The Bible Didn’t Save Me

October 25, 2011 will mark my 40th anniversary of being a Jesus person.  The day I began my journey with Christ, I was riding my motorbike 70-80 miles an hour while on my way home from Thanksgiving dinner at my friend, Ellen’s house. I’d heard her father pray a blessing over the meal and it had greatly moved me.
I didn’t know anything about the Bible and I had never opened one. After all, as far as I was concerned, it was a corrupt book so why bother? I didn’t know anything about John 3:16. I hadn’t heard about the Roman Road or been given a tract on the Four Spiritual Laws and there was no one around to have me repeat the Sinner’s Prayer. On top of all that I didn’t believe I was a sinner. Even worse, I didn’t accept the very foundation of the Christian faith: Christ’s death on the cross, his divinity, or his position as the Son of God. But, I was one desperate and hopeless Muslim man who was willing to try anything. So, without knowing it, I did what Apostle Paul had said almost 2,000 years earlier, “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.” (Rom. 3:13, the Message)
I called and He helped.
On that day, my journey with Christ started apart from the Bible. The foundation of my faith began to form on the basis of an experience —an experience stemming from me calling on Jesus for help. Eventually, I came to understand Christ to be my Lord and savior by reading the Bible, but without my initial experience, I would have never read it. So, today, even if one proves to me that every word in the Bible is a lie, my faith in Christ will not be shaken because it is not based on the word of God, but on the Word of God (Christ) himself.
When I pastored the Iranian church, a majority of my Muslim background believer members had started their journey with Jesus through tangible experiences with him (dreams, visions, healings and so on) and apart from the Bible, very much in the same way that many early Gentile Christians had. I often wonder how the early Church did their daily “devotions” since the Bible had not be canonized yet and even after it was, not everyone could afford to have one under his arm, which brings me to my purpose for writing this blog.
In 2001 I started teaching at a Bible college. After a year into teaching American students who were almost all born and raised in Christian families, I began to notice a correlation between Muslim and postmodern evangelism, and how they both long for an experience with God. The Muslim longs for it because He’s been taught that God is not approachable and my postmodern students had only known God theologically apart from an experience (this applies to postmodern non-Christians too, but at the present my focus is on postmodern Christians).
For years, our evangelical mentors taught us not to rely on any experience, but to rely on the word of God. “After all, your experiences are not reliable,” they told us. I wonder if after getting knocked off his ass on the way to Damascus and going blind, Paul was told the same thing by the Pharisees of his time. I also wonder if we would’ve had 2/3 of the New Testament if Paul had not had his Damascus experience. After all, isn’t most of the Bible a collection of man’s experience with God?
No doubt some of my readers will disagree with me because they might assume that I’m putting more weight on an experience than the word of God. I am not. What I’m saying is what we used to say during the “Jesus People” time: “God has no grandchildren.” For our children to stand by their parents’ faith in Christ, they themselves need to have an experience to support their theology.
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20 thoughts on “The Bible Didn’t Save Me

  1. We all have experienced God living in us and thru us by an experience or encounter we had with Him because of the Word of God. We aren't going anywhere without the Word to guide us and we experience His hand on our life daily. Our trust is wholly in Him. Our children need to experience this same thing. We can't do it for them. Good post, Shah.

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  2. Charlene, as always, thank you for your support and encouragements.
    What I'm getting to see more and more with some young Christians is this attitude that knowing Christ is not that important. They have no idea how Jesus can change lives because they have never experienced it themselves. They put more emphases on doing good deeds than preaching the Good News.I believe in both, but ultimately, it is Christ who changes lives and not our good deeds which should be a tool in bringing others to Christ.

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  3. This is so encouraging. My Dad almost died this month from a heart attack. He is not a Jesus follower yet but it's clear God is doing something. As I prayed for him, I kept telling him to as Jesus to help him and he did. I have hope that one day he will know and understand who God says He is. Blessings to you Shah.

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  4. Shahman:
    I really appreciate your writings. I make copies of them and attach some of them to the paychecks of those who work at pinecrest (yes I think they that well written or is it that I trust all the employees will read something the boss put out!!!) Anyway. I just wanted you to know I appreciate you and thank you for being a friend after all these years. (just so you know it is me writing and no one else, I need to close with these words, “when are you and Karen coming to visit we want you to come up No strings attached”? Tam says hi also!
    Blessings

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  5. Doug and Tam, I truly appreciate your encouragement and friendship. I can't tell you how much this means to me. What I love about your friendship is that there's never been any strings attached. Thank you! God knows we all need such great friends like you and Tam

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  6. Dear Suzie, never lose hope. I think you'll find some peace and comfort in my next blog. I'll continue to pray for your dad and greatly appreciate you praying for my parents. They both fear God, and my mom never misses her ritual namaz.

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  7. Dear brother Shah:

    You are preaching to the choir my dear friend. Before I ever read the Bible even once, to understand it’s lineal progression of the Jewish tribe, God spoke in very load voice to me in Katmandu. Later he protected me in impossible situations throughout the Toro Bora mountains of Afghanistan. When you and I were outside Fallujah, Iraq, God gave me the strength to drive up to that band of militants in the desert and ask for directions to Mosul. I’ve witness miracles, and God had shown me he is real, just as you know. Now I read the Bible through with Elizabeth once every year, to find out what happened to the Jews and to reinforce my hope. Yes, I too can say The Bible Didn’t Save Me either Shah. Your preaching to the choir dear friend.

    Blessings,

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  8. Marvin, thank you for taking the time to read my post.
    Yes, my dear friend, in your case I am preaching to the choir. What great memories. Driving all the way from Turkish border to Baghdad in the middle of the war. Were you with us when our Iraqi driver drove 80-90 miles an hour to get us from Karkuk to Baghdad in the middle of the night? Remember the Sherman tank appearing on the road out of nowhere? Those were the good all days.

    My regards to Liz.

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  9. As C.C. Jung said (speaking of the Christian experience) “The man with an experience is never at the mercy of the man with a theory.” And isn't it true of all of us??? We want that personal one-on-one experience of knowing Abba-Father-Daddy GOD!!! Like the essay, Shah!!!
    J

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  10. Shah,

    I love your story. And you get better at saying it every time you say it.

    Keith

    PS Are democrats or liberals eligible for this experience, too?

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  11. Dear Shah
    Thanks for sharing your testimony. I appreciate the validity of experience. So many Christians think that understanding and believing the right doctrines about Christ and salvation is what saves us.
    I'm interested in something related to this subject and want to be sure I don't put words into your mouth. To put it into Western American Christian terminology, would you say that 'got saved' at that moment when you called out to him? Some people I know say that you could not possibly have been saved until you believed Jesus is God, etc.— and that you merely got started on your journey with (toward) Christ and got saved when you came to a sufficient understanding of him as lord and savior.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Mark

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  12. Mark, thank you for your kind words. I think my next post will answer your question. But till then, if it was the correct theology that saves us, then what happened to the first century Christians who apparently didn't have the full understanding of what they had done otherwise, Paul wouldn't have written 2/3 of the NT? You notice that Paul never said, “you people are not Christians until you get your theology right.”

    Years ago Paul Hebert, dean of the School of World Missions at Fuller wrote a paper that very much speaks to your excellent question. The paper is called, Conversion, Culture and Cognitive Understanding. it is on line and it's not very long. The paper put to word what I believed, but couldn't articulate it. I believe you'll find it interesting.

    Shah

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  13. AS WE USED TO SAY, “AMEN! PREACH IT, BROTHER SHAHROKH, I HEAR YOU – RIGHT ON”

    THANKS FOR POKING THOSE EMBERS AND KEEPING THAT FIRE ALIVE!

    GISOO RETURNED FROM TAJIKISTAN YESTERDAY AND BARBARA COMES BACK THIS WEDNESDAY. LOTS OF STORIES TO SHARE.

    KEEP THAT SHAHZAM FACTOR GOING IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

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  14. Dear Woody, I trust by now everyone is safely back from the Central Asia. Love to hear the stories one of these days. Thank you for your friendship and encouragement all these years.

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  15. Shah, thank you my friend for your thoughts and the cautions you include. I came to Christ in the Catholic charismatic movement and really met the living God (and his word as I read it myself for the first time). But you are right, even while my theology was not yet in order, I met the living God, and he drew near to me.

    Our caution is correct to have concerning, growing in grace and in the knowledge of God, in a day when believers often want to continue in their immature views about God (or want to reject what the Bible has to say about God, morals, the afterlight) because of their experience with God. (as I heard lately a preacher saying, “I heard a person tell me, “my God would never send anyone to hell”, and I told her, “you are correct. Your God doesn't exist”…). We can't continue to be naive or worse non-believing when it comes to the God who reveals himself to us, but teaches us about him through his word. thanks again.

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  16. Matt:
    Some of my pastor friends who listen to Glen Beck, a Mormon, tell me he often openly confesses that he has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior and that he is born again. What do we say to that? Sorry Glen, you believe in a wrong Jesus? Should he examine his theology? Maybe he should, but until then, I examine his behavior. I have a hard time believing that God is sending people to hell on technicality. You know, until the Gospel was Hellenized, the Jews measured a man by his actions and not by his theology.

    Do we have to be careful as not to allow our experience rule our lives? Absolutely! To say, “there is no hell because that just doesn't feel right”, flies in the face of all that's just. We have a just God who will punish the evil and the injustice man commits in this world. However, I don't believe the 66 books of the Bible covers all the experiences man has had with God since the creation. So, to say something like, “The Bible doesn't say anything about people laughing at church, therefore, there shouldn't be any.” is ludicrous.

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  17. Good word Shah, I came to a relationship with Jesus through a dream, where I experienced his tremendous love for me. I am a real proponent of a Christ experience…..to me the Word makes no sense unless you have had some experience with the Word made flesh. Keep sharing you can't argue with a person's experience and what you experience becomes a part of who you are instead of just words you have just learned to accept and believe in. I love you brother.

    Your favorite nun

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