From my observations, there are many variations of what is broadly labeled Christianity. After over 2,000 years of progress and regress, we have arrived at something resembling a food court. The sheer variety and numeric choices can be overwhelming. Yet it’s all food, loosely defined. But here is where the analogy breaks down. In the food court of Christianity, some of it is laced with poison. If it doesn’t kill you outright, you may get sick, become malnourished.
One such expression of low-nutrient food is what I would call emotion-based Christianity. To be sure, there is some Bible sprinkled on top of the emotion-centered, emotion-driven experience. There is never any shortage of God talk and verses taken out of context. High-powered music plays a central role. Everything from sound, lights and order is carefully choreographed to produce the intended result – a buzz of emotional highs, whether laughter or tears or goosebumps. It’s like a drug addiction, this endless pursuit of the next spiritual high. Too often the holiness of believers caught in this trap mirrors their emotions – way up and way down. On fire one minute; crash and burn the next. It’s an exhausting roller coaster ride.
In the interest of full disclosure, you can also find weak, anemic Christians in Bible-based settings, if there is dearth of all passion for God. It’s called “dead orthodoxy.” Not good. In many ways this is what Jesus encountered in the scribes and Pharisees. We need both heat and light.
But back to the roller coaster. The great danger here is you begin to trust your feelings and exalt experience over truth, what is felt over what God has infallibly revealed. Before long you are interpreting the Bible in light of your experience instead of interpreting your experience in light of the Bible. The vocabulary becomes “God told me this” and “God said that” but what follows isn’t a quote from the Bible, wherein God actually speaks, but a quote from the feelings or imagination or subjective experience. Following these hunches and impressions, we end up with a Christianity on shaky ground because it might be of God (if it agrees with sound interpretation and application of Scripture) or it might just be from your own vain imagination or it might be from the enemy, the angel of light who comes in a disguise to deceive the untaught.
This is a world-wide epidemic doing much harm as people build their lives on the shifting sands of feelings instead of the rock-solid foundation of the gospel and the word of Christ in Scripture. It’s fireworks Christianity. All light and flash and boom, plenty of “oohs” and “aahs” but it fades away as quickly as it shot heavenward, never to be seen again.
One striking passage that sets before us a critical contrast between experience and the Scriptures is 2 Peter 1:16-21. Peter had an experience like no other. He was there the day the Lord Jesus was transfigured, His eternal and divine glory shining forth like the sun. He also got the unpleasant experience of being interrupted by God the Father (you can read about it in Matthew 17:1ff).
Think about it. He saw the transfigured Christ. He heard the audible voice of God. He saw Moses and Elijah, two great prophets and miracle workers in Israel’s history. Wow, what an experience!
Then comes the shock of the passage. Instead of saying, “now, go pray and seek something similar”, Peter writes, “So we have the prophetic word made more sure …”
Say what? The prophetic word (meaning the Scriptures as the rest of the passage bears out) are made more sure than a literal mountain-top experience with God? Yes! The Word of God is more trustworthy than my own experience and feelings from that experience? Yes!
We do well then to pay attention to this lamp shining in a dark place, a great description of the Bible in this world, until Christ Himself returns (v.19). Why? It’s all about the Source and permanence of the Bible compared to all human experience. The Bible is 100% from God and permanently fixed in the written word.
Men were moved by the Holy Spirit, not their own feelings. Paul didn’t wake up one morning and say, “I think I will write the book of Romans today.” And when it came time to write the book of Romans, Paul didn’t give his own private interpretation or personal opinion or astute religious insight. The Bible is not the Op-Ed page, it’s the voice of God page.
Men spoke (and wrote) “from God” as they were “moved by the Holy Spirit.” Divine authorship through human instruments and permanently preserved in writing. We need to pay attention to this shining lamp, allowing the Bible to interpret and clarify our Christian experience. It is more reliable than our greatest experience or strongest feeling.
Unless otherwise noted, all posts are written by Pastor Chris McKnight