Guest Posts, Sanctification

Guest Post: God Is Not an Experience

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rachel williams god experience

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.”

lysa t

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.


Additional Resources:

Leaving Lysa: Why You Shouldn’t Be Following Lysa TerKeurst or Proverbs 31 Ministries

Weak Women and the Idolatry of Personal Experience


9 thoughts on “Guest Post: God Is Not an Experience”

  1. First off, let me state right off the bat that this article left me confused and I’m *not* a Lysa Terkeurst fan/groupie/defender. I don’t, however, see anything wrong in the meme. I think we should *all* stop thinking of reading our Bibles as an item to be checked off our lists . . . and really pour over God’s Word with intent and study it and pray through it and most importantly *actively*apply*it*! Amen, I’m all for it!

    So then I guess the terminology of “experiencing God” was what was called into question. And Rachel Williams does a great job of explaining why we don’t ‘experience’ God. She makes valid observations about Scripture and its purpose, and how we should approach it. I love what she says about God’s holiness and how the only ‘experience’ folks had with Him was falling flat on their faces. And I’m with her up until the last paragraph when she concludes by saying, “Sisters, reading your Bible? That *is* experiencing God.” Huh? I’m really struggling to understand how is this different from what the Terkeurst meme states. Unless someone is reading something into the meme I’m just not seeing?

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    1. You are very fortunate to be confused about this. What these experience seekers are meaning is that they wish to have a supernatural, emotional experience as a result of emptying their minds, praying fervently and begging God for such a thing. The problem is that such subjective things could come from self, demon, or God. So how does one know for sure? They don’t. They just assume that every overwhelming feeling must be good. Therein lies the danger.

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  2. I wrote a nearly identical post several years ago in response to an eerily similar statement made by Ann Voskamp. She had used several unscholarly translations to find the word ‘experience’ in the text to support her teaching. The word translated ‘experience’ in these translations was actually the Greek word ‘gnosis…to know’. I wrote to Mrs. Voskamp privately first with my concerns over her handling of the Word. I received the written equivalent of a pat on the head. I then wrote the post and my blog exploded with comments from angry followers of her blog, A Holy Experience.

    It seems little has changed.

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  3. Doesn’t one “experience” the presence and convictions of the Holy Spirit? The fruits of the Spirit? Peace, Joy, etc.? I am not defending Ms Terkeurst, but perhaps that’s what she’s meaning? I agree totally that God is not an emotion or feeling, but we are spiritual beings? And our physical beings experience physical things, and wouldn’t it stand to reason that the spiritual part of us would experience spiritual things? I am thinking anyone can read Scriptures, but not all respond to Scripture without the Holy Spirit? And couldn’t the conviction/response to Scripture be the “experience” to which she is referring? I am asking sincerely as this confuses me as well. Thank you for your input.

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  4. Lol I all the sudden T find myself confused. I know that in order for me to grow closer to God I need to read his his word period. Reading the bible along with prayer and fellowship with strong Christians is way to draw closer to the Lord as I love to hear how God is working in others lives. I feel that this meme is for those that might just fly by night with a quick bible plan- read a verse and carry on with their lives and not spend any actual quality time with the Lord and his word. I know for me I struggle when I just quickly read verses and move on and say ” wel I read something so that counts.” I believe that meme states they don’t want to just read for the sake of reading but come to the Lord with a open heart ready to pray, learn and hear from the Lord. Hope that makes sense as I’m on my iPhone 🙂

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