JI Packer, in Knowing God, chapter 20, writes of God guiding us in the Christian life. He does not do so apart from Scripture. The Spirit leads us to remember Scripture and apply it to our circumstances. But we ought not to claim authority over our lives or others' lives if we hear a still small voice and if we cannot find a parallel obligation in Scripture.
Tim Challies writes of the false teaching of Teresa of Avila. Many see her as a commendable person today, and in some ways she was. The difference between godly meditation or contemplation, and damaging mysticism can be hard to recognize in the midst of religious experience, sometimes. But it is a clear one. Here is the question:
Am I giving more weight to my interpretation than I am to the Bible in evaluating what is happening?
We do this far more often than we realize. But first
When Absalom chases David out of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:31-32), David prays that God would confound the counsel given to Absalom. The next thing that happens to David: Hushai, a known royal advisor, meets him, and David sends him to confound Absalom's counsel. This happens today. After we pray for something we should watch our circumstances expectantly. I do not deny this experiential element to our spiritual lives.
The modern man would assume, lacking all humility, that this was God, with a glib, "Way to go, God!" David knew enough not to make such self-centered presumptions. He continues to act deliberately and hopefully, but not presuming to know confidently God's intent in any given event.
Many people measure their piety
- by how certain they are that prayer x led to event y, or
- by the number or intensity of times when they feel God is leading them or speaking to them, or
- by God speaking immediately - not through the Bible but directly.
These assure them that God is real and alive today. They would doubt Him in the absence of these experiences.
Another way this goes wrong is tempting God. Some find it pious to put themselves in a dangerous or precarious situation, and ask God, trust God, to rescue them.
Each of these violates the main guard rail against a false mysticism:
don't ignore Scripture for the sake of your experience.
The Bible tells us to wait on the Lord, and though He slay me, yet I will trust Him. Mysticism and experience-driven Christianity ignore this, doubting God too deeply if He doesn't speak to them or guide them as they expect. The Bible tells us not to endanger ourselves or tempt God - mysticism will do this to bolster its faith.