Monday, October 15, 2007

Have you examined yourself lately?

I was challenged today by Paul’s writings to the Corinthians when he said
“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? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.”- 2 Corinthians 13:5-6.
The natural question that I then asked was “how do I test myself?” Followed by, “How do I know if I have passed or failed the test?” These are pretty important questions. It is easy to “blow them off” and just figure that it will all work itself out in the end. But, that just doesn’t work for me.

So, here’s what I found as I dug into it.
Q: How do I test myself?
A: Paul tells the Corinthians to examine themselves. Look at their lives. This would include the way they live, the way they treat others, their obedience, their fruit, and their actions. They have professed faith in Christ, but does their life match up with their profession? If we claim to be followers of Christ, then our lives should reflect this fact. We should be different (1 Peter 2); we should be transformed (Romans 12); we should no longer be slaves to sin, but slaves instead to righteousness (Romans 6).

I noticed that Peter handles a similar topic when he writes:
Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:10-11
Peter is stressing the importance of taking it upon ourselves to make sure our election, our calling, and our citizenship in God’s Kingdom are sure. Like Paul, he is admonishing us to examine our lives to see whether we are truly in the faith.

Peter makes this statement just prior to his pleading in verses 10-11:
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. – 2 Peter 1:5-7
Let’s go to question #2 before proceeding any further because question #1 and #2 begin to overlap at this point.
Q: How do I know if I have passed or failed the test?
A: Peter answers this question by listing the qualities found in 2 Peter 1:5-7. Essentially, Peter is outlining that those who have truly been called and are “in the faith” will live a life of obedience and holiness which will result in these fruits thus confirming Christ in them and therefore providing evidence that their faith will never cease to preserve them.

Paul answers this question throughout his numerous letters. One very clear benchmark is presented in what we refer to as the fruits of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23.
He then continues with more clarification in verse 24:
Those who belong to Christ Jesus (exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, are in the faith or have passed the test) have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
So, both Paul and Peter appear to be in agreement with a very similar message that we must take inventory of our lives. We must look at our fruit, examine our actions, and determine if we are truly in Christ Jesus. Have we truly repented, surrendered, and come to Christ in complete faith. Are we engaging in the acts of the sinful nature or are we demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit? This will give us a pretty clear idea of whether we have passed the test or have failed it.

In conclusion, let’s remember that what Paul and Peter are talking about is not to be done simply out of our own strength apart from Christ. In fact, this would be impossible and both apostles make this clear in many references. However, in Christ all things are possible including living a life completely characterized by this new fruit of the Spirit. With that said, do we simply sit back and hope it will happen? No, we boldly take hold of the victory we have in Christ; run the race; fight the fight. That’s what I call faith put into action for the glory of God.

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