Think On This
Addicted to Experiences Addicted to Experiences Addicted to Experiences Addicted to Experiences
I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God... Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; - Exodus 16:12; Nu.14:22
Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. - Jn.6:26
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. - Jn.6:32
Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. - Jn.6:34
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. - Jn.6:53
Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? - Jn.6:60
When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? - Jn.6:61
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. - Jn.6:66

In the above Biblical examples both the Hebrews and the nominal disciples of Jesus were dependent upon their most recent experiences with God for their continued loyalty to Him. Absent those miracles they all murmured and decided they could no longer bear His leadership. They were addicted to their expectant experiences rather than dependent upon God. They could not see past their human and emotional needs to be disciplined to walk by faith and not by sight. He would not concede to their demands. He would not appeal to their emotions. He sought to elicit their obedience by faith, a faith beyond sight. Short of that, He would force no one against their will to follow nor would He continue to entice them with His miracles (Lk.11:16). His compassion knew no limits but He would not alter His teaching or rhetoric to placate their consciences to maintain their following. His call was always prefaced with an IF—IF you will be my disciple, IF you would seek eternal life, etc (Mt.16:24; 19:21; Lk.14:26).

The amazing experience of the Exodus was not the experience of the parted Sea nor the manna that fell from Heaven. It was not the miraculous flow of water from the rock of Meribah nor all the other miracles witnessed by the hundreds of thousands of wandering Hebrews for thirty years. No. As marvelous and unforgettable as those experiences were by a people to whom they were given there is one that towers over them all. It was the visible proof of the presence and movement of their God seen in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. Without question, they knew they abided in the presence of their God. He went before them by day and they pitched their tents around Him by night. Imagine! And yet it seems the Hebrews looked upon that fact with such familiarity they looked past it, looking for the next experience that would give them their daily hope and encouragement. From highs to great depths they repetitively fell—experience after experience, year after year. God's presence and His promises alone were not sufficient to them. We know that because without those experiences they constantly wanted to turn back to Egypt. In fact, at one point God wanted to completely destroy them and would had it not been for the intercession of Moses (Nu.14). Their addiction to their experiences was greater than their dependence upon their God! Despite all the wonders they experienced in Egypt before their departure, despite all the miracles they had witnessed to date, the Hebrews failed to grasp the vision of Moses and at a minimum walk with him in his faith. Hence, they were condemned to their wilderness wanderings until all above a certain age died out before their posterity were permitted to cross Jordan into the land of His promise (Nu.1:45). Even after their children did cross Jordan, they would continue this disposition until after their captivity in Babylon and Ezra's calling and ministry to them. One has to look only at the period of the Judges for clear evidence of this.

The experiences with Jesus and His followers were much along the same line. They would run to Him when they would see that flash on the horizon upon His performance of a miracle, pushing, shoving, elbowing in to see and take for themselves any overflow from the crowd, to desperately touch if possible in anonymity the hem of His garment. They followed Him as long as they believed He might do another for their benefit, but when their faith would go no deeper in Him as Jesus intended in the miracles, He would cease. He knew what was within the heart of each (Jn.2:24-25). Like their ancient kinsmen, they too would turn away with much sorrow (Jn.6:66)—what tragedy, God among them, Immanuel, and they would walk no more with Him!  Addicted to the drug but no thought of the Physician who came to heal and save them!

The unfortunate thing is there are many today who fall within the same mindset of those seen in the above examples. The miraculous is preferred over the mundane. For the next few moments I want to share with you two types I see who fall into this dangerous condition of experience addiction. First is one who has entered the kingdom through faith but whose faith fails to progress much further when the way forward is not clear, one who rises to great heights in moments of experiences Spiritual Walk but crashes to great depths when another is not seen on the foreseeable horizon. All who walk the walk of faith experience this at one time or another, typically at the outset, but I speak of the one who lives a life handicapped in their faith, addicted to their experiences. The other representative I want to mention is attracted to the light and emotion of the experience without ever taking root in a saving life-altering faith. They run from mountaintop to mountaintop regardless who gives them the experience they have become dependent upon. Let the lights dim and they vanish into the dark. They grow bored if the flare does not excite them to their previous level or beyond. It is a temporal food of which they eat and will fail them when it grows stale. Being temporal, of the world, it will fail in time. And great will be their fall and ruin.

Before beginning with the first, let me say the true disciple is one who can walk by faith in their mundane life without expectancy of the miraculous. They see God in the whisper of the small voices and minor experiences of every day life rather than looking for Him in the brightest light of the special moments or the loudest peal of His thunderous Voice in their dull ears. He or she does not have to build three tabernacles upon the mount and there reside in wait for another of His lifting transformational experiences (Lk.9:33). They have their highs and lows but the further they walk in step with Him the less dramatic those peaks are defined. Their steps become more in line with the life of Christ within. The settled child of God is the one who is born from above, one who leans upon the Father's breast in complete submission to His will and purpose, for no reason other than their desire for His close and continued infilling presence and when He is not detected by human senses, emotions and experiences, to wait upon Him as they continue to walk by faith. They do not anxiously look about themselves because they know the Lord is their God and true Source of their strength (Isaiah 41:10 NAS). There is a quiet determinedness to press on in the darkest hours knowing He has not forsaken and will break forth in His time of choosing. Just as assuredly there will be seasons of drought, there will be seasons of great showers that will rain from His treasuries. They press forward with a peace that is calming in spirit not only to themselves but to any who walk with them. They are a joy to be around. They exhibt the disposition of Job when He declared: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him..." (Job 13:15). Jesus says of these: "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations" (Lk.22:28). This does not mean they become dull in their senses of His wonder. On the contrary, their awe is as great when they look upon the tiniest of His life forms as when viewing great vistas from tall mountains! The sense of His abiding presence is magnified in all that surrounds them in their daily lives. In one flash of one moment they may experience great drops of tears of joy when they feel Him gently brush against them and in the very next those tears are mingled with great sorrow for an immediate burden He leaves with them for some area of His kingom as He passes. This was Jesus' life—great joy in one moment and burdened heavy in another. This is the true disciple's life. No need to seek for but one Physician. All is supernaturally normal, as He keeps both in balance for a true and straight walk with Him.

The first type of addicts, however, are those who become dependent upon seeing Him in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night (Ex.13:21). It is the experience of seeing and their excited emotional state they seek, a visible personal parousia for each step of growth or service. Unlike the settled child of God whose faith abides when He sometimes is not seen, they do build tabernacles upon the mount of their most recent experience and wait for another vision, feeding, or experience before launching out into the deep in growth or service to others. Absent that vision, they grow impatient, often sullen and gloomy.

Let us look at the example of the early days of the disciples. Seven of Jesus' disciples grew impatient themselves awaiting their Lord's next delayed post-resurrection appearance and decided to "go a fishing." (Jn.21:3) Two walked together in dispondancy down the road to Emmaus and back to their homes (Lk.24:17). Three had experienced the Mount of Transfiguration and all would His Mount of Ascension, standing, remaining, gazing, transfixed until two men in white apparel appeared and shook their paralysis with an astounding promise (Acts 1:10-12). It would take Pentecost to cure them and persecution to disperse them (Acts 8:4; 11:19). We must conclude that if they who walked intimately with Jesus fell susceptible to this condition we who have not seen Him must be prone to making the same mistake.

The question one should ask is this: Am I addicted to my experiences or are my eyes fixed upon Him in total dependence. Experiences will only carry us so far; unlike God, eventually they will fail us. We sail along smoothly in life as long as the experiences come with regularity to get us from one mount to the next but let the experiences diminish or cease for an unexpected season and we crash like a kite with no wind. Or, having little faith, we walk by sight as though maneuvering on stepping stones across a strong current. All goes well until the time comes, and it will, when you can see no longer the next stone upon which to step. Panic sets in. The current laps at your feet. You either sink like Peter in Galilee or become frozen on the last stone (Mt.14:30). The heart all but stops until we hear ascending in volume in our ears the truth of the Psalm most have committed to memory: "...Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me..." (Ps.23:4). Slowly, we lift one foot and tenatively push it forward into the darkness and discover to our amazement...

In Christian life, the emotions and heavenly experience of entry into His kingdom soon give way to the toils of trials along the road of sorrow in sanctification. The stones are not always visible upon which to step and there are many dangers lurking in the darkness along the wayside. Attacks will come. That He has forewarned (Jn.16:33). Jesus was Himself a man of sorrows. Why should we expect to be any less? What then? when He seems to withdraw Himself to test our strength for discovery if we are capable of rising from a crawl as a babe to walking upright as a man without His seen support (I Co.13:11; Ph.3:14; Heb.5:12-14)? And what of the nourishment we require in our new life? Is it that instant fix and flavor of the entry diet or have we, without forgetting the former things, moved on to discern and desire that eternal bread that takes the soul deeper and deeper into the mysteries of His revelation and redemption? Are we truly dining at His table or are our eyes dazzled by the glitter spread before us by those in today's modern hip church who dilute His nourishment and offer it up as substitute? How often have we thought it cute to see an infant sitting in its high-chair awaiting its mother to bring its favorite pablum, all the while flailing and twisting in its impatience, or, worse still, spew it from its mouth if the food fails to suit its taste? We do prefer the sweet and unoffensive over the wholesome and growth provoking.

To this first representative of the two examples I have given, "Jesus says: Rise, take up thy bed, and walk" (Jn.5:8) but cautions of being lukewarm in commitment (Rev.3:15). Ask yourself this: Am I going as He commanded to go, believing in fact to be true that He would be with me always as He promised, without conditions and in every situation and experience? (Mt.28:19-20) Is my life an example of walking by faith in the unseen Father as Jesus demonstrated and expects from me?

Addiction Turning now to the second representative of our experiences addict, in the parable of the sower Jesus identified several types of followers who, for a season, would be attracted to Him but for various reasons would never become rooted into Him for life-sustaining power beyond the flash of their initial emotional experience (Mk.4:3). In His final words to His disciples for their mission in His absence He instructed them to "Go...and make disciples..." (Mt.28:19 NAS). To a fault today, greater emphasis by many is being placed more and more on coming rather than going, upon attracting attendees, or at best, winning souls and making converts without ever leading confessors into the deeper elements of believer's faith (I Pe.2:2; Heb.5:11-14). These types of modern churchmen sit down in one place and erect great stones that are a marvel to look upon and expect the world to come to them (Mk.13:1). "Build it and they will come" is the cry we hear from its charismatic leaders referred to as stars when they appeal for more and more money to restructure its architecture in fashion of the world. They define it as God's Garden (and indeed it looks like a paradise) and hold up Paul's formula of planting and watering, thinking they have done their duty while waiting upon God to give the increase through their doors each Sunday. They count numbers, pushing out the old in favor of the new. The saint is set aside in lieu of their appeal to the ungodly, and if the saint objects to their un-Godly and un-Biblical ways, they are castigated and deemed to possess a spirit of disunity. The reverence of His house of worship is transformed into a din of popular sights and sounds. Evangelize morphs into advertise and the world comes. Newcomers are indoctrinated into an institutional blueprint that insures their consent of loyalty, and liability, to the greater good of unity (conformity) of the whole, lock-step without room for dissent in any matter of polity or revelation. They sign its creeds.

Giving the increase is God's business, however, one with any spiritual sensibilities has to wonder when observing such behavior just who it is giving the increase, and, just what is that increase? Are seekers truly being regenerated or being lulled into a false sense of security that will lead to their ruin? In every generation of our Lord's church there have always been those who would slip within to lead away the very elect, if that were possible (Mat.24:24). Is there a Simon Magus in your house of worship (Acts 8)? They appear as sheep or shepherds, charismatic but not Spirit-filled (the church needs to have a serious discussion of this distinction being blurred today). They are schooled in the ways of the world, studied and with letters from the finest seminaries. They give great performances. They mimic the Master in all things religious to the undiscernible eye. They clothe the gospel with language of this world, placing upon it the appearance of David in Saul's armour and rendering it ineffectual for the work of the Holy Spirit. They appeal to the emotions of the worldling they have attracted, manipulating a desired and controlled Megachurch outcome of each Sunday's events. They are aware and have adopted the psychology and devices employed by the world in marketing their product (See links below to become informed). Beware of such. Unfortunately, many fall prey, returning Sunday after Sunday for the newest presentation. These experiences can be like a drug one becomes dependent upon, the individual never suspecting or becoming regenerated.

In a study conducted by the University of Washington in 2012 researchers found that attendees of megachurches had similar bio-chemistry reactions to the event much the same as those attending a major sporting event or emotional group gathering. They found that those shared experiences, regardless of their setting, create a sense of euphoria which acts much the same as a "high" experienced from a drug. In fact, they titled the report: God Is Like A Drug’: Explaining Interaction Ritual Chains In American Megachurches. Noting that chemicals released in the brain, in particular, Oxytocin1, during a shared emotional group experience leaves the participants desiring to return again and again for that emotional high. Some of those megachurch congregants interviewed stated their experiences in drug or sports metaphorical terms, declaring their need for another hit from God and observing the Holy Spirit move upon the vast crowd as a wave produced by the crowd at a ball game. I do not wish to paint with a broad brush here but neither can I not caution one in their search for the fulfillment God has genuinely placed within the human heart to seek and find Him to worship. The danger is there whether it is in a megachurch or a small community church just around the corner. These studied techniques and programs found in megachurches in particular, whose origins can be traced to a common source, are being applied in many churches today regardless of its size or denominational affiliation. Be careful of what is being presented as worship.

I will offer this Biblical contrast for your consideration. As Jesus went about teaching and preaching, He was sent on a mission by the Father to an unpopular location to the Jews. Jesus and His twelve chosen disciples arrived at the outskirts of Samaria late in the afternoon. It was spring and the sun was hot. Just outside the city was a common well where both travelers and citizens could draw water. As His disciples went on into the city to prepare for the night's needs, Jesus rested and waited by the well for an encounter He knew was to come. She came—a citizen from the city. In Jesus' unusual discourse with her she raised the question of the two mounts at which the Samaritan and the Jew of Jerusalem separately worshipped. That distinction had been a division between the Jew of Judea and the Samaritan, or half-blood Jew to the north, since the division of Solomon's kingdom for a thousand years. In response to her recognition of the difference in location of the Samaritan's and the Jew's place of worship, Jesus defined genuine worship as that occurring in the heart, in spirit—man's spirit and God's Spirit in communion as one. This would be possible only if she drank from the true Well that offered living water. Jesus was and is to this day that Well! He is that body, that Building, that Temple in which we must go to commune with the Father in worship. That is what is meant by worshiping Him in Spirit and in Truth. Jesus knew that both places of which the woman spoke would soon be destroyed and there would be only one acceptable means or venue of genuine worship. It would not require an earthly place. (See John 4.)

To this second representative of the two examples I have given, Jesus would caution not be as this woman who looked upon the outward and took pride in Samaria's popular place to worship. It would be: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light". (Mt.11:28-30 NAS) Jesus said where as few as two or three meet in His name (in His Spirit), there would He be also (Mat.18:20).

For both examples of those addicted to experiences, there is hope. There is an answer. Without seeming simplistic, it is simple. No greater teacher or physician for its treatment or solution is there than Jesus Himself. While He lived among us He taught not only in word but by example of His life. Before He departed He revealed to us that when He returned to His glory in heaven He would "...pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you...the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jn.14:16-17,26; 8:32). Such freedom does not come from any source but Him. Do you know Him? Are you abiding by His teachings and following in the pattern of His life daily? If not, that power is not within you. His Spirit of Truth is not present to make possible genuine worship with the Father. But it can be by your full and honest surrender to Him. His invitation to come to Him is as valid and contains the same potentcy as it did when He first extended it. Will you not yield to Him to know that daily abiding constancy of His presence and Glory? He will be a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night to you in all your days, not just on Sundays or your latest great experience!

- Author: Ken Livingston

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See also Issue #1: Modern Church.
See also Issue #2: Walking With God.
See also Issue #4: State of the Church.
See also Issue #5: Broken Churches.
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1For a further look at the human hormone, oxytocin, released into the brain by the pituitary gland during social interaction follow the links below. Prepare to be surprised at what you read. As I mentioned earlier in the article, the church needs to become informed of what is happening with its modern transformation. In addition, honest people need to take Bible in hand and have a serious in depth discussion regarding this and other modern phenomena being introduced within today's church life, especially the distinction between hormonal emotional affectations being manipulated knowingly by many "stars" of their congregation. There has been a concerted push even within major evangelical protestant denominations to seek leaders with greater intellectual and communication skills to fill positions of leadership after indoctrination in their seminaries. Let me state unequivocally there is a major difference between a highly intellectual gifted charismatic speaker and a preacher who has been anointed, called by God and equipped with spiritual gifts. That anointing, that calling, that equipping will produce unction when he opens his mouth to preach which is the genuine persuasive power of God to effect eternal change in the listener. It is God's Word, God's man, God's unction that is needed in our pulpits today not the man with the greatest charisma and learned letters from approved men and hallowed sanctioned institutions—the man, as Paul who said: " when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God...But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us...I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ" (I Co.2:1; II Co.4:7; Ph.3:8).