A friend’s been telling me about her spiritual experiences, and I have thoughts. And my thoughts start with phone calls and the “who’s there?” question.
You know those phone calls to banks or utility companies and suchlike, when they ask you security questions to check that it’s really you? Or, on the flip side, those times when you get a call from someone claiming to be from your bank and you, because you weren’t born yesterday, are aware that you need to check somehow that they really are who they say they are. Not to mention those emails asking for your bank details so that the sole heir of the king of such-and-such will be able to transfer his millions through your account – most of us know better…
But what about when you hear a voice in your head that claims to be the voice of God? Or you have a spiritual experience that seems really nice and positive and you think it must be God?
This kind of connects with my recent post about the question: what would have happened if, back in 1989, my 27-year-old self had walked into a different place of worship instead of that church in London where I met Jesus?
Part of that question is: who/what would I have found there? and the other part is: how would I have reacted? And while I can’t know for definite how I would have reacted, one thing I do know: I wouldn’t have met the real, living God and I wouldn’t have been saved.
In 1989 I walked into a church in London and I felt something. I felt an attraction which at that stage I couldn’t really explain in words, but it was enough to make me want to keep going to that church. That was the start of a process – a process that took a long while. Eventually, in 2002, I finally got the point about Jesus dying to save me and, after over 12 years of thinking I was a Christian, I finally understood my need of the Saviour and was born again. A large part of that process involved me reading the Bible and being exposed to more and more solid Biblical teaching – that initial feeling of attraction was enough to get me started on this journey but that feeling on its own couldn’t tell me who Jesus is and what he came to this earth to do and what I needed to do to be saved. The Bible is where this stuff is documented. The Bible is where we can actually find out the truth about God. It’s a book God himself authored – his introduction to us in his own words.
If I’d gone to some other place of worship, a place belonging to some other religion, would I have felt that attraction that I felt in that church? I don’t think so, but I can’t know for definite. I know I didn’t feel it previously when going to a mosque or to a synagogue, but I do know that people do sometime go to places like that and feel a desire to keep going, and sometimes even a sincere belief that they’ve met God. I know enough about human nature to know that we are perfectly capable of being deceived – even by our physical senses sometimes (hi, Descartes, nice to see you) (or not) but when it comes to spiritual experiences even more so… And yes, I know this is exactly how some people see my own faith, they think I’ve fallen for a scam – but I know that Jesus is for real, and that what the Bible says about him is true, so when a friend tells me about her spiritual experiences, I do the spiritual equivalent of the security questions you get when you phone the bank – I check this stuff against proper documentation, I compare it with what the Bible says, and (in this case) say: oh no, this is a scam.
It is so very easy to fall for these deceptions – and I speak as someone who has, so it’s not that I’m accusing others without being conscious of my own weakness. What I’m saying is: we all have it in us to be a bit gullible in some situations, and just because you’ve had some personal experience that felt real and good, that doesn’t mean you’ve met the real, living God. There’s someone who has been deceiving humans from very early on in our history and he tends to dress up as light and love – nothing like those scary cartoon pictures. So if you think you’ve met God, check that out against how the Bible describes him and see if it matches. (One major clue: the Bible says Jesus is the only way to know God. Another major clue: the God of the Bible demands obedience and repentance. He’s not all nice fluffiness. He loves us, but the way he showed this love was through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross so that all who believe in him should not perish – he doesn’t offer us an alternative way in case we don’t like this whole repentance and atonement stuff.)
Here endeth today’s rambling. Thank you for listening.
P.S. Jesus himself when he walked this earth as one of us showed his ID, through doing all the things the prophets had foretold about the coming Messiah. Some of his conversations with the Pharisees read very much like: Hey, who do you think you are? Here, this is who I am, and this is how you should be able to tell. (and this is part of why I trust the Bible – it matches up! so many prophecies from so many different people and different times, fulfilled in this man, Jesus!)