About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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What's In An Experience?


The following is a paraphrase of a real conversation I had with a good friend.  Names have been changed to protect the innocent, and maybe the not so innocent.


Roger and I sipped our coffee at a local coffee shop.  A TV on the wall behind me captivated the imagination of the young men at the next table.  Women's beach volleyball tends to do that, if you know what I mean.     


I looked at Roger a bit confused.  "I thought Ron was a Christian".


"He is", answered Roger.


"From what you've just said, I'm beginning to wonder about that", I replied.   


"Well, he had an experience with the Lord a couple of years back.  He's also a part of our church's men's group", Roger said.


"An experience with the Lord?  What exactly does that mean"?  My mind shifted into overdrive.  I sensed a sermon was about to speed down the runway of my spirit and explode from my lips.     


"Roger!  Roger!  Roger!  Nowhere in the New Testament does a so-called experience with the Lord constitute salvation.  What is an experience with the Lord anyway?  Spiritual type sensations and emotions can easily be aroused within a person by a talented worship team and a well skilled preacher.  Is that a valid  experience with Jesus?  Don't get me wrong.  People can sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in a gathering of the saints, but again, does that constitute salvation?  And by the way, simply repeating a sinner's prayer doesn’t necessarily constitute salvation either".   


I stopped for a breath, hoping to slow down the speed of my sermon, but it didn't work.  I was only preaching to Roger, not the guys watching girl's beach volleyball, even though my message was more important than their present obsession.    


"Maybe Ron did have a genuine experience with Jesus", inserted Roger.


"Well, maybe he did, but remember those in the Laodicean church of  Revelation 3:14 to 22"?


"Remind me", replied Roger.


"Jesus stood knocking on the door of their hearts.  His  presence was that close to them.  Did the closeness of His presence; did that experience, constitute their salvation"?


"Maybe they didn't hear Jesus knocking", replied Roger.


"Maybe, but the text implies that He had been knocking for a while and was about ready to leave in frustration.  Some scholars say that the Greek word translated as "knock" in this passage means "to pound with a heavy blow".  Remember, Jesus was upset with these guys.  This was no gentle knock.  As a fireman pounds on the door of a burning house to wake those sleeping inside, so Jesus pounded on the door to wake these sleepy Laodiceans.  His pounding was a warning of coming judgment.  I suggest they had an experienced with Jesus".


"Never thought of it that way", answered Roger as he sipped his coffee.


"Jesus could have knocked on the door of their hearts until His knuckles fell off.  That wouldn't have saved those guys from being spit out of His mouth as He said He'd do if things didn't change.  Salvation would only come to them once they opened the door, had a serious consultation with Jesus, and then counted the cost of the renovations Jesus planned for their lives."


I took another sip of coffee.  The guys beside us were still engaged in women's beach volleyball.  They didn't seem at all interested in our conversation.  I wonder why. 


"What constitutes salvation Roger"?   


"I'm sure you'll tell me", Roger answered.


"According to the New Testament, when one finally recognizes the sinful depraved person he is, which many churches don't teach any more, he tells Jesus that he's fed up with it all.  He hands His life over to Jesus and says, 'here's my wretched life.  Even the best part of me needs divine help.  Do with me as you wish, but please give me your Holy Spirit.  Without Him I know I'll take my life back in no time'.  In theological terms Roger, this is called repenting, believing, and receiving.  The combination of these three constitutes salvation.  Anything less saves no one". 


Roger shook his head.  "I wonder if the Holy Spirit lives within Ron".


"He better.  In Romans 8:9 Paul says that if the Holy Spirit doesn't live in us, we don't belong to Jesus.  This is one serious issue.  Did anyone tell Ron these things"?    


"I sure hope someone did", replied Roger.


"Hope?  I wouldn't hope about this.  You better talk to Ron.  If he thinks he's saved when he's not, he's in bad shape.  And those who told him he was saved when he's not, are in bad shape too.  It's like a doctor telling you that you don't have a heart condition when you do have one.  You continue to live the same old unhealthy life as you always have until you drop dead on the sidewalk.  It's a bit late for the doctor to warn you about your heart condition then".


"Remember what the apostle James said Roger?  Faith without works is dead.  If someone has real faith, there will be some kind of evidence of faith in his life.  If there's not even a trace of evidence, I'd question his faith and his salvation, no matter how many experiences he may have had.  An experience with Jesus is not the end of the matter of salvation.  It's the first step towards the beginning of the matter of salvation.  Experience alone doesn’t constitute salvation Roger".


Women's beach volleyball was over, and so was my sermon.  The guys at the next table left before I had a chance to pass the offering plate.  Isn't that the normal procedure after the sermon?       


"One last point Roger.  In 2 Corinthians 7:10 Paul said that Godly sorrow produces real repentance.  When someone really recognizes his sinful state of depravity, it will stun him to the core.  He'll be serious about repenting, serious about trusting his life with Jesus, and serious about receiving the Holy Spirit.  You'd think if Ron had been that serious about these things, we wouldn't be having this conversation today.                     




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