Today on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. How do you know that your experience with God is real? How do you know you're not just swept up in some kind of crowd deception? How do you know that you're actually part of the movement?
Most people that I know have dealt with this, and if you've never asked the question, you probably should. Welcome to Summit Life with pastor and author J.D. Greer.
I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. Okay, how great would it have been to actually see Jesus firsthand? The first disciples witnessed some pretty incredible miracles that really solidified their beliefs.
The healing of the sick and blind, and the calming of storms, and of course the resurrection itself. But now that Jesus has returned to heaven, how can we possibly have that same solid assurance that those first disciples had? That's our subject today as Pastor J.D. continues our new teaching series titled Assured.
If you missed any of the previous messages, you can catch up online at jdgreer.com. Today Pastor J.D. has called his message, Certainty Through Experience.
So let's jump right in. If you have your Bible, I would love for you to take it out and open it to the book of 1st John. Book of 1st John is all about how you can know that the gospel that you believe is true, and how you can know that your experience with God is genuine. As I mentioned, the epistle of 1st John was written by John, who was one of the closest disciples to Jesus personally. And here is the question that he returns to over and over and over again in this letter is, how can you know that your experience with God is genuine? Now it's interesting to me that most of the letters in the New Testament identify a specific target audience to the churches in Galatia, Galatians, to the churches in Ephesus, Ephesians, to Timothy, to Titus.
John is one of the only letters that does not identify a target audience because this is something that everybody deals with. How do you know that your experience with God is real? How do you know you're not just swept up in some kind of crowd deception? How do you know that you're actually part of the movement?
Most people that I know have dealt with this, and if you've never asked the question, you probably should. I told you last week that to that end, I have my own book coming out called Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, How To Know For Sure That You Are Saved, that deals with these same questions. And I wrote that simply because of how many times I dealt with it in my life and how many people I've talked to at our church who dealt with that question. 1st John, he's got about five points. John has about five points. He makes an answer to the question, how you can know for certain that you know God.
But here's the thing. He weaves them in and out in no particular order, and they're just all kind of jumbled together. If the Apostle Paul had written this book, it would be like point one, sub point, sub point, sub point, point two, sub point, sub point, sub point, and et cetera. John's like point one, point three, a little bit of point two, point four, back to point one. Now let's pick up point two. Let's take point five.
Let's go back to point one. Point three, which honestly makes 1st John a little difficult to teach because if you've been reading it, you're like, he makes all five points about every seven verses. So what we're going to do over the next four or five weeks is we're going to kind of go through the book of 1st John probably four times, and we're going to pick up themes, and we're going to kind of trace them through the book of 1st John.
Well, the theme that we are going to chase this morning is this one. It is how you can be certain about your experience with God through an experience of fellowship with him. How you can be certain that what you believe is true through an experience of fellowship with him.
I'll explain to you what I mean by that. If you've got a Bible, 1st John chapter one, let's look in verse one. 1st John 1, 1, that which was from the beginning, John says, that which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands concerning the word of life. The life was made manifest, and we have seen it and testified to it and proclaimed to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us. Now, let's stop there for a minute and think about what John is actually trying to say here. John is saying that the reason that he was so sure about what he was teaching is that he and the other apostles actually saw Jesus. They observed his miracles.
They felt his resurrected body. John is saying this is not a theory to us. It is important to note that the apostles, listen, never attempt to draw their authority from the fact that Christianity is a superior explanation of the world. They draw their authority from the fact that Jesus was God come down from heaven and verified to them through his miraculous works. The proof of Christianity to them was not in how wise Jesus' teaching seemed to them. The proof to them was the fact that Jesus had miracles and a resurrection to back it up.
Great example of this. In John's Gospel, John records the story of a man who had been born blind, which to the Jews was a sign of God's judgment, that Jesus healed. And so this guy's never been educated. He was blind.
He never could go to school. So the religious leaders get this guy who's been healed and they say to him, you can't go around saying that Jesus healed you because we theologians know that Jesus is a sinner and that Jesus teaches wrong things. And the guy's response is absolutely classic. John 9 25. He's like, whether he is a sinner or not, I'm going to have to let you theologians and professional philosophers decide. But one thing I know, I was blind, now I see. What John is saying is the reason that we are sure about what we believe, it's not because we can explain it all, it's because Jesus rose from the dead. We actually saw him. We touched him. We felt the wounds in his body after his resurrection. And in light of his resurrection, we decided to doubt the doubts that we had and we decided to trust in Jesus. By the way, before I move on, John's statement here confronts one of the most commonly held cultural assumptions about religion. In our culture, the most commonly held assumption about religion is that it's personal preference.
Right? It works for you. Doesn't work for me.
This over here works for me. And it's subjective preference. It's not objective truth.
In fact, that's actually a quote from Immanuel Kant, who was the father of modern philosophy, if you're into that kind of stuff. Religions are not objectively true. They're subjectively helpful. Do you know the difference in objective and subjective truth?
Maybe we ought to touch on that for a minute. The difference in subjective is preference. It's what's true for you. Objective is what's true regardless.
For example, subjective. If I say, are you hot? If I say, I'm hot, not meaning I'm good looking, but I mean, if I'm like, that would be objectively false. But if I said, I feel hot. I feel hot. There are a bunch of you here who would nod your head and be like, I feel hot too.
Others of you in here, yeah, I can see you're bundling up. You're like, I feel cold. Now it's not that I'm right and you're wrong. It's based on how either of us feel. My wife and I have this discussion just about every night before we go to bed. It's hot, it's cold. It's just, it's true for both of us. That's subjective.
But then there's objective truth. Like what is the capital? If I said, what is the capital of New York? And you said, oh, clearly New York city, the most famous city in New York. It's, you know, the city is so nice.
They named it twice. It's, you know, it's, it's clearly gotta be New York city. That just makes sense. And I'm like, well, you know, that's a good guess, but no, it's actually Albany. And you're like, well, I don't know. I feel really passionately about it being New York city because that works for me better. It's easier to remember.
And then you turn around to your friends. You're like, let's all, we all, all of us back here in this section, we all feel like it should be New York city and majority rules. And so New York city is our capital of New York. I'll be like, well, you know, I appreciate that, but no, it doesn't matter how you feel or how many people agree with you.
You're wrong because there's only one capital of New York and that's Albany. People love to put Christianity in the subjective preference. It works for you. What John is saying is there was nothing subjective about the resurrection of Jesus. We didn't believe this because it made us feel warm and cozy on a winter night.
We believe this because the guy who'd been dead got out of the grave and that's where our preferences stopped and his objective reality started. Now, some of you were listening to this. You're like, well, okay, good for John. He grabbed, you know, kudos to him. He got to see Jesus and touch him. What good does that do for me? I didn't get to see and touch Jesus. That's a great question.
I'm so glad you asked. Look at verse three, that which we have seen and heard, we proclaim also to you so that you too may have fellowship with us. Fellowship means a shared experience.
In Greek, it's the word koinonia. What John is saying is we wrote these things so that you would be in the same boat with us, so that you would have the same kind of experiences with Jesus that we had. Experiential knowledge of God.
But you say, well, how? Because we can't go observe Jesus's miracles. How are we going to see the things? How are we going to feel the things that he felt?
Again, great question. The answer is in verse two. The Jesus that John touched, watch this, and the miracles that John observed were a manifestation of the life of God, a life that you can share in. You see, the miracles that Jesus did were never an end to themselves. The miracles were always a pointer. They were called signs that pointed beyond himself to some higher reality. That's what a sign does, right? It points outside of itself to something else. Jesus did not prove he was the Son of God by levitating. Kind of like, look at that, or putting numbers behind somebody's back and guessing what they were, freezing himself on a block of ice for six months. He didn't do those things. Jesus's miracles always had a message, and they pointed beyond themselves to a reality that you were to participate in.
Here's an example. John chapter six. John records Jesus feeding the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. But Jesus explains that the point of that miracle is not that he can do magic with loaves of bread. The point is that he is the bread of life, and all those who are spiritually starving can come and feast upon him, and they will find the deepest parts of their souls satisfied. Here's a question.
Have you ever experienced that? Have you ever had the experience of having the love of God so overwhelm you that you realize that it is more glorious and more satisfied than any of the rest of the bread that the world can offer? This is Summit Life with Pastor J.D.
Greer. We'll get right back to today's teaching in just a moment. But first, let me tell you about our current resource for our Summit Life listeners. You know, one thing I've learned is that our greatest joy comes not when we're working overtime to impress God, but when we're serving him from a platform of gratitude, and the difference maker is the gospel. This amazing gift that God has given us doesn't merely punch our ticket to heaven, but it drives everything that we do as believers. Make these lessons you're hearing on the program personal with an eight-session video Bible study. This resource makes a great group Bible study, so submit these truths with those that you love.
Whatever the study looks like, we'd like to encourage you to reserve this curriculum set today by calling 866-335-5220 or visit us online at jdgreer.com. John chapter 4, Jesus meets this shady woman who has all these secrets in her past and Jesus reveals to her that he knows every single thing about her. He knows things that nobody else has ever known. He knows all her dark and dirty secrets, but he loves her anyway. Have you ever had that experience where God's Spirit basically reveals to you in your heart that God knows everything about you, but he loves you? He loves you even despite the fact that you are flawed and despite the fact that you are shameful, that his love presses in on you and you have this sense of love and acceptance that you have never known, that the heavenly father of the universe presses in on you and sweeps you up.
Have you had that experience? Because that's what John 4 is pointing to. The book of Mark chapter 4, Jesus is in the boat. He's asleep and his disciples are in the middle of the ocean and the storm is raging. They think they're going to die and he doesn't care. So they wake him up like, don't you care that we're going to perish? And Jesus stands up. He wipes his sleep out of his eyes.
He looks around. He's like, hey, shut up to the storm and the thing goes calm. Have you ever had that experience? I mean, maybe not exactly like that, but there was something going on in your life and you prayed and God stood up and God calmed the storm. Or maybe even better yet, God calmed the storm in your heart and God showed you that even when the circumstances around you were out of control, he was in the boat with you and his loving sovereignty was in control and he brought a peace to your heart in the middle of a great storm.
Has that ever happened? That's the life of God that these things are pointing to. One of my favorites, Mark chapter 8. Jesus in one of the strangest miracles recorded that I still cannot totally figure out because there's some details in here. I'm like, I have no idea why that happened. Jesus meets a blind man. So how does he heal him? He hockers on the ground and you germaphobes are like, what in the world is he doing?
He's like, I'm going to heal you and he spits on the ground. That's not even the strange part. That's the part I can't figure out.
Here's the strange part. He takes the mud made from his spit and he wipes it on the guy's eyes and says, now wash it off. God washes it off and Jesus says, can you see now? And the guy says, well, sort of.
Everything's blurry and I see people walking around like they're trees. And so Jesus spits on the ground again, makes some more, wipes it on his eyes, washes it off and says, now can you see? And the guy's like, yeah, I can see 20-20 now. Why did he do it that way? Were Jesus's batteries low the first time?
Did he not, you know, did he misfire? Did it like, you know, glance off the guy's eyes and go and like heal a dog or something? What happened?
Why did he do it? Because it was a sign. It was a sign of how God brings awakening to you. Have you ever had a similar experience where as God begins to come into your life, you start to see some things with greater clarity? But then as you walk with Jesus more, he brings even more clarity to your life until you begin to see clear spiritually that it's not always a one-stop process sometimes.
Have you ever had that? What John is saying to you is all these miracles were things that pointed to an actual experience with God and the question is, are you having those experiences? Koinonia is an experiential word. As you experience these things, you gain greater confirmation that this is all true. Christianity is very much a taste and see religion. That sometimes the best evidence for the greatest assurance comes from how your, the life of God confirms that this is true.
Now let me make sure I'm clear. I'm not saying that the proof of Christianity rests on your experience. What I'm saying is these experiences that you have validate what the Bible teaches because they give you a felt sense of the things that you're reading in the Bible as the word of life is made manifest to you.
Christianity is an experience felt religion in which you interact with an actual God. This theme reappears in a different form in 1 John chapter 2. So flip over one chapter in your Bible and let's go to 1 John 2 and let me show you how John talks about it here. 1 John 2 verse 20. 1 John 2 20, here's what John says, but you have been anointed by the Holy One, the Holy Spirit, and you all have knowledge. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? Verse 26, I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you, but the anointing that you receive from him abides in you and you have no need that anyone should teach you. Now let me be clear, this is not saying that I should not have a job. Okay, you don't need a teacher, you know, fire your, that's not what he's saying.
Let's be very clear about that. What he is saying, it's a little confusing, but he is saying that the Holy Spirit gives you an innate sense of God in which the truth about Jesus just makes sense to you. That's the anointing he's talking about. You have this sense of God where you're like, well yeah, that just makes sense. That's the voice of God. It is what John Calvin called a sensus divinitatis or a sense of the divine and it works like every single one of your other senses.
If I walk up to you and touch you on your arm and say, how do you know that I touched you? It's not because you build a philosophical case for why I'm there and you're there. It's just that, well, I sensed it and I felt it. The way that you perceive the truth about God is God gives you a sense where you're like, well yeah, that's the voice of God. You hear the voice of God. I don't mean actual words in your head, but you hear the voice of God. You say, that's God. That's God speaking in that. Other people hear the sound, but they don't discern the voice of God, which is why they can't understand why you're doing what you're doing. They could see the light, but they don't know it's the voice of God.
Does that make sense? You see, he gives you an innate sense of God that works like every other sense. Now, I know some of you are like, well, okay, wait a minute. Then how come, what about people who say they can't sense God? Well, see, the Apostle Paul, listen to this. The Apostle Paul says, one of the things that happened as a result of the fall is that we lost our ability to sense God, that we are now spiritually blind.
Our hearts are dull. Our ears are closed. So the voice is speaking, but we cannot hear it. So what God does when he awakens you is he gives you ears to hear a voice that has been speaking the whole time. God created you with the ability to know him, but sin clogged up those ears. And when God gives you ears to hear, that's a process we call regeneration. Regeneration just means making alive again.
It means making new. God regenerates your ears so that you have ears to hear the voice of God and eyes to see what has been speaking the whole time. And by the way, just so we're clear, that's grace.
That's not something you're smart enough or moral enough to figure out on your own. God gives it as an act of grace to you. People act like they're doing God a favor for believing in him.
News flash. God does not need you to believe in him. God already believes in himself.
He already knows he's real. He's not paid a compliment by the fact that you believe in him. It's an act of grace that God gives you the ability to see him.
That's his grace to you. That's why the book of John, Jesus would frequently say things like this, let him who has ears to hear, let him hear. There is a sense that the Holy Spirit gives you that anointing that just gives you ears to hear what God has been saying so that you hear the voice of God as you read the Bible and you say, that's him.
If you're taking notes, write this down. One of the signs that you really know God is you have fellowship, koinonia, with him through the Spirit. God begins to come alive to you. God begins to speak to you. It's not just doctrines that you're learning. It's not just, listen, a lifestyle that you're practicing. It is a God that you're fellowshipping with. God is speaking to you.
If you're taking notes, write this down. Koinonia. Koinonia is the manifestation of the word of the Gospel in your heart. Koinonia is the manifestation.
Manifestation means magnification. In John's day, there was a movement called Gnosticism, which was really just an old version of the New Age movement, because there's nothing new about the New Age movement. It's as old as hell itself, because that's where it comes out of.
It's what Satan pulled on them in the Garden of Eden. He's like, hey, look within and find God. And John's like, I'm not talking about that, because that's not what the Spirit does. The Spirit doesn't reveal himself. He reveals the Gospel, the words of life. The Spirit, I've told you, is like the lights on the Washington Monument.
Have you ever driven through D.C. on the interstate, and you're like 10 miles away, and you can see the Washington Monument? And the reason is because millions of dollars of lights have gone into lighting that monument, but you never notice the lights, ever. All you notice is what they are illuminating. The Spirit of God doesn't illuminate himself. The Spirit of God illuminates the Gospel so that the Gospel comes alive in your heart.
It is never things that contradict Scripture, by the way. A genuine experience with God, fellowship, koinonia, is the magnification of the word of the Gospel in your heart. You begin to feel the word of life. The cross becomes larger. Your sin gets more bitter and more real. God's grace gets sweeter.
The old words of life press in on your heart, and they become new to you. It's kind of like I've described before, looking at one of those magic eye pictures. If you cross your eyes just right, you can see the three-dimensional image in it. How many of you, the first time that you saw those things, totally faked it?
Raise your hand. You're like, oh yeah, I see it. You know, because you stared at it for an hour, and you couldn't see anything. You got two people looking at the same thing, right?
And one of them just sees a morass of meaningless dots, and the other one, by looking at it the correct way, sees a three-dimensional image coming out of it. What he's talking about is not new doctrines that you learn. It's just that the old ones take on a very felt and experiential knowledge of them. When suddenly, listen, the doctrines of the Gospel suddenly come alive in your heart, and you realize that it's not a statement about what Jesus did in the past. It's a statement about what he did for you, and it becomes personal.
Has that ever happened to you? John Wesley, who was one of the guys behind the Great Awakening, who was one of our country's greatest evangelists ever, talks about when he was converted. He was obviously not a Christian. A friend invited him to church for an evening service that started at nine o'clock in the evening. The preacher that evening, I guess, had not prepared his sermon, so the preacher was just reading the introduction to Luther's commentary on the book of Romans.
Now, talk about a recipe for a nap. Church at nine o'clock, where a pastor is reading the introduction from a 300-year-old book, right? I mean, that's not... But John Wesley says, he says, in fact, let me just quote him, at about a quarter past nine, as the pastor read Luther describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart suddenly and strangely warmed. I saw in that moment that Christ had taken away my sins, even mine, and that he had saved me from the law of sin and death.
He didn't learn something new. It just came alive in him. The gospel isn't just a doctrine that we believe.
It's also a daily reality that we can personally experience. You are listening to Summit Life with pastor and author J.D. Greer. more, we'll send you a video-based Bible study by Pastor J.D. simply titled Gospel. The objective of this Bible study is to help you simply abide in Jesus. The entire curriculum kit is yours when you generously give to support this ministry today. So ask for the Gospel Bible study kit plus additional study guides when you give by calling 866-335-5220.
That's 866-335- 5220. Or donate and request the book online at jdgreer.com. While you're on the website, don't forget to sign up for our weekly newsletter. Get ministry updates, information about new resources, and Pastor J.D. 's latest blog post delivered straight to your inbox.
It's a great way to stay connected with Summit Life, and it's completely free to subscribe. Sign up when you go to jdgreer.com. I'm Molly Vidovitch inviting you to join us next week when we'll continue learning how we can experience God personally and powerfully. Be sure to listen Monday to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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