Summary: The Believers pursuit of intellectual knowledge vs experience is considered in this message.
I remember as a young believer just starting my spiritual journey that I would walk in and through the presence of God effortlessly. I lived and breathed the supernatural. Signs and Wonders followed with me everywhere! The anointing was powerful! Then I began my Bible training and was told those things don’t happen anymore. So, I began to focus less on my experiential knowledge walking with Jesus and more on increasing my cerebral knowledge about Jesus. Now, decades later I am back to growing in the passionate heart knowledge of Jesus. The supernatural anointing is fresh and new every morning, growing stronger every day. I don’t ever want this to be a memory, I want it to continue being a living reality!
However, the Bible warns of a time that signals His return when Christians "will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lust shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned to fables" (2 Tim 4:3,4; see also 1 Tim 1:10; Titus 1:9; 2:1).
Within the Church there is a growing emphasis on experienced-based theology that validates belief rather than the Word of God validating the experience. Too little emphasis is given to the Bible and too much emphasis is given to personal experience, personal revelation, and speculation that have no biblical precedence or historical foundation. As an example, Christians tend to blame things on the demonic and overlook normal Christian growth and maturity which requires personal acknowledgment and repentance of sin from the neglect of God’s Word and living a holy life.
God’s Word is absolute truth but we must maintain humility concerning our “knowledge” of it because no human mind is capable of comprehending it absolutely. To be on the safe side, we should rely on what the Scriptures teach to understand our experience rather than our experiences shaping or adding to our perceptions of the Scriptures. It is of utmost importance to seek greater knowledge and understanding of God. However, knowledge, in and of itself, without the experience of touching God and being touched by Him in a very intimate and personal way, will fail to satisfy human reasoning because the hidden things of God are only found deep within the Spirit. Because He transcends the natural God desires that we also experience the supernatural with Him. Spending all our time learning about Jesus and not spending time with Jesus will lead to spiritual barrenness.
The Disciple Thomas is an example of one living in the sensory, soulish realm of empirical certainty, relying on feelings and personal experiences in order to believe. He wouldn’t believe that Jesus was alive even after the other Disciples told him they had seen Him because he had to experience it personally. He said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." Jesus chastised him for this and said; "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:24-29 NIV).
Human logic, opinion, emotions, feelings, dreams, visions, experiences, clinical “evidence”, church dogma, or the teachings of “spiritual” leaders can never be the basis for sound doctrine. The Born-Again Christian must learn to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7 KJV). The Christian walk can’t be established upon sensory spirituality or experiential exegesis that is based upon the belief in the abstract and subjective “I hear - I see - I feel - therefore it must be real” feelings, emotions and experiences. The five main senses: taste - feel - hear- see - smell - are all rooted in the flesh of man. The “I know it’s true because I ‘feel’ it in my heart” approach to biblical truth only leads to error and deception. The Bible tells us that "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool" (Prov 28:26 KJV) because the "human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9 NLT). It must be God’s written Word which is the cognitive, the concrete foundation, to base all decisions and belief. The Bible must be studied from God’s perspective- not mans.
The relating of experiences or “divine revelation” outside of the Word of God is what Paul calls “fables” (1 Tim 1:4). The minute we open the door and teach from the basis of experience we lose authority and introduce confusion. We should consider experience, but also note the limits of the knowledge which God has revealed. Experience does not add to the truth of Scripture. Believers are not to be "tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14).