Warning Signs: Safety Equipment Required (September 29, 2019)

Warning Signs: Safety Equipment Required (September 29, 2019)

October 2, 2019
Benjamin Ehlers

Warning Signs: Safety Equipment Required

Philippians 3:4-11

How tough are you? What can you handle? Loss of job? Loss of Parent or Child? Stresses at work or school? Society that is plunging farther and farther away from the Christian values you hold? It would be really nice if God would just shield us from all of these things – so that nothing that we deemed bad or harmful would ever happen to us. What if God just shielded Christians from all the bad things. What if all the pain and heartaches you’ve experienced, all the trials and adversities just didn’t happen. We would be in a much better place today don’t you think? We would, wouldn’t we?

A lot of the difficulties we face in life could be alleviated if we were just confident… secure… certain. Certain in our salvation. And you might be thinking, well, he’s just trying to make a spiritual connection and this one is pretty terrible… quite a stretch. What does salvation have to do with the struggles I face on a daily basis? What does salvation have to offer me when I lose my job? When I’m struggling with health? When I lose a loved one? Get your head out of the clouds and get down to earth!

Hear me out. When you are certain of your salvation, you know the end of your story. And that’s the most important part, right? That’s why when you talk about a book or a movie you say, “Don’t give away the ending. I haven’t finished it yet!” The ending is ultimately the only thing that matters. Everything that comes before it is just details that lead up to it. So, if you know that the main character is going to make it, you don’t have to worry when that character is facing challenges. You don’t have to worry when it seems that character is going to die. You don’t have to worry, no matter what the character faces, because you know they are going to be alright. You know for certain! You know the ending.

So, are you certain? Are you absolutely, 100% certain of your salvation right now? If you were to die tonight in your sleep, are you certain of your salvation to eternal life in heaven? That’s the first big question. To get to that certainty, we have to talk about the second big question. Why? Why are you certain? Or, how can you be certain? What do you cling to for your certainty? And that is where many people, even believers, have it wrong.

There was a group of people in Paul’s day that put a lot of confidence in who they were and what they did for their certainty of salvation. This group was called the Pharisees. They carefully and diligently went about their day keeping not only the law of God, but also many of their own laws that kept them from even coming close to breaking one of God’s laws. Give 10% to the Lord. They tithed even down to their spices (Mt 23:23). Rest on the Sabbath. They counted their every step – and they didn’t even have Fitbits! Worship the Lord. They wouldn’t miss a festival, big or small. They strove for perfection. And if you were from a particular clan or family line, even better! This is what they put their confidence of salvation in. This is what made them certain. If they could live this way, their actions gave them certainty.

Then Paul comes around and puts them all to shame. “Alright. You want to play that game?” “If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh” (who you are and what you do), “I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless” (Php 3:4-6). And he was not lying. If anyone could be confident of their salvation based on who they were and what they did, it would be Paul. He could have served as a benchmark to strive for!

And what about you? Are you a pretty good person, even going out of your way to help your neighbor? Do you go to worship AND Bible Study? Is your church attendance record flawless? Do you still know your books of the Bible in order and by category? Can you give a historical summary of the entire Bible and trace the promise of the Savior through it all? Can you still recited the catechism’s 4 parts on the Lord’s Supper with explanation? Are you from a family with a big name in the WELS, or been featured on an episode of the WELS Connection?

I know I’m getting a bit ridiculous here, but that’s essentially what Paul is saying. If I were to boast like Paul, it would go something like this. “If you think you have reason to put confidence in what you’ve done, I have more. Born into a Lutheran pastor’s family in Wisconsin, the heart of the WELS. Baptized on the 4th day. Attended Lutheran elementary school, high school, college, and seminary. In regards to church attendance, flawless!”

While these things certainly can be of great benefit to us, when they become objects of trust for the certainty of our salvation, well, then they need to be thrown out like garbage. If your reason for being certain of your salvation begins with you, “I am…. I’ve done…. I have….” Then you can’t really be certain at all can you? Because none of us are perfect, not a single one. None of us is faultless, blameless, holy or righteous. I mentioned that Paul could have served as a benchmark for keeping the law, but even at his status, he was far from salvation. Because God says if you want to do some comparing, benchmarking, then compare yourself to me. God is the benchmark. He says, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). If I’m focusing on myself and my own ability to earn certainty in my salvation, then I’m only going to get hurt.

That’s how it happens, right? I don’t need to wear a helmet on my bike, I can ride just fine. And that works just fine… until you crash that is. Until disaster strikes. How well does your helmet-less head hold up to pavement? I don’t need to wear a safety harness, I can climb and I am steady on my feet. Great… but what happens when you do fall? Is the ability to climb or stable feet going to help you when they have nothing to grasp but handfuls of air? You get the picture. You can be the toughest guy or gal out there, but when you are smashed against something too overpowering for flesh and bone, something’s going to break. Something’s going to get hurt. That’s why there are warning signs in dangerous work environments. “Safety Equipment Required.” That’s also why men are statistically more likely to get injured or hurt – because we think we are tough stuff and don’t need safety equipment.

You wouldn’t think of it, but probably one of the most dangerous places to be is simply in the world. Not physically dangerous, but spiritually dangerous. Especially so if you are a believer. It’s not that everyone is out to get you, but there is one who is. I once asked a Bible Class, do you think Satan works harder against believers or unbelievers? The unbelievers he’s already got them. They are already going down with him. But believers, they are out of his grasp. They are the enemy. They even have the power to free people from his grasp – from unbelief. So, Satan is going to throw everything he’s got at you! He’s going to use everything and everyone he can to rip you away from God and put your certainty in things that do not give salvation at all.

That’s why Paul said, “Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Php 3:7-8). Sometimes it’s the simplest statements that give the most confidence. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you” (Lk 2:11). “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Lk 5:20). “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:43). “He has risen, just as he said” (Mt 28:6). There’s no uncertainty in what Jesus was born to do. There’s no uncertainty in the message of forgiveness that Jesus proclaimed. There’s no uncertainty in Jesus death for your sins and resurrection for your salvation. There’s no uncertainty in your salvation.

If you are going to be certain of your salvation, it has to be by faith in Christ alone. Not my works, not my heritage, not anything. “I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (Php 3:8-9).

Jesus Christ alone is your righteousness. Jesus Christ alone is your salvation. Salvation in him is far superior to anything else. The only thing worth keeping. “I want to know Christ” Paul says, “yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Php 3:10-11). That, “somehow” is not like a, “I hope this works,” but rather, “I know this works, I know salvation is through faith in Jesus, even if I can’t fully comprehend it”.

And that’s where this all comes back to helping you through the struggles of your daily life. You know the end of your story. You know that salvation is already yours. Everything in life then is just the details in between. Did someone tear into your reputation? Yeah, it hurts, but you are going to be ok. You know how your story ends. Feeling guilty for something you’ve done in the past? Yes, it weighs you down, but you know how the story ends. You are forgiven. Leave it at the cross where Jesus already took it from you. Is life dragging you in a direction you don’t want to go? No matter where it leads you, you already know the end of the story. You already know where you will end up. Even facing death cannot shake you. You know your salvation!

So, I want you to leave here today seeing the world from a different perspective – from a spiritual perspective. Even though going to school or work, or answering a phone call may not seem dangerous at all, there are many spiritual dangers out in the world. And no matter how macho your own mind, heart, and will are to take these things head on, realize it’s the devil you are going up against. Realize that he will use anything, good or bad to try to rattle you. Teachers discussing the science behind evolution can erode away at your certainty. Coworkers pushing societal norms in the workplace and on you can push your certainty beyond the breaking point. The death of a loved one can make you question your certainty in Christ. All this is too much for you alone. But when you are safely wrapped in Christ’s righteousness, and salvation through him alone, you already know how your story goes. You were born. You came to faith in Jesus. You die in faith. You begin a new, eternal life in heaven. This is most certainly true!