So, You Call Yourself A Christian But Are You A Poser?

Text: John 8:46-59

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

I have a confession to make. One of my favorite hats to wear while working outside is my Boston Red Sox hat. When I wear it out in public and am asked if I am a Red Sox fan, I will typically respond that I am. However, here is the confession: I have only been to Fenway Park in Boston once, and I have not watched the Red Sox play on TV in the last 8-10 years.  In fact, I have no idea who their manager is, and if you were to read their players to me, they would all be foreign to my ears – their names would sound strange.  And if I heard the Red Sox fan chant, it would be unfamiliar to me.  So, with that said, am I a Boston Red Sox fan?  The answer is no!  I’m a poser!  I am a fake!  I am a wannabe!  If I say that I am a fan, well, let’s be honest, I would be lying because Red Sox fans follow the Red Sox, watch the Red Sox, and know the Red Sox.  A poser, like me, does not! 

And yet, there is this temptation with all of us to have our cake and eat it too, as they say. As a poser, we all try to fit into certain profiles to play a part.  We work so hard to convince ourselves that we are one thing when, in reality, we really are another.  We see this so clearly from our reading in the Gospel of John.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus was debating a hostile Jewish crowd.  This Jewish crowd were not a bunch of Red Sox fans but were indeed a bunch of posers.  That is to say, the hostile Jewish crowd was convinced that they belonged to the house of God. They were arguing with Jesus adamantly that they were descendants of Abraham, making them children of God.  Now, that sounds fine and dandy on the surface; however, in reality, and as already mentioned, they were posers. They were fakes. They were wannabes.  They were liars.

You see, if they were children of God, they would not have only loved Jesus but listened to Him as well.  The reason being, Jesus and the Father are one.  Jesus did not come on a mission of His own with his scheming and devising, but God the Father sent Him.  And so, because Jesus and the Father are one, that Jewish crowd could not say that they were children of God while simultaneously rejecting Jesus.  They could not have it both ways unless they were posers. 

Dear friends, unfortunately, this same phenomenon exists today.  65% of Americans polled recently state that they identify themselves as Christians.  However, as we have learned, that does not mean much of anything.  You see, we must keep in mind that many individuals will call themselves Christians but will do so because of all sorts of reasons.  For example, you may call yourself a Christian because that is what is expected from your family and spouse. The family pressure may be so intense to be a Christian that not calling yourself a Christian will exclude you from Grandma’s Christmas dinner.  Or, perhaps you may call yourself a Christian because the church is a way for you to promote your business – you know, attend church on Sunday to get business on Monday.  Or, maybe you call yourself a Christian due to the good name Christianity has or because your friends call themselves Christians as well.  The point being, there are many reasons why a person calls themselves a Christian – finances, votes, donations, social status, family, peer pressure, and so forth.  Now regardless of the exact reason given, the fact remains, none of these explanations are legitimate reasons why you and I are a Christian.  Being a Christian has nothing to do with your status, gender, ability, heritage, nationality, or accomplishments, but it has everything to do with listening to Jesus. 

And so, if you call yourself a Christian because that is what is expected of you, yet you refuse to listen to Jesus, well… repent, you are a poser.   If you call yourself a Christian to prop up your business, yet your ears are closed to Jesus’s Word, repent, you are a wannabe.  If you call yourself a Christian because that is who your friends are while refusing to listen to Jesus, repent, you are a fake.  If you call yourself a Christian and come to church twice a year for sentimental, nostalgic reasons, while Jesus’ Word is strange and unfamiliar to your ears, repent, you are lying to yourself.

Now, with that said, just in case you are among those clever individuals who claim to be a Christian while starting every spiritual conversation with, “Well, my Jesus certainly would not do that.”  Or, “the Jesus that I follow is certainly not into that,” beware for you are not very clever but are playing with the same fire that the Jewish crowd played with some 2000 years ago.  If you can recall in our Gospel reading, the Jewish crowd wanted to claim all the rights and privileges of being God’s children while simultaneously rejecting God’s Word.  They rejected Jesus because they did not like what they heard from Him.  And the same thing happens today when we want to maintain the label of Christian but do not like what Jesus Himself is saying.  And so, what happens is that we reject the real and Biblical Jesus to create a pretend Jesus in our minds – a pretend Jesus to prop up our pretend Christian faith.  It is a dark and dangerous game.  As a result, we not only become a poser like those first-century Jews but cut ourselves off from the Lord and align ourselves with the devil himself.  And to make things worse, when we are confronted about our idolatry and poser games, well, we get just as angry as those first-century people and pick up rocks to throw at anyone who would dare challenge our religious make-believe-land.

Dear friends, please listen!  Being a child of God is not about being a pseudo-fake-pretend Christian.  Being a member of God’s house is not about being a poser.  Being a Christian is not about being a Christian in name only.  But instead, being a Christian means that you are one that listens to God’s Word.  Being a Christian is to be a hearer of Jesus’ Word. 

What is really at the heart of today’s Gospel reading is the Third Commandment.  We are being shown that we should not neglect the preaching and teaching of the Word while claiming to be Christian in name only.  But instead, we should hold God’s Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it.  But what does this mean more specifically?  It means that hearing the Word will indeed make our posing hearts uncomfortable.  It means that Jesus’ Word will challenge our fake games.  The Lord has power in His Word, and that Word shreds our lies and shapes and forms us – often different than the going trends of culture.  Indeed, the Word – the teaching and breath of Jesus - is sometimes painful for us to hear, but make no mistake; it is also good. 

Being a Christian means that as you listen to the Word, you are continually being brought to a conviction of sin.  Through God’s Words of Law, you are shown where you have erred.  The Word breaks through our foolish facades and misguided-fairytales-of-pretend-comfort to show us where we have believed the lies of the evil one. 

Being a Christian, means that you are given ears to hear.  And so, hear this: through God’s forgiveness, life, and salvation, you are not a poser, a fake, or a wannabe.  You are Baptized and declared a Saint – a Saint who belongs not to lies but to Christ. Hear this and hear it often, through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ you are not a poser but a Christian – one who belongs to Jesus.  You are one whom Christ died for, and considered it worthwhile.

As a Baptized Saint, you have been given ears to hear; therefore, hear the Word of God, accept the rebukes from Jesus’ Word when sin has been committed, and most important of all, hear the Gospel.  Yes, hear the Gospel and hear it often, and don’t let go of it, for the Gospel is a medicine against eternal death. 

And as you continually hear, receive, and cling to the Word, know that the Promises of Jesus cannot fail you but the Word is the sure and secure promises of the great ‘I Am.’  And the great ‘I Am’ (who is Jesus) cannot be conquered by death, which means that you will not be conquered by eternal death as well. 

Blessed Baptized Saints, posers do not listen to the Word, but you do and have this day.  Do not waver and never stop listening to the Word for the Word is for you.  You are captive to the Word.  The Promises of God keep you from eternal death.  You are forgiven; salvation is yours; you have life in Christ, because Jesus bled, died, rose…because He says, it is so.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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