The Sufficiency of Scripture for Knowing God | January 23rd, 2023
Do you ever feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things you want to accomplish? As I have started leading a new Bible Study this year on the attributes of God, I am beginning to feel that there just aren’t enough hours in a lifetime to learn everything I want to know about Him! The more I study God’s Word, the more I know His character and have a better understanding of who He is. It is shown all throughout His Word!
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15
Knowing God is much more than just knowing about Him. It is also knowing Him deeply and intimately by being in a relationship with Him so we can reflect His image and bring Him glory. This is exactly what we were created for. As we grow in our knowledge of who He is, we grow to love Him and find that our heart begins to align with His.
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Philippians 3:8a
The first step in knowing God is turning away from our sin and turning toward Jesus Christ, the only One who can save us from our sin. It was His death on the cross that provided forgiveness to cleanse us from our unrighteousness and His resurrection from the grave so we could have eternal life. He is the only way to a personal knowledge of God. In John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
As followers of Christ, our pursuit of knowing God must be centered on Him and based upon the Word of God. The Scriptures are our final authority to what we believe and how we live.
Sola scriptura is one of the five solae (from the Latin meaning “alone”) of the foundational set of Christian theological principles central to the doctrine of justification (declaring righteous) and salvation. These include sola scriptura (by scripture alone), sola fide (by faith alone), sola gratia (by grace alone), solus Christus (in Christ alone) and Soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone).
Sola scriptura means Scripture alone is all that is needed for the faith and practice of the believer in Christ because it is authoritative, complete, and true. It is the only way to avoid keeping personal opinion from taking priority over the Bible’s teachings.
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, for His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:2-3
We are watching the boundaries of Scripture, as the ultimate authority, being crossed at a rapid pace in the evangelical church. People are seeking to experience God in ways that are not through His ordained means of revealing Himself to us. They are ways found nowhere in Scripture.
God gave His Word to us so that we would know and experience Him. He is the Word! Now, we can probably all think of times we’ve experienced His character such as His splendor and majesty while watching a breathtaking sunset or His power as the mighty ocean waves are rolling in. Not all of our encounters with God include an open Bible. However, this is still being consistent with sola scriptura if what we are experiencing of God in that moment is interpreted by His Word…
Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. 1 Chronicles 29:11a
The key is that we constantly go back to the Word of God to guide our experiences. Seeking to experience God in ways that conflict with Scripture is called mysticism.
What is Mysticism?
The goal of mysticism is to have deep, intense connection to God to obtain true spirituality or even hidden knowledge of God (gnosticism). When one goes into a state of silence, opening the mind and heart, it is believed you are better able to hear God’s guidance and receive His full attention or presence. You are essentially seeking an altered state of consciousness and contact with the spiritual world.
For the mystic, closeness to God happens through subjective experiences rather than those that are objective or rational. When untethered from Scripture, there is no way of knowing if “direct experience” of God is actually with the One true God or if it’s from other spirits masquerading as such.
Intimacy with God is intended for all followers of Christ and is not disguised by any type of mysterious practice. Experiencing God requires discipline in the study of Scriptures to truly know Him by reading and meditating on His Word. Without a belief in the sufficiency of Scripture, people create their own spiritual truth out of deceiving, self-generated feelings which are given greater importance than the Bible. Mysticism destroys discernment.
Because we are sinful and can easily be led astray, we cannot rely on ourselves to be guided spiritually in the right direction. Instead, we must practice humble reliance on God’s Word which is trustworthy and unchanging.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
Mysticism was first practiced by the Desert Fathers inhabiting land in the Egyptian desert. They were the earliest Christian monks during the end of the second century AD. It was a time of experimentation with spiritual methods. Many methods of prayer were created and explored outside of a biblical context.
Under the banner of “spiritual formation,” several mystic contemplative practices have found their way into the evangelical church. It is truly shocking to see what has crept into so many churches without anyone trying to stop it.
Proponents of spiritual formation teach that anyone can be included in these practices no matter what your religious belief (or lack of one) and can find God within themselves.
Here’s an excerpt from the website for The Center for Contemplative Spirituality:
We come from a variety of secular and religious backgrounds and we each seek to enrich our journey through spiritual practice and study of the world’s great spiritual traditions.
There is nothing biblical about this. Any spiritual tradition other than that which glorifies Jesus Christ is false. Mysticism has cultivated a tolerance for false teaching. With its panentheistic roots (God is in everything), a common thread in many contemplative practices is the flawed belief that we can all be one with God, attaining a higher knowledge of Him through a new awareness, awakening, or enlightenment.
One of God’s incommunicable attributes (those that cannot be true of any human) is that He is infinite…limitless and far beyond our comprehension. We are the opposite. We are finite and limited in every area of life. He is the Creator and we are His creation, never made to be at the level of God.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” Romans 11:33-34
The first time I had ever heard of a Spiritual Director was when I was attending a women’s Bible study group at a Bible church. Our speaker, who also happened to be on their board, was introduced to us as a Spiritual Director. I was curious about what was meant by this title, so I later asked her about it. She explained that it is someone who is a guide or companion on a person’s journey toward “God.”
I asked, “If they are on a path that does not lead them to Jesus Christ, would you just walk with them on that path without interfering?” She answered, “I never try to convert anyone to what I believe. It’s their own path.” I responded, “You do know that Jesus is the only way to heaven (John 14:6) and all other paths lead to hell, right?” She said, “Well, I’m not to judge and that’s not my role as a Spiritual Director.” I responded, “Our role as a born again Christian is to share the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ with everyone. Otherwise, they might not ever hear it. That’s our purpose here!”
Her viewpoint became a little more clear to me as I checked out the Spiritual Director/Companion website with their description:
Meeting with a spiritual director or spiritual companion can be a meaningful step to help you find wholeness and balance in life, not to mention connect with God, Allah, The Universe or however one names the ground of all being.
This is just one of many mystic practices becoming acceptable and even elevated in our Bible churches today. They bring the world into the church such as yoga classes (rooted in Hinduism), Enneagram workshops (rooted in idolatry of self and demonic automatic writing), and contemplative prayer practices in hopes it will attract more people and especially the younger generation who feels comfortable with the idea of “spiritual oneness.” It is in vogue to feel a connection with everything in existence on every level and does not offend or exclude. The solid objective source of the truth of God’s Word is not going to sell a church program.
Contemplative Prayer Practices
Contemplative prayer is made up of many mystic practices such as breath prayer, listening prayer, Lectio Divina, prayer meditation, Centering Prayer, and prayer labyrinths, to name a few. Contemplative prayer practices are no different than the meditative exercises used in Eastern mysticism and New Age. Most involve sitting down in a comfortable posture, closing the eyes, and quieting the mind in silence, solitude, and stillness by following your breath or repeating a chosen “sacred” word or phrase over and over in the mind such as “love” or “have courage.” The goal is to empty the mind of any conscious, distracting thoughts in order to experience direct revelations, hear the voice of God, see visions, and feel God’s presence.
Contemplative prayer is practiced across many different religions to promote a false unity and the idea that there is not just one path (Jesus) that leads to salvation. God despises syncretism – the blending of religious beliefs or practices of ancient pagan religions, thinking you can sanctify it to honor God.
Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14
Here are a few quotes from some of the 20th century mystics who have promoted contemplative prayer…
“Grace is not a strange, magic substance which is subtly filtered into our souls to act as a kind of spiritual penicillin. Grace is unity, oneness within ourselves, oneness with God.” – Thomas Merton, Trappist monk and peace activist; regarded as a spiritual master
“For human beings, the most daunting challenge is to become fully human. For to become fully human is to become fully divine.” – Thomas Keating, author, teacher, and monk; founder of the Centering prayer movement
“Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.” – Henri Nouwen, Catholic priest, professor, and writer with interests in psychology, spirituality, and social justice
For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
Biblical prayer is speaking to God and Him speaking to us through His Word. We spend time in prayer giving Him our adoration and worship, exalting the greatness of God and our complete dependence on Him. We spend time in prayer confessing our sins to Him with a contrite heart. We spend time in prayer giving thanks for all the gifts and blessings He’s graciously provided. We spend time in prayer in supplication, asking God with a humble, trusting heart for the things we need that align with His will. And we spend time in prayer interceding for the needs of others. This is taught all throughout Scripture, so we know it is sound doctrine.
Biblical prayer is a joyous encounter with God when we share our heart and seek Him through His Word. What a privilege it is to be able to know Him in this way! How much He must love us to desire a close relationship by listening as we talk to Him just as we would a friend. Think how odd it would be to ask a friend to repeat a word or phrase over and over so we could deepen our relationship. That’s pure nonsense! God denounces the use of mindless and meaningless repetition:
And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Matthew 6:7
It is through God’s perfect, sufficient Word that we get to know Him and trust Him just as a sheep knows and trusts the voice of its shepherd.
I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. John 10:14-15
And as a good shepherd watches for danger and lurking predators, He clearly shows us what to avoid with multiple warnings throughout Scripture. This is why we need to be spending time studying it! Our ignorance of God’s Word is one of the enemy’s greatest weapons.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
God desires for us to know Him deeply. His Word teaches us perfectly and sufficiently how to know God on His terms, not ours. May we be so intimately familiar with His character and revealed attributes that we will easily be able to spot and reject any deception as we are continually renewed in the knowledge of God’s Word.
*Photo by Jonathan J. Castellon
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