Experience Versus God’s Word

Text: Deuteronomy 13:1-5

Christians are commanded to love the LORD their God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might (Deuteronomy 6:5). Christ called this “the first and great commandment”. A Christian’s love for God will be manifested in His obedience to the Holy Scriptures. Jesus taught this succinctly in John 14:15 – “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

God at times may permit us to be subjected to testing so that we may know whether we truly love Him with all our heart. Do we have God’s Word first in our lives?

In Deuteronomy 13:1-5, when the children of Israel were about to enter the Promise Land, Moses warned that God would allow false prophets to come into their midst. These false prophets would seek to tear them away from God and His Word. This is the test for the children of Israel: “for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

There would be two types of false prophets. The first type would be those whose word would not come to pass (Deut. 18:22). The second type, how-ever, is subtler. These false prophets would prophesy, and the signs and wonders would come to pass. Appealing to people’s experiences of the miracles, these false prophets would then attempt to draw them away the LORD to worship and serve false gods.

Satan is a master deceiver. He knows that we are creatures who are very much bound by our senses. Thus, we tend to put our trust in our senses and experiences. The appeal to the senses can be a very powerful tool of deception. It can lead us away from following Christ and corrupt our testimony for Him.

If the signs and wonders do come to pass, how then can an Israelite know whether a prophet is true or false? The only way is to check what the prophet teaches with the Word of God. Herein is the test of love – if the children of Israel love God, they would have to put their trust in God’s Word and not in their senses.

The issue at hand is that of experience versus the Bible. When experience contradicts the Bible, the believer is to follow the Bible! In other words, God’s Word is more sure than our experiences. This is what Peter taught in 2 Peter where the Scriptures were described as the more sure word of prophecy. God’s Word is even more sure than Peter’s experience of the transfiguration on the mount! “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:16-21)

The Bible also tells us that there will be many false prophets and teachers in the last days. One of the deceptions in contemporary Christianity is the Signs and Wonders movement. Even when the teachings of the teachers were proven to contradict the Holy Scriptures, many in the movement would still point to their experiences as the basis of truth. However, did not the Scriptures proclaim that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17)? What a sad state of affairs!

A look in the Book of Revelation will reflect how deceptive signs and wonders can be. During the Great Tribulation, the False Prophet alongside the Antichrist do great wonders, and make fire to come from heaven in the sight of men (Rev. 13:13). To top it all, the Antichrist himself was made to appear as if he was wounded unto death, only for his deadly wound to be healed. These miracles will cause the whole world to wonder after the unholy trinity (the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and Satan). The experiences and sights experienced will deceived the men of the world and caused them to rebel against the one living and True God, and worship the Antichrist!

On the other hand, let us not be fooled into thinking that only those taken in by Charismatism are deceived by their senses and experiences. We too can fall into the same trap if we are not careful. When we enter our work-places, institutions of learning or even families, some may approach us to promote ungodly doctrines and philosophies. They exhibit their houses and cars. They display their cards and gadgets. They live seemingly devoid of any cares and worries. “Why don’t you join us?”, they say to us. “See how successful we are? Our doctrine works!” We get enticed by what we see, and before we know it, we are on our way serving mammon rather than God!

The same applies to the church. Many would point to their worldly methods and proclaim how these had caused the church to grow. “Look at the numbers! Look at the smiles! Our method works. Follow us. Your Bible-preaching, Bible-centred method is outdated,” they proclaim. They then peddle their numerous books as authorities of church growth. We then look at the size of their churches and compare it to ours. We then say, “Why not? Let’s follow them.” Alas, when we do so, we fail the test.

How then does one pass the test of love? By being fully committed to God and His Word! His Truth triumphs over experience! For the children of Israel, this meant that they had to surely put the prophet to death (v.5). They must understand that deception of the highest order is presented be-fore them, and is pure wickedness and evil against the LORD who had been so good to them. On the other hand, they must cleave fully unto the keeping of the Word of God. Failure to do so would mean that their “love” for God is nothing but lip-service.

Similarly, we must be careful never to exalt our own wisdom and experiences above the Word of God. Having the appearance of a church-going, hymn-singing, Bible-carrying man without any stand and practise of the truth is but pretentious love. “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” (Romans 12:9)

Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew