Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Jesus' Conversion Experience

Jesus' life changed in an instant. One day he was a carpenter living an ordinary life in an ordinary village in Galilee. The next day he decided to go down to the Jordan River to hear his cousin preach. While listening to John's message of the Kingdom of God, he felt the leading of God to be baptized.

As he came up from the water, the heavens were opened to him, the Spirit of God descended upon him, and a voice from heaven said, "You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased."

It was Jesus' conversion experience, if you want to call it that. You could call it his awakening to his true nature. What we call it will depend on our religious framework. But one thing is certain; it was more than a dip in the river. Everything changed that day.

I think Jesus would call it being born again or born of the Spirit. Later he said to Nicodemus, "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God."  I think Jesus was referring to his own experience at the Jordan.

We can experience the same thing. It may not happen at a riverside preaching service, but it might. The physical setting is not important, but the elements of the experience are.

First "the heavens were opened to him." A transcendent dimension opens up our life. The Spirit of God descends like a dove. To say that the Spirit descends "like a dove" means that it was not a violent experience. No holy-rolling, "slain in the Spirit" Pentecostal type thing going on here. This was a gentle alighting of the Spirit, a natural opening up to God.

Then there is the Father's voice, "You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased." At that moment Christ realized powerfully what he had always known - at least since he was twelve years old - that he was the beloved Son of God.

The Bible says that we are sons and daughters of God. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." This does not deny the uniqueness of Jesus. It simply means that we can hear the voice of the Father as well.

God calls us his children. "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!" "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God."

Jesus' experience is our experience. When we are "in Christ" then we share everything that is Christ's. Too much of Christianity is second-hand experience and second-rate spirituality. The truth is that the experience of Jesus is available to us. Our ordinary lives become extraordinary when we follow Jesus' footsteps to the river.

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