Written by Jonah Albrecht / November 2017
Series Introduction: The 4 -isms of American Christianity is a series based on the book Has American Christianity Failed? by Bryan Wolfmueller. In this book, Wolfmueller shows how many Christian churches in America places the focus on the internal testimony of man vs the external testimony of the Scriptures. The more you look at American Christianity, you see how so often it falls into the pendulum of pride and despair.
As humans we are naturally curious. We like to feel things, touch things, see things. The things we often hold on to the most are things we can feel. When I was a kid, football was my passion. Every day I would beg my brothers to go out and play with me. To stay close to the game I love so much, I would carry my football around with me wherever I could. Holding the football in my hands gave me that connection and made me happy. But that happiness didn’t always last. Sometimes I would lose the football, forget about it, or I wouldn’t be happy even with it in my hands. It wasn’t a source of unfailing comfort.
A lot of times this same thinking transitions into our spiritual lives. We want to touch God, we want to feel Him near us. Many people base their faith on this. If they can feel God, if the Holy Spirit is flowing through them like a river, then they are leading a good life. If they can’t feel God near them, they have done something wrong they need to atone for. This feeling of touching a higher being isn’t just in Christianity, but in any religion you come across. Including those who say they are “spiritual not religious.”
This secret inward feeling of touching, seeing, and feeling God, losing ourselves, and being caught up and swept away works its way into many Christian Contemporary songs as well. They put the focus on Christ in us. They put their trust on this inward feeling that God is near. However, they also trust their inward feeling that God is far away. There are times when you don’t feel the Spirit, you don’t get swept away. What then? You feel far from God. The Holy Spirit isn’t flowing through you and you fell off the mountaintop of feeling God and are now in a valley. You go from extreme high to extreme low. This is what this mystical experience drives you to. The result is resolve: resolve to bring back that passion that high of feeling God. Sometimes that passion comes back, but other times it does not because it is based on human feeling, human experience. God says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Mysticism gives comfort through experience, but if the experience is gone, so is the comfort. Mysticism tells you God is there and loves you through your feelings. If those feelings are gone, you are left to conclude that God is not there and He does not love you.
In one of the earlier articles in this series I mentioned Pietism. There, pietism put its comfort in the growth of works. Mysticism puts its comfort in internal experiences. Both put their experience in the wrong place. They both want to put the comfort on something you have to do. But as Jeremiah says, “the heart is deceitful above all things.” Our sinful flesh fails us constantly. Why can’t we obtain a holy life? Why do we face highs and extreme lows? Because we are sinners who trip over ourselves any chance we get. Putting comfort in ourselves is like me relying on my football for my happiness 24/7.
Where then, is our source of comfort? Psalm 119:76, “May Your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.” The unfailing love of God has been here since the very beginning. To Adam and Eve, who had just destroyed His good and perfect creation, He didn’t destroy them, but He saved them. He gave them the source of all our hope. You want a place to put your comfort? Look to the cross. It is there and only there that you will find a constant comfort, a constant place for peace. That is because on the cross God Himself died for you, for your sins and mine. Jesus’ death fulfilled all of God’s promises to the Old Testament people. His death gives us the assurance that He will keep His promise for you and me as well. What is that promise? “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
There is a poem about a man walking on the sand with God. As he walks along, he sees images from his life flash across the sky until his death. As he looks back on the sand he sees two sets of footprints matching moments of his life, one for him and one for God. But he noticed that whenever there was a hard time in his life, there was only one set of footprints. He was troubled about this and asked God, “God, when I became a Christian You promised You would always be with me, but during the times I needed you most you weren’t there.” God replied, “My precious, precious child, I Love you and I would never leave you! During your times of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.” God doesn’t promise you that you will feel Him there, that you can always “touch God.” What he does promise you, is that He will always be there to protect you, guide you, and lift you up.
“I the Lord will be your Father, Savior, Comforter, and Brother. Go my children I will keep you, and give you peace.” – Go My Children With My Blessing