The word “experience” in religious and spiritual settings is dangerous. For so many it means emotionally charged moments — moments that have nothing to do with God in reality, or with his coming into one’s life. But we’ll not let the danger keep us from the necessity of addressing the need for experiencing God.
Often, in Scripture the idea of experience is found in the verb “to know” and the noun “knowledge.” Many metaphors are also used in describing relationship with God, such as “walk.” The language of Scripture is rich to describe how we experience God.
What is it exactly that we need to experience in terms of God?
I. Experience the goodness of God.
May I experience your loyal love, O Lord, and your deliverance, as you promised. Psalm 119.41.
God shows his goodness in so many ways. His blessings are renewed every day. He opens doors of opportunity. What is called his providence causes things to happen for the good of his people.
Peter quoted the Old Testament when he said,
And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation, if you have experienced the Lord’s kindness, 1 Peter 2.2-3.
The “if” carries no doubt, but transmits the sense of since they had experienced the Lord’s kindness, they ought to exercise themselves to grow up to salvation.
- Make your list of the Lord’s kindness that you have experienced.
II. Experience the power of God.
My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3.10-11.
God makes things happen. The best of all is changing our hearts and sweeping us into his presence. (See below.) Our personal experience with change is mostly frustration. We lack true power for transformation. We start with a broken life we are unable to fix. All the positive thinking books in the world can’t solve our basic problem of sin. God doesn’t just reform, he remakes. He brings new life to those who are the walking dead.
Like the apostle Paul, our aim ought to be to know Christ by experiencing what he did — the power of his resurrection. He is the first fruit of God’s power. If he was raised we also shall be.
That power also gives us power to share in his sufferings here on earth. We can meet the hardships head on. God gives us power to accomplish eternal results, as did our Lord Jesus Christ.
- Where have you seen God’s power at work in and through your life?
III. Experience the purpose of God.
If a man dies, will he live again? Job 14.14.
A life-reason that cannot go beyond death is too small for humans. Death is not the end of it all. From the ancient Egyptians forward (and before them), mankind has had an innate sense that something awaits us after this life. Job asks the question and seems to penetrate the fog to affirm it, even in the midst of the most intense suffering.
Only humans were made in God’s image — capable of love and decision and intentional selflessness. Even our purification from sin is described in relational terms:
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 1 Peter 1.22 ESV.
We are purified “for” brotherly love. God meant for us to live in love. This is our purpose. And it is also our purpose to offer that love to others, in a permanent way and structure, the family of faith.
God gives us purpose to carry us through this life and to fit all of our human experience within a framework of his eternal plan. No earthly sensation can compare to the sense of purpose that God gives us, for he calls us into fellowship with him and with his purpose. This a true and great grace.
- Does God’s purpose ring in your mind and heart every day?
IV. Experience the presence of God.
Whom do I have in heaven but you? On earth there is no one I desire but you. Psalm 73.25.
The best of all experiences is to have God in our lives. We live not for what God can give or do for us, but for God himself. We were created for this, to know and walk with God. What was notable about people like Enoch and Noah was that they walked with God, Genesis 5.22-24; 6.9. Abraham and Isaque walked before God, Genesis 48.15. The Lord promised to Israel, “And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people” Leviticus 26.14.
I recall years ago when some reacted against a wrong teaching about having a relationship with God. They rightly showed the error of emotional subjectivity in faith. But let us not throw out the baby with the bath water. The whole point of Scripture, the reason for God’s revelation, the motive behind the Cross, is reconciliation — being restored to God’s presence.
Our service to God is defined by the concept of reconciliation, 2 Corinthians 5.18-20. Our message can be summarized like this, “be reconciled to God.”
This is priority purpose, and so is being reconciled to our brother and sister in Christ, Matthew 5.24.
This purpose goes way back:
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, Deuteronomy 12.10.
The great goal of being delivered from sin and death is to walk with God. “For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life” Psalm 56.13.
- Do you go by what you feel, when it comes to God’s presence in your life, or by what you know, by what Scripture tells you?
They thought so
Jesus warned us not to be like some who will reach the judgment day thinking they were approved, only to be turned away.
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter into the kingdom of heaven – only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!” Matthew 7.21-23.
It is easy to be deceived and to deceive ourselves. We may do good deeds and say they are done in Jesus’ name. But no one drew greater wrath from the Lord than the religious leaders. So we must reject false ways, human traditions, wrong teachings, half-hearted service, and tiresome ritual. We must have sincere faith, proper motivations, humble submission, deep fear, singular love, and complete obedience to the will of God.
The prophet Hosea said,
Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth. Hosea 6.3.
The “God’s Word Translation” says, “Let’s learn about the LORD. Let’s get to know the LORD.” Just as we experience the wonderful spring rains that water the earth, we may experience the God who sends rain and sun upon all mankind and who sent his Son Jesus Christ to bring us eternal hope.
We have been given the keys to the Kingdom of God. We can enter. We can know the Lord. We can experience in a true way his goodness, his power, his purpose, and his presence. Let us seek him with all our being.
Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11.6.