He chose Revelation 12:11 as his text. Not the whole passage. Just the solitary verse.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. (ESV)
From there, he focused his sermon on the phrase, “by the word of their testimony,” emphasizing the supposed power of using our personal experience as a tool for evangelism. Throughout the sermon, I nodded in unquestioning agreement. That is, until he said, “No one can argue with your experience.”
Immediately I thought of Mormons (even though I’d never actually encountered a Mormon). I knew that they testified of personal experiences that they regarded as validation of their beliefs. And I most assuredly knew atheists, agnostics and theologically liberal “Christians” who based their rejection of the Bible on their personal experiences. How could I say that my experience as a Christian was infallible, but their experiences could be questioned?
The pastor’s statement has troubled me for 30 years. And as the Lord has brought me out of Charismatic theology, I’ve learned even more to evaluate my personal experiences by the Word of God.
The wonderful apostle Peter lived through the fantastic experience of Jesus’ Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8). Yet when he writes his second epistle to warn people against false teachers, he recounts that experience as being secondary to Scripture.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. ~~2 Peter 1:16-21 (ESV)
Peter knew that Old Testament prophecy validated his experience with the Lord. He could document it. He depended, first and foremost, on Scripture, using God’s Word a plumbline for measuring everything else.
Your personal testimony has power, but only to the degree that it lines up with God’s Word. Apart from Scripture, how is it any different from the testimony of a Mormon or an atheist? Why couldn’t a Mormon argue against your testimony just as easily as you can argue against his?
Aren’t you glad that we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed?