How are you? Fine? No, Holy!
It’s almost automatic, isn’t. Someone will ask you: “How are you?” And almost immediately you will say: “fine”, or something close to that. Did the person asking about your condition really want to know, or was it more of a common greeting of the day? Was your answer truthful, or were you also giving the expected response to the common greeting? Now I do not mean to question the sincerity or intentions of the greeter, and there certainly is nothing wrong in asking about someone’s condition, for they may very well may mean it.
My focus at this time though is on the response. Are we usually “fine”, or do we more often find ourselves up and down from “fine”? Are there not usually good days and bad days, times when we are feeling pretty good about things and other times when we are quite down? Are there not times when we feel better about our faith and spiritual health than at other times? Are there in fact times when we are more faithful in our Christian living, and other times when we sin even more often or severely than normal?
Events change. Our circumstances change. Feelings change. Even the strength of our faith changes. And the devil is quick to attack. After he has already tempted you into sin, he follows with attacks of accusation and guilt. He wants to convince you that you have sinned too greatly this time to truly be a child of God. He wants you to think that you are too filthy and stained with sinful guilt to remain in God’s family. He wants you to look inside yourself and your life, to focus on your failures and despair. It short, the devil is creating a living hell for you, with you never knowing whether you are a Christian or not, whether you are saved or not.
In a way, our celebration of Reformation at the end of October and the celebration of All Saints Day at the beginning of November reminds us of where to look for our rescue from this daily torment. The Reformation was all about the rediscovery of the Gospel, the rescue from looking at ourselves and our “faithfulness”, our amount of and quality of good works, and instead our looking to Christ alone for our worthiness before God the Holy Judge. How appropriate that the Reformation is celebrated on All Hallows Eve, the eve before All Saints Day, and the remembrance that in Christ we have all been made saints of God.
In John 15:3, Jesus gives us one of His most important teachings: “You are already clean because of the Word which I have spoken to you.” Notice, Jesus did not say that you WILL be clean AFTER you have lived a good life, or have been faithful, etc. No. He said you ARE ALREADY CLEAN. Present tense and present condition. Because of Jesus’ suffering, dying, and rising in your place, the debt you owed for all of your sinful guilt has been paid for in full. Not a portion of it. Not just the “smaller” sins. All of it. And it was in the blessed waters of your baptism where you were connected to Christ and His cleansing, saving work. Galatians 3:27 reminds us: “All who have been baptized into Christ have clothed themselves with Christ.” When the blessed word of Jesus was spoken over you with the water, you were covered, dressed in righteousness of Jesus. When God sees you, you are holy as Jesus is holy. You are his saint, period.
That is the objective truth that you are to cling to in the face of the devil’s accusations and the doubts of your flesh. Though there will be days when you stumble in sin and failings, times when you just won’t “feel” too much like a child of God. Though there will be times when the devil tries to get you to doubt your strong connection to Christ, remember that “You are already clean (justified, saved) because of the Word which I have spoken to you”, and rejoice in your bond with Christ that even the devil cannot break. By God’s grace, look outside of yourself and gaze only upon your Lord and His Word’s of Promise to you, that you are clean, and His beloved child! Look to your baptism and live in the confidence and joy that comes with abiding in Christ!