October 19, 2014: How Do I Know That I’m A Christian?

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we’re all afflicted by inner demons. And those demons seek to pull us away from Your loving embrace every day. They are quick to capitalize on our sins and quick to make us either haughty and pride-filled or despairing. We need unshakable confidence in You and Your mercy. We need the power of Your forgiveness. Help us, loving Savior! Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR SERVANT—KING!

TEXT: Philippians 2: 1-11

Dearly Beloved in the Name of Christ, Our Servant and Our King:

When a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one to hear it, does it make a sound? Of course it does! For the reality of those sound waves is not dependent upon a human being or their presence. There really is objective truth. That is, some things really are true whether you believe them, experience them, or understand them. Contrary to the modern view of many, humans are not the measure of all things. Truth and reality are not dependent upon us. We’re just participants in this universe, not the only players. Just because we cannot see, touch, taste, feel, or understand everything doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Likewise it doesn’t mean such things are irrelevant or meaningless. We don’t decide truth. We don’t decide right and wrong. God does!

Why is pornography so rampant? Why is abortion on demand an accepted fact. Why do we see moral decay, social anarchy, and the breakdown of the marriage bond? It is because many people deny objective truth. If you have 300 odd million people in America who think the world revolves around them and that all of their differing views are correct, then anything and everything will go. Such a focus upon “me” and “mine” leaves God in the dust. It leaves His commandments on the garbage dump of history. But, He and His truths are still there, aren’t they? They are still relevant whether you personally believe them or not. That’s because they are divine. But unless they are followed and believed they cannot help us or comfort us or deliver us from the evil one.

When it comes to our faith we often get sucked up into the maelstrom or “me” and “my.” Sometimes we think that because we cannot always feel our faith, we must not be Christian. But it is at that moment that we start to have faith in ourselves instead of in Jesus Christ. You cannot “feel” your faith when you’re asleep. Yet, it’s still there. Why? Because it rests on Jesus, Who is real and loving and faithful to us—even when we don’t always “feel” His presence. Well, all of this ushers in the question:

HOW DO I KNOW THAT I’M A CHRISTIAN?

I

St. Paul beings: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” Ask yourself: Do I possess God’s goodness outlined here? Well, of course I do! O, I realize that my love, encouragement, comfort, tenderness and compassion are far from perfect. Yet, they still show up in little ways and various times. And since Paul uses the word: “any” before each of them, I am forced to admit: “yes, I do have such gifts and I do show them.” Well, so far so good.

Now Paul goes on to tell us exactly how we should show them. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Well, now the screw begins to turn a bit, doesn’t it? When he says “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,” doubts begin to creep into our conscience. For the behavior he’s castigating sounds a lot like mine. When he says I should consider others first and put their feelings and emotions above my own, well, just like you, I’ve failed.

Obviously we should all walk a Christian life. And we should cherish that blessing. But if and when I start to place my confidence and trust in my Christian walk what happens?—Well, if I’m honest I’ll become rather demoralized. For my life isn’t perfect. And since God demands perfection from me at all times, then I’m sunk, right? Wrong! For Jesus Christ came to save me! He did and still does possess perfect, divine goodness—and He hands it to you and me!

II

Christians face the inner demon of subjectivity every day. And that demon has two heads. On the one hand he can turn us into selfish, arrogant little Pharisees who boast about their goodness, and on the other hand he can also demoralize us and cause us to give up. Either way, he wins! Either way, that inner demon has averted your gaze away from your Savior and caused you to look inward for strength, comfort, and guidance. Thereby, he turns us into our own little gods violating the 1st commandment. So, how is this preventable? Listen to our lesson and find out.”Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

Jesus Christ was and is true God. He was and is totally equal with the Father. He didn’t have to earn that equality. He possessed it from eternity. And the amazing truth is that He came to earth to share it with us! In order to do that, He had to become a man. He had to fully take on our flesh and blood. He had to be tempted just as we are in all areas of life. Yes, Jesus had a body, a soul, feelings and emotions just like you and me. He lived exactly like us in every respect save one: He was without sin. Evil tempted Him, but it never touched His soul or got the better of Him. Our Savior also took on the form of a servant, literally a slave. As such He was duty-bound to His Master. And His Master’s will was that He should live an untainted life in our place and die for our moral filth on a cross. His Father’s will was that Jesus should appease His Father’s anger against our spiritual rebellion and spiritual apathy. And Jesus agreed to do all that for us—in total love. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Yes, God did what we could not. God showed us that the objective truth of His love is bigger, better, and much more enduring than our own subjective feelings and emotions. For remember: because of Him, our lives won’t end with death—they will begin with resurrection!

And how do we know that? “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.”

Your brother walked in your shoes, died your death, and has now been raised from your grave! Because He lives, we shall live also! That’s the truth. That’s a fact. And so just as all creatures, including demons will someday be forced to bow their knee to Him, so they will also bow their knees to each of you. For He has given you faith in His goodness. He has given you the power of His strength. Yes, your subjective faith is as Paul states elsewhere: “A gift of God, not of human works,” so that we don’t boast about it, but about Him on whom it is centered!

God has united us to Himself in Christ. That’s an objective fact. His anger over our sins is gone, placed upon Christ Who died for us. That’s an objective fact. In view of all this, how can you not be humble? And here’s another objective fact from the Bible: “He who humbles himself will be exalted.” So, when you’re uncertain or filled with inner doubts, when you seriously question: How do I know that I’m a Christian? Remember to look to Christ alone! Remember how He has honored you with His life. Yes, fasten your faith to Him and God’s eternal reality will become your own. Amen The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep and guard your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen