God is Good

Two experiences helped shape my thinking about knowing God. The first happened when I was studying in Israel. I was alone in my room when I awoke one night to an overwhelming sense of God’s presence. I saw nothing and heard nothing, but there was no question in my mind as to what I was experiencing. I felt weightless as though I were floating on air. All I could think was, “It’s too good! It’s too good!” I kept repeating that in my mind until I drifted back to sleep. The next morning I awoke with that memory and I have retained ever since. I received no new direction for my life, nor was I more knowledgeable about God the next day. I already knew the bible verses that said God is good. For whatever reason God in His sovereignty gave me a taste of His goodness, and words were inadequate to describe it. I think this is what the apostle Paul had in mind when he prayed in Eph. 3:17-19 “. . . so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.”

The second experience happened when I was still teaching at Talbot School of Theology. A pastor’s wife was referred to me. She was depressed and struggling with bizarre thoughts. After hearing her story I sensed that her perception of God wasn’t right. I said, “You really love Jesus don’t you?” She agreed, and I continued. “You really love the Holy Spirit don’t you?” She readily agreed again, and I continued. “But you don’t like God the Father do you? She started to cry.

She believed that Christ died for her, and the Holy Spirit comforts her, but God the Father sits on His throne in heaven and doesn’t do anything for her, just like her earthly father. Her mother was verbally abusive, and her father did nothing to stop the abuse. I gave her a set of tapes on the attributes of God by A.W. Tozer. She listened to them three times, but there was no impact. That really challenged me at the time since I was chairman of the practical theology department and was deeply committed to the teaching and preaching of God’s Word. I just gave her the best teaching I knew of about God and the impact was zero.

The battle continued to rage in her mind and all the accompanying emotions that go with it until one afternoon. God revealed an adulterous relationship that led to the birth of her child. Now that I knew what the source of her problem was I could help her resolve the conflict through genuine repentance. Suddenly all the knowledge she had gleaned from the tapes about God became a reality in her experience. Repentance removes the barriers to our intimacy with God, and knowledge is incarnated in our hearts.

Dr. Neil

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