For the week commencing 1st September 2019
Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on “Dear God, I’m not a very good Christian”
Next Sunday we continue our series looking at some of the questions or doubts people would love to raise with God. Here’s the plan:
11 Aug Do I have to go to church? Heb 10, 1 Cor 12, 1 Peter 2
18 Aug Why aren’t you real to me? Psalm 13
25 Aug Sometimes I’m not sure if you care Psalm 62, 2 Cor 12
01 Sept How can I trust your promises? Psalm 46, Psalm 119:105
08 Sept I’m not a very good Christian Romans 10:9-13
15 Sept My kids don’t want to know about you Mark 10:13-16
“I’m not a very good Christian?” In my experience, two types of people make such a comment.
The first is someone who actually is not a Christian, but thinks they are. They try to live the Christian life, but constantly feel they do not ‘make the grade’. So with some regret and with some embarrassment, they say to me “well, I’m not a very good Christian”.
The second is a Christian who though they understand the gospel, constantly compare themselves to other believers and feel they simply do not match up to them. When they compare their understanding of the Bible, the way they serve in church, the nature of their prayer life, what they feel able to give; to other Christians, they feel a bit of a failure and so will say to me “well, I’m not a very good Christian”. We’ll spend two days this week considering the first type of person and Romans 10:9-13 and two days looking at the second, from Romans 12:1-8.
DAY 1: Read Romans 10:9-13
Here is the beautiful reminder, that a Christian is not someone who is trying to win God over by their impressive (or in reality, not so impressive) efforts to be good, moral and upright! What a relief! If that were the case, then who among us, would ever be sure we had done enough?
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Declaring with your mouth is ‘confessing with your mouth’ and confessing literally means ‘saying the same thing as’. If you confess Jesus is Lord, you are agreeing with what God said about Jesus and with what Jesus said about himself. It means you recognise that Jesus is God, that he is the Messiah, and this his death and resurrection made possible our forgiveness and eternal life.
To confess Jesus as Lord in the 1st century was very significant and may have been very costly. If someone called Jesus LORD, they were ranking him with the Emperor and with God. They were giving Jesus the supreme place in their life; they were pledging him implicit obedience and reverent worship (Barclay).
So already we have seen, that there can be no such thing as a ‘not very good Christian’. Either you are a Christian or you are not. You either confess Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, or you do not!
DAY 2: Read again Romans 10:9-13
Mere intellectual agreement with the facts and mouthing words may be a great start – but we must also believe in our heart.
I love what the famous Baptist preacher Spurgeon says of this: “We believe everything which the Lord Jesus has taught, but we must go a step further, and trust him. It is not even enough to believe in him, as being the Son of God, and the anointed of the Lord; but we must believe on him… The faith that saves is not believing certain truths, nor even believing that Jesus is our Saviour; but it is resting on him, depending on him, lying with all your weight on Christ as the foundation of your hope. Believe that he can save you; believe that he will save you; at any rate leave the whole matter of your salvation with him in unquestioning confidence. Depend upon him without fear as to your present and eternal salvation. This is the faith which saves the soul.”
Belief and confession together, result in righteousness (right relationship with God) and salvation (rescue from sin and death). We should not ignore how scandalously simple this is – whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. This is an affront to every attempt to be right with God on the basis of our own efforts or our ethnicity or family connection!
“I’m not a very good Christian”. The comment of a person who feels weighed down by their own efforts in doing good and pleasing God. They will always feel burdened. They will always feel a failure. They will never measure up. The standard is exacting – it is perfection! Only Jesus Christ has lived the perfect life! And then he died the death we deserve, so that when we confess him as Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, then we are saved! Halleluiah!
DAY 3: Read Romans 12:1-8
Today we’ll just focus on vv1-2. In the flow of Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul turns here to the practical outworking of the astonishing mercy of God to both Jew and Gentile, that he has outlined in the first 11 chapters of the book. For both Jew and Gentile, the only way to be right with God is by trusting God’s mercy at the cross of the Lord Jesus. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us, proclaimed Paul in Romans 5.
How do we respond to God’s great gift of his Son – to the sacrifice of His Son? Jesus offered himself to us; we offer ourselves to him. That is, we proclaim and surrender to God saying: “everything I have and all that I am Lord, is yours”. Paul says that this is what worship is all about. Worship is not an hour in church on Sundays – it is living for God every moment of every day. It is a life of joyful service for the one who has saved us and he who is Lord of all.
When we give ourselves entirely over to the Lord, then instead of being conformed to the pattern of this world, we will instead, be transformed by the renewing of our minds. We will let go of worldly priorities and thinking and instead see the world and see people the way God sees them. With our minds renewed, we will increasingly know God’s will for us – his good, perfect and pleasing will – and have all that is needed to do God’s will.
When a Christians says, “I’m not a very good one”, I fear they have not yet understood what it means to give ourselves entirely to God in self-sacrifice. I fear they are trying to do small bits and pieces for God but are never sure whether what they are doing is right or enough. It turns out that responding to God’s mercy entails a lot more than doing bits and pieces for God – but a radical surrender of our entire lives to him!
DAY 4: Read again Romans 12:1-8
Now to focus on vv3-8. The point I want you to see from these verses, is that God has created and gifted you uniquely. You can’t be anyone else. And just as Christians ought not to think of themselves more highly than they ought, so too, they ought not to think of themselves any less than they ought – for example “I’m not a very good Christian”.
You may not do everything someone else does – but that ought not lead to the conclusion that you are not a very good Christian. You just need to discover or rediscover what role the Lord has equipped you for in the body of Christ and get on and do that. I’ve said before that finding out your gifts is not something you have to undertake a 6-week course to do. It is simple. What are you good at and what do you love doing? That talent and that delight is how God has gifted you to serve us. Don’t compare yourself to someone doing many other things in the life of the church and feel that somehow you don’t measure up. Let them get on with how God has wired them, and you get on with how God has wired you.
Which brings me finally to the challenge: are you giving of yourself to the Lord as a living sacrifice? And are you using whatever God-given gifts you have in his service, both among his people and in the world?