I have a concern that unless our generation takes seriously the work of being theologically accurate that we run the risk of having experiences we think are God that are actually deceiving spirits. Let me give an extreme example:
A man came into my office to tell me about a visitation that he had. He saw what he thought was Jesus come into his bedroom and get into his bed and have an intimate experience with him. This ‘Jesus’ then told him that he must have inappropriate contact with me and another leader in the church to truly understand some spiritual ‘truth’.
To his credit he seemed very relieved when I explained that there was no way this was God. The problem is that he actually needed someone to explain it to him. He had not spent time in the Scripture getting to know Who God really is and so was easily deceived by a false ‘christ’.
Most people would not be deceived by a false ‘Jesus’ telling them to commit homosexual acts with their pastor, but many are easily deceived by experiences that agree with something that they agree with.
When I first found the Lord (or He found me) I quickly was re-engaged to the woman who is now my wife. During our engagement I can remember justifying our pre-marital sex with the idea that in God’s eyes we were already married. I had ‘prayed’ about the issue and had a measure of peace with it. (For the record, we have repented for that sin.)
Thankfully, one of the pastors at the church we had started attending challenged me. When I came up for prayer ministry one Sunday he asked me, “You know that sleeping together is not okay, right?” That broke the deception and we were married a couple months later.
How many times have you heard of people ruining their lives because of a ‘word from God’? They are convinced God is calling them to something, usually something they already wanted and will cause other people to see how great, special, or anointed they are. We find that our functional god is really ourselves—however much we quote Christian language to justify our self-serving agendas.
A good understanding of the word of God is essential to break this deception that many are under. The word is able to reveal what is God and what is us; what comes of the spirit and what is of the soul. It reveals the thoughts and intents of the heart and teaches us who God really is, what He is like, and how to understand His ways. (Hebrews 4:12; Psalm 119)
It is the only guaranteed vessel of equipping for effective service in the kingdom of God. It is the path of wisdom for salvation. (2 Timothy 3:14–17) God has even exalted His word above His name! (Psalm 138:2)
The Bible is more than a ‘devotional’. Our reading of it must be for more than a good feeling, or an encouraging word, even though it does often provide that. It is also not a ‘manual for success’—unless you define success as being pleasing to the Lord! The Bible does not speak to every issue that we will experience giving us ‘laws’ that allow us to manipulate the world (or God) to our desired goal.
The word does reveal God’s character, personality, likes and dislikes, and actually is a door to His very presence. (John 1:1) It reveals Who God is. With this understanding, we can apply the values, principles, and standards we learn to any situation. But our following these values, principles, and standards do not guarantee us ‘results’—as Job found out.
In that the word reveals Who God truly is we have a guideline to discern spiritual experiences. (Hebrews 5:12–14 specifically in the context of the whole book and Hebrews 4:12) Even Jesus, in preparing His disciples for the filling of the Spirit started with explaining all the things in Moses’ writings and in the prophets that spoke about Him. (Luke 24:25–27) This gave them discernment so that they could understand the experience they were about to have. (Acts 2:16)
If there is not a clear standard of what is true; If we can not look to the word to discern what is a true and a false experience; If there is not hard work put into knowing God through His word—then we will end up with all kinds of doctrines of demons, people sharing experiences because they tickle the ear, large-scale deception, and begin to lose our ability to defend the work of God in our age. (1 Timothy 1:3–11; 4:1–5; 2 Timothy 4:1–4) People will go off, following an ‘angel of light’ and miss Him Who is Light! (2 Corinthians 11:14; John 8:12)
Some will make the case that you can study the Word all day long but not come to Jesus to find life. (John 5:39–40) That is true, but you cannot know if you came to Him for life unless you know Who He says He is. Jesus’ rebuke was not against the study of the word but the heart attitude of the one studying. Jesus also said that by abiding, setting up a dwelling place, in His word that we will come to experientially know the Truth that sets us free. (John 8:31–32)
If we are to stay safe in the increase of spiritual experiences and revelation that is coming, that is actually upon us, then we must do the hard work of studying Scripture, working through the theological issues, and keep an anchor so we do not get drawn away in the ‘current’ of the world. You can fly as high as you want to, as long as you are firmly grounded…
“The sum of Your word is truth,
and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Psalm 119:160
“The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God will stand forever.” Isaiah 40:7–8