"This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, 'Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.' Jesus answered him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'" — John 3:2-3 (ESV, Emphasis added)
What is it that brings salvation from eternal separation from God? The quest for redemption from sin can sometimes be reduced to coming to religious experiences and meeting traditional requirements that point to Christ. While these are keys to experiencing Christ, the experiences themselves are not what save.
I come from a church with a certain level of excellence that makes worship services, events, and activities pleasurable ones. We have wonderful facilities, well-organised programmes and a handful of committed volunteers to make sure we always give the best we can. But with all the great programmes, lights and sounds, preaching and discipleship classes we have, we make sure to always stress that these are simply vehicles that bring about the changing agent—not the changing agent itself.
Great experiences are a wonderful thing. It's a blessed thing to feel an overwhelming presence of God that brings you to your knees in worship. It's great that some preachers can capture both attention and heart. But none of these things can save.
In a one-on-one conversation with a man named Nicodemus, Jesus gave the key to salvation: being born again. What does that mean? Other translations translate Jesus' words as meaning "being born of heaven." To be born again means more than just entering a denomination or accepting a certain doctrine. It's something that happens to us in entirety.
To be born again in essence means to be made new, and it's no less than that that brings salvation to us. Experiences can at best make us better believers, better worshippers, better disciples, but they cannot make us new.
The only way we are made new is through Jesus Christ. We can get the formalities, but miss the person altogether. Christianity isn't about the religious experience, but about the person we experience. Let's shift the emphasis from the medium to the message. Jesus is the message.
2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
It's by Christ and in Christ alone that we are made new by the regenerating power of His blood and the sanctifying power of His Spirit.
As we live and walk in and with the Person who is Christ more than the experiences that point us to Him, we are truly transformed. The burning bush, pillar of fire, manna from heaven, healing, liberation from demons and miraculous provisions are great, but they are nothing compared to meeting the Person behind them all.