May Day! May Day!
Be careful where – and, how – you announce that. Technically, it’s the tag given to May 1st – this year, last Saturday – but it has meaning that stretches beyond that. For Socialists and Communists – since 1889 – it has been their International Workers’ Day. In radio communications, it’s the universal distress signal, sounding alarm and calling for rescue. Historically, some pagan cultures marked the transition into summer, light and life on May 1. They knew when things changed every year.
When did things change, for you? Looking back, what was the point in your life calendar when your darkness turned to light; when death and despair gave way to new life and hope? Is that an inconsiderate question for me to ask of you?
Paul’s unique relationship with the people in the church he planted in Corinth gave him license to be bold and direct about critical matters. Here’s the way he phrased it: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5-6).
I’ll bet that everyone present for the reading of that message from the Apostle assumed their membership in the group to be authentic. But Paul was not going to take anything for granted; some $100 bills are skillful counterfeits; some people in the group photo for churches are still lost.
Early in Jesus’ public ministry, a man with the highest religious status was confronted with a challenge from Jesus: “Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.’ Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’ ‘How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You must be born again”’” (John 3:1-7).
This continuing conversation – between me and you – is intensely personal, and happens every week. You have a pretty good idea where I’m coming from; I don’t have much to hide, given how transparent and confrontational I’m apt to be, frequently. Though we’re pretty far along in these discussions, I don’t want to make assumptions without confirming the facts. As Paul challenged his buddies in Corinth, let me ask you: have you examined yourself to see whether you are in the faith?
I’m not asking if you attend – or, have joined – a church; this question has nothing to do with membership in or support of any faith-based fraternal organization. Pure and simple: have you met the standards set forth in Scripture? Again, Paul – this time to the believers in Rome – with clarity: “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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Romans 10:9-10). Is that your honest situation?
What he just said – declare with your mouth, believe in your heart – is God’s test of authentic faith. On May 17th, 1959, the pastor of our church – Paul Alleman – shared those basics with me, and my five-year-old heart said “yes!” My spiritual Vital Signs confirm the validity of what happened that day; I’m in the faith, alive in Christ.
So… what’s your story? Have you examined yourself? Do you pass the test?