May 1, 2011

First Sunday after Easter

According to 1 John 5:4, faith is the victory that overcomes the world, and faith is Biblical faith in Christ.  As John wrote this passage, an idea had gained prominence which made experience the measure of Christianity.  The experience sought was an emotional feeling, which, it was claimed, was proof that one had the Holy Spirit, was born again, or was worshiping God.  The measure of one's salvation and Christian life was the number and intensity of his emotional experiences.  Doctrine did not matter.  In fact, doctrines were tolerated that denied orthodox Biblical Christianity.  All that mattered was the feeling, the experience.

John refutes this with loving intensity.  Doctrine is important.  It matters what Jesus you are worshiping.  It must be the Jesus who is the Son of God, who came by water and blood, who literally died on the cross and now lives again.  And the measure of Christianity is faith.  It is trust in Christ.  It is believing God.  It is not a feeling.  It is not an experience.  It is simply believing and living in Christ.  When J. I. Packer wrote Knowing God he didn't put in chapters about experiences and feelings, he put in chapters about the majesty of God, the wisdom of God, and the grace of God.  Notice that all of the great statements of the Christian faith have been summaries of  Bible doctrines.  Not one of them has a section on feeling like a Christian, feeling like you're praying, or feeling like you're worshiping.  When Paul wrote to Timothy to encourage him in Christ, he didn't write about feelings,  he wrote; "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded, that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (2 Tim 1:12).  It was faith Paul commended, not feelings.