Spiritual Experiences – Intimacy With God. Should We Talk About These Things?
In the sixties and early seventies, the Jesus Movement burned through the campuses of this country and western Pennsylvania was no exception. Revival produces strange bedfellows. People the Lord used to pour steam into the boiler at my school included two former missionaries from India and Kenya, an owner of a car parts store whose sons got caught in the Asbury revivals…and than there was Mel. Mel ran a sign company. But his real bang for the buck was that he sang as featured vocalist for the Pentecostal faith healer Kathryn Kuhlmann. Jesus did some strange things in the land back then. She held services in First Presbyterian Church in downtown Pittsburgh, a place so Presbyterian that John Calvin could have preached there wearing his Steeler jersey (If he were alive, he would have one.). This would be as normal as an electric polka festival in the National Cathedral in Washington. But she held services there on weekdays and people came from all over the world, flown in strapped to gurneys and stretchers. And Mel sang in exchange for free advertising for his business. Years later, Mel would meet with a bunch of us in an off campus apartment. We all knew he probably had some choice Holy Ghost stories to tell. But Mel refused to spill the beans of his personal spiritual life saying, “The Lord and I have had some wonderful times but to share them would cheapen and tarnish them because they’re too personal.”
In the West, we’re reduced knowing to the mere possession of intellectual knowledge. We may know a great deal informationally but that knowledge rarely lays claim to how we think or to the shaping of our lives. We’ve transferred this to the knowing of people; we can put a name with a face, rattle off the hometown, names of siblings, their major and a few incidentals. We know that stuff but do we know them? And it’s not just about people. If our car needs work and the guy doing it speaks to our car in feminine pronouns, this is a good person! Watch someone who knows how to work wood – to build or restore. More than head knowledge is going down here; these people are intimate with motors and wood.
And now for a little Hebrew. In Gen. 4:1, we read that “Adam knew his wife.” This “knowing” isn’t warehousing info as a warmup for Jeopardy, it’s sex. We see this repeatedly in places like Gen. 4:17,25 and I Sam. 1:19. But we also find it in Jer. 9:24 where it says, “…let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me…” The same root word. Unlike today, Israel never separated sex from intimate knowing in the setting of a covenant. Jeremiah’s knowing God isn’t sexual but it is an intimate and thoroughgoing knowledge deeper than a squeaky clean doctrinal statement (vitae for Pharisees). Think Satan for minute. What doctrine or point of theology does Satan not understand? He didn’t understand the cross, the atonement or the resurrection then. but while he understands all that now, he lives in hateful flaming rebellion against everything he knows. Knowing isn’t knowing.
Let’s talk pornography for a second. What make pornography pornographic is that it takes what was meant to be sheltered in the privacy and security of a marriage covenant and callously throws it into the street to be gawked at and leered over by passers-by (or in print or online). Pornography can be spiritual as well. There is a real case to be made, except for the most careful and timely disclosures under the Holy Spirit’s clear prompts, that spiritual experiences should not necessarily always be shared. Read John 21:20-23. We simply have no innate right or entitlement to gawk or probe into other people’s spiritual innards.
But there’s more. In Luke 8:40-48, Jesus heals a woman with a bleeding issue (possibly menstrual). Quietly desperate, she forces her way through the crowd tailing Jesus already en route to an emergency. She just touches His clothes, power is released and she is healed. And Jesus’ reply is pretty generic. “Your faith has made you well.” Not WELL STEP UP HERE, SISTER, AND GIVE YOUR TESTIMONY AND GIVE ALL THE GLORY TO JEEEEZUZ!!!! He knew (Duh! What doesn’t He know?) that just maybe she didn’t feel like divulging this in front of a crowd mostly of men. In I Cor 15, Paul lists many of the resurrection appearances of Jesus. In verses 5 and 7, he mentions the interesting tidbits that Jesus appeared to both Cephas (Peter) and James. Dig as we might, we will not find one scrap of information, nothing leaked to the media about either incident. The Holy Spirit didn’t think it anyone’s business. Finally, in II Cor 12, Paul completes a smack down (Sometimes this has to be done.) of some carnal punks trying to showboat the church in Paul’s absence and he describes a very powerful experience I alluded to before. Please notice his tone; Paul feels extremely hesitant to share this to the point of trying to obscure his own name in the telling. He didn’t want to pull this out but thought he had to. Sometimes we might need to pull something intimate out should the situation call for it or just to check with someone we trust to see if we’re crazy. We will sense a guarded freedom to do that from the Holy Spirit. And sometimes we will share it with a group or the church or maybe a TV evangelist (Arrrgh! Please don’t do that!). But Mel was right. To take our intimacies with God and throw them out to be gawked at even in the church can cheapen and tarnish them making them spiritually pornographic. Some things are better kept to ourselves and those who have earned our deepest trust. If you’re just jumping in with this post, put this bead on a string starting here, here, here, here, here and here.
Next time on geezeronthequad.com…
The end of both spiritual experiences and the faith we walk in…knowing, loving and enjoying God and growing in holiness and grace.
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