 41Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.  43Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on.'”  The third principle that must be realized is that tithing is not giving.  Let me say that again.  Tithing is not giving.  I’ll explain what I mean in just a minute. 

A tithe, or tenth, is 10% of our income and in my opinion, our pre-taxed income (if anyone would like to debate the importance of giving to God before giving unto Caesar, let me know).  Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”  First fruits, pre-tax, not leftovers.  The reason why I stated earlier that tithing is not giving, is because it’s already God’s, this is the amount that He asks for.  Since it is already His, we’re not giving, but rather returning to God what He asks.  Anything above the tithe, or 10%, is giving.  I know it sounds like semantics, giving vs. bringing, but I think if we look at it in this light, we’ll be more likely to faithfully tithe.  I used the following  illustration in the last post on tithing, but I think it helps relate the point in modern terms.  Think of going out to eat at a restaurant.  Most of us would realize that the “expected” tip amount is 15%, it’s societal courtesy.  Anything above that would be exceptional and anything below would be seen as insulting.  If we’re under the mindset that 15% is the expected amount to give a waitress, how can we possibly justify giving less than what God expects in a tithe?  Malachi 3:8 addresses this point, “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.  But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings.”

In writing this, I did a quick internet search on tithing and was quite surprised at the results.  I’m amazed that some “Christians” can honestly justify that tithing is not biblical, or even required.  Justifications included that it’s a Mosaic law and not part of the new covenant or that salvation is through grace, not through giving.  While yes salvation is through grace, to me, these are just excuses of a selfish heart.  One article that I came across was a CBS news story from 2008. LINK The article states that on average Christians give 2.5%, not 10% (actually I’m surprised the amount was that high).  Just to put this in perspective, a person that makes $30,000 would bring $14 a week.  That’s barely a lunch or two and won’t even get 2 people into a movie.  Frankly, it’s a convicting statistic.  Another item the article mentions is those churches that value the dollar more than the Gospel and place their focus more on getting, rather than giving.  We’re all aware of those that teach prosperity doctrine and I want to clarify, I’m not advocating the methods of these questionable pastors or networks.  Tithing is much bigger than those people and they will get their end reward. 

I know some people might read this and think, how can I possibly give 10%, when I’m struggling to make ends meet, living paycheck to paycheck.  Well later this week, I hope to post a blog that will show you how to re-structure your finances in a way that will free up money, not only for tithing, but for improved stewardship.  Ultimately, tithing should be something we pray about.  God knows each of our financial circumstances.  Ask the Lord to show you the importance of it, how much you should bring, and pray before placing your tithe in the offering plate, that God uses those funds for His glory.  I want to close with one final verse, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” II Corinthians 9:7

 

“There cannot be a surer rule, nor a stronger exhortation to the observance of it, than when we are taught that all the endowments which we possess are divine deposits entrusted to us for the very purpose of being distributed for the good of our neighbor.” – John Calvin