This morning, I would like to ask you if your have engaged a “Peak Experience” lately. You may be asking yourself what a peak experience is. You may be associated a peak experience with something like a moment in time with a loved one or an epiphany that happens in your life as a students or in one of your students life if you are a teacher. Perhaps you associate it with a sport experience, a home run at a baseball game in the 9th inning, a touch down in the last 30 seconds or a winning 3-point shot at the buzzer at the end of basketball game. All of these and many others are incredible experiences in our lives, but they do not all align with what a peak experience is. So what is a “Peak Experience”.
Peak experiences were originally described by psychologist Abraham Maslow as “moments of highest happiness and fulfillment” in his 1964 work Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences. To some extent the term represents Maslow’s attempt to denominate those experiences which have generally been identified as religious experiences and whose origins have, by implication, been thought of as supernatural.”
So understanding now more about how a peak experience is defined, this type of experience may be a spiritual or non-spiritual experience which changes the trajectory of your life for the rest of your life. So for example, I will give you two experiences in my own life that I believe fit this example. One was when my brother got burnt when he was a little boy. I remember that moment as if it was a moment in time where everything stood still in my life. I remember the smell, the temperature of the day, the images, and everything in between. Before that day, I did not have a fear or sincere respect for fire, but after that day until today, I have a very cautious and sincere respect for fire. That moment seared my perspective for the rest of my life. Another moment in my life that changed who I am is that moment which I have shared with many of you on my personal baptism of the Holy Spirit. I remember that night, the rain, the car, my Lord’s response in my life. It was that moment in time that changed my spiritual life in ways that so many others fall within but this moment redirected my path in ways that I are beyond my imagination. This all being said, within the constructs of this definition and understanding it is argued today that only 2% of the population experience these moments in their lives. So understanding the significance and rarity of this experience, when was the last time you experience a “Peak Experience” in your life? Are Peak experiences desired by our Lord and if they are how do we as believers experience what our Lord desires to give us.
Scripture – Acts 9:1-19 (ESV)
The Conversion of Saul
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
Engaging the Word
In this passage of scripture we see as Saul has a spiritual peak experience within his life. From this point Saul’s life would be forever changed in a way that would not only forever redirect his own personal life but ignite the church’s life beyond his own imagination. Knowing that this changed Saul’s life forever and thus in fact our lives today, we can conclude from Saul’s example in this passage and many other passages throughout scripture that our Lord delights to reveal “Peak experiences” in our lives. Understanding this, I would like to take up the remainder of today discussing what happens when we experience a spiritual Peak experience in our life.
A Theology that Defines Us
In each of our lives we embrace different theologies that define us as Christians. For some of us, we focus primarily upon a conviction theology so we feel like we will never be good enough as a children of God. For others of us we focus upon the grace of God, perhaps because we have faced a lot of conviction within our past. For others we focus upon the intellectual understanding of the scripture because biblical application seems to be beyond our abilities. These are just some of the major theologies that define us. Even if we draw down below these major understandings, we can look at some of the strains that fall within these major stains. For example, if we look at alcohol for some people just the idea of alcohol is sin. Whereas others believe that having a glass of wine with dinner is okay, but getting drunk is sinful. We could look at dancing, gene therapy, healing, even music. All of these concepts within the Christian character define who we are as individuals before God and within the church. Here in this passage we see as Saul as embraced his theology and all that he was found to be doing fell within the justification of scripture. Perhaps Saul took an example from Phineas in the book of Exodus where he killed an immoral man and woman with a spear and the Lord honored his actions. Perhaps Saul felt like the Christians were not moral men and women, so by killing them the Lord would honor him. Whatever Saul’s reasoning for his action was we do not know it, but what we do know is that he was repentant and grateful throughout the entire remainder of his life after our Lord stepped into his life.
This morning as we look at this passage we need to embrace a spiritual question in our own lives. Do we hold onto theologies in our own lives that do not align with the Spirit of our Lord? For many of you today, you are probably saying “Pastor Mark I am not going around killing men and women”. Yes, we are not going around physically killing those around us, but in some cases we may be spiritually killing those around us because of our opinions, attitude and actions that do not align with our Savior and Lord. Before you and I answer no, we must really examine our lives. Does our lack of gratitude, our laziness, our lack of Godly love, our lack of patience, our lack of self-control, our lack of willingness to serve, etc., etc., etc., spiritually kill those who look to us as Christ like representatives. For some of us we may think that this is too much of a burden to bear upon any believer, but I would ask you what was the Lord’s last instruction to each of us before he returned to heaven. Go and make disciples. If this is our commandment as believers surely we are failing as Christians when this is not our fruit and surely we should desire to tear down anything that might prevent us from realizing this commandment in our lives.
Awoken in His Light
The second illustration that is very evident here in this passage is the fact that Saul is faced with a very bright light, as bright as the noon day sun. There are a couple of items that we need to understand within this text. First is that our Lord meets us where we are at. That day as Saul was journeying to Damascus he was faced with a bright light that could not be seen by those who were traveling with him. They could hear the voice of God but they were not blinded by the light that Saul faced. As you and I face bright lights in our lives, our immediate response is either to squint our eyes, put on sunglasses or close our eyes. So knowing that Saul did not have sun glasses, it is probably accurate that when Saul faced this bright light in his life his immediate response was to probably close his eyes. Yet it is evident that even when he closed his eyes he could not get away from the light that was shinning on his life that day. In fact that day the light was so bright upon his life, it put scales upon his eyes.
I love how our Lord works. No matter where we are at in this life, our Lord time after time meets us in a measure that bears down upon our souls the significance of our sin and his desire to free us and give us a hope and a future. Our Lord speaks into our lives in such great measures that we cannot get away from his searing light upon our souls. It is like we under a spotlight and there is nothing we can do to get out of the mire that we find ourselves in. It is in these moments that our Lord desires to give us a “Peak Experience” that will forever change our lives. Too often unfortunately, we try to get out of the light that has been shed upon our hearts by putting on the shades of this world so that we cannot see the sin in our lives. We blame it on others around us. We blame it on the humanity of our condition. We blame it sometimes even on God. These are our responses however if we are willing to just embrace the light of his glory within our lives it is then that we will experience a “Peak Experience” that will forever change our lives.
A Chosen Instrument
Lastly, in this passage we see as our Lord uses Ananias, who initially is scared but responds to our Lord’s call to heal Saul so that as it says in verse 15, “Go for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name….” I love our Lord’s purpose revealed for Saul because it speaks to the purpose that he desires to speak into each of our lives. Saul had no idea that day or prior to this moment that our Lord desired to use him as a chosen instrument to carry his name. Yet our Lord used this moment to not only teach Saul his purpose but teach us his purpose. Today and in the days to come, you and I need to better understanding our calling as a church and as children of God. We are on the road to Damascus today and our Lord has shed his light upon our lives and our church and He desires to give us a purpose as chosen instruments of his to carry his name. The question is, is this truth revealed in our lives. Are the lives around us desiring the Peak Experience revealed in our lives. That day as Saul faced our Lord on the way to Damascus the first question he revealed was “who are you”. His question was not why. It was not a question of fault finding in God or those around him. It was a question of searching, because he knew that whatever was happening to him in that moment would forever change his life. That day as Saul faced his peak experience, he responded to the call. Today what are you and I going to do. Are we going to run after this experience in our life? Are we going to allow God to truly use as an instrument or are we going to negotiate what God can and can’t do with us? Are we going to carry his name to the ends of the earth or are we going to play it safe outside the call of faith. Today if we allow God to use each us as his chosen instrument we can reveal his name as his chosen instrument throughout Vallejo and more. Saul had no idea what God was about to do he just said yes God.
This morning, I have to ask you. Are you a 2%? Do our lives reveal Peak experiences or do we just come to church on Sundays? Our Lord tells us in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” This truth from our Lord reveals to each of us today that until we experience what Saul did that day on the way to Damascus we will just be another religious person who does not reveal of live the light of life to those around them.