Not long ago I watched a debate between a philosophy professor and a woman who had been converted to Christ in adulthood. Both the professor and the lady had used psychedelic drugs in their past, but the Christian had, of course, given them up after coming to Christ.
Though both acknowledged that mind altering substances create vivid experiences, the believer recognized that her conversion experience was more significant and life changing than a trip ever could be. The secular philosophy professor, on the other hand, claimed that Christian conversion is no more objective than a psychedelic trip. Both are experiences, after all.
Paul had a tremendously powerful conversion experience while traveling to Damascus in the early days of the Church (Acts 9). The churches that received his letters were also composed of people who had conversion experiences. Every believer in the last 2000 years has a testimony of salvation as well. Paul tells the Christians in Corinth that they “stand” in the same gospel message they had already “received” (v. 1) when they “believed” (v. 2). Paul, too had “received” the gospel (v. 3), having been literally confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus years before.
But what Paul had believed, and still believed, was not based on the strength of his experience. Rather, his faith rested on events that had actually happened, that hundreds of people had witnessed (v. 6). Jesus Christ died in view of dozens, maybe hundreds, of people. The Old Testament Scriptures bear witness that He is the Messiah, and that when He died He atoned for the sins of not only Israel, but also the world (v. 5). Both the Scriptures AND the eyewitnesses testified about His rising again (v. 5) from a grave that friends and enemies alike saw His lifeless body placed into (v. 4). At the time Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthians, resurrection skeptics could track down one of hundreds of disciples to hear from them how they saw, heard, and talked to the risen Lord Jesus in the 40 days before He ascended back into heaven (vv. 5-7).
The point is that Paul’s faith, and the Corinthians’ faith, did not rest on their time-and-place conversion experience. Their faith rested on the authority of history and Scripture. Yes, their salvation experience was unique to them. It was subjective. ALL believers’ salvation experiences are subjective. But you and I trust that our salvation experience is real because the Lord Jesus we believe in was also real. He really walked the earth as the Son of God, performed signs and wonders, lived a perfect life, died at the hands of the Jews and Romans, was accepted by the Father as the perfect substitute for all sinners, was buried, was raised again from the dead early Sunday morning, and ascended alive to sit on the Father’s right hand. History and Scripture declare these things to be true, and so we believe them.
Christianity is not the only faith to claim experiences. Religions, cults, and rituals can give people experiences through natural or supernatural means. But none of those belief systems passes the test of objective truth. Dig into the Bible and history, and you will find all those beliefs to be frauds, lies, heresies, and tools of the devil. Our conversions to the Lord Jesus are unique not because of the nature of the experience, but because of Who we believe in. Because Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, our faith is genuine. Your testimony is real because Jesus is real. “But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).
The above article was written by Jonathan Kyser. He is an assistant pastor at NorthStone Baptist Church in Pensacola, FL. To offer him your feedback, comment below or email us at email@example.com.
Every Tuesday, SFL publishes relevant Bible-based content. Check back next Tuesday to read the next SFL article.
In last Sunday's sermon, Pastor Johnson explains how to exercise and pass on your faith.