Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to attract people who’ve had the strangest spiritual experiences imaginable. A man in Ft. Worth, Texas once told me a wild tale about how he’d died and gone to hell. He looked up and saw a bright light. Jesus told him he could return to the living if he would tell everyone of his experience. When he opened his eyes, he was on a gurney, in a morgue, with a sheet over his head! He even claimed he had a tag on his big toe! He got up, walked out of the morgue, and ran home . . . completely naked! You may think I’m joking, but this conversation truly happened. I met him in the Ft. Worth Stockyards.
Did this this man meet Jesus? I can neither prove nor disprove his experience. Yet, these stories seem so appealing to people, even Christians. Surely, you’ve heard similar stories (without the nudity, we hope!). Perhaps this example is extreme, but how can we verify when people claim God spoke to them?
Scripture is Sufficient
D.A. Carson’s book, The Gagging of God, deals with the key issue at-hand:
“Many [Christians] now rely far more on inward promptings than on their Bible knowledge to decide what they are going to do in a situation.”1D.A. Carson, The Gagging of God (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 506.
Donald Whitney, in The Compromised Church, states:
“The evangelistic method of Jesus and the apostles was not to urge people to seek direct experiences with God; instead they went about preaching and teaching the Scriptures (see, for instance, Mark 1:14-15). And Jesus did not say that once we have spiritual life we live by direct mystical experience with God; rather, we ‘live . . . on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4). . . . So in Scripture the normative method of meeting God is through Scripture.”2Donald Whitney, “Unity of Doctrine and Devotion,” in The Compromised Church, ed. John H. Armstrong (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1998), 246.
Scott Aniol made a profound point recently. He tweeted:
“God spoke to very few people in Scripture, and only key leaders at important transitions in redemptive history. . . . the Bible mainly records those important transitions. There are thousands of years not recorded in the Bible, when people trusted in the sufficient revelation they had received to that point” (tweet, 03/03/2022).
The real issue is this: Do we believe Scripture is sufficient? Is Scripture enough, or do we need signs and wonders? Throughout history, the enemy adjusts his strategy to challenge (or add to) Scripture. Through a serpent in the garden (“Did God actually say . . . ?—Gen. 3:1) or church tradition (16th century catholicism) or intellectualism (17th & 18th century enlightenment) or higher criticism (19th century) or full-blown postmodernism (20th—21stcentury), our enemy attempts to distract us from Scripture any way he can.
The latest challenge making the rounds is “the-Holy-Spirit-told-me” mysticism. It’s nothing more than a repackaged form of Quakerism, which denies the sufficiency of Scripture.
Pastors, sadly, are often the worst culprits. They throw around phrases laced with mysticism: “God told me,” or “The Holy Spirit spoke to me,” or “God woke me up in the middle of the night and showed me . . .” What they are doing (oftentimes without thinking) is stamping God’s authority on an idea or agenda they have. Worse, they implicitly train their flock to trust “their” voice, not God’s Voice as He revealed it in the single, verbal meaning of Holy Scripture.
Politicians do it, too. Recently, I heard two politicians running against each other both claim God told them they would win the election. One of them lost.
Just because we have an emotional experience, goose bumps, warm fuzzies, or a dream doesn’t mean it came from the Holy Spirit of God. A man once told me, “The Holy Spirit gets a lot of credit for saying things the Holy Spirit never said.” He was spot-on. I’ve had people say to me: “God-told-me-to-tell-you . . .”. If it truly was God, we should reduce it to writing and staple it to the back of our Bible. “Why?” they ask. Because if God said it, it constitutes divine revelation.
Something More Sure
The Apostle Peter—who, himself, heard God’s voice when Jesus was transfigured—says “we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention’” (2 Pet. 1:19).
We live in a free society. People are free to believe what they want. The Bible is sufficient for me.
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