Several weeks ago I visited the zoo with my daughter and grandchildren. While there, I had opportunity not only to enjoy the animals, but also to appreciate the art work on the Donor’s Memorial Wall.
Obviously, watching the live animals was much more enlightening than admiring the artwork, even though the tile engravings were very impressive. The mannerisms of each animal were readily apparent as I watched the gait of a giraffe, the playfulness of an elephant reaching for suspended toys, and the speed of a massive rhino. The artwork could not convey these concepts about the animals with any real dimension or accuracy.
If I were unable to experience animals in real life, and all I had available was artwork, I would be greatly influenced by the artist’s perspective. Information, gathered by someone who may or may not have had experience with a live animal, which is then formed into an image, would become my measurement of that animal. If the artist presents a true image, I could get a fairly decent idea about the animal, but I miss the experience of watching the animation of real life.
When I was in my 20’s, I was subpoenaed to testify in a court case. My testimony played a small part in the trial. All I had to do was state the time I went to work on a certain date and describe a car I saw in the parking lot. During the cross-examination, after my personal account, I went past the boundaries of accurate witnessing when I reported a statement I had heard from another co-worker. I received a swift “objection” and it was ruled inadmissible because it was hearsay: information gathered by one person from another person concerning some event, condition, or thing of which the first person had no direct experience.
To accurately know God, it is vital to experience God personally, to study Him and His word, and to listen to His Spirit speaking and teaching. Depending only on the impression or hearsay of someone else creates a shallow, possibly even incorrect impression, and eventually an impersonal, inept testimony. I was prone to only glean from others when I was younger. I took in everything I heard, without personally experiencing or affirming the message with diligent study of His word. I neither relied on nor expected the Holy Spirit to have any input and I didn’t pray for wisdom and discernment.
At 30 I had an encounter with the Lord that forever changed my perception of Him. I was already a practicing Christian, but during a difficult time in my life, the experience of being totally aware of Him, of hearing Him, took preeminence over all I had ever heard about Him and calmed my troubled heart. He caused me to reassess what I thought I knew about Him. In the reevaluation, I didn’t discard everything I previously knew about Him because I was blessed with some good teaching worth keeping. However, I realized there were gaping holes in my understanding, some glaring errors and a lot of just plain ignorance. It was the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Triune God, explaining and teaching me about God, the First Person of the Triune God. Jesus, the Second Person of the Triune God, promised that those who believe and accept His salvation would receive His Spirit to guide and teach us. God teaches about God.
1 Corinthians 2:9-13 New International Version (NIV) 9 However, as it is written:“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard,and what no human mind has conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.
Often God will use a pastor, teacher or someone else, but it is the Holy Spirit of Jesus working within that person causing the lesson to be true and enduring. Revelation gained from others is helpful, but experiential knowledge creates lasting impact, because it is then we see the realness of God, alive and engaging with us. Experiencing God involves hearing Him… through His Word, through the still small voice of His Spirit within, or when He uses someone to speak His words to us. It also includes sensing His presence with a very tangible encounter or watching Him work in supernatural ways. The more we experience God, the more our understanding grows, as we personally experience His character and heart.
When Jesus came to live among us as the Son of Man and the Son of God, He displayed God, His Father….our Father, to us. In the form of man He was the visible image of an invisible God. In reading scripture, especially the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we are offered a true image of our Father through the life of Jesus. It isn’t an artist rendition or hearsay. It is God showing us Himself through Himself, as Jesus. Jesus made the way for us to understand and have a relationship with the Father through His life, death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit reinforces the image of the Father as revealed by Jesus when He teaches us.
Colossians 1:15 New International Version (NIV) 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
John 1:18 New International Version (NIV) 18 No one has ever seen God,but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known.
When life and the enemy deliver difficulties and pain, it is the firm assurance of Who God is that stabilizes faith and restores peace. Knowing that God is love and that He can only function in love, I need not question His motives, even when I don’t understand or agree with what He is doing. Accepting that His heart is always compelled to offer restoration and redemption, hope is always available for me when I fail or stumble, and everyone else as well. Accepting that He is wise, and is willing to share that wisdom with me, I avoid dealing with confusion. Discovering that He is merciful, I never have to feel condemned, nor can I condemn others.
I am awed by the expansiveness of God, and how much more there is to learn about Him. My love increases with every new layer of revelation. The more I experience God, the more I rest in Him. Through those personal experiences, my faith increases. When the experiences align with the Word of God and His Holy Spirit confirms it, I can be confident I have received another treasured truth about God. It isn’t something rare, exceptional or hard to encounter. He is more than willing to meet with us. That is one of the most beautiful concepts about God. The Creator of the Universe is willing and able to have a relationship with anyone who responds to His invitation.
Connecting, with love