Summary: Part 1 in the new series, The Company We Keep, Dave expels the myth that faith is an irrational leap into the unknowable dark. Rather, faith must be based on knowledge, which comes through experience.
The Company We Keep, prt. 1
Wildwind Community Church
April 30, 2009
Ps 34:8 (NLT)
8Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Experience is the basis of relationship. If you know someone, you have experienced them in some way. What does it mean to experience someone? It simply means to have experiences with them. You have experienced your boss. You have experienced your teachers at school. Those of you who know one another have experienced each other. If you bump into a person on a crowded street, you experience that person in some way. And of course you have experienced your spouse, and you have experienced that person in ways – both positive and negative – that you have not experienced anyone else. Experience is the basis of relationship.
See, to experience something is to come to know it. The more experience you accumulate with a person, the more you will know them. That’s why in the Old Testament when it talks about sex it says it this way:
Ge 4:1 (KJV)
1And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.
Ge 4:17 (KJV)
17And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.
Ge 4:25 (KJV)
25And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth…
To have sex with someone is a way of experiencing that person, and to experience someone is to know them, and to really know someone is to love them. But what I love here with the sex reference is that is helps us understand knowing as something that goes far beyond a collection of facts jostling around in our minds. Truly knowing someone comes from experiencing them deeply – not necessarily sexually – but deeply. It is safe to say the more you know someone, the more you have experienced them.
In the mid-90’s, a pastor and teacher named Henry Blackaby set the Christian world on fire with his groundbreaking book Experiencing God. He lays out seven realities in the book, the last of which is this:
You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.
You come to know God how? By experience. Experience is the basis of relationship. Let me say this as clearly as possible. You do not primarily come to know God through listening to sermons. You do not primarily come to know God through reading books about him. You do not primarily come to know God by talking about him or preaching about him, or by quitting your job and going into “professional ministry.” The primary way you come to know God is by experience, as you obey him. Obedience is the context for knowing God. This no big deal. All relationships have a context that is appropriate for that relationship. God has submitted to us and continues to submit to us in Jesus and we submit to God in obedience. Healthy relationships always involve mutual submission. So obedience is the context (environment) for knowing God.
I was talking to Sarah Oskey in the office last week and she was talking about Mary and how she must have been affected by seeing the empty tomb after the resurrection. That set me to thinking about what it would do to someone to have an experience like that and how it would have expanded her understanding of Jesus so drastically. Then I started thinking about how experience with people always helps us know them better. As we experience someone, we are “treated” to new and different aspects of their character and personality. And that got me to thinking about how the journey with God is a journey of experience. Some would say it’s a journey of emotion. Some would say it’s a journey of belief. Some would call it a journey of commitment. And though all of those things are included, they all spring from experience. I will feel strongly about what I have experienced. I will believe deeply what I have experienced. I will commit willingly to what I have experienced. In fact, I cannot feel strongly about that which I have not experienced. I cannot believe deeply what I have not experienced. And I ultimately cannot commit very strongly to what I have not experienced. I believe this is the problem with the church today – millions of people are trying to live Christian lives on the basis of very little actual experience with (knowledge of) God. Experience is the basis of relationship. And experience is a way of knowing. The only way to experience God consistently is to obey him. Let me tell you a story about that.