When I Don’t Feel Very ‘Christian’

Text: 1 John 5:1-13

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” —1 John 5:13 ESV

There is a peace that comes from knowing that our Christian faith runs much deeper than our shifting emotions—especially on our really bad days!

Billy Graham once lost his temper with another student in Bible college, and after that heated exchange, Graham went downstairs and questioned the authenticity of his relationship with God. “There is no way that I can be a Christian,” Graham vented due to the fact that he didn’t feel very “Christian” in that moment. As he wrestled with this, the Holy Spirit reminded young Graham that he wasn’t a Christian based on how good of a person he was or how spiritual or non-spiritual he felt; he was a Christian based on what Jesus had done for him on the cross—plus nothing. Then the Holy Spirit prompted him to go and make reconciliation with the person he had offended.

There are times we all need assurance that our relationship with God isn’t rooted in our erratic feelings, irregular temperaments, or how well we consistently behave with others. These are wobbly and unreliable human dispositions. We feel ugly sometimes. We feel dirty. Like the music artist who felt stuck somewhere between a failure and a fraud, shame can get the best of us—particularly in incidents when we’ve been noticeably un-Christlike. And though our walk with God should be characterized by the sanctification of growing in grace (2 Peter 3:18), maturing in bearing fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22), and conforming more to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 4:24), we sometimes make a mess of things. It’s in these vulnerable times we need to be reminded that our position in Christ never shifts with the tides of human performance.

Dr. Billy Graham once said:

“I believe one of the oldest tricks of the devil is to make Christians doubt their salvation. When we doubt our salvation, we doubt God’s Word, and when we doubt God’s Word, we are powerless and ineffective tools for Christ.”

In times when you need assurance of your identity in Christ and your position in His family, remember that scripture declares that God cannot lie. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 NIV). In John’s first epistle, we are assured “that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:11–13 ESV).

In Christ alone are we justified. This much-espoused theological word means: “pronounced or treated as righteous.” For the Christian, justification is completely the work of God, which not only forgives the believer’s sins but also imputes to him the righteousness of Jesus. Justification can never be earned by our good works, only received by faith (Romans 5:1, Ephesians 2:8, Titus 3:5).

We didn’t deserve God’s gift of justification, yet it is mercifully offered to us. Jesus shed his blood on the cross and rose from the grave to reconcile us to God. On His merit alone do we find our identity and righteousness as a Christian—never in our vacillating emotions, performances, or religious deeds (2 Corinthians 5:21). Both the Old and New Testaments assure us, “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).

The doctrine of justification by faith alone will cause you to be more secure in your Christian identity, it will spur you on to serve God more faithfully, and it will move you to love others more graciously. Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week.


Heavenly Father, I thank you that my justification doesn’t hinge upon my ability to be good enough. I thank you that my identity in Christ doesn’t change from day to day, or incident to incident—it is forever engraved in the completed works of Jesus Christ. His righteousness alone is what positions me in your family. Thank you for this unspeakable gift of grace, and this abiding assurance of salvation. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. In what ways can the complexity of human emotions interfere with God’s truth in your life?
  2. When have you ever felt stuck between a failure and a fraud?
  3. What lies have you at times allowed to interfere with your identity in Christ?
  4. Why is it sometimes easier to find our identity in things that we do, rather than in the finished work of Jesus?
  5. How does the doctrine of “justification by faith alone” cause us to grow in the grace of God? What will that look like in your life this week?

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