We’ve all done it or seen it. Those moments when circumstances align and things just seem to work out perfectly in our favor. Some may call it a coincidence but some see it as a God Moment. A God Moment is when someone feels Gods favor or grace in a subjective moment. I liken it to a searching for God in the wind. Sometimes it seems harmless to attribute small things to a God experience but what happens when we equate these experiences into a means of grace? What happens when we claim that this is truly God speaking to us? What happens when we feel so special when these things happen and we feel God is absent or angry with us when it doesn’t? What happens when we incorporate this type of thinking into our worship?
Perhaps a better question to ask is where should we find God? Is He to be found in things, circumstances, or feelings? Does He wish to communicate with us in such a subjective and obscure way? If only there were a place that we could know for certain what God wants. If only there were something that He could have said to us so that we would know. Ah, there is! Holy Scripture is where God has chosen to communicate with us. He has given us His written Word and though this Word He works faith.
So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. [Romans 10:17]
having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and remains forever. [1 Peter 1:23]
Sanctify them in your truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, even so I have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who will believe in me through their word [John 17 17:20]
God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds. [Hebrews 1:1-2]
But you remain in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them. From infancy, you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. Every Scripture is God-breathed and* profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that each person who belongs to God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:14-17
There are plenty of passages that discuss how God works in us through the Holy Spirit and that is done through Word and Sacrament (which contains the Word). What is missing are any supporting passages that say we will find the Holy Spirit in our feelings, in special places, or in subjective moments. The danger here is not only one of a miscommunication with God (if there is rain on you birthday does that mean God is angry with you? If you didn’t “feel” Him in church is He departing from you and punishing you? etc…) but also in having a different god altogether. When we try to find a god outside of Holy Scripture we essentially make an idol out of our feelings. Our sinful heart will place anything as a god [Jeremiah 17:9]. This brings us to the first commandment. We shall have no other gods. When we chase our feelings we end up in the land of subjectivity. Your truth is not my truth and thus truth is whatever we want it to be and thus truth is no longer truth. Yet that’s not possible because God is Truth [John 14: 6-7].
First Commandment Large Catechism [20-21]
20] Therefore the heathen really make their self-invented notions and dreams of God an idol, and put their trust in that which is altogether nothing. 21] Thus it is with all idolatry; for it consists not merely in erecting an image and worshiping it, but rather in the heart, which stands gaping at something else, and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils, and neither cares for God, nor looks to Him for so much good as to believe that He is willing to help, neither believes that whatever good it experiences comes from God.
We can see here that the heart, our feelings, will set up a god in our own image. This isn’t always as clear for the charismatic Christian. It starts with genuinely believing that the God of the Bible is giving them signs and wonders and slowly down the rabbit hole we go until we no longer line up our experience with God’s Word but we justify our experiences in spite of Gods Word or by misinterpreting Gods Word. All of these trails lead to one road; the road of unbelief. Let’s go back to one of the questions I asked earlier. What do you do when you don’t feel God? What about those times that you feel God isn’t present? Let’s say you even attend a service with Contemporary Worship, meant to (manipulate) instill a sense of God into your feelings, yet you just don’t feel Him. Is God punishing you? How can you be sure? Have you lost your salvation? There we have it. There is no assurance when you look for God in your feelings and experiences; which is Mysticism. Let’s read a bit from the Smalcald Articles.
Part III, Article VIII. Of Confession.
1] Since Absolution or the Power of the Keys is also an aid and consolation against sin and a bad conscience, ordained by Christ [Himself] in the Gospel, Confession or Absolution ought by no means to be abolished in the Church, especially on account of [tender and] timid consciences and on account of the untrained [and capricious] young people, in order that they may be examined, and instructed in the Christian doctrine. 2] But the enumeration of sins ought to be free to every one, as to what he wishes to enumerate or not to enumerate. For as long as we are in the flesh, we shall not lie when we say: “I am a poor man [I acknowledge that I am a miserable sinner], full of sin.” Rom. 7:23: I see another law in my members, etc. For since private absolution originates in the Office of the Keys, it should not be despised [neglected], but greatly and highly esteemed [of the greatest worth], as [also] all other offices of the Christian Church. 3] And in those things which concern the spoken, outward Word, we must firmly hold that God grants His Spirit or grace to no one, except through or with the preceding outward Word, in order that we may [thus] be protected against the enthusiasts, i.e., spirits who boast that they have the Spirit without and before the Word, and accordingly judge Scripture or the spoken Word, and explain and stretch it at their pleasure, as Muenzer did, and many still do at the present day, who wish to be acute judges between the Spirit and the letter, and yet know not what they say or declare. 4] For [indeed] the Papacy also is nothing but sheer enthusiasm, by which the Pope boasts that all rights exist in the shrine of his heart, and whatever he decides and commands with [in] his church is spirit and right, even though it is above and contrary to Scripture and the spoken Word. 5] All this is the old devil and old serpent, who also converted Adam and Eve into enthusiasts, and led them from the outward Word of God to spiritualizing and self-conceit, and nevertheless he accomplished this through other outward words. 6] Just as also our enthusiasts [at the present day] condemn the outward Word, and nevertheless they themselves are not silent, but they fill the world with their pratings and writings, as though, indeed, the Spirit could not come through the writings and spoken word of the apostles, but [first] through their writings and words he must come. Why [then] do not they also omit their own sermons and writings, until the Spirit Himself come to men, without their writings and before them, as they boast that He has come into them without the preaching of the Scriptures? But of these matters there is not time now to dispute at greater length; we have elsewhere sufficiently urged this subject. 7] For even those who believe before Baptism, or become believing in Baptism, believe through the preceding outward Word, as the adults, who have come to reason, must first have heard: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, even though they are at first unbelieving, and receive the Spirit and Baptism ten years afterwards. 8] Cornelius, Acts 10:1ff , had heard long before among the Jews of the coming Messiah, through whom he was righteous before God, and in such faith his prayers and alms were acceptable to God (as Luke calls him devout and God-fearing), and without such preceding Word and hearing could not have believed or been righteous. But St. Peter had to reveal to him that the Messiah (in whom, as one that was to come, he had hitherto believed) now had come, lest his faith concerning the coming Messiah hold him captive among the hardened and unbelieving Jews, but know that he was now to be saved by the present Messiah, and must not, with the [rabble of the] Jews deny nor persecute Him. 9] In a word, enthusiasm inheres in Adam and his children from the beginning [from the first fall] to the end of the world, [its poison] having been implanted and infused into them by the old dragon, and is the origin, power [life], and strength of all heresy, especially of that of the Papacy and Mahomet. 10] Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. 11] It is the devil himself whatsoever is extolled as Spirit without the Word and Sacraments.For God wished to appear even to Moses through the burning bush and spoken Word; and no prophet neither Elijah nor Elisha, received the Spirit without the Ten Commandments [or spoken Word]. 12] Neither was John the Baptist conceived without the preceding word of Gabriel, nor did he leap in his mother’s womb without the voice of Mary. 13] And Peter says, 2 Pet. 1:21: The prophecy came not by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Without the outward Word, however, they were not holy, much less would the Holy Ghost have moved them to speak when they still were unholy [or profane]; for they were holy, says he, since the Holy Ghost spake through them.
We can see where enthusiasm leads and it isn’t to an assurance of salvation. We only get that assurance through Word and Sacrament because that is where the Spirit works faith. It’s interesting, how in a section discussing confession and absolution, Luther talks about enthusiasm and it’s damage to salvation. For how can one be certain of the forgiveness of sins without the Word and Sacrament? If we are looking for God in subjective moments we will never be certain of anything pertaining to our salvation, who God truly is, and who we are. We simply revert to being pagans worshiping creation instead of the Creator. When Jesus was crucified for our sins. He wasn’t found in a good fortune that someone had that day, He wasn’t found in the kindness of a stranger, He wasn’t found in the joyful feeling someone woke up with that day. Jesus was found nailed to the cross. Bleeding, suffering, and humiliated He hung in public for all to see. Bearing the sins of the world, dying, and burying those sins in the grave until three days later when He rose giving you life eternal. The great exchange of your sins for His righteousness. Jesus isn’t calling us though our subjectivity. He is calling us though His Holy Word and Sacraments. We hear from Him, Law and Gospel, though His Word and we partake of His very body and blood through the Holy Eucharist. Through these He is working and strengthening faith in you through the Holy Spirit, not found in the sunset or a penny on the ground, but in Word and Sacrament. There is where He is calling to us, to give us life eternal.