Living by the Word seems like cold, dry logic.

This post is part of a series on listening to God “in the heart” through impressions, nudges, or other subjective experiences believed to be the voice of God. My position, very simply put, is that in our day God speaks to us through propositional truths in his Word and only his Word. We can learn scientific truths and common sense from other sources, but God himself conveys his voice only through his Word. Each post has fielded one or two challenges to that proposition, such as:

But I have impressions…
So if my impression isn’t from God, then where is it from?
But isn’t Scripture a filter?
But the impression was to do something good.
God spoke, just less authoritatively.
But experiences persuade when Scripture doesn’t.

The next challenge continues the series. In protest against taking only the Bible as the voice of God we hear and in defense of taking subjective impressions as divine personal guidance in addition to God’s Word it says,

But, living by just the Word (and not subjective impressions) seems like cold, dry logic.

“Living by” means implementing. Implementation first requires the work, the cold, dry tedium(?), of study to learn what applies. It certainly is harder to study the Word than to just feel God and engage in an imaginary conversation. But, the logic being studied is the very words of God and for a purpose of changing your life. Study time can be filled with talking to about what God is saying in what you are studying. Time in the Word and prayer brings joy.

Implementation can be hard, especially when we don’t feel like it. It requires taking the dry logic of a command or principle and applying it with warm energy in thought, word, or deed. It certainly will be cold if it is done just to perform or in one’s own strength. Rather, living by the Word requires walking in the Spirit, in dependence upon His strength, praying “according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16). It is life transforming!

I want intimacy and I want to feel it. On a different note, I believe that underlying this view of God’s Word may be a sincere and good desire for a sense of intimacy. Why desire the feeling? There are at least two reasons, of which one or both may be the case. One, women tend to depend on feelings for guidance and security if not simply enjoyment. Two, the feeling is taken as validation, evidence of something. It validates oneness with God.

I believe that desire to feel intimate oneness with God is perhaps the most pressing motivation driving the common pursuit of listening to God “in the heart.” This person rightly wants a relationship with God that is not just an impersonal reading of print on a page and praying to the ceiling (which I don’t grant is an accurate view). The trouble is, she relies on feelings to verify reality. She trusts in her sense of intimacy to validate that she actually has intimacy. This is faith in feelings, not in the promises of God.

It is also mysticism, the pursuit of personal, unmediated union with God. [1] The person seeks oneness with God through non-rational experiences that seem to provide illumination beyond the propositional truth in the Bible. Mystics believe that spiritual truth cannot be found rationally or through conventional means, cannot be known through the intellect. It comes through inner voices and visions. Mystics use the word “ecstasy” to describe the oneness with God that happens when one gives himself fully to God. [2]

Many Christians who practice mysticism (but wouldn’t agree with that assessment) still believe that God speaks rationally in the Bible, but its propositional truth is not enough. Illumination of the really deep things of God, including His hidden will for what decision he wants the person to make, come through the illumination of impressions. Mental impressions are the voice of God.

Having a private source of revelation is very attractive. God meets you, personally, right in your core. God communicates to you things not found in the Bible, special directions just for you. [3] No Scripture teaches this kind of privatized spirituality.

Can we have intimacy if we don’t feel it? Of course! This happens all the time in loving familial relationships.

Feeling warmth and joy in an intimate fellowship with God is right and good. We should want and enjoy it. However, there is a difference between God’s nearness to us and our sensation of that nearness.

Intimacy may be defined as close familiarity, close knowledge. Galatians 4:7 and 9 say that a Christian is “…no longer a slave, but a son” and “you have come to know God” and “be known by God.” Sonship, knowing and being known are statements of intimate relationship. Christians are one with God as a matter of position. They have been placed into union with Christ. You can’t get closer than that regardless of whether you sense it.

Are feelings part of the Christian life? Yes! The psalms are loaded with expressions of the whole range of emotions in a believer’s walk with God–gladness, anger, joy, sorrow, fear, loneliness, peacefulness, etc. God even commands joy: “Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). But affectionate feelings are a result of truth and obedience, not guides to truth, signs of divine guidance, proofs of right relationship, or a measure of intimacy. One example is this promise of intimacy with Jesus:

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me, and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:21).

It doesn’t say, “He who feels warm affection toward Me, he it is who loves Me.” Rather, obedience to the “dry logic” of commandments is evidence of love and oneness. Jesus discloses himself in the commandments, not in impressions, so when we believe and obey we are showing him our love because we’re showing that we believe him.

We don’t always feel like obeying. If we think feelings are necessary for obedience then we are dependent upon feelings, not the Lord. When we value pleasing God by obedience to the Word more than, or in place of, feelings of connection with God, we are pursuing God as He directs rather than pursuing feelings.

Good feelings often don’t precede obedience; they follow it. When we value pleasing God by obedience to the Word, when we value His glory no matter our feelings, and then we obey, we achieve the goal of pleasing Him and that results in joy and a sense of closeness to Him. Then the feeling of intimacy is delightful, but it wasn’t the goal for the obedience. Loving Him was.

What is God’s assessment of his written Word? Unlike all other books the Bible is more than just print on a page. It is not cold and dry but “living and active,” at least, that’s God’s analysis in Hebrew 4:12. He also describes it as:

  • “piercing,”
  • sharper than a sword,
  • “wonderful,”
  • where “wonderful things” are,
  • a “lamp,”
  • a “path” of delight,
  • wisdom,
  • giving “understanding,”
  • “pure milk,”
  • “truth” that sets free,
  • truth going out from God’s mouth “accomplishing what I desire,”
  • “like fire” and “like a hammer which shatters a rock,”
  • “more desirable than gold” and “sweeter…than honey,”
  • “the joy of my heart” to be loved “exceedingly” [4]

Based on this small sample of God’s assessment, I can’t quite hear him calling his Word “cold, dry logic.”

Can we have two-way intimate communication with God? Living by the Word of God is not dry, but is walking with Jesus the Word incarnate. The Holy Spirit speaks to the believer through his Word by illuminating the meaning of it and giving the child of God faith to believe it. When the Word speaks, God speaks. That means that you and I can hear from God every time we read his Word or rehearse it in memorization, meditation, and song. That can be many times a day!

In prayer, we talk to God. As we listen to what God says through Scripture and then talk to him in prayer, we have an ongoing, personal, intimate conversation with God. Praying his own Word in praise, thanks, and requests exercises close communion. In a careful study of his Word regarding questions we have we will “hear” His counsel for decisions, that is to say, read his own words on the matter. If we want to hear audibly we can read them aloud. With that counsel we can by prayer consider and conform our will to his. Obedient application of his commands deepens the relationship. In all, we by faith rely on the Holy Spirit to be guiding our understanding and enabling our obedience. Our hearts can overflow with joy and delight in relationship with him through the Word of God, prayer, and obedient living.

The Bible holds far more words of God than any man could know and master in a lifetime. We should be joyfully content with the abundant treasure trove God has given in the written Word.

The next post in this series will provide a plan for experiencing intimacy with God in prayer.

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[1] “Mysticism is the search for unio mystica, personal union with God.” Gary Gilley, “Mysticism, a Way of the Past, the Wave of the Future,” (January 2005 – Volume 11, Issue 1), Posted under “Mysticism – Part 1,” 14 January 2009, http://tottministries.org/mysticism-part-1/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Gary Gilley, “Contemplative Prayer, the Heart of Mysticism,” (March 2005 – Volume 11, Issue 3), Posted under  “Mysticism – Part 3,” 14 January 2009, http://tottministries.org/mysticism-part-3/

[4] (Ps. 119:105, 18, 35, 129, 130; Proverbs; Is. 55:11; Jer. 23:29; 1 Pet. 2:2; John 8:31-32; Ps. 19:10; 119:111).

Resources:

 

The Living and Active Word of God
Why Do We Say, ‘God Told Me’?
http://tottministries.org/contemplative-prayer/ (contemplative prayer and spiritual disciplines)

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About Linda

Wifing, Singing, Studying, Counseling M.A. in Biblical Counseling Certified by Association of Certified Biblical Counselors
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