I’ve seen some very beautiful scenery. It’s one of the perks of speaking at camps and retreat centers around the world. I’m sure you have memories of fantastic vistas of perhaps the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, or the Grand Tetons. Have you ever noticed that when you show pictures of those places that others don’t have the same excitement as you do—unless they’ve been there and seen the same scene? For example, let me show you a couple. As I look at the pictures, I can remember the breathtaking panoramas and my feelings of awe and joy in feelings of awe and joy in God’s creative glory.
Which would you rather do? Look at pictures of these places or have the experience of going there and seeing these places in person? Unless you really hate traveling, you probably would choose the personal experience over the second-hand picture.
The same is true when it comes to relationship with God. When you go to church, listen to a sermon, or read someone else tale about their experience with God, you are only “looking” at a picture. It’s not the same as knowing God by personal experience. Many people content themselves with periodical, second-hand Bible information collections when personal experience with God is available. This month’s demonstration for family devotions highlights the differences between religious people who are content to look at other people’s pictures of Christ and those who would rather know Him by experience.
John 14:18-29, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me. These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.”
1. Ask for two volunteers. Tell your family that you are going to teach the difference between simply accepting facts and knowing that something is true by experience.
2. First, select one of the volunteers and give them a gentle shoulder massage. Ask them if it feels good. Then ask, “Do you believe getting a gentle shoulder massage feels good?” When they respond in the affirmative, then ask, “How do you know?” The person should in some way say that he or she knows it by experience. Finally, state the obvious: That person has faith that receiving a gentle shoulder massage feels good.
3. Second, ask another person if they believe that a gentle shoulder massage feels good. If they say yes, then affirm to the group that he or she has faith that a gentle shoulder massage feels good.
4. Third, ask your family, “Which one do you think has the more powerful faith? Why?”
5. Fourth, ask the second person if he would like a gentle shoulder massage. After fulfilling their wish, ask, “Which would you rather have, faith based on information or faith based on experience?”
Foundational Truth: Experiencing the ongoing indwelling presence of Jesus Christ produces a faith that is evidence of the new birth and salvation.
There is a relationship between revelation, faith, power, and the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit reveals to a person the presence of Christ as described in John 14:18-29, the experience produces a powerful, enduring, assuring faith within the heart. Without revelation by the Holy Spirit, there is no saving faith or power. As you read through the verses above, ask your family to list the words that describe experience.
It might be helpful to mention what Jesus meant by that day in verse 20. He was referring to the day when His Father would send the Holy Spirit into them. Jesus was telling them about an experience which was to happen to them “so that when it happens, you may believe.” First comes the experience, and then the faith.
Many children grow up hearing Bible stories and an abbreviated so-called gospel, namely, that sin has separated them from God, that a loving God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross so they could be forgiven, and that all they have to do is believe in Jesus and invite Him into their hearts. Most children who hear such a message will be content with that “snapshot” of God, their sin, and the gospel, believing it to be true—much like the person who believes that a gentle shoulder massage feels good, even if they've never had one. And although they’ve never had a massage, they can imagine what it feels like, and in imagining it, they think they have obtained the real thing, not understanding that there is so much more to participating in the actual experience.
Unfortunately, a child who is led to think that he or she has experienced conversion and salvation merely because he or she believes certain facts to be true, has a powerless faith. They are going to be disappointed and walk away from it because there’s not reality in it— there’s no power. There’s a necessary and life-changing process that happens in a personal encounter with God. It doesn’t always happen the same way, or even all at once, but it must include some revelation of being exposed to God’s presence and, in that place, becoming keenly aware of one’s own sin and separation from God. Finally comes the revelation that his sins were known, removed, and forgiven at the cross. Without these vital elements, there is no powerful faith. There is no awe-inspiring, self-humiliating, soul-satisfying experience that produces repentance and eternal life, namely, knowing God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ by firsthand experience.
This passage from Jesus’ last discourse is thrilling and hopeful to those who know the indwelling presence of Jesus Christ by experience. When they look at the picture of the new birth and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that produces faith and peace, they instantly are reminded of the first time they had been there, and many of the return trips! They remember the shrinking of self, the feelings of humiliation over their sinfulness, the awe and peace of the glory of God as faith washed their consciences, forgiveness filled their souls, and eternal life sprang up within.
Do you know what I’m talking about, or have you been content with “looking at pictures,” believing only because of the testimony of others that a gentle shoulder massage feels good, and trying to convince yourself and others that you have been experiencing the real thing?
Experiential revelation is the proof of a right relationship with God. It is how we know that we know the Father and that He knows us. My spiritual mentor and friend, Rev. Jerry White, Jr., wrote in A Disciple’s Notebook about Coming to Jesus Christ:
The Lord Jesus invites anyone spiritually thirsty to come to Him and drink (John 7:37). The church is not Him. The Bible is not Him. A home group is not Him. Nothing can be a substitute for Him as a living Person to whom you can come. Nothing else truly satisfies.
We cannot come to His physical presence and kneel at His feet. His physical presence is in heaven where one day His followers will behold His glorified bodily form. His spiritual presence is with us by His Holy Spirit whom He promised to be with us and in us (John 14:17). His spiritual presence now is just as real as His physical presence was when He walked on the earth. When He said on the last day of the feast, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink" (John 7:37), He could not have meant a physical coming but rather a spiritual coming. Our inner spiritual being can come to His very real spiritual, invisible presence.
Dear child of God, He who cannot lie said His presence would be with you. The world clamors through your five senses to keep you mentally occupied with the physical plane in which you live. Quietness of soul in a place alone, with your heart open to His spiritual presence, allows the Holy Spirit to guide you to the Lord Jesus so that your inner being actually touches His very real spiritual presence.
(www.adisciplesnotebook.com/?s=coming+to+Jesus+Christ. The book is available atwww.spiritofelijah.com)
The Holy Spirit gives us revelation of ourselves and of the presence and mind of Christ. The connections between the Holy Spirit, revelation, power, and faith contained in the following verses should encourage your heart that experiencing the ongoing indwelling presence of Jesus Christ produces a faith that is evidence of the new birth and salvation. Go to Him, quietly meditate on these verses and John 14:18-29, and ask the Father to disclose Himself to you, so that you may experience knowing God.
- Matthew 11:25, At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.”
- Matthew 11:27, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”
- Matthew 16:17, And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
- Luke 2:26, And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
- John 6:44-46, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.’ Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.”