Sunday, January 20, 2013

"Am I Really In?" Part 2

The last post I wrote, I gave a quick, big picture, rundown about being saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  If you're faith isn't in Jesus Christ and His once-and-for all defeat of sin and death through His death and resurrection, I would suggest you go back to the post before this and read that, particularly the first two-thirds or so.  If you are, I want to take you back to the last time I questioned my salvation... this morning.

I had a rough night, struggling to believe that God would actually save me.  My emotions, and probably Satan himself, were all telling me that I wasn't good enough because I wasted my Saturday by reading most of "Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins.  I got up this morning, and tried to get in the Word, tried to read and remember the Gospel, when my wife, Heather, asked me to help her open a jar with our new jar opener.  I opened it with relative ease, but then Heather asked me how to use it.  I tried to show her, only to see it snap into two pieces.  In my 'strength,' I broke a brand new Christmas Gift... and in my mind, I am a failure, and I get angry and frustrated and go into a tailspin of despair over something that was only about ten dollars.  Which then heaped on even more guilt, because 'of course Christians shouldn't get angry about breaking kitchen appliances.'  My mind was made up... I clearly can't be a Christian.  God wouldn't waste His time on me.  I have nothing to offer.  I AM A FAILURE.

Can you see yourself in a similar situation?  

As I look at myself now outside of the obstruction of my emotions, I am certain that there are things I can grow in here.  But I'm not going to directly address why I got angry about breaking a fairly insignificant kitchen gadget in this post (maybe in the future though).  The issue I want to address is the immediate jump to, "Am I really a Christian," question.   Why is that what comes up?   Why does that plague my mind?  Do you see it in the statements I posted above?  Because the Gospel becomes about my performance, rather than what God all ready performed on the cross through Jesus!  Jesus didn't die for me because I was worth something, He died to make me priceless.  Jesus didn't die because I had anything to offer, He died so He could use me in spite of my ineffectiveness!  And in doing so, my identity is no longer "FAILURE," but instead it is "Beloved Child of God."

Now, I do want to be clear.  The scriptures are clear that there are some who will claim the name of Christ who, on the day of judgment, Jesus will say I never knew you.  (Matthew 7:21-23)  Jesus says that this is a legit concern.  So, maybe a clarifying question is this:  Why would you consider yourself a Christian? Is it because you believe Jesus died for sins and is your personal Lord and Savior?  Or, is it because you go to church, you do 'good' deeds, go to bible study, etc.  If your response is the latter, might I suggest that you actually aren't a Christian, because you're depending on your own works rather than the grace of Jesus Christ.  While those things are good, they are meant to be a result of what Jesus has done, not to prove our 'status' as a Christian.  We aren't Christians because it's the religion we practice, we're Christians because we have a relationship with God through Jesus, and that transforms our lives.

Ok, so you have a relationship with Jesus.  How do we pursue Him when we feel like we aren't really saved?   Here are some practicals for fighting this method of despair:

1.  Repent and Believe - Hebrews 6 states that God's Word and Purpose are unchangeable.  If God said that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, than nothing, not even our own pesky emotions, can change that.  Repent of believing your emotions over God's Word, and Repent of elevating your standard over God's.

2. Remember - It's one of the most oft-used commands in the scriptures.  Remember how God has worked in your life.  If you can't, ask a trusted friend who loves Jesus.  Where we are often blind to ourselves, others are able to see more clearly.  

3. Refresh - The scriptures are riddled with numerous encouragements to the people who trust in them.  Romans 8:1 states "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  Zephaniah 3:17 states "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you by His love, He will exult over you with loud singing!" God is with you, has promised to save you, and is so PROUD of you that He sings with delight over you! 2 Corinthians 5:17 states "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away, behold, the new has come!"  You are not the same person you once were!  Romans 8:16-17 reminds us that we are not only children of the Most High King, but also co-heirs of His Kingdom!   Are you refreshed with the Word of Life, which reminds us of our identity in Christ?

4. Fight for Joy, and Cling to Jesus - Do whatever it takes to bank everything on Jesus. Get time in God's Word, even when you don't feel like it.  Ask God to show you one thing that puts you in awe of Him and Jesus.  If it's listening to Christian Music, do it.  (Might I suggest "Remind Me Who I Am", "Completely Done", or "One Thing Remains.")  Read a good Christian Book (I'm considering starting reading "When I Don't Desire God" by John Piper) or follow a blog (I recommend "The Relentless Fight").  Prayer walks, fasting, going to Starbucks for your quiet time.  Whatever it is, do something to cling to Jesus.

My hope is that in the fight to believe in who we are in Christ, that God uses these things to point you to Him, even when the strongest of doubts creeps in.  My prayer for all of us is "Lord I (we) believe, help my (our) unbelief." (Mark 9:24)

In His Grace,
Zack