Experiences and theology

Thought of the day: it is often said that we need to let “our experiences rise to meet the word of God”. The premise being that our theology should define our experience and not the other way around.

It is often used when the experience in this life doesn’t meet the expectations set out in the bible – we need to look to the bible and believe the good stuff it says rather than the reality we are facing. Commonly used regarding healing and prosperity.

Question: when has this rung true for people in the bible and when has it not? Also, in our context, when has this statement been used to justify questionable/less robust theology?

The conclusion

I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come:
As fish are caught in a cruel net,
or birds are taken in a snare,
so people are trapped by evil times
that fall unexpectedly upon them.

Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

So this is how life was explained to me when I was young: study hard, get good grades, find a good job and you will prosper and live a good life. Unfortunately, thats not how life works. Solomon’s observation about life (without a view of God and eternity, thus the constant use of “under the sun”) has led him to conclude that “time and chance happen to them all”. He was absolutely right. Some people study the hardest but never get the grades they deserve while others drop out of college and end up as CEOs and directors of multinational companies. And some never make it beyond their first few years on earth. Life is unpredictable because things don’t always add up.

But for one person, everything adds up just perfectly. For Him, everything makes perfect sense and everything functions just as it is supposed to cymbalta for pain. Nothing surprises Him, nothing is unpredictable because “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). He controls every detail of what happens on earth, from small seemingly inconsequential events (Proverbs 16:33) to calamities that claim lives (Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6).

So why do we harp on having success, health and wealth as the formula to a good life? God’s will always prevails over man’s best efforts. He can raise up and bring down at any time He wishes. This is not to say that we are supposed to be fatalistic and be bums (scriptures speak specifically against that – Ecclesiastes 10:18; Colossians 3:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12) but I think we need to redefine what we constitutes a good and successful life. Life is much more than evading suffering, having good health and great wealth. I think we need to have an eternal perspective to life.

Even as I write this, I am reminded of Matthew 6:33 again and again.

Abundant life

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:7-10

The preferred way of understanding John 10:10 is that Christ has come to obtain for us life abundant which begins now. It entails a full and long life here on earth filled with great health and wealth. It promises that eternal life begins here and now, and the wonderful promises that the Old Testament is talking about is available immediately to the believer. If we would claim what He has attained for us and put our faith to it, we can have it all!

But we know that life doesn’t quite work that way. The reality is that some of us suffer from cancer and others will remain poor. Health and wealth doesn’t hold up to what reality presents us with. The truth is that God’s kingdom is not measured by health or wealth . In fact, Paul calls this life “our light and momentary troubles” or affliction in the ESV (2 Corinthians 4:16). Not quite the picture of health and wealth that we’re being presented with these days.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
John 14:6-7

Jesus isn’t just the gate that leads us to abundant life, He IS the abundant life. His version of abundant life doesn’t look like great health and wealth. If that were true, Peter, Paul, Timothy and all the other New Testament saints would have to be classed as sinners! Jesus’ abundant life looks like life in Him. Abundant life looks like life in Christ, with and without health and wealth. It looks like everything else fading in importance compared to glorifying Christ (Matthew 13:45-46). Wealth and health is of no value when we compare it to Christ! Yet, everything in Christ seems to have more meaning and value because we see it’s role in glorifying Him (Colossians 1:15-17).

“All who have come before me” is also be translated as “all who have come instead of me”. Anything that replaces Christ is a thief and robber. Anything including the abundance or lack of health and wealth, false prophets, false messiahs and false teachings. Anything that has come to replace Christ as the prime goal, the pinnacle of life is a thief and robber. Don’t be fooled, the devil is not after our health and wealth, he is after your soul. He might inflict us with abundance of health and wealth or deprive us of health and wealth, but his aim is to remove Christ as the pinnacle in our lives.

Abundant life is not to have a good life, it is to have life in Christ and that is all.

To bear arms

When it came time to bear arms
Against mine enemy
The truth of my mortality
I resisted.

Bear resilience! Take up arms!
The fight already
In my mind begun
But then I saw.

Within the ugly crevice of mine foe
A truth
It’s maker, His face divine
And a dawning realization.

The face of its maker, also mine.
Then all resistance yielded
That in my humanity
The Glory of His deity- eternal.

There is no need for more.

Believe and see

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, replied, “Lord, by the time the body will have a bad smell, because he has been buried four days.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?”
John 11:39-40

Martha was a woman just like any of us, fickle in our belief. In one moment, she stands in agreement with Jesus’ powerful declaration of Himself and announces her belief in Him (John 11:25-27), but when she is placed before the tomb, her unbelief is revealed so clearly (John 11:39). Jesus couldn’t have been fooled that Martha is concerned about the smell or hygiene issues. To translate what Martha is truly saying, “Lazarus has been dead for four days and is most surely and truly dead. Opening the tomb will do nothing more than release the stink of decomposition.” Jesus can’t possibly resurrect a decomposing body… can he?

Jesus then makes a powerful statement, “if you believe, you would see the glory of God”. Believe and see the glory. What did Jesus mean see the glory? Was it just seeing the miracle?

For this reason they could not believe, because again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and understand with their heart, and turn to me, and I would heal them.
Isaiah said these things because he saw Christ’s glory, and spoke about him.
John 12:39-41

Jesus later spoke about those who did not believe in Him and contrasted them against Isaiah who “saw Christ’ glory”. Here, seeing the glory of Christ was the same as believing in Jesus as Christ cymbalta generic. Think about how Jesus helped the unbelieving father to believe – he healed his daughter. Think about how Jesus helps unbelieving Martha to believe – he resurrected her brother. Seeing God’s glory isn’t just seeing the miracles, it is believing in the person and mission of Jesus Christ.

But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.
John 10:38

Jesus is the glory of God (John 1:14). To see God’s glory is to see Jesus as Christ. But not just as Christ the saviour of the world, but Christ who is capable of resurrection and life – the one that death has no hold over. When Jesus prays “Father, glorify me at your side…” (John 17:4), He speaks of being raised from death and being in God’s presence – not by removing His humanity, but glorifying His humanity. Jesus speaks of His bodily resurrection as His glorification. It is the confirmation that Jesus is Christ – that death has no hold over Him (1 Corinthians 15). Lazarus resurrection was a demonstration of Jesus’ power over death and foreshadows His own resurrection/glorification… and ours (Romans 8:18).

This is big news. When we believe, we see His glory and we possess His glory. We possess His resurrection. The confirmation of life eternal is founded in the glory and glorification of Jesus Christ.

He called you to this salvation through our gospel, so that you may possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:14

Blood

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.
Leviticus 17:11:

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
1 Peter 1:18-19

God made blood. He created the idea of a liquid in creatures that carries life. It was created with a purpose – for atonement of sin. Since death is the penalty of sin, the loss of blood (which is the life) of a creature is the only way to meet that penalty (Hebrews 9:22). The loss of life of the creature is the loss of it’s blood  (Genesis 9:4-6). In God’s Covenant (Old Testament Law and New Testament Law of Grace), blood is the central and only way by which sin is atoned for.

God remains above the Laws he created; in His very nature, He had no obligation towards us or His Law, which He put in place for created beings. Yet He choose to submit Himself under His own Law and atone for our sin with His own blood – the blood of Christ. The very blood of God was used to atone for my sin. The precious blood of Jesus Christ was given for the redemption of my life. 

His blood is central to everything that has been accomplished for us:

  • Redemption (1 John 1:7; Hebrews 9:12)
  • God’s presence (Hebrews 10:19-20; Hebrews 12:22-24)
  • Reconciliation (Colossians 1:20)
  • Justification (Romans 5:9)
  • Sanctification (Hebrews 13:12)
  • Glorification (Revelation 7:14-15)

There is no other way to respond to this than to accept His grace and be utterly grateful.

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

The Rudder

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
Luke 6:45

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
James 3:3-5

The tongue has the power of life and death, 
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:21

These verses speak of the power of the tongue. It’s ability to articulate what is inside a person in Luke 6. It’s ability to steer the whole person in James 3. It’s ability to create life or bring death in Proverbs 18. It is a God given ability. It is an ability that originated and is demonstrated by Him. But this ability can go both ways, good or evil, and we will eat the fruit of it’s use.

This is how God uses His ability now:

The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

Listen to how He chooses to use his tongue. He rejoices over us with singing, in His love, with great delight. Read also Zephaniah 3:9-13 and notice what God does with His Holy People and Chosen Nation, he “will purify the lips”, “will remove from you your arrogant boasters”, “they will tell no lies. A deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths”. Then He says “Sing, Daughter Zion; shout aloud, Israel!” (v14) because His redemption has come. This prophesy was one of Messianic hope, which is reality now.

The tongue brings to reality what is stored inside a person – the good and evil is respectively brought to the reality of life or death. It is the reality maker. We can change our thinking and change our mind, but until it comes out from our mouths, nothing has changed at all because our reality is still the same.

I need to choose wisely how and when my tongue is used. My tongue is the agent of change. If anything is to change, it is to be articulated. I do not disregard what I feel, but I intentionally choose to articulate the direction that I want to be heading in.


Father, thank you for supernatural abilities like these. Sometimes I wish that I have some superpower without recognizing that I already have one. I ask for wisdom in how and when I speak. Lord, I thank you that you rejoice over me with singing. I thank you that when no one else takes great delight in me, you do. I want to use my tongue just like you do.

Amen.