Experiencing God is a great thing, knowing the presence of the indwelling Trinity is something that words cannot adequately express; our hearts and souls are touched by the Eternal One. Peter writes about unspeakable joy that is full of glory, and Paul talks about a peace that passes understanding – to be in a relationship is to experience the one with whom we have a relationship, and to be in a relationship with our Father and Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit means that they live in us, individually and collectively as the people of God. When we consider that marriage is an image of the relationship between Christ and His Church then perhaps we get a glimpse of what intimacy God is meant to be. As I write this I think that our desecration of marriage over the past few decades, within and without the church, no doubt makes the image of the marriage of Christ and His Bride difficult to understand – but let us not allow our folly to rob us of the beauty of what our Lord Jesus wants to give us – which is Himself.
Guard against the temptation to make your experience with God normative for others. While your experience with God will have many similarities to the experiences of others, there will be an element of it that will be special to you. Guard against only associating with professing Christians who have experiences similar to yours – especially regarding the way they came to know our Lord Jesus and regarding any crisis experience they may or may not have had. Jesus Christ has called us to know Him and experience Him and learn and obey His teachings – while His teachings should be normative for all Christians as we strive to understand and obey them, the way Jesus speaks to us and draws us ever deeper into Himself may be as diverse as the sand of the sea – I say “may” because I don’t know for sure, but I do know that God created us as individuals and that He knows us as individuals (as well as His Bride, His Body, His Church).
As you read the Gospels and the Book of Acts you’ll see that God is diverse in His dealings with women and men. He brings people to Himself in different ways, He heals in different ways, He uses people collectively in different ways. As you read the letters of the New Testament you’ll see that living in community with others means there are always things to be worked out, that unity is not a given, that it needs to be protected and worked at…and worked at some more…and then worked at some more. You’ll also see that the human body is an image of the Church (see 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 and Romans Chapter 12 as examples). We’re not all the same – I’m not sure why we struggle with such a common-sense idea but we do. I don’t know why local congregations generally expect everyone to be pretty much the same but they do. I know what I’m writing about because I’ve been there; why I’ve been there even when I thought I wasn’t there and for all I know I’m there now…we can seldom trust our own perspectives of ourselves…maybe never.
One of the things I’m saying is that if someone says, “You’ve got to have this experience this particular way,” then I think you should take a step back and ask “Why?” You should also take a good long look at the entire Bible, especially the New Testament, and especially what the New Testament teaches us about our Lord Jesus and our relationship with Him.
God pours His grace through all of His people so that all of His people may partake of His grace – therefore we should celebrate the fact that the Body of Christ has many members who are different from one another…yet we seem to have a hard time with that.
I don’t want you to have exactly the same experience of Jesus and with Jesus that I do – but I do want you to know the Jesus that I do. If I insist that another Christian have my experience then I will seek to superimpose my thoughts and my experience on that person and I will not allow that person his or her freedom to know Jesus as she or he was created to know Jesus. I may also create an atmosphere where others think that unless their experience approximates mine that they do not have a legitimate relationship with our Lord Jesus. My focus as a brother to others must always and ever be our Lord Jesus and not my experience.
You see sister, the Gospel is about our Lord Jesus, not about us – let’s be excited about Him and in love with Him.