In last week's post I discussed Peter’s incredible encounter with healing the man at the gates called “Beautiful” in Acts 3. I made this statement:
I’m becoming more and more convinced that experience is essential. Action and experimenting are required for us to gain the experience. Head knowledge is good and important, but we also need experiential knowledge.
Acts 4:18-20 reinforces this concept about experience being essential:
"Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”"
Did you catch that? This is much more than head knowledge. They had seen and heard. They had experienced it. And that experience solidified their beliefs to the point where they couldn't help but share it.
So what about us? What about now? Do we have access to this same spiritual authority that Peter and John and the rest of Jesus’s followers were exercising?
Let’s do a quick review of things we “know” (my paraphrase):
Jesus said, “It’s better that I go away because I will send the Holy Spirit to you." -Jn.16:7
Jesus said, “You will do the things I’ve been doing but you will do even greater things." -Jn.14:12
Jesus said, “All authority has been given to me, now I send you." -Matt.28:18-20
The multiple passages that describe the Holy Spirit indwelling us, including John 14:23 where Jesus says “We will make our home in you."
So what will it take for this “head knowledge”, this information we have, these passages we “know”, to become experiential knowledge, where it actually plays out in our life and we are experiencing the truth we proclaim?
I say let’s do some experimenting! Anybody in?
A good friend of mine Keith Uebele talks about when he turned 50, and how he did some self-assessing. He realized that his life here on earth was probably halfway complete, so he wanted to take a hard look at things. Specifically, he looked at the four passages when Jesus sends out the 12 and 72 in Mark 6, Matt. 10, and Luke 9 & 10 where Jesus tells the disciples to do four things:
Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
Heal the Sick
Cast out Demons
Raise the Dead
Keith said, "I turned 50, and realized, in baseball terms, I was 0 for 0 with those last three things that Jesus asked his disciples to do. If this is what Jesus sent the disciples to do, how come I’m not trying any of this? I need to get off the bench. I might go 0 for 100 but I’m not going to come to the end of my life having never gotten off the bench.”
Another good friend and mentor of mine Sam Metcalf always says in response to the four things Jesus sent his disciples to do: "I’ve got two seminary degrees and I didn’t have one class on those last three... and this was ministry 101 for Jesus.”
I’m not sure how this is hitting you. I know I was overwhelmed at first as I was trying to reconcile my experience, or lack thereof, with the truth of scripture and what I actually believed.
But wherever you are on the journey, it is very important to be where you are. My good friend Paul has helped me with this tremendously. Don’t try and be at a place you’re not and don’t feel bad about where you are. Be honest with where you are, your beliefs, and your questions. This is crucial! And you can rest in the fact that Jesus will meet you there, wherever you are, because he modeled this over and over again to us in the scriptures.
With that, wherever you are starting from, what do you say we do some experimenting along the journey? Do you realize that in every other part of life we understand the value of practice and we know that if we don’t practice, if we don’t work at something, we won’t be any good at it? The same is true with our spiritual lives. Without practice, without stepping to the plate, we will stay 0 for 0.
Most of us also have a very strong fear of failure. We are scared to fail. This is something that runs deep in our culture. And this fear really keeps us from action, risk, and trying things out. But here’s the deal, with experiments, there is no failure, only learning. That's the nature of an experiment. Like Thomas Edison said about his process of inventing the lightbulb, “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Here are some potential experiments to try. None of these below involve healing the sick, casting out demons, or raising the dead, but what they will do is put you in position to gain more intimacy with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As for the four things that Jesus asked the disciples to do when he sent them out, I think it's important for us to to ask the question, "Do we have this same spiritual authority that the disciples had? Why or why not? If we don't, what are the implications of that? If we do, what are the implications and how do we step more into it?"
Lent: (Starts tomorrow, Mar. 1st) Jamie and I discovered the church calendar for the first time a few years ago and we have found the seasons of Lent and Advent to be very rich seasons of preparing our hearts. If you haven’t ever participated in Lent, beyond just giving up dessert :), there are some phenomenal devotionals out there. (Two devotionals I have loved in the past are put out by Renovare:"Engage" and "Less is More". You can find those by clicking here.Another amazing Lent resource is put out by Biola and is an online daily email resource. You can sign up for that here). I would encourage you to do some research, get a devotional of some kind to follow, and prepare your heart for the forty days leading up to Easter. One amazing thing about the church calendar is that the majority of Christians from around the world are participating in Lent along with you. There is something beautiful and about being together with the larger body of Christ in this way.
Experiment with somenew Spiritual Disciplines: I bet if I asked you to list out the spiritual disciplines that you know or have tried you could probably list 5-7 different ones. In this book, “The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook”, Adele Calhoun has 66 different spiritual disciplines for you to experiment with. I couldn’t believe it when I first looked at the table of contents. The format of how she lays it out is brilliant as well as her teaching in the introduction about the spiritual disciplines. Also, I would recommend two spiritual disciplines that were new for me a few years ago and have helped me grow in intimacy with the Lord:
Centering Prayer: This is a great way to begin practicing the discipline of solitude because it is only 20 minutes and there are some guidelines to help you in your time with the Lord. (learn more here)
Lectio Divina: This is a fresh way to read and meditate on the scriptures while at the same time learning to hear from God. (learn more here)
Experiment with Hearing God’s Voice: Here are three different experiments you can try in your time with the Lord:
John 10:1-10: This one has you sit with this passage regarding the Good Shepherd. (click here)
Friendship Questions: I love this exercise of asking God some very casual and important questions (click here)
Hearing God for others: This is a fun one to listen on behalf of somebody you love and then bless them with what you hear (click here)
Remember, there is no failure, only learning and deeper intimacy with the Lord awaits!