Saturday, July 3, 2010
Scripture or Experience?
In Luke, Chapter 10, Jesus sends out the disciples ahead of Him, telling them to go into the homes and villages, heal the sick, and proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom of God. Then, Luke 10:17-20 tells us: The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" And he [Jesus] said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
Why were these guys so excited? I think it is because they had never done that before! I can't visualize them returning with joy and proclaiming what they did so exuberantly if that had been the routine practice of their life for the last decade or two. Deliverance, authority over demons, and healing were a new experience to them, and they were stoked at it!
I bring this point up for a reason. I am fully convinced that deliverance, healing, authority over darkness, and the exercise of spiritual gifts are supposed to be a "normal" part of a believer's life. I believe that Scripture—when studied without a preconception or bias—makes this almost irrefutably clear. However, when we examine many of the arguments for the cessation of the gifts, or for them only being for the Apostles, we find the heart of the argument ending up being a lack of experience in/with these things (personally, and even in their denominational tradition). Hence, experience (or in this case, lack of experience) becomes the true, core argument, rather than Scripture.
Jack Deere, in his book Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, writes extensively about this as a man who was raised and schooled (Dallas Theological Seminary) in the belief the gifts of the Spirit ended, but who, after conversations and experiences that led him to reexamine the issue from a non-biased perspective, came to the conclusion that the miraculous is absolutely for us today. He writes, from personal experience and from study and observation, on pg. 55, "There is one basic reason why Bible-believing Christians do not believe in the miraculous gifts of the Spirit today. It is simply this: they have not seen them. Their tradition, of course, supports their lack of belief, but their tradition would have no chance of success if it were not coupled with their lack of experience of the miraculous." (In his context, "tradition" is teaching and upbringing people have been a part of.)
While it is a natural temptation, I think that we have to be very careful not to water down our expectations to match (or self justify) our experience (or lack of it). Rather, our expectations, to be Biblical, should be rooted in Scripture's promises and testimony, and not in our experience. We should have great expectations because we have a great God, and He has given us great promises as we walk in His authority and carry forth His Kingdom battle against darkness.
When I allow myself to water down Scripture's descriptions (hence my expectations) to match my experience (or lack of experience) I am giving the devil more credit than God. I need to, rather, elevate my expectations and goals to Scripture, and contend until I see the breakthrough to that level. It is a war. It won't go unopposed. But, I give the enemy all the good weapons when I allow Scripture to be watered down to something less than it is. Experience can validate the lofty call of Scripture, but lack of experience should never water down the lofty call of Scripture.
If the disciples had allowed their prior experience to define their expectations and efforts when they went out they would not have had room for what they experienced, or they might not of even tried it. They certainly would have had no faith for it, and we know that faith plays a powerful role in bringing God's Word to pass. Instead, the disciples took Jesus at His Word and went out and did what He said to do. As a result they came back stoked—fired up—joyful—pumped—at what they experienced . . . likely, for the first time! They were so fired up that Jesus had to remind them, "Hey, seeing people healed and demons tucking in their tail and running is great, but that is basic stuff. Never forget the true source of joy, which is the greatest miracle—your restored, eternal relationship with your Father in Heaven."
What, in Scripture, do you know at your most childlike faith to be true, but you have become jaded toward believing because you have not yet experienced it? Healing? Deliverance? Joy? Freedom? The promises of what faith can do? Spiritual authority? The promises of great freedom from sin?
Be careful—very careful—to not allow a lack of experience with a promise's fruit to cause you to water down, and let go of, a lofty and childlike belief in a promise's truth. I encourage you with all of my heart (with an encouragement I need someone to tell me so badly myself too many times)—contend for the promise's truth in your life—don't water down the promise from a place of hurt and pain and discouragement.