Summary: This sermon looks at the differences between faith based on experience only and faith based on the truth of God’s word. Experiential vrs. Truth.
Do We Walk by Faith or by Sight?
To get a more completed picture of this biblical account, I will take this study from Matthew and John. Lets begin by reading from John 6:
5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?"
6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
7 Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little."
8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him,
9 "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?"
10 Then Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.
14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world."
15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
Matthew 14 picks up the story in verse 22:
22 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.
23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.
24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.
25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.
26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear.
27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid."
This account gives us incredible insight into the difference between walking by faith and walking by sight. Many people call themselves followers of Christ, but as we will examine more closely, they are usually divided into two camps. There are those who base their faith on experience, and those who base their faith on truth. Experiential faith is not faith at all. It is completely dependent on sight and circumstances. An ‘experiential Christian’ will only remain when they are experiencing benefit. A Christian who walks by faith based on the truth of God’s word will endure and obey regardless of what challenges arise. Let’s begin with a deeper look at the differences between ‘Experiential Believers’ and Believers based on faith and the truth of God’s word.
Let me begin by saying that there is nothing wrong with personal experience. In fact, it is our personal experience that we can look back on as an anchor point where we began our walk with Christ. Personal experience is a powerful testimony to others and can go far in building our own faith as well. Personal experience is a benefit from faith in Christ, but it is not the foundation of our faith in Christ. Our foundation is the truth of the Bible. Personal experience is the result of trusting in that truth. Experiential believers place their trust in circumstances and not in our God, Who is able to overcome any circumstance. Any religion or practice that promises personal benefit will draw experiential believers. Truth is easily compromised because truth is measured against the experience instead of measuring the experience against the truth. People are easily lead into sin because “they feel at peace” with their decision. However, we know from the truth of God’s word that what we sow will be reaped in our lives. We may be at peace with the idea of getting what our flesh desires now, but the end result will never be peace.
Experiential believers are not walking in God’s will. Even a true Christian can be lured into a false idea of faith, but anyone who has found faith through emotions alone should examine their salvation according to scripture to insure they have indeed placed their trust in Jesus Christ. An emotional experience can’t save anyone, only repenting (turning away from your sins) and trusting in Jesus alone can we inherit salvation. There are 3 characteristics that we find in our opening passages that reveal the error of experiential faith.