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God Is Not an Experience
by Rachel Williams
Lysa TerKeurst recently posted this on social media: “I want to stop thinking of reading my Bible as an item on my Christian checklist & really experience God instead.” It was splashed across a pretty picture of a stylish woman sitting on a bench reading her Bible, and within a matter of hours, dozens of women I know had shared the picture with a remarks like, “amen,” “me, too,” and, “my heart’s desire.”
Sisters, God is not an experience.
Disney World is an experience. Child birth is an experience. Living through a natural disaster is an experience. But God is not an experience.
God is holy. God is righteous. God is Creator, loving, personal, immutable, perfect, just. But He is not an amusement park ride waiting for us to hop on and try.
In Scripture, the word “experience” is used only in concrete fashion; it ties into things that people actually taste, touch, see, hear, or smell. It is a word used to describe people’s lives here on earth, and it has nothing to do with their relationships with God, unless it is describing judgment. “Experiencing” God is not a scriptural idea, at all. But let’s go ahead and look at how people “experienced” God in the Bible:
When the prophets of Baal “experienced” God on Mt. Carmel in I Kings 18, it was in the form of fire from heaven. They reacted by falling on their faces in fear. When Job “experienced” God in Job 38-41, his response was to retract all of his previously spoken words (and there were a lot of them), and repent in dust and ashes (Job 42:6). When Isaiah “experienced” God in a vision of the throne room of Heaven, he responded by saying, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). Isaiah was convinced he was going to drop dead because he had seen God in a vision.
Oh, I hear you arguing that I’m using “Old Testament God” examples. So what about Jesus?
In Acts, when Saul is on the road to Damascus, and Jesus appears to him to convert him, his reaction is to fall to the ground in fear (Acts 9:4). When Jesus is having dinner with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, Mary falls at His feet and washes them with costly perfume and her hair (John 12). At the death of Jesus, a Roman soldier became very frightened and recognized who Jesus really was – the Son of God (Matthew 27: 54). In Revelation, toward the end of his vision, John sees Jesus, and John, who had walked with Jesus as His most beloved disciple and knew Him incredibly well, falls down at the feet of the angel showing him the vision.
People fell to their faces when they “experienced” Jesus, too, especially near to and after His death.
God Himself says in Isaiah, “And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow” (Isaiah 45:21-23).
I question whether anyone truly wants to experience God. The Bible says no one can see Him face to face and live. I imagine what they really mean is that they want to hear from God, but Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us that, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”
God only speaks to us through His scriptures now, He does not speak to us audibly. If you want to know God, you actually need to read your Bible; you need to study the Scriptures, which is the exact opposite of what Mrs. TerKeurst was suggesting in her cute little meme. Second Timothy 3:16-17 promises that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man (woman) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Where do we find the Truth of God? In His Word.
Knowing God is simply a matter of knowing His Word. Reading His Word tells you His thoughts, gives you guidance, and explains His plans for you (Matthew 28: 19-20 is His plan for every believer, by the way). There is no “experience” that you are missing out on when you choose to read your Bible, pray, and read your Bible some more.
Sisters, reading your Bible? That is experiencing God.
Rachel is the wife of a hardworking truck driver, and a homeschooling mama to one energetic six year old boy. She holds an MDiv in biblical studies, but mostly cooks & washes dishes. She blogs like an Imputationist theology nerd at danielthree18.com, and you can also follow her on Twitter.