Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Thoughts from "Faith & Experience"

I listened recently to a podcast from the White Horse Inn entitled "Faith & Experience."

The speakers spoke to the notion of experience being the ultimate arbitrator of reality and how many revivalistic and essentially gnostic (the term being used early in English to describe how the book of Revelation characterized the sin of Thyatira) presentations of the Gospel appeal primarily to a crisis moment or internal realization (self-actualization if you will).

The point being this: being reborn is not a process that begins by awaking something inside you, but is a process that comes from without and invades the person (reaching to the very core of said person).

It is not to say that being reborn does not also incorporate and envelop a set of experiences perceived and interpreted by the object. Being reborn and having Christ reside in you through the invasion of the Spirit may rightly be said to necessitate some experience. However, the faith and the facts and testimony of the early Apostles was not often that of their life experience, but of the fact of Jesus' deity as evidenced by His life, death, and resurrection. These are objective, historical facts. The Gospel was fulfilled one specific afternoon by a specific man who was God nailed to a specific cross by specific roman soldiers. This happened once for all.

Reality cannot be held hostage to experience. Experience can interpret reality, but it cannot define it.

The Truth and the Faith are not subject to your subjective feelings about it.

That leads to two very potent conclusions:

(1) Some people are not saved simply because they had a liver shiver back at summer camp in the 7th grade.

(2) Some people are held strong and safe in the hands of the Savior though their feelings ebb and flow daily and their love precipices, peaks, valleys, and falls short day to day.

Faith may be subjective only in that it is hard to define using concrete terms. It is difficult to assess using merely a checklist. Do you have faith? How much faith do you have? Do you have more or less faith than you had yesterday? These are not easy questions and we immediately jump to subjective means by which to gauge progress/regress/success. Experiences may be awesome or horrifying, but neither make Jesus' claim truer or falser.

At the end of the day the Christian does not merely fall back on "I know He lives because He lives in me" as proof that Jesus is alive.

Jesus is alive because the tomb is empty! Hallelujah! What a Savior! He is not alive because you believe Him to be.

He is alive despite many believing He is dead!

We are called to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. That exhortation is followed however with the reminder that we cannot do anything against the Truth. The Truth is outside of us. It enters into us by the Holy Spirit's testimony of Jesus Christ. Even in that event however, the Truth is a foreign agent regenerating us from without, not from within. What I mean by that is if the Spirit is to make us perfect and holy in the sight of God, it will be by using divine influence and hardware that comes from the outside of us and is imputed/placed to/into us -- not by using the natural machinery found already in us.

"We are so obsessed with our beautiful little inward selves" ~ Dr. Michael Horton

It is worthy of noting and meditating on how you felt during the first days of your relationship with Jesus. It is not the feelings, however, that make Jesus real or alive. It is not our feelings about Jesus that saved us then nor sustain us now. It is our belief and faith in Him as our  righteousness, our LORD and our devotion to Him in covenant love inspired by the Holy Spirit.

I am not less married to my wife when I am angry with her. I am not less committed to her. My marriage is not contingent on my feelings toward my wife. It certainly does influence my marriage with my wife and definitely is a part of its growth and experience. However, we are married because of the vows we made and the God before Whom we made them.

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