Summary: John emphasizes the personal experience of salvation
Arm Chair Faith
Text: 1 John 1:1-7
ILLUSTRATION (Have two people play catch with a football--when the ball is thrown to you let it fall to the ground). There’s a difference between observation and participation.
I remember as I was growing up hearing my parents say to me on more than one occaision, "Just wait until you have kids of your own, then you’ll understand." I don’t suppose that any of your parents ever said anything like that to you, but mine said it regularly. The thing that is so frustrating about that statement is that it turned out to be true. There is something inexplicable about parenthood, something that can never be understood by hearing about it, reading about it, or thinking about it. It has to be experienced. When I stood holding my breath in that delivery room as Alexandra came in to the world, instantly I knew that my life had changed in a way I could not describe. From that point on I was going to be someone’s daddy.
Like parenthood Christianity is something that must be understood primarily by experience. Christianity is more than just a statement of faith, more than church membership. It is not merely a philosophical position. It is a faith experience. You can’t buy Christianity, and you don’t inherit it from your parents. You’re not on the team just because sit in your arm chair and watch it on television, for that matter you’re not a player anymore than the home audience just because you sit in a Church pew. Christianity must be personally experienced!
Proposition: Christianity is not a sideline experience. Genuine faith in Jesus requires personal involvement.
Interrogative: So exactly what is the nature of this Christian experience, what does it involve?
Transition: Three basic answers are found in our text from 1 John today. John, who was one of the original twelve team members shares something about the personal nature of his experience with Jesus which help us to understand a little bit of what it’s all about. The first thing that jumps out at me about John’s experience is that it involves a...
v. 1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
Second hand experience is not good enough. You’ve probably heard it said that God has no grandchildren, and that is an absolutely true statement. We cannot count on our heritage, church affiliation, nationality, or even our own good works to replace a personal experience with Him. The apostle Paul on more than one occasion wrote about His own impeccable heritage, but he said that he counted all of those things as trash compared to his faith experience with Jesus. The righteousness that God requires of us we cannot gain on our own or from our affiliations. We must individually place our trust in what Jesus has done for us. We must meet Him personally.
The experience you have with Jesus is uniquely your own. No two people will have the same experience. Some come to Him with tears, some with laughter, some with great relief, others with solemn awe at the magnificence of it all. But I have never yet met a person who said they didn’t feel something, when they met Jesus.
You may say, "Chaplain, our salvation is based on faith not feelings." And I would reply, "you’re absolutely right." The work that Christ did to cleanse us from our sins is a bona fide historical fact. God came to earth in human flesh. They called His Name Jesus. He was nailed to a cross to pay the price for each of our sins and He rose again to prove His victory over death and to offer us the gift of eternal life. That is fact. John in our text says that he’s writing to testify to that fact. Our salvation is based upon our faith in that fact and not upon our feelings. That means that heartfelt experience at salvation is just extra that God gives us--it isn’t essential to salvation, but He gives it to us anyway.
Now there may be times down the road when you don’t feel that way anymore. That’s when it is comforting to know that our salvation is not based on how we are feeling at the time.
It is one thing to simply believe the gospel--it is quite another to experience Him and to KNOW that He is your savior. This is a knowledge that can sustain you through the times you don’t have Holy Ghost goose bumps running up and down your spine. Like the stack of stones that reminded the nation of Israel of the time that God stopped a river so they could cross, the memory of a Personal Touch from Jesus can be an anchor to Hold our faith.