Experiencing God; August 23, 2020

John 9:25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

It has been observed that a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. This man had just experienced the grace and power of God in Christ Jesus, and nothing the Pharisees said could take that away from him. Theology, and knowledge in general, are important, but they cannot substitute for experiencing the presence and love of God. That’s why we speak of “ivory tower” academics, people who deal in theories entirely and never get into the down-and-dirty of real life. Too much evangelism seems to be geared to getting people to agree to a set of facts, when what is needed is to encourage them to open their hearts to their Creator who loves them, so that He can touch them and make them whole. Bill Gaither’s song, He Touched Me, is about exactly that. Likewise, the song, He Lives, speaks of assurance because of Jesus living in our heart. There is much we don’t know in this life, and indeed cannot know, but if we have experienced the touch of God in our life and accept Him by faith, we don’t really need to know anything else.

I come from a very academic, intellectual family, but fortunately it was rooted even more in faith than in intellect. My father wrote his PhD dissertation on the Greek use of In Christ in the New Testament, but he told me that he didn’t understand it until after that, when he had a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. As academic and intellectual as he was, it was the experience that brought it home and made it real. I distinctly remember one time as a child asking my mother how I could really know I was a Christian, and she quoted the song, He Lives, to me about Jesus being alive in my heart, and I was fully satisfied. I wish I could say I listened obediently to God consistently after that, but unfortunately I got all wrapped up in intellectual conceit, thinking I was somewhere above the “ignorant masses” around me. God had to give me another personal encounter with Himself to snap me out of that, and it was devastating, but I couldn’t be more grateful. I too have experienced God in ways that no argument can shake. As the secular song says, “They can’t take that away from me.” I minister in Japan, which is demonstrably one of the hardest mission fields in the world, with less than 2% active Christians after enormous resources have been poured into evangelism for over 100 years. The Guinness Book of World Records proclaimed the Japanese to have the highest average intelligence of any people group, and I think that has distracted things. From the start, missions in Japan tended to focus on the upper class, the intelligencia, and there were some notable successes but not much penetration into the culture as a whole. In contrast, in Korea it was the common people who received the Gospel, and conservative estimates put Christians at at least 30% of the population. My gifting is as a teacher, but I must not think that facts alone will actually change anyone.

Father, this is a huge issue. I ask You to manifest Yourself in and through my ministry, so that I may be able to say as Paul did, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5) I am a man of words. Help me remember that words alone are never enough. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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