Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Does the Bible call us to experience God or to understand God? Are we to seek experiences of God or knowledge and wisdom? Are we to be meditating on the Word day and night (Psalm 1; Joshua 1:8), or are we to try out different mystical techniques see determine which will bring us into union with God?

Mysticism consists of a wide variety of techniques used by almost all religions to experience a union with God, apart from trying to understand God and to trust in Him based upon this understanding.

I am not trying to deny the experiential aspect of the Christian faith and the active work of the Holy Spirit. Instead, I just want to understand what God’s Word calls us to focus upon, and where our energies should be directed.

Scripture shows us that the Apostles and the Prophets of Israel never directed the faithful to experience God but rather to know Him. The evidence for this is found in just about every book of the Bible. Therefore, to limit our inquiry, let’s just take a look at the Book of Daniel:

·       And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3; ESV)

Notice that Daniel never says that those who experience God “will shine like the brightness of the sky above.”

·       Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. (Daniel 12:10)

Notice that “none of the wicked shall understand,” but instead, the “wise shall understand.” Why is it that the wise understand but not those who experience God? Because those who are open to the light of truth are the same as those who are open to God and the wisdom that comes from God. In contrast, there is not a single verse that suggests that by practicing mystical techniques of experiencing God produces understanding or wisdom.

We also see that, in the end, those who love the Lord are the same who have understanding, not those who practice mystical techniques:

·       He [the wicked king, the anti-Christ] shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action. And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder… and some of the wise shall stumble, so that they may be refined, purified, and made white. (Daniel 11:32-35)

Those who “know their God” are the “wise” who make many “understand” the saving faith, not those who teach mystical techniques.

Daniel was beloved of God. Why? This is a question that all who love the Lord should ask themselves. An angelic being informed Daniel:

·       “O Daniel, man greatly loved, UNDERSTAND the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to UNDERSTAND and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.” (Daniel 10:11-12)

What words? Daniel’s words that demonstrated not only truth, but an openness and reverence for the knowledge of God! And to those who have a heart for the knowledge of God, God gives more:

·       And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me” …. “But I [the angel] will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth…” (Daniel 10:19, 21)

This had been the very think that Daniel had sought to understand. Gabriel also assured Daniel of God’s profound love for him:

·       He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision. (Daniel 9:22-23)

What was the gift that Gabriel imparted to Daniel? Understanding! Why not a mountaintop experience? God knew what Daniel needed. Besides, contrary to mystical expectations, divine encounters are usually disturbing. The Israelites were terrified when God had manifested Himself on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20). Even the Apostles were terrified at the voice of God on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:6).

Daniel’s experiences were anything but ecstatic. Even after the angelic being had informed Daniel of God’s great love for him, he had to reassure Daniel to not fear (Daniel 10:12). Even with that assurance, Daniel confessed:

·       “O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength. How can my lord’s servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me.” (Daniel 10:16-17)

This response wasn’t unusual. After other privileged visions:

·       “As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me.” (Daniel 7:15)

·       “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.” (Daniel 7:28; also 8:27; 10:7, 10-11)

If Daniel, the man beloved by God, had experienced such trauma, what are the mystics experiencing when they claim to have achieved union with God?

Jungleman, a Yanomamo shaman turned Christian, had been convinced that the spirits he had been experiencing were divine god-like beings. However, in Spirit of the Rainforest, he later confessed:

·       “I wish I had known the truth about [Jesus] when I was a young man—it would have saved me so much pain and misery. But how could I? My spirits lied so much to me and tricked me. They were so beautiful, so wonderful, so hard not to want. They were the best at telling me split-truth. Now I’m at the end of this life, and I’m ready to begin my real life with [Jesus]. (Mark Andrew Richie, 238)

This kind of testimony should put any reasonable person on guard about the spiritual world. Also the warnings of Scripture:

·       For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

It is only now, through the Cross, that we have been enabled, through faith, to confidently approach God:

·       Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:19-23)

To enjoy this intimacy with Christ is only possible for those who have trusted in Christ. If we haven’t been forgiven and cleansed, to experience God is to experience His wrath. Yes, it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. However, this goodness cannot be a matter of intimacy achieved through various mystical techniques. Instead, it can only come through faith and repentance.

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