Encounter And Experience

God loves us and has given us Himself and His Word to both experience His love and encounter His saving grace. His salvation gift is not a ‘concept’ to be intellectually comprehended; rather it is a product of a relationship with His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We enjoy a state of well being as we freely receive and celebrate His mercy and grace. His truth is tangible as we ‘taste and see’ that the Lord is good. Our trust defines our blessedness and we are happy, fortunate and to be envied for the unmerited favor that God bestows upon us.

Psalm 34:8

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

God is a real person, not an impersonal force for good, and as such, relates to us in intensely personal ways. He is also personable – the ‘friend of sinners’ seeking them out to offer His gift of eternal life in Christ. When you think about it, life is really all about relationships: our relationship with God, our fellow man and the material and spiritual worlds in which we find ourselves.

God has revealed His person, nature, character and will so that all mankind can enjoy Him for eternity. At His core, He is both ‘love’ and ‘light’ (1 John 1:5 / 1 John 4:8). Of course, He possesses many other attributes and qualities like being holy, perfectly just, patient, merciful and strong to name but a few.

He is also given many names that speak of His nature and character: ‘Elohim’, ‘Yahweh’, ‘Jah’, ‘Jehovah’, and ‘Adonai’ are a few Hebrew names of God revealed to us in the Old Testament record. Each speaks of His relationship to creation in general and mankind in particular (See a later chapter for more details on the names of God).

God’s uniqueness and essential nature is revealed by two key references in the New Testament:

I John 1:5

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

I John 4:8

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

(Emphasis added).

God is both light and love and brings spiritual illumination and life-changing love: two key areas of need in the heart of all men.

 

How The Unseen God Has Revealed Himself To Mankind

Many struggle to believe in an unseen God. I did too. Growing up I was conditioned to relate to the world through my 5 physical senses, only later to be introduced to the realm of the spirit. God has to be revealed to us. Revelation involves the ‘uncovering or unveiling of something hidden’. Historically God has initiated revelation of His person, nature, ways and deeds through various means. The first three are general and common to all mankind:

1.Nature: creation points to God, the creator.                    

Psalm 19:1

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.

2. Inner conscience or self-awareness: even if it is flawed.                      

Romans 2:14-15               

… for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things In the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them …

3. History: nations created to seek and find Him.

Acts 17:26-30

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,

The next five are first specifically revealed to persons and / or groups, and then by extension through the Biblical record to all mankind as God’s people serve them in witness:

4. Miracles: Eg. Moses miracles: plagues in Egypt / splitting the Red Sea; Jesus miracles…

John 20:30-31

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

5. Prophecy: Eg. The fall of Babylon foretold; Coming of Christ foretold.

Matthew 1:20-21

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, ” which is translated, “God with us.”

6. In Christ: Jesus perfectly reveals the Father to us.

Hebrews 1:1-3

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person …

7. Scripture: Jesus used Scripture to reveal Himself to two disciples.

Luke 24:25-27

Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!

Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

8. Personal experience and testimony: Eg. Enoch, Noah, Paul and many others personally knew and ‘walked’ with God.

Genesis 5:22

Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters.

Today, when someone claims to have a personal experience with God we can test the validity of such claims against scriptural precedent. This is necessary, not because we are skeptical about anything new or different, but because there are unfortunately deceivers in the world who can and do take advantage of the unsuspecting.

 

An Introductory Word About The Holy Spirit and Scripture

Elsewhere we will see that the scripture is inerrant (without error and reliable) because it is inspired (God breathed) through the agency of the Holy Spirit.

2 Timothy 3:16a

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, …

The Holy Spirit not only reveals God and His will through the inerrant Word, but also illuminates it to our Spirits, making the historical Word of God pertinent to our time, circumstance and need.

This process of ‘enlightenment’ goes beyond the mental realm of mere facts or data. (That is why some theologians schooled in the facts who are not born again from above (John 3:3) can arrive at some odd conclusions. They simply do not have experiential knowledge of God. They may have plenty of ‘head’ knowledge through mental reasoning but not ‘revelation’ knowledge through the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:11-14

For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (Emphasis added).

God wants us to know what He has freely given us, but we must yield to the Holy Spirit who knows the things of God. The ‘natural’ or sense ruled man concludes that the things of God are foolishness, and cannot even begin to know Him without turning from that foolishness.

The Holy Spirit always works with the written and preached Word.

Mark 16:20

And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

He is the ‘Spirit of Truth’ (John 14:17) working with the ‘Word of Truth’ (Ephesians 1:13). In the book of Acts several accounts are given of the Holy Spirit working with the preached Word.

-Peter used the word (with the HS) on Pentecost – Acts 2:14-41

-Stephen used the word (with the HS) – Acts 7:2-60

-Philip used the word in his witness to the Eunuch – Acts 8:29-40

-Peter used the word (HS and Cornelius’ household) – Acts 10:44.

                                   

The Two Key Purposes Of The Word Of God

There are two key purposes for the Word of God. First, to bring conviction to the sinner thus bringing them to repentance (change of mind and heart).

Acts 2:37

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Peter had just got through preaching from the Old Testament as it applied to the audience and the moment. The Holy Spirit was upon Him in a tangible way and conviction fell on the people who were listening to Him.

The second key purpose the Word is given is to bring the believer to fruitful maturity through 4 key ways according to 2 Tim 3:16-17:                             

-To simply show or teach you something: doctrine.

-To reprove or rebuke you when you have knowingly done wrong.

-To correct something that you believe which is simply wrong.

-To instruct you in the practical how to’s of living righteously.

It becomes important to be able to ascribe which scripture that best applies to whom: believer and unbeliever. It is no use trying to convince the unbeliever of their need for Jesus as savior by using scriptures that delve into the details of how a believer is to live their lives in the church community for example. The Holy Spirit will direct you into focusing on preaching (proclaiming) ‘Christ and Him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2). The gospel or ‘good news’ is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:6) – Jesus has come, and through His death, burial and resurrection has dealt sin a death blow, leaving us free to receive His forgiveness and partake of His righteousness.

 

At The Outset: Some Bible Vital Statistics

The Bible (a library collection of 66 books in one) was written by almost 40 inspired authors in 3 languages over a 1400-year time span, and is marked by miraculous unity, continuity and harmony of truth. God chose to use fallible man to bring to us infallible truth about His plan to seek and save mankind from itself (sin) through the Jewish Messiah Jesus.

He chose the Jewish people to be the carriers of His revelation not for their size or even inherent qualities as their history amply shows (Deuteronomy 7:6-8), but in order to highlight His unmerited grace and mercy through them to the world as His plan unfolded. Most of the Old Testament deals with the history of the Jewish people whom He called to be a witness of His goodness to the world at that time. The Old Testament may be divided up into:

  • Law – as recorded by Moses
  • History – of primarily the Jewish nation in the world
  • Poetry & Wisdom Literature – Psalms of Praise, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes
  • Major and Minor Prophets – who spoke God’s plan for His people and the coming Kingdom and Messiah.

The New Testament in turn focuses on the person and work of Jesus, the prophesied and promised Messiah, and also the church, His ‘called our ones’. The New Testament is divided up into:

  • Gospels – accounts of Jesus life and ministry on earth
  • Acts – a history of the early church and its expansion
  • Letters – written to Christ followers to teach & guide them in the ways of the New Covenant
  • Revelation – prophetic insights into the future, which many believe has begun unfolding even before our eyes in these ‘end times’.

Jesus Christ, the Messiah came in fulfillment of the covenants made with the Jewish people beginning with Abraham the ‘father of the faith’. In short, it may be said that the Old Testament prepares us for the coming / appearing of Christ; the Gospels present Him to us; and the letters and Revelation praise Him for what He has accomplished. Of course the Bible has much more to say about every aspect of life, but its focus is always on a revelation of God Himself primarily through the God-man Jesus Christ.

 

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