March 24, 2017

A self-check

Two Bible passages speak about doing a self-check regarding faith, but they are not exactly the same. One calls readers to make certain they are saved in the first place. The other calls Christians to verify their faith by their actions.

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

This first test for salvation asks readers to be certain that Jesus Christ lives in them. Behind this test is this truth:

“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:9–11)

This is a test for salvation: no one can be saved if Christ is not in them. His indwelling presence, regardless of whatever else is happening, makes salvation a certainty. “And this is the testimony, 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. (1 John 5:11-12)

The second test is about proving it. This proof comes from the effort taken to overcome sin and become more like the One who lives in me and gives me His nature:

“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:1–11)

True faith is based on the Word of God: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Rom. 10:17). This is not so much about knowing what the Bible says (that comes by study) but hearing God speak. It is His Word that convicts of sin and our inability to save ourselves. It is His Word that then convinces human hearts that Jesus is the Savior.
True faith turns me from ‘going my own way’ to instead seek the will of God. While this process takes time to develop and is often fraught with stumbling and pitfalls, yet because Christ lives in me I will persevere. The goal is to trust Christ alone and true faith knows it.

True faith also fills believers with a love for Jesus Christ and His people. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8) This also is progressive in that when I was first saved, I noticed the difference in my attitude toward God and people, but it takes a while to learn how to express it.

Today’s devotional reading offers more ways to make certain that our faith is certain, yet points out that the Bible does not tell us to examine others, only ourselves! Good advice. At the same time, another Christian warned me that too much ‘navel-gazing’ is not helpful either, and to keep my eyes on Jesus. It is in openly “beholding the glory of the Lord” that we are “transformed into the same image” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

O Jesus, I’ve learned the hard way that looking at myself too much so easily turns into evaluating my salvation by my performance and not by Your marvelous saving work. The best of this is that You are so easy to look at, so wonderful to see. Thank You for revealing Yourself and for saving me.

No comments: