by Bob Wilkin
In our postmodern culture it has become increasingly popular to speak of faith in Christ as having had a personal encounter with Him. Many pastors and theologians say that faith is personal, not propositional.
What does a personal encounter with Jesus feel like? That is the issue in assurance for many so-called Evangelicals today.
When I was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ we would share with college students that feeling are unreliable. Our faith is to be built on the facts found in Scripture.
More people need to hear that message today. If my assurance of my eternal destiny is based on my feelings, then I will never be sure I’m kingdom-bound. I will live with fear of hell day in and day out. If I’m discouraged or depressed, my lack of assurance can really pull me down more and more.
Do you consider your feelings to decide if you believe that Jesus was born in Bethlehem? Are feelings a factor in whether you believe that ten times ten is one hundred?
Faith is not a personal encounter. Jesus had personal encounters with many who did not believe in Him, including Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas, Pharisees, and Sadducees. Judas lived with Jesus and the other disciples for three and a half years. These personal encounters did not result in faith in Christ. In order to believe in Jesus we must believe in Him for what He promises, everlasting life (John 11:25-27).
Jesus is not on earth today for people to have personal encounters with. Oh, I know that people speak of the great feelings they had when they came to faith in Christ. But those feelings are the fruit of faith, not faith itself.
Besides, people who do not believe Jesus’ promise of life have great feelings associated with their faith too. Buddhists give testimonies of how the divine has moved them. Mormons have their burning in the bosom reports. Jehovah’s Witnesses give glowing reports about how wonderful Jehovah God is to them. Feelings come with all religious experiences, even false ones. But the Word of God is true and we can believe what it says. There is the basis for assurance. Not our feelings.
Remember the line in the hymn that says, “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart”? When I was in seminary Dr. Norm Geisler said that line should be changed since it is essentially an eastern mystical sentiment. He suggested we should sing, “You ask me how I know He lives, the Bible tells me so.”
Don’t confuse faith with feelings. You can and should know 24-7-365 that you have everlasting life because that is what the Lord Jesus promises the believer in the Bible. If you are anxious, discouraged, or even depressed, your assurance should not waver because it has nothing to do with your feelings.
At various times in history, most Americans have been either disappointed or excited by who is elected president. Regardless of whether they are excited or depressed by any elected president, they believe that person “x” is indeed president. Such belief is based on the evidence that person “x” is president. The emotional response then flows from this. It is not determinative of whether they believe.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). Simple. Clear. Believable. Once you believe that, you know you have everlasting life that can never be lost—regardless of what you are feeling.