Years ago, a friend phoned to tell me of his spiritual experience. I wrote him the following letter. I’ve removed identifying details, made it more general, and this could be considered an open letter to any friend who seeks spiritual experiences.
I wanted to write and thank you for calling me. As you could probably tell from our conversation, I have concerns about what you have experienced. I want you to know, however, that I am thankful for your desire to know God more fully and serve Him.
As I told you, I do not doubt the truth of your experience, but we must test the spirits whether they are of God. Satan can appear as an angel of light, so the fact that you had wonderful feelings does not prove this is of God. God’s Spirit even brings “negative” feelings, when He is dealing with things that need be corrected in our life. Satan, on the other hand, is an expert at making people feel good about things that are not good at all.
In testing the spirits, the only truly reliable test is Scripture. In light of that, there are several things you should consider:
- Does the Scripture describe other people having the experience you had? In some cases it may be that those who were possessed by evil spirits would have had their bodies respond in this way, but there is nothing like this which is attributed to the Holy Spirit.
- Ephesians 4:8-12 teaches that the gifts of the Spirit are for the purpose of helping others in the body of Christ. I do not understand how uncontrolled laughing, having your legs moving as if you were bicycling up a hill, or rolling on the floor brings edification to others. How does this help others to obey or love the Lord more? I’m not trying to be rude, I just don’t see this at all.
- I Corinthians 14:23 teaches that the Biblical use of spiritual gifts will not result in activity which would appear insane to an unbeliever if he comes in.
- I Corinthians 14:40 says all things are to be done decently and in order. The exact definition of “decently and in order” is not given, but it seems very difficult to see the experience you described as orderly.
There is one other thing I would like you to consider. You prayed for a spiritual experience. God does not tell us to seek experiences, so this prayer was not truly in the name of Jesus. You can’t pray something in His name which He hasn’t told you to pray — that becomes your own prayer in your own name. God tells us, instead of seeking experiences, to love, trust, and obey Him.
If we seek an experience which God does not tell us to seek, Satan will be happy to provide one. The experience itself may not damage us. However, by simply convincing us that the experience is good, he turns our focus away from trusting, loving, obeying, and serving, to seeking a repeat of the experience, and new experiences. We can become experience-addicted, ever pursuing new and more exciting experiences. A spiritual experience can be a good thing, but to seek spiritual experiences is very dangerous.
I have grown to love you as a Christian brother, and I pray you will grow strong in truth. I do not want to discourage you, but to warn you from a path of self-focused experience seeking, and to urge you to carefully examine whether all that seems to be of God really is. I pray your focus will be to know and glorify God through loving obedience and service.