Knowing God Through Experience

You will never be satisfied with just knowing about God. We often try but this always proves to be lacking and deficient. Life is so defeated when we just know about God, just a lot of facts and stats from the Bible. Knowing him comes only through experiencing him as he reveals himself to you.

I love that story of Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3-4). God initiates a relationship with Moses by speaking through that bush that burned yet was not being consumed. Eventually Moses asks the “elephant in the room” question, “When they ask me the name of this God who sent me, what am I supposed to tell them?” God tells him, “Tell them I AM THAT I AM has sent you” (Exodus 3:13-14). Moses comes to know God more fully through experience.

Abraham similarly came to know God more fully through experience. God asked him to sacrifice his only son, the son of promise, the one he loves. It was a test of obedience. God stopped the sacrifice and provided a ram in place of his son, and Abraham passed the test. The event was significant in the life of Abraham and he named the place, YHWH Yireh, “The LORD will Provide.”

Interestingly enough, Abraham did not use the past tense (since the ram was already provided), he used a “future” language. The significance is that this is the same location that generations from that time, God would provide the ultimate sacrifice of his own Son to provide salvation for the whole world (Genesis 22:14). God’s provision “will be seen.”

The next question is for us, “When and where have you experienced God so fully, intimately, and significantly that you actually are able to NAME that place?” How did you come to experience God? What name did you call him? This story in your life may be your salvation story, or it may be a time since your salvation where God became a real person to you. I’d love to hear your story.

If your interested, I have a list of Names of God throughout the Bible.

The Seven Realities

Here are the seven realities of experiencing God:

  1. God is always at work around you.
  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
  3. God invites you to become involved with him in his work.
  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal himself, his purposes and his ways.
  5. God’s invitations for you to work with him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what he is doing.
  7. You came to know God by experience as you obey him and accomplish his work.

We tend to ask questions trying to determine whether we really heard from God…

  1. How can I know it is God speaking to me?
  2. How do I know where God is at work?
  3. What kind of adjustments will I have to make to be obedient?
  4. What is the difference between adjustment and obedience?

Here are three similarities in the lives of biblical servants through whom God worked:

  1. When God spoke, they knew it was from God.
  2. They knew what God was saying.
  3. They knew what they were to do in response.

Let’s look at the seven realities of Experiencing God in the life of Moses:

  1. God is always at work around you. The people groaned in slavery, cried out to God, and he heard them, he looked on and was concerned (Exodus 2:23-25) .
  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal. Moses came up to the mountain of God and talked with him, and told Moses of his plans for deliverance (Exodus 24:12, 15-16, 18).
  3. God invites you to become involved with him in his work. God said he was sending Moses (Exodus 3:8, 10) to do the work of God.
  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal himself, his purposes and his ways. The lord appeared in the flames of the bush, and later while Moses would visit God face to face (Exodus 3:2-8, Numbers 12:6-8).
  5. God’s invitations for you to work with him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action. Moses gave five excuses why God could have picked a better person for this job (Exodus 3:11, 13, 4:1, 10, 13).
  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what he is doing. God said GO and Moses started back to Egypt (Exodus 4:19-20).
  7. You came to know God by experience as you obey him and accomplish his work. Moses came to know God more intimately through his obedience (Exodus 14:15-17, 21-23, 26-27, 29-31).

When God is about to do something, he reveals to a person or to his people what he is about to do. Points to remember are that God sees, hears, cares, acts and has a plan for this people. When God reveals what he is about to do, that revelation becomes an invitation for us to join him. The great part is that God is already at work in the place he is going to send us!

God uses ordinary people to accomplish his purposes. We often think of Elijah as an extraordinary person of faith, but the Bible actually tells us he was ordinary (James 5:18-19). Peter and John were nothing special to the rest of the world (Acts 4:13) but were used in a mighty way by God. This is God’s pattern to use the weak to accomplish mighty things (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). When people don’t measure up to human standards, God is still at work in their lives.

When you believe that nothing significant can happen through you, you have said more about your belief in God than you have said about yourself. – D. L. Moody

The Transfiguration

Today we are going to continue in the series for the month, called Encounters with Jesus. This message begins with one of the more spectacular events in the life of Jesus, and involves three of his closest men. Then, what follows the transfiguration story is of particular interest because hopefully we will identify with this man who had a son with an unclean spirit. So turn to Mark chapter 9 where we can find a little background to our encounter with Jesus.

ASCENDING the Mountain – Mark 9:1-2a

  1. The Prophecy – Mark 9:1 – Some would not taste death until they saw the kingdom of God, after it has come with power. This would be a reference to the next event which was the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain. It was sort of a mini-kingdom vision of Jesus in his glorified state.
  2. The People – Mark 9:2a – Six days later, Jesus selects his three closest men, Peter, James and John to accompany him up to a high mountain. This was likely NOT Mt. Hermon, which has a snowy peak that rises 9,232 feet, and is the highest point in the Promised Land. Perhaps it was one of the foothills surrounding Caesarea Philippi, where Peter made his great confession of Jesus’ identity, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” This transfiguration event evidently made a huge impact on Peter and John, since they refer to the transfiguration in their writings (John 1:14, 2 Peter 1:16-18)

ON the Mountain – Mark 9:2b-8 – he was transfigured before them; so what did they see?

  1. The Apparel of the Savior – Mark 9:2b-3 – When Jesus was born on this earth, his glory was veiled or hidden. At that time he came in humiliation, he was a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief. But He will one day return in glory and no one will mistake Him then. He will be visibly the King of kings and Lord of lords. THIS transfiguration event was a foretaste of things to come.
  2. The Appearance by Elijah and Moses  – Mark 9:4
    1. Elijah is mentioned in Malachi 4:5-6 in connection with the future coming of Christ. I believe THIS is why people in the gospels asked John the Baptist if he were Elijah (John 1:21).
    2. Moses was the lawgiver and liberator of the Hebrew people, while Elijah was the first of the great prophets. The presence of these two men, representing the Law and the Prophets, confirmed the reality that Jesus is the Messiah of Peter’s confession.  We read about Peter’s confession in Mathew 16:16 (You are the Christ, the Son of the living God) which is then followed but the Transfiguration story in Matthew 17.
  3. The Assumption by Peter– Mark 9:5-6
    1. The Title – Mark 9:5 – We often have the same story in different gospels, but there are slight variations in what we read. The synoptic Gospels use three different words for Peter’s addressing of Jesus. Rabbi (Mark 9:5), Master (Luke 9:33), and Lord (Matthew 17:4) are separate Greek translations of whatever Hebrew or Aramaic word Peter used to address Jesus on the mount. Mark’s emphasis is on Jesus’ respected position among the disciples as their leader, so he used the term Rabbi.
    2. The Tents – Mark 9:5 – Three tabernacles (or booths) suggests that he wanted to STAY on the mountain and continue to enjoy this mountaintop experience. But this experience was not to be savored, but to prepare him to carry his cross and live out his faith in the day-to-day world, down in the valleys of life.
    3. The Terror – Mark 9:6 – As you know, Peter often blurted out words without thinking them through. Here, he likely was putting Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah when Christ is clearly in a class by himself. “Let’s make three tents” likely all the tents would be the same kind. THAT is something that should bother us as well. How often do we say that Jesus is our “buddy” or use some other term of familiar endearment to describe him? We must always remember that Jesus is the Creator of this universe, and the Sacrifice that was made in order to bring our salvation. He is much more than a causal relationship; Peter might have forgotten the awe and wonder of who Jesus really was.
    4. The Truth – what can we learn from this event? How about this… How many times do we have some wonderful spiritual experience and our desire is to stay here and never leave? Perhaps the worship was great, the music was wonderful, the retreat was insightful, the conference was uplifting. When we leave the event to go back down the mountain, we can’t wait for the time when we will have another powerful experience to keep us sustained in life. How about THIS for a lesson? Don’t desire to remain on the mountain in memory of a past vision. While we encounter God through our worship experiences here, Jesus needs us to be active in THIS world, OUTSIDE the church walls. Jesus does not intend for us to stay on the mountain, so don’t seek to build a tabernacle or tent so you can stay there. Mountaintop experiences are great, but we belong elsewhere, and I’ll get to THAT in a moment.
  4. The Approval by the Father– Mark 9:7-8
    1. Peter speaks, at an inappropriate time, and a cloud forms. The cloud may have been the shekinah (or glory) cloud which stayed in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and temple in OT times. It was the visible expression of God’s presence. The text indicates the very same thing, the Father shows up; his presence is right there on the mountain.
    2. The Father speaks, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him!” It was as if God was telling Peter to “shut up and stop speaking, THIS is my beloved Son, listen to HIM.” He is NOT just one of the boys along with Moses and Elijah, he is MY SON. So for us, when we come into the presence of God, we should NOT be the ones with all the words. Don’t just blurt out something in an awkward moment of silence, but listen.
    3. Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that the voice of God the Father was heard audibly three times during the life of Christ? The other two occasions were at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:11) and during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (John 12:28).

DESCENDING the Mountain – Mark 9:9-10

  1. The Command – Mark 9:9 – On the way down the mountain, Jesus gives the three disciples specific instructions to NOT tell anyone about what they have seen until after his resurrection from the dead.
  2. The Confusion – Mark 9:10 – I love this next verse, that they seized upon the statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead might mean!

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God’s Greatness and Service

So, just how can we get people to take the call of God seriously? I’m not talking about God calling them to salvation, but God calling people to a live of sacrificial service. Why is volunteerism dead in so many places? What will it take to get people on board with God’s purpose and mission in the world?

As you read through the Bible, you’ll notice that whenever people come face to face with God’s greatness, the next scene often shows them on mission.

  • Moses trembles before God in the burning bush. Next he is standing before Pharaoh saying, “Let my people go!” The majesty of God displayed before Moses’ eyes on a faraway hillside is the same majesty God displays before the greatest empire of the day.
  • Isaiah caught a vision of the Lord in His temple that was so staggering that he fell on his face like a dead man. Notice God didn’t even have to tell him what to do. God simply asks, “Who shall go?” and the awestruck Isaiah volunteers: “Here am I. Send me!”
  • The Samaritan woman at the well was amazed at the supernatural knowledge of Jesus. Next we see her running into town telling her friends and family about His greatness.
  • The women at the tomb are the first to witness the resurrection power of God. Next we see them telling everyone, “We have seen the Lord!”
  • Peter denies Christ and hides. After encountering the greatness of King Jesus, we see him boldly proclaiming Christ as Messiah and Lord before thousands of people.
  • Paul has an encounter with the risen Jesus, and then he spends the rest of his life seeking to help the Gentiles see the very One who initially blinded him.

Why should it be any different with us? Missional fruitfulness comes from a heart gripped by God’s greatness and overwhelmed with His grace.

May we be so mesmerized by the glory of Jesus Christ that we count it as nothing to lose our lives for the spread of His fame! Let’s get on our faces before God and then get on our feet for His mission.

[print_link] [email_link] [Trevin Wax]