Why Are Believers Not Declaring the Gospel?

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I am often asked the question, “Why are believers not declaring the gospel?” My firm belief, pastoral experience, and observation is that “believers do not declare the gospel if they do not delight in God.”

As we all know, people will talk about what they find most interesting or exciting. If you really like sports, cooking, children, etc., you will talk to others about those things or about the relationships that matter the most to you. As Peter and John replied (Acts 4:20), “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” People will talk about the relationship that they are the most passionate about or delight in. Webster defines delight as “to take great pleasure.” As the Psalmist wrote, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” There are many “Christians” who are not declaring the gospel because they simply do not delight in God. We cannot proclaim Christ is above all if we do not worship and love Him above all things. Deuteronomy 30:19b-20a states: “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life…” As it has been said, Christ cannot be praised above all if He is not prized above all.

I really grew in my delight with God when I began to realize how great His love is for me. Several years ago I was playing golf with my five year old at our neighborhood golf course. When we got to the fourth hole, I hit an amazingly great shot onto the green (miracles still happen). After the shot, my son yelled out to me, “Great shot Dad! Now it is my turn!” He then took off and ran to his golf ball and began to hit his next shot. I picked up my golf bag (and his little golf bag) and I began to walk to the green. While I was walking, I began to pray in my spirit this praise to the Lord, “Oh Lord, I love you. I praise You for giving me my son. This is so much fun to be out with him, playing golf and just enjoying him. Thank you Father.” After I said this prayer, the Lord impressed His words to my heart and told me this, “Now you know what it is like for me to be your Father.” After the Lord said these words to my spirit, I began to weep. I was on the green and my son said, “Dad what’s wrong?” I looked at him and said, “Nothing, I think I may have gotten some grass in my eyes. Son, I love you.” He replied, “I love you too Dad, now make the birdie putt.” I often reflect on that day and rejoice in knowing that the Lord loves me. That day has helped me pursue God with all of my heart, all of my soul and all of my mind. The Lord answered Paul’s prayer to me that day,” And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17b-19)

Jesus stated that the most important commandment is to love God. “The most important one (commandment),” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) In verse 28, a Pharisee asks Jesus, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus answers their question by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with your entire mind.” Then he adds his own words to put the commandment even higher than the question required. The question was, “Which is the great commandment?” and Jesus says, “This is the greatest and foremost commandment.” The greatest and most important thing you can do is love God — love GOD — with all your heart and soul and mind. John Piper summarized it this way: “The love of God is not God’s making much of us, but God’s saving us from self-centeredness so that we can enjoy making much of him forever. And our love to others is not our making much of them, but helping them to find satisfaction in making much of God. True love aims at satisfying people in the glory of God. Jesus Christ did not die to make much of us, but to free us to delight in making much of God forever. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

I was at a conference in Urbana, Illinois in the fall of 1999. I had several hours before the conference was to begin, so I went to the nearby university to read God’s word. While I was reading I came upon this passage in Jeremiah. The Lord challenged his people in Judah through His prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:22) by saying, “If they had stood in my council (Delighted in God), they would have proclaimed my words to my people (Declared the Gospel) and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.” The Lord impressed upon me that day that if I would stand in His council and delight in Him then I would proclaim His gospel to His people. If believers are devoting themselves to growing in their passionate relationship with Christ (Delight in God), then they will share Christ (Declare the Gospel) to a lost world.

Do you delight in Jesus Christ? Does your small group encourage delight in Jesus and declaration of the gospel? What do you think is the main cause believers do not delight in Jesus and do not share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others?

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I wonder.   Yes if we delight in God, then we will be compelled to share the gospel.  But maybe the real thing is simply to experience God in our lives.  It may be delight;  it might be a sorrowful experience;  it might simply be inspiring.   But perhpas it cannot be merely theoretical delight.   It needs to be as real as cutting your finger or spraining your knee or eating your desert.  It needs to be real.  And we have to make ourselves vulnerable.  Pride, vanity, self-consciousness, fear must all disappear or be overcome.   Your trust in God to provide must be real, if you lose your job, or if you lose chance of advancement or if you lose acceptance by peers.  Remember Christ's suffering for us.  (compared to that, our risks are very small). 

Participant

While Berkhof’s proposal that “the heart is the seat of religion” may be too theologically sterile for today’s Church, it speaks the same truth that Piper has proposed: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” The question will always be, “What satisfies us?” or, “What do we love?” It is a testament to our sinful nature that we must continually reevaluate religion in the dimension of what we love – and to what degree. These are all restatements of Jesus’ words, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” “whoever has been forgiven little loves little” and “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” And, they all convict us about why we do – or do not – evangelize. Why do we not “delight” in Jesus and therefore ‘good news-ify’ others? It may simply be that our heart’s love is not satisfied with the good news. If true, that is a very scary place for the Church to be.

This is the second article in a month (See Greg Selmon's "Today's Compelling Story of Grace" 10-18-12) that suggest the motivation for witness is found in the spiritual superiority of the individual believer.   Critical to witness is the believer's dynamic experiences of grace, fresh each day, and their personal passion for God.  What I hear being said is that we must be like the pharisee in the front of the temple who thanks God that he is not like other men, that he has all these fantastic spiritual experiences, that he is not like the sinner in the back of the room.  We must have something to show and tell about ourselves (called sharing Christ), when actually it is simply talking about and possibly even boasting about ourselves. 

Probably the most fantastic spiritual experience in this life would be to be raised from the dead.  The rich man in Hades pleads with father Abraham to send Lazarus back to his brothers arguing that the bible (Moses and the Prophets) is not sufficient - they need to see something.   The answer comes back that is they do not believe the bible neither will they believe if someone rises from the dead.

Genuine spiritual growth results in a growing realization that all the benefits and blessings of salvation are not found in self but in the person of the bodily risen Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God, so say the apostles.  Now pershaps I am spiritually regressing but the older I have become the more if feel like the "sinner" in the back of the temple and the man who buried his one talent.   So according to your thesis I would have no impetus for witnessing.  While love for God is the highest commandment it is not the most important thing in this life.  We are not saved by our love but by our faith, which is a gift of God.  By that gift we become increasingly convinced of the historical facts and present reality of the bodily risen Jesus.  I am not interested in telling others about my fantastical "grace experiences" because I have none to tell about.   But there seems to be a great desire and passion to talk about the person of Christ and his experiences, that he is risen and he is Messiah and Lord.   That is the essence of the biblcal witness and the heart of the gospel. 

Scripture is very clear that we are not to boast about ourselves, but only about Christ himself.   That can be done only by using the truth and facts of the scriptures as they point to Christ. He himself makes this point in Luke 24 both on the way to Emmaus and to his disciples. Paul says in II Cor. 4 that we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord.

In Acts 23-26 Paul summarizes this his entire gospel in terms of the hope of Israel - the resurrection of the body.  In acts 2-4 the heart of the apostolic witness becomes plain.  Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God.   You killied him.  God raised him from the dead and made him MNessiah and Lord and in him is the forgiveness of sins.   See also Acts 13.  In Acts 17 Paul asserts that God has appointed a man by which he will judge the world and has demonstrated this by raising Jesus from the dead. 

I would suggest that the lack of motivation comes from the fact that the church has almost comletely ignored the fact and significance of the bodily resurrection of the Man Jesus ( yes I affirm his full deity).   All my life I have heard that my "gratitude" is the driving force for living a life of faith - while scripture (even the Heidelberg Catechism) locates the motivation factor in the renewing work of the Risen Jesus by his Holy Spirit after his image.  Paul says - I count all my religious accomplishments as garbage for the sake of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.  I want to know Christ, the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering.  We hardly ever hear about the return of Christ and when it is mentioned we are told that we are going to spend eternity in heaven even though scripture, both Old and New, makes clear we will spend eternity in a renewed created order with our complete persons - spirit, soul and body make new, whole and imperishable.  I don't know many beleivers who are enthused about our glorious future.

Christ is viewed primarily as "a spirit being" and as "God".  It seems that his glorified humanity, the very same humanity in which he was sin's curse on the cross, has evaproated into the divine all.   Very Platonic and new age.  The fact of the  matter is that  there is a man on God's throne.  By man came death - by man came the resurreciton of the dead.   If the dead cannot be raised, then Jesus is still dead and we are fools to trust a dead man.  The apostles were not passionate about thier own spiritual expereinces - they were passionate about the reality of the bodily risen Lord and the fullness of present blessings found in him as well as the tremendous, sure and living hope that he is. 

I would also suggest that Piper has things backwords.  He is essentially saying that we are nothing but mirrors reflecting God's love back to himself.    I don't matter, you don't matter - all that matters is God.  Again this strikes me as very new age like.  While we may not lose our indiduality all that matters is the flow of love to God as though he were a giant vacuum cleaner or black hole sucking all the energy out of the very things he has made.  He needs nothing from us for he is full and complete in himself.  God so loved the world that he gave.  Ephesians 2:7 states the purpose of saving us - so that God forever and ever can show us the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  He wil continually unfold and reveal himself to us forever in a renewed created order without sin.  What a great message to tell - not about my experiences - but about who he is.

Henry,

While I think that your characterization of a beliver delighting in God's grace as a Phariasee in front of the temple is a bit off, I too feel more affinity with the publican asking for mercy.  But as we look at that parable, it continues and says that it was the publican who went home justified.  It does not say that he went home rejoicing, but one can imagine, if he knew that his sins had been covered, that rejoicing would not be an out-of-line response to this action of God.  Indeed, the HC says that part of the "coming to life of the new self", along with a cognitive belief in the truths of the gospel is, a "wholehearted *joy* in Christ" and a *delight* to do his will.  Things which one would assume are felt affectively as well as known cognitively.

What at first seems to be the distinction between yourself and the original poster of this thread is that he would say that this joy and delight is essential to the process.  You at first seem to be saying that it is, rather, incidental to the process.  But as I read what you are saying, it almost seems like you are saying that it is not even allowed.

Please clarify.

Participant

Henry, you mention that we ignore the bodily resurrection of the Man Jesus - I would submit that we have missed spiritual intimacy with Him, which that concept seems to make us very uncomfortable, but my perception on that could be wrong.  I would also submit we have to some degree  ignored and quenched the power of the Holy Spirit, and been in contempt of some of His gifts, particularly those gifts we can't explain...

I struggle with when someone thinks someone else has spiritual "superiority", maybe they are sensing pride in some - but let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater on this.   I would suggest these "dymanic experiences" are the prompting and work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and not something to be disdained... everything we are, including our spiritual experiences are a gift of God, through His Holy Spirit, we can do nothing without Jesus...  the concept of spiritual superiority shuts down every testimony of what God is doing in our lives, here and now... Yes, none of this has any meaning without salvation and we can not do it on our own, but as a loving and generous Father, He gives us fresh encounters with His goodness and love daily, and I hope we would want to share those testimonies, but when those hearing the  testimonies receive them with skepticism or criticism or contempt, instead of joy and thankfulness, then we are quenching the Holy Spirit and His work in our lives... if we don't share those testimonies, we are quenching Him as well... It is all for His glory, and our good...  I would hope the response to testimonies of what God is doing in our lives, would be met with joy and excitement, and be encouraging to others... instead of threatening.

I also think we need to recognize that there are different levels of maturity of believers, in our faith..

If we are not "experiencing" the Holy Spirit, then we need to look at our attitude toward the Holy Spirit.. are we quenching Him, through contempt of His gifts, through skepticism/criticisim, through unbelief that He still speaks to us in various ways (which includes making scripture living and active)?

having grown up in the crc, and still a part of it, I have noticed a significant resistance to how the Holy Spirit works via some giftings, for a variety of reasons, which is an entire discussion in itself...

unfortunately the new age stuff is the enemy's counterfeit of the working of the Holy Spirit, and so there will be things that look the same, but are oh so very different because of where it is coming from (Holy Spirit vs enemy spirit), with good fruit from the Holy Spirit and bad fruit from the enemy...   this is where testing of the spirits (I John 4:1/1 Thess. 5:19-22), and discernment comes in...

When we love God with all our hearts, souls, strength and mind... that will overflow to loving our neighbors...  and we will desire to be with Him via the Word, worship and prayer, to share about Him, to trust Him, and to obey Him...  He will consume us, and we will be obsessed with Him and serving His Kingdom

I believe that the crc has never developed a biblical  reformed approach to evangelism and witnessing.   There are two aspects to this discussion.   What does it mean to "witness" and what is the motivation for doing so.  If I see an auto accident and am called in to court to testify, the court is not interested in my emotional reaction to the experience or even my speculation about the accident.  What the court wants to know is what I saw.  What actually happend, not in me, but outside of me, out on the corner of Fifth and Main.  Or if I am campaigning for someone else running for office, my job is to encourage people to vote for the candidate.  I should not be talking about my qualifications for being a campaigner, but the qualifications of the candidate. 

In John 5:39-40 Jesus makes clear that the scriptures bear witness to him and that the life was in him.  Jesus sent the apostles out to bear witness to himself.   Where in the gospels do the authors talk about their spiritual experiences.   Where in Acts does Luke talk about himself.  They are always concerned to present the facts about who the man Jesus is and what God has done and is doing in and through him.  Three times in Acts Paul gives an account of his conversion but where is the description of his emotional, spiritual reaction.  Those accounts are more about the risen Jesus than Paul.   As Paul says in II Cor 4 - we preach not ourselves - but we preach Jesus as Lord. 

In II Cor. 11 Paul is talking about false preacher/prophets and in vs 18 he shas that many glory after the flesh and that he will be foolish enough to do so also.  So he continues to talk about his qualifications and experiences.   In vs. 21 he says I speak in foolishness and in vs 23 he says I speak besides myself.  He is basically saying I am out of my mind to talk like this. In II Cor 12:10 he talks about taking pleasure in his weaknesses, etc - for when I am weak - then I am strong because Christ's grace is sufficient. 

My understanding of witnessing is to always point to the person and experiences of the risen man Jesus of Nazareth in whom dwells the fulness of the godhead bodily.  In his body he bore our sin and through his blood we are forgiven.  Furthermore, "resurrection" which is at the heart of the apostolic message does not apply to deity but only to the humanity of Jesus.  This is critical for understanding the gospel. 

Now what motivates me to witness.  Is it because I am so in love with God, or so filled with joy, or I have fresh new wonderfful grace experiences every day.  These may all be present.  Certainly all the fruits of the Spirit should be involved in our lives to one degree or the other.  But the primary motive is not experience but faith.  We do not live by sight.  We live by faith.  And while this faith is a gift of the risen Christ through the Holy Spirit, it is my faith and a faith, with all its ups and downs,  that has been encouraged and strengthed throughout my life.  I can remember learning "Jesus Lov es Me" at the age of 3-1/2.  Obviously any faith at that point was very simple.   There never has been time in my life when I did not have some knowledge of Christ.   There is within me a deep seated faith conviction ( which I cannot in any way prove) that the once crucified, but now risen and ever living Jesus of Nazareth is the only Man I can trust, the only man throuigh whom I can access the Father, the only man who can forgive and justify, the only one who has solved the problem of death and our living hope promising that someday we will be freed from death.   We groan waiting for our adoption the redemption of our bodies and when we see him our bodies will be made like his body.  Creation too waits for our adoption when it will be freed from the curse of sin.  I have learned all this from the Bible.

When I thought witnessing was telling others about my wonderful grace experiences - I could not witness.  But when I learned from scripture that witnessing was telling others about what God has done in Christ and who he is today as the risen Lord and the benefits and blessings to be found in him -  witnessing became easy and I almost dare say a joy.  Why is this present in my life?  There is only one reason.  Because, in the midst of all my failures and weakness, yes even sins,  the risen Lord Jesus empowers and enables by his Holy Spirit, through the gospel.  The great motivation comes not from us, but from him.  I think that the church, as it becomes increasingly enamoured with "spiritual experience" s forgetting about the risen Jesus who always works in us. 

There is only one way that I talk about myself when I witness.  I point out that sin is self-exaltation and that when I learned that Christ was my righteousness, my self worth, my self esteem - then I learned that I no longer had to be important.   I could be more free to esteem others better than myself.  But that has nothing to do with any kind of spiritual superiority on my part but only with the excellency and worth of the Risen Jesus.  He is the living one.  He was dead once but is now alive forever. 

The danger for the church is that it always wants to return to the flesh and become obsessed with its own experiences.  The apostles had one passion - and that was to proclaim the name of Jesus and tell the world that this risen man was Messiah and Lord, that he was in charge of the world and the church and that he was returning someday to destroy, not creation nor our bodies, but all sin and evil making all things new.

Witnessing is point to Christ.

Motivation for witness comes from the Holy Spirit and the faith conviction that Jesus is Lord and the only way to the Father.

And with the eagerness of the NT believers, we pray "Lord, Jesus, come quickly."

Participant

there might be another distinction here... that between testimonies that God gives as encouragement for us personally, along with other believers, and what is evangelism for non-believers...  our testimony is not limited to our conversion, but is added to on a regular basis as we walk in faith..

If Jesus is dead there is no salvation and there can be no intimacy.  He earned salvation for us and payed the price in his humanity.  For John Calvin is was always through the flesh of Jesus to God the Father.  Because we are united to him by faith through the Holy Spirit he shares with us all of his blessings.  Look at QA 76 of the Heidelberg.  In John 6 Jesus says we must continually eat his flesh and drink his blood.

The only kind of intimacy with Christ that I know about is to keep on believing in him and trusting him with my life. 

I hear a lot of talk about feeling God's presence, hearing God talking directly to me (private revelation) and having spiritual expieriences.  I have asked people what God "feels like" and no one can tell me.  I have never had any private revelation telling me what car to buy or which call to take.  I don't know what "spiritual experiences" are.  I know what human experiences are with all their emotions and feelings.   I have felt close to people as well as rejected by people.

In the last three decades there has been a  growing emphasis on our human words primarily in terms of prayer and testimonies.  In my opinion these have become more important that God's revealed truth in the scriptures.  What I think, feel and experience becomes more important than Christ himself.

There is indeed such a thing as "spiritual experience", but how does the bible define it.  James says in 1:27 "True and undefiled relgion (read religious experiences) before our God and Father is to visit widows and orphans and keep oneself unspotted from the world."  The life of faith is clearly defined in terms of keeping the commandments which have an internal dimension but also an external one that always involves the neighbor.  Paul says in Romans 12 that we should present our bodies a living sacrifice which is our spiritual service or worship.  There is a great deal of creatureliness in genuine spirituality.   John says if a man says he loves God and hates his nabor he is a liar and the truth is not in him.   Pauls says in Gal 5:14 "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  Isn't it interesting that he mentions no love for God.  We may well mistake human emotions for spiritual experiences.

Now regarding personal testimonies.   My evaluation about what the Lord is doing in my life is not the word of God nor the means of grace.   My words about my self  is not the power of the gospel. In I Thess 4:18 Paul says "Wherefore comfort (or exhort) one another with these words."   He says something similar in I Thess. 5:11 "Wherefore comfort (exhort) one another, and build each other up, even as also you do."  He is clearly refering, not to believers experiences, or even his own, but to the word of God revealed and written. 

My experiences are all flawed and so is my description of those experiences.  How dare I even begin to compare them with Christ's perfect experiences and the truth of the Living Word written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the risen Christ.   I know of only one biblical way to comfort and encourage and that is with the gospel, the words of grace and mercy revealed in Jesus Christ crucifed and risen.  My personal spiritual stories have no power to change anyone' life.  I don't even have any power to convince anyone of the truth of the gospel as faithful to the scriptures as my words may be.  Only the bodily risen Jesu, who is at the same time the eternal Word is able, by his Holy Spirit using the words of the gospel, the words of truth in the bible, to change hearts and lives and to give comfort and encouragement.   This is the only way an unbeliever can become a believer and the only way a believer can be encouraged and grow in Christ. 

In the garden of Eden there were two possible paths.  The first was to obey the word that God had given - a rather strange word forbidding Adam and Eve to eat of one specific tree.  The second path was the one Eve took first, and then Adam - the path of the personal experience of beling like God.  What does Scripture say?  Eve saw that the tree was good for food and a delight to the eyes and desirable to make one wise - she ate - she experienced.  I John 2:15-17 picks up on these three.  "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the word, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh (good for food), and the lust of the eyes (pleasing to look at) and the vainglory of life (wise in one's own eyes), is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever."  

Consider also the visit of Jesus to Emmaus recorded in Luke 24.  The two travelers are down hearted.  (As an aside reflect on what Cleopas says to Jesus " are you the only one in Jerusalem who doesn't  know hwat has happened?"  He was the only who truly knew.  Is there some divine humor here?)  After they explain themselves Jesus scolds them for not believe the the OT scriptures.  Then he opens the bible to them point it to himself.  They don't know who he is until he acts as the host and serves them.  Then their eyes were opened and they knew him and he vanished immediately from sight.  Think of the intimacy and spirituality of that experience.  And what did they say on the way back to Jerusalem .  Wasn't that the most exciting spiritual experience we ever had,  wasn't that wonderful to be that close to Jesus, etc, etc.  Verse 32 records their reaction.  " Was not our heart burning within us while he spake to us on the way, while he opened to us the scriptures? 

It is only throught the words of scripture, the words of the gospel that we have access to Jesus and it is only through him that we have access to the Father.  There is no other way.   The risen Lord Jesus is to have first place in everything ( Colossians 1).

Henry,

An even more vivid assertion...that a believer delighting in God is equivalent to Eve giving in to the devil's temptation, because both of them are "personal experience".

I am fully in agreement with you as to the christocentric focus of Biblical witness...all of the sermons of Acts, I believe, we're squarely focused on the resurrection of Jesus. I also fully agree that experience cannot be the foundation or primary focus of Christian witness. But it does not follow that all experience is therefore illigitemate, or that those who may have had such experiences are suspect. If my brothers and sisters in Christ have had an experience that I may not have had, can I not rejoice with them?

Participant

re-reading your posts, Henry, I have another question for you... how did you know you were called to be a pastor (maybe I'm wrong about you being a pastor, but that's what i understand from you "entering the ministry" in your 20's)?  You say God has never told you what call to take, or what car to buy... so then when pastors are "called"... what do they mean?  

I respond by asksing  how does anyone to what job they are called? 

Our vocal speech is always an expressions of that inner voice that never quits talking, at least mine does not.  We call it thinking.  In my head I have only ever heard one voice.  I have never heard an voice obviously distince from mine.  I honestly can say I have never heard "voices".

Now private revelation is highly subjective.  There are people who claim that God talks directly to them and usually its about decisions that have to be made - what job to take - what person to marry - what mode of transportation to take, etc. 

The huge problem that I see - is that the person decides which thoughts in their heads are from God.  Furthermore, God is not the only one who can influence us.  Apparently devils can, I and I suspect the ministering spirits call angels can.  By what standards does a person decide when God is talking?  Many years ago in this general area a man killed his two young sons because God told him to do so.

The only place I hear God talking is in the bible, but since God promised to write his word in our hearts, that content of that word becomes part of the fabric of our being.   That content, in one form or another,  frequently enters into my thoughts.  And that word is primarily concerned with faith and obedience.  We may often be too concerned with what is called God's hidden will for our lives.  I have no idea how to discern that.  But his revealed will is very plain and clear.  That ought to be our primary concern.

Also, saying God told me is the positive side of the devil made me do it.  I believe that both of these are simply ways to escape our human responsibility to make choices and decisions.  I do not know all the reasons why I felt I should go into the ministry.  As a candidate I receive one call.  As far as I knew there were no other options in the works.  We were taught (rightly or wrongly) that our internal calling had to be verified by an external call from a congregation.  The choice seemed quite simple.  I had a viable option set before me.  While believing that Christ is always active in our lives by his Holy Spirit, and asking for wisdom, I made a decision which was entirely my responsibility.  I heard no strange voices or whisperings in my ear.  I honestly do not know any other way of operating.   I blieve that God payed us a huge compliment by not making us robots or puppets that he controls.

One of my favorite passasges is II John 4 where he says in effect - I rejoice to see your children walking in the truth.  One of the things that I am most thankful for is the great cloud of witnesses that I have come to know in my experiences in life.   Since my father was also a minister I have lived in the shadow of the church all my life.   What has frequently amazed me was the instant raport I have experienced when I discovered someone was a fellow believer.   That bond of fellowship is forever.  I have enjoyed many experiences with fellow beleivers.  I have also shared their sorrows and even on one occasion actually wept with a brother.  I have listened to believers talk about their inner pain and frustration.  But most of the believers I have meet have not defined their lives primarily in terms of "spiritual" experiences.  As far as I could tell, they thought about human experiences and living with fellow believers by faith and in obedience to Christ and his word.  All of this is medaited by Christ and his word and Spirit.

I am sure you are aware that there is a long standing tradition that defines spiritual experience in terms of the soul's direct and immediate contact with the essence of God.  When I here people say they have heard God speaking to them or they have a great sense of God's presence I suspect that they are operating out of this tradition.  This tradition greatly minimizes created reality or even negates it.  The soul is good, the body is bad.  To become truly spiritual one must get the soul out of the body.   Can you imagine that salvation is defined in terms of death. 

While the tradition of pietism does not go that far it trends in that direction.  I have met  charismatics who were very uncomfortable with the concept of Jesus in the flesh.  One thing I thought of after I post my previous comments was the sermon on the mount where Jesus warns (Matt 6:1) "Take heed that you do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them: else ye have no reward with your Father who is in heaven."  He then mentions giving alms, praying and fasting.  I take this to mean that we are not to parade our religous and spiritual life before men. 

Having said that, I believe that if Christ has first place in our minds and hearts and we seek to grow in his grace and knowledge that there will be some kind of difference seen in our lives.  But I also beleiver that since our lives are hidden in Christ ( Col 3) that we probably can't see it in ouselves.  Paul says someplace that he does not even judge himself.  When Christ is revealed then we will know what our lives have really been about and what Christ has done with and in them. 

When I entered the ministry in my early twenties there were seniors who told me that the older they became the more they saw their sinfulness.  That certainly has been true for me.  I don't see much in my life to brag about or to set before others as an example.  But along side of that there seem to be a growing conviction that every thing scripture says about Christ is true.  That he is the Living One, that he is risen and both Messiah (Christ) and Lord, that I belong to him and that he is the only hope that I have in life or death.  But that conviction although I believe a result of the Spirit's work thorugh the Gospel, is not the gospel and I do not go around telling people how strong I think my faith is.  For even though it may seem very strong in my heart and mind I have no way of evaluating it.  All I know is that when I read scripture it keeps confirming what I have known all my life. 

John Calvin insists that God in his naked majesty cannot be known.   He can only be known through the person of the mediator.   There is only mediated knowledge of God in Christ.  And that knowledge comes into a real world of people in their everyday lives. 

Since "spiritual experience" can be a vague concept - perhaps it might be helfpul to express your understanding of what that means to you.

Participant

Regarding spiritual intimacy, I think of Eph. 1:17-18, where Paul prays for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that we may know God better - as one example of a scriptural call for intimacy... I believe almost every time the OT talks about "knowing" God, it is the same Hebrew word (yada) that He uses for marital intimacy...  will our knowledge/experience be limited?   of course, because God is an infinite God, and so we can only know a very small part of Him, a drop in an ocean, but even that drop that we can know is beyond amazing...  Scripture uses the analogy of husband and wife, between Jesus and the Church (Eph. 5:32 -  and song of songs for almost 2000 years, it's only in the last 100 years or so, that some no longer support this analogy in song of songs - which is an entire discussion)...

   that   thaand that the eyes of our hearts are enlightened, so we can know the hope of our inheritance...  eyes of our hearts refers to a spiritual experience... this is our inner being, also referenced in Eph. 3:16, where the Spirit is working in us...  our faith is Spirit and truth... it takes both working together...  Paul says he does both when he prays in I Cor. 14:14-15...  praying in tongues is a spiritual experience...  the peace that passes understanding is a spiritual experience, becoming new creations in Christ is a spiritual experience (2 Cor 5:17)...  having our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh (Ez 36:26), having His Spirit dwell in us, is a spiritual experience...  I have testimonies of when He has melted my heart, when my heart was getting hard and cold, and aloof and proud, and in less than a moment He melted it, it was not emotionalism, because there wasn't enough time for that, but there were "triggers" that He used...  was there dialogue with God during these times... oh yes...  they were terrible and beautiful experiences at the same time, and I'm so glad He didn't let my heart stay hard... 

King David talks about praising Him with all our "inmost being" ...  so that our youth is renewed like the eagles - that sounds like a spiritual experience...  that "deep rooted assurance" of faith mentioned somewhere earlier (i think it's referred to in  HC Q&A 23), is a spiritual experience - it's that you know that you know in your inner being through a gift of the Spirit, even though there is no tangible "faith" to show other than through our actions... 

those are just a few examples from scripture that I can think of off the top of my head... 

Hebrews 6 talks about the elementary teachings, which includes faith in God (v1), and growing/maturing beyond that... I know this is a difficult passage with various interpretations, and maybe you interpret this differently, if so I would be interested in knowing how you view this...

as for "hiding" our works, interestingly Matt 5 tells us we are a light on a hill, and we are not to cover it up...let your light shine before men SO THAT others may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven...  they are for HIS GLORY!!!

Participant

Henry, I have to go with Bev on this one. I'm not “charismatic” enough to hang out in the same room with a Pentacostal believer, but the idea that we don't “experience” the spiritual reality of Christ’s resurrection is simply impossible. We are flesh and spirit humans – not positronic machines ineracting with data. Humans experience truth even when we deny it – the truth of the cross, the resurrection, the Spirit’s calling, regeneration and sanctification – all of it. From what I believe by reading the same Word of God you read, I know that I must experience God’s work – not merely affirm or deny it. From the Word, I alsow know that I am not “superior” to any other Chrsitian, because we all “experience” God’s work in some way. In this continual experiencing, we know what is of God and what is of our self (or the devil) because the Word tells us. God’s Word does not end our experiencing truth – he norms our experiencies. All praise and glory to the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

It is kind of nice to be able to agree with everyone, with Jim, and Henry, and Bev and Michael Bentley, all at the same time.  Experiencing truth, and delighting in it!   Henry's statement that he lived in the shadow of the church all his life.... how about maybe you lived in the warmth and security of the church, in the sunlight of God's Word all your life?   Same life, same experience, but different perception of that experience, and thus a different experience.... 

Loved all your comments!  

"l;iving in the shadow of the church" was simply a geographical statement.  I deeply apreciate the "great cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12) but my exprience in the instituted church has been both very positive and negative.  My security however, is not first of all in the "church" but in Christ himself (LD 1).  All the blessings of salvation are found in him alone.  Fellow beleiver can be both helpful and disappointing.  I have often been amazed at the instant raport established (by Christ) when you find out a complete stranger is a fellow brother or sister.  How little time we have to really get to know each other.  How eager I am for the return of the risen Lord and the redemptions of our bodies ( our entire persons actually) and the renewal of all creation.  Think of life in this creation with any sin in it.  I have met so many interesting people along the way that I look forward to renewing those acquaintances.  We will never run out of time and nothing can hurt or destroy those friendships. 

Unfortunately, most beleiver have been taught and think that they are going to "heaven" forever.  What is the most common understanding of "heaven".  That is where souls go when bodies go into the ground.  That tends to transfer in the "future heaven"  Many years ago I heard one minister say "do you like to be in church (worship service).  Well you better because that is what heaven is going to be like." 

An interesting fact - that the OT church was never promsed a "heaven" but was promised that they would dwell in the land in peace and prosperity.  The bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is God's eternal commitment to the created order and our own creatureliness.   He already is the new creation that we will some day experience along with the entire creation.   That is the clear NT promise.  Since the NT church is in reality Israel gathering the nations into herself - we too share in all the OT promises - every promise made in the OT was fulfilled in Christ.  Paul says at the end of I Thess 2, and I paraphrase - the greatest thrill of my life will be to see you standing with me in the presence of Christ..  While our lives in this time have eternal significane - the best is yet to come.

The thesis of the original blog was that beleivers ought to be in more intimate relationships with God so that they can tell others about their spiritual expriences as a means of leading them to Christ. 

My question:  Why should I want to talk about my weak, imperfect, and incomplete "spiritual" experiences (which I really have no way of evaluating) when I can talk about the perfect,  powerful, complete, and saving "spiritual" experiences of the Risen, one crucified Christ.  I experience the life of faith because of who he is and what he has done and is doing. 

While scripture gives a great deal of info about the life of faith it is very clear that the content of the gospel that is God's power unto salvation is the "spiritual" experiences of Jesus of Nazareth.  I use that name because the apostles do in the book of Acts. In Acts 22:8 when Paul asks - who are you Lord, Jesus responds, " I am Jesus of Nazareth".

It appears to me that most believers think of Jesus primarily in terms of his deity.  Resurrection, however, is not a catagory that applies to deity.  Our flesh was nailed to the cross.  Our flesh, in the person of Jesus , came out of the grave.  At the Lord's Supper we don't talking  about breathing in "spirit" but we talk in very fleshly language about eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus.   As man he earned our salvatiion and is now the glorified man, the first fruits of all believer who shall be raised by him. 

My words about my life are not "gospel".  My words about Jesus life ARE "gospel" for it is not my personal story but the personal story of Jesus himself.

The disciples were not sent out into the world to talk about their life's experiences but about His.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to want to place ourselves at the center and talk about ourselves.  How hard it is to listen.

But as Paul says, and I paraphrase (II Cor. 4:5 - We preach not our own spiritual experiences but we preach the spiritual experiences of Jesus as Lord.

Participant

Well Henry, I agree that as the Church, we need to focus and proclaim more of Jesus and His sacrifice - that's why I love the Moravians and Count Zinzendorf...  yesterday's devotional by Oswald Chambers in his My Utmost for His Highest also confirmed what you have shared...

but I think there is a place for personal testimonies as well,even in their weak, imperfectness, to encourage fellow believers...  recognizing that each testimony is a gift as well, and so giving God the glory...  we can have contempt for our part in it, but I think we have to be careful about being contemptuous of what God via the Holy Spirit is doing when He gives us Divine insight/direction/leading/guiding as Scripture tells us He does and will..

in another post you mentioned something about how do we know if it's God or self, or the enemy, and you gave an example of a father killing his children...  a simple test of lining it up with scripture would discern that is not God, He is life, He tells us to choose life, He commands us not to kill...   but some might argue that God allowed His Son to be killed and so indirectly He killed Jesus, because He could have prevented it... but we know Jesus willingly went to the cross for the joy that was set before Him...

and yes, some/many might use it so they can disregard their own responsibility...  I think of the convictions the Spirit has put on my heart, that made sense with Who God is, but were totally counter intuitive from an intellectual perspective... ie giving/tithing whatever you want to call it, particularly in a struggling economy... cutting back on my work, so I could be more available for my family... made NO SENSE economically... by my budget, we should be broke and out on the street, with no assets left...   that hasn't happened, although it has been tight for the last several years, but He has been training us in Prov. 3, spending a lot more wisely, and investing in His Kingdom, instead of our earthly kingdom..  it has been a difficult, but incredible journey of trusting Him and drawing closer to Him, we have seen His outpouring of blessing on our lives so many ways, most significantly with Proverbs 3 wealth aka wisdom (v13-18)!  So those are my weak and imperfect words, but the amazing journey He gave us, is because of Him and Who He is...  for His Glory which includes the supremacy of Christ! (Col 1:18)