Experience is Our Second Best Teacher

Comparing Experience to the Bible

By Laurel J. Davis
See Laurel's blog at The Reluctant First Lady

Testimonials about personal experience have a lot of power. This includes things pertaining to God and His Word. It has even been said that the man with an argument is at the mercy of the man with an experience. Now, let's think about that for a moment. Hmmm. So, experience trumps logic, huh? That's a strong stamp of approval on the weight we tend to give personal experience when it comes to what we'll believe and accept.

But there is a qualifier, especially for us professing Christians, and it is this: Our experiences should not validate but be validated by what God has already said in His Word, the Holy Bible (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

But first, let's examine the power of experience. It's illustrated even in the Bible. When Jesus healed the blind man in John Chapter 9, the fact that the man was 1) born blind, 2) healed as an adult, and 3) reduced to begging, all together makes his testimony about the experience especially compelling. If anybody would know if the healing was real or not, it would be him. Indeed, after the Pharisees, refusing to accept the obvious, accused Jesus of being a mere sinner, look at what the healed man finally had to say: Whether He is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know, that whereas I was blind, now I see (v. 24-17, 30).

If we know nothing else, we at least know what we've truly experienced firsthand, and like the testimony of a blind man who can suddenly see, nobody can take the validity of that firsthand experience away from us.

But even in this account, there is that qualifier. Let's consider this account carefully. Jesus specifically said in this case that the reason the man was born blind was so that God's power and perfect will could be shown in him. In short, his healing would be used to back up what was already proclaimed about the Messiah. That healed man himself concluded, If this Man were not of God, He could do nothing. He even told the insolent Pharisees, I have told you [my testimony] already...why would you hear it again? Will you also be His disciples? (v. 30). His personal testimony about his healing experience with Jesus was in line with what had already been written about God in the Scriptures up to that point (v. 34).

Consider also 2 Peter Chapter 1. First Peter says, For we have not followed cunningly devised fables...but were eyewitnesses of His majesty (v. 16; cf. Matthew 17:1-5 cf. Luke 1:2). But then he makes this very key assertion: We have a more sure word of prophecy, unto which you do well that you take heed. So, according to the Apostle Peter, even more powerful than what the apostle actually saw with his own eyes, and even more powerful than what he heard with his own ears, and even more powerful than the testimony of his fellow eyewitnesses, is the fact that what he experienced first-hand with Jesus was validated by what had already been written in the Word of God.

Too many people, including naive Christians, don't know how to properly evaluate their experiences, let alone evaluate the experiences of others. Too many of us think, "If it works for me, or feels good to me, then it's right for me," whereas experience for the spiritually discerning says, "If it's true in God's Word, then it's right for me."

Christians should seek to experience, not what feels good or right according to us, but only what is in fact good or right according to God. That can only be determined and confirmed by what God has already taught us in His Word, the Bible.

The truths of God are not true because we experience them. Rather, we experience them because they are true.

Image Credit: David Campbell; "KJV Bible"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | False-Teaching

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Published on 2-4-2015