Written by Gary Piper
Kathryn J. Hermes in her book Beginning Contemplative Prayer: Out of Chaos into Quiet writes, “Spirituality has to do with our deepest needs, anxieties, joys, hopes, and fears, our values and dreams. It is a part of our daily life and propels us to rise above the daily grind. It fuels our work, our relationships, our prayer, pushing us to live with greater meaning and intensity. Spirituality takes us as we are and connects us to God as God is.”
“For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.” (1 Corinthians 2:11–13, HCSB)
For the past 25 years or so I have challenged myself to make Jesus as real to as many people as I possibly could. And that has been a guiding force in my life. For the most part it has really not been that hard because in reality it is the Holy Spirit that does the work, my only responsibility is try to create an atmosphere whereby the Spirit can go to work. Yet the other side of that coin is it has at time proved to be a relatively formidable challenge. Not because neither I nor the Holy Spirit has been unwilling but because life itself has a way of presenting me with it’s own formidable set of challenges that can be rather distracting.
Recently I have been reading a book titled Experiencing God by Richard Blackaby it is a very spiritually charged book that if taken to heart/spirit will change how you understand your relationship with God. And as the titled suggests it’s all about how we can go from knowing God to experiencing God. One of my personal foundational beliefs is before we can experience God we must experience Jesus. Not the Jesus we read and study about in the scriptures but the Jesus who leaps out of the pages of the scriptures, out of the history of the world and/or the church but the Jesus who has taken up residence in the frailty, sinfulness, and brokenness of each one of us. It is our frailty, sinfulness, and brokenness that life uses to create its own set of challenges.
In the Introduction Blackaby writes, “At one point the publisher suggested we call my work, “Knowing God,” but I said absolutely not. My concern was that God's people were already immersed in Bible studies and Christian books that gave them an enormous amount of information about God. As a result, sincere Christians were coming to church every week and learning more and more about God, but they were not experiencing Him. To many, He was simply a faraway God to be believed in, a doctrine to affirm, an invisible deity to whom they recited their prayers. They needed to know He is a Person with whom Christians can enjoy an intimate, growing, loving fellowship.”
I believe therein lies the primary responsibility of the church... Help people take God out of their heads and put themselves into His Heart! To experience God is by experiencing Him through our experiences with Jesus opens up a brand new world, the World of God, the Kingdom of God!
Some time ago the Holy Spirit put to me a question that has resurfaced so many times over it has since become a reminder to me. It was simple as are most questions the Spirit asks... “Why are you waiting for Jesus to come again when He is already here?” At first I wasn’t sure who or what asked the question and second what answer was someone or something looking for. I know from what I’ve read, heard, and studied about Jesus coming again the signs while maybe forming have not occurred yet. Then I remembered a conversation Jesus had with the disciples prior to His arrest and subsequent crucifixion.
“If you love Me, you will keep My commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. “In a little while the world will see Me no longer, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live too. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you.” (John 14:15–20, HCSB)
Suddenly it became clear to me, when we focus our thoughts, lives, and ministry on what is yet to happen we will miss what is happening now! When we wait and align our lives and wait to experience Jesus when He comes again we will miss miss experiencing Him now in the life of the Holy Spirit!
I want us to take some time and think about the difference between knowing Jesus and experiencing Jesus. And at the same time expanding our thinking to include each other as well.
Back in our early teenage years Patti and I knew each other because we were both in the same Sunday School class at the Varney Street church. I remember on one occasion when we were on opposite sides of the discussion the class was having. To this day I am not sure why I recall something that happened 55 years or so but I attribute it to the pre-experience work of the Holy Spirit for many years later.
We lost touch with each other for many years but then in 1966 while off the coast of Viet Nam I received a typewritten letter from Patti Booth who I knew from church. My mom had asked her to write to me so while she was mending from an work related accident we began a twelve thousand mile letter writing relationship. But then as the letters went back and forth the Holy Spirit picked up where it left off back at the Varney Street church. And in March of 1968 based mostly on knowing each other we were married. And almost immediately the Holy Spirit “turned up the heat” on our relationship and it began to go from knowing each other to experiencing the intimate details of each other. And to this day under the ministry of the Holy Spirit we continue to experience each other.
While that is our story there’s a good chance it had a familiar ring to it. Because that is how the Holy Spirit works in each of us, not just in our relationship with each other but with Jesus as well. As Patti and I began to experience each other we began to discover some things that caused some “ripples” in our relationship which required not only give-and-take but forgiveness as well.
Forgiveness is the building blocks of deepening a relationship from knowing to successful experiencing. I say successful experiencing because without forgiveness the experience will not end well. While I’ve known Jesus all my life my first real experience with Him happened on the other side of the world when suddenly I began confronting myself with my waywardness but it was several years later at Patti’s insistence we stay connected with church that I began experiencing Jesus’ forgiveness. And it was at that point when I began to realize just knowing Jesus was not enough.
It’s not enough for us to experience Jesus. It’s just as important (maybe more important) to know Jesus experiences us as well. I don’t know if you’ve ever considered that or not but it true! Jesus experiences you in your frailty, sinfulness, and brokenness! I was reminded of that the other day. Because my blood-sugar levels have been running dangerously high for the past couple of months we’ve been trying to get my blood-sugar levels in check without much luck. Wednesday morning after using a new medication taken by injection my meter read 213 and immediately I found myself succumbing to the 3D’s (discouragement, depression, and disconnectedness) and thinking I was real close to giving up. Sensing and experiencing how I was feeling I “felt” words of Jesus via the Holy Spirit, “Gary, you can give up a lot of things but don’t give up your faith.”
How important is it to experience Jesus through the ministry of the Holy Spirit NOW rather than at some later unknown date? This is important! In Experiencing God Richard Blackaby writes, “Do you realize that the Lord does not just give you life— He is your life? He does not grant you things and comforts so you have a “good” life. He brings you into a relationship with Him so out of that relationship you have everything you could possibly need. You did not initiate a love relationship with God; He initiated a love relationship with you. Long before you began your life on earth, God demonstrated His love for you on the cross of Christ.”
Long before you were ever born God experienced you, not just experiences here and there on your life line but the totality of your life and with ALL it’s good times, bad times and everything in between! The apostle Paul puts it this way, “So it is with you. When you heard the true teaching—the Good News about your salvation—you believed in Christ. And in Christ, God put his special mark of ownership on you by giving you the Holy Spirit that he had promised. That Holy Spirit is the guarantee that we will receive what God promised for his people until God gives full freedom to those who are his—to bring praise to God’s glory.” (Ephesians 1:13–14, NCV)
Grace and PEACE,
Scripture quotations marked HCSB are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
"Scriptures marked NCV quoted from The Holy Bible, New Century Version, copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Word Publishing, Dallas, Texas 75039. Used by permission."