Friday, August 3, 2018

Salvation is a Radical Experience

Would you mind if I throw out all blogging protocol today and just write as though I’m talking to you in person?   This whole subject of having a conversion “experience” has been bothering me for years because it’s far and away the most important topic I know of to write about.    Other very important subjects pale in comparison in my opinion.
This is my 2nd attempt to post this.   The first one (I think it’s probably still on my Feedly) just didn’t hit the mark so I deleted it.   
Also, as a preface to this post, yesterday I wrote an edited version of a post I did for Out of the Ordinary a few years ago.   20 Surprising Ways a “Believer” Can Be Self-Deceived    is a discussion of Matthew  Meade’s book The Almost Christian Discovered. 
My husband served as senior pastor in three churches throughout the Northwest until the late 90’s.  Since then he’s served as an elder in a couple of churches and continues to do pulpit fill on occasion.   On top of that we have both served in various other capacities in numerous churches—all that to say this: 
Of all the problems we’ve encountered,  the most disturbing have been the many good, faithful, church goers who seem to have no genuine testimony of  having had any kind of conversion experience.     My heart shudders to think of the multitudes of “good” people who will say “Lord, Lord” on that fateful day.    Oh Lord, please don’t let that be me! 
These are people who have good doctrine.   These are people who serve.   These are people who are faithful to attend and to give their money.   These people will even pray. 
But these are also  people who never want to talk about the Lord or the Bible.  If you bring the Scriptures up they have kind of a blank stare.   They never express having had a real change of heart and a sense that they have become a new person at some point in their life.  They never express a conviction of sin or joy in knowing their sins have been blotted out.  And they never seem to be concerned about sharing the Gospel with others.   
Their testimony consists of something like “I feel good about doing things at church”.  Or “my parents were good Christians”—or  just about anything other than expressing  that very REAL EXPERIENCE of conversion that takes place when we’re saved. 
 Please, don’t misinterpret what I’m saying here.    I’m not charismatic in my theology.  In fact I’m a very conservative cessationist. 
I am not saying the conversion experience entails visions, voices, or any of that sort of thing.   Some people are saved as young children and don’t ever recall an instant radical conversion experience like I and others I know have experienced.   Nevertheless, they have had the experience because they have the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit within them and have had many confirmations of that over their life.  Their changed life,  their love for Christ, the Bible, and other Christians  is evidence that their conversion is real. 
I was discussing this problem with my daughter the other day.   She was saved when she was 17.   She grew up as a preacher’s kid.  She insisted on being baptized when she was about 10.    But she did not undergo conversion until one day when she was in the middle of sharing the Gospel with a friend at a local coffee house.   The lights went on in the middle of her own conversation.   She came home that day a very different person and immediately began bearing fruit of her conversion that has remained all these years.  
Again, our rough and tough truck driver neighbor showed up on our porch one day crying like a baby.   He had been saved while driving down the street earlier that day and wanted us to help him understand what had happened to him.   We and his co-workers had been witnessing and praying for him for a long time.   Fifteen years later he is still on fire for the Lord.
One of the things that bothers me about the conservative reformed movement is a tendency to underplay this very real experience of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life at and after our conversion.    We’re afraid of falling prey to subjectivism.   We’re afraid we’ll appear to be mystics.    
But conversion is a truly radical experience.    We were dead.  Now we’re alive.   God did this, and made us a new person and when He does this our changed life will stand the test of time.    
“ if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Cor. 5:17
Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones said of  Romans 8:16  “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,”  
"This is beyond any question, one of the most glorious statements concerning Christian experience found anywhere in the Bible…Nothing is more important from the standpoint of experience, from the standpoint of happiness and joy in the Christian life, from the standpoint of enjoying our great salvation. …It has always been dear to the hearts of evangelical Christians ever since the Protestant Reformation” 1  
And just to be extra clear here.   Our conversion experience will never be contrary to the Scriptures.  Lloyd-Jones goes on to say, 
"The experience comes almost invariably with or through the Word. ...It may come apart from it, but generally the Word is very prominent.  If the experience does not come when a person is actually reading the Word, or listening to a sermon, it is probably the case that the Spirit reminds him of a portion of Scripture and  brings it back to memory.   In any case it always confirms the teachings of the Scriptures;  it is always directly in accord with it.   It is the Spirit who gives the Word, and it is the Spirit who gives this testimony; obviously, therefore, they are in agreement and work together, and each points the other." 2 
This isn’t my usual writing style.  It’s just me talking plainly about the most important question anyone can ask themselves.  Have I truly been born again?

Related posts:  
20 Surprising Ways a “Believer” Can Be Self-Deceived
The Mystery Woman at the Minneapolis Bus Depot      
1. Romans; Exposition of Chapter 8. 5-17; D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Banner of Truth; 2002; pg 285
2 . ibid pg 364

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