Have you had a "religious experience" with regards to salvation? Consider the remainder of this post, and let's address this question again.

In 2 Peter 2, Peter referred to the false teachers as dogs and pigs. Peter used these animals to create a vivid image for you and me to consider. The pig was washed on the outside, but remained a pig; the dog was "cleaned up" on the inside, but remained a dog. The pig looked better and the dog felt better, but neither one had been changed. They had the same old nature, not a new one. This explains why both animals returned to the old life: it was part of their nature. A pig can stay clean only a short time and then must head for the nearest mud hole. We do not condemn a pig for acting like a pig because it has a pig's nature.

When I was younger, I had a dog named "Blackie." He had the habit of eating what dogs should not eat, and then regurgitating somewhere in the neighborhood, usually where we walked. But that was not all. Blackie would then return to the scene of the crime and start all over again! Apparently, dogs have been doing this for centuries, for Solomon mentioned it in Proverbs 26:11. Certainly the dog feels better after emptying his stomach, but it is still a dog.

"Having an experience" did not change either the pig's nor the dog's nature. Quite the contrary, it only gave further evidence of their dog/pig natures. Blackie came back lapping up his own vomit. It is a disgusting picture, but it has a significant correlation to you and me.

I have met people who have told me about their "spiritual experiences," but in their narratives, I detected no evidence of a new nature. Like the sow, some of them were cleaned up on the outside. Like the dog, some of them were cleaned up temporarily on the inside and actually felt better. But in no case had they become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). They thought they were free from their problems and sins, when really they were still in bondage to an old ,sinful nature.

So, about the question presented earlier: How do you measure up? Are you "saved" yet still cussing at the drop of a hat, drinking to be drunk, ignoring your responsibilities to your family in pursuit of yourself? Do you find yourself engaged in conversations you know aren't clean? Do you find your social circle is in no way connected to your Bible?

How about this: If someone accused you of being a Christian, what supporting evidence would they present? Imagine the disappointment of the person who thinks he has been delivered, only to discover that, in the end, he is in worse shape than when he started his "walk."

Don't be that guy.

Robert Templeton is pastor of Cope Baptist Church