When God first called me to Himself and subsequently filled me with His Spirit it was all very experiential, passionate, and life-giving; but I lacked knowledge. Being wired the way I am I began to seek knowledge and came to grasp many of the beautiful truth’s of our faith. I delved into the writing of men like Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Edwards etc., and my mind was filled with wonderful truth of the power of the gospel. But as my mind grew my heart seemed to shrink. Not in a manner that displayed a lack of love or appreciation for Christ and His gospel, but in the ability to joyfully experience the gift of grace I’d been given and the knowledge of the same.
There is generally a great divide between the intellect and the Spirit in Christianity. There are those who delve deep into doctrine, desiring to understand every nuance of the text and those great truth’s that we believe, but they have lost the capacity to feel the unquenchable joy associated with understanding the revelation of Truth. On the other side of the coin are those who are completely experiential. They seek to feel God’s Spirit and move comfortably within the ambiguity of being “led by the Spirit,” but they often lack knowledge, order, or control and act out of ignorance, forgetting that though our faith should be experiential it is also deeply intellectual.
In recent month’s I’ve come firmly to the conclusion that you can be led by the Spirit while maintaining the full use of the mind. There is a third way and had I been paying close attention to the men I admired for their knowledge I would have seen the passion that burn in them as well. They were Spirit filled men who lived lives that exuded that aromatic distinctness of one who had encountered and been filled with the Holy Spirit. They knew more than I could ever hope to and yet were able to experience Truth, via God’s Spirit, with deep and resonating joy. Here is an excerpt to consider, I pray it compel you toward the same…
From “Great Doctrines of the Bible” by Lloyd-Jones
“. . . Now Jonathan Edwards was probably one of the greatest minds—I say it advisedly—that the world has ever known. He is certainly the greatest brain America has ever produced, a brilliant, outstanding philosopher, the last man in the world to be carried away by false emotionalism. Indeed, he wrote a great treatise on the subject, called The Religious Affections, to teach people how to differentiate between the work of the Spirit and the carnality that often simulates the work of the Spirit. So Jonathan Edwards was the last man who was likely to go astray at this point. This is what he says:
As I rode out into the woods for my health, in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has been to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view, that was for me extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God as mediator between God and man and His wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love, and meek and gentle condescension. The grace that appeared so calm and sweet appeared also great above the heavens, the person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent and an excellency great enough to swallow up all thoughts and conceptions, which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour, which kept me a greater part of the time in a flood of tears and weeping aloud. I felt an ardency of soul to be what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated, to lie in the dust and to be full of Christ alone, to love Him with a holy and a pure love, to trust in Him, to live upon Him, to serve Him, and to be perfectly sanctified and made pure with a divine and heavenly purity.”