Our Church's Sunday Sermon
The Most Important Examination
Of Your Life: 2 Corinthians 13:5
24 September 2023
Here in Singapore, we love examinations and tests. If you are a student, you are thinking about year-end exams--PSLE, O and A levels. Not a pleasant experience and quite stressful, but necessary for many reasons. For one, it is to gauge how well you have grasped the various subjects. Second, it does differentiate those who have an excellent grasp of the subject and those who have not. Third, it builds character. You have to exercise self-control and deny yourself to buckle down and study. It builds endurance.
But we know that examinations and tests do not stop when you stop being a student. However, it is not academic in nature. For example, if you have a vehicle, you need to send it in for regular inspection. This is necessary in order that unsafe vehicles be rectified. Some vehicles have unapproved modifications that make them noisy or let out excessive smoke, etc. You either pass or fail the inspection.
There are industry level certifications that different industries can apply for and they have to pass the tests in order to receive the certification. This certification shows that the company has met the stringent criteria that sets them apart as quality companies.
So there are all kinds of examinations and tests out there in this world. And people have seen the need for such examinations. But while there are major examinations and minor examinations, there is one examination that everyone who calls himself or herself a Christian must subject himself or herself to.
This examination does not determine which school you can get into; rather, it is whether you go to heaven or hell. It is a life and death matter. I would say that this is one of the most important messages I will be preaching and it will be in two parts with this roadmap: Biblical injunction, hindrances, Biblical tests, what to do after.
I. Examine and Test Yourselves
We see that Paul calls people claiming to be Christians to do two things: Examine yourselves and test yourselves. These two words are almost synonymous. The word “examine” has the sense of “determining the nature of something by submitting it to testing” (Louw and Nida) while to test means to “test the genuineness of something with a view to approving it” (Louw and Nida). I want to draw your attention to three features in these two words. The root of this word “test” also appears repeated in this passage: v. 5 “fail to meet the test,” v. 6. “Failed the test,” v. 7 “met the test,” “to have failed.”
A. These are Commands
Both verbs are in the imperative mood, meaning that they are commands. In other words, if we are found to be obedient and faithful to the Lord, we should do these things. These are not optional suggestions, meaning we can take it or leave it.
B. These are Ongoing Processes
Both verbs are also in the present tense which denotes an ongoing process. We can translate it this way: Keep on examining yourselves. Keep on testing yourselves. It is not a one-off thing that you do and then check it off the list and say you are done. The examining and testing ought to be done on a regular basis.
C. These are to be Done to Oneself
In the Greek, “yourselves” is a reflexive pronoun, denoting something that is done to oneself and that reflexive pronoun appears before both “examine” and “test” which emphasizes that it is you yourself who is the one who examines yourself. Not someone else. This is important: you have to test yourself. This really is ownself test ownself.
Yet, the pronoun is in the plural. In other words, this self-examination ought to be done in the context of a group, a local church. The “yourselves” is referring to the local church in Corinth. This is important to note. It is helpful to get others in the church involved in your self-examination because they may be able to point out blind spots that you might have missed. But it requires brothers and sisters who are willing to be truthful to you, and it requires you to be willing to receive their observations.
D. These are Accompanied by Questions
1. Are you in the faith?
The word translated “if” can introduce a question and therefore can be translated: Are you in the faith? The word faith refers to faith in Jesus Christ, trust in Jesus, belief that Jesus is Lord and Savior of your life.
2. Is Jesus Christ in you?
This is another way of asking the same question. Don’t gloss past what Paul is saying here. Paul is underscoring the fact that true believers are in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ is in them. He says in Rom 8:9-10 “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. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”
(Ill: Let’s say someone pulls you aside and tells you that he has something special to give you and he pulls out a gold bar and places it in your hand and tells you that it is a special gift to you. What do you want to do? Among other things, you may want to test to see if it is really gold. You can do a google search and find all kinds of websites that give you different tests.
One of it is to make a scratch on the metal and dip it in some kind of acid, say from a lemon or vinegar. If there is discoloration, you know you have been fooled. Another one that was on a website, was something they don’t recommend you do, is the bite test. Gold is actually quite a soft metal, and if you bite into a pure gold bar, it is supposed to leave bite marks. But if you bite into the gold bar and it tastes like chocolate, that is also quite a good sign that it is most likely not gold. In any case, there are tests that you can subject your gold bar to in order to test the genuineness of what it claims to be. Just because someone tells you that this is a gold bar does not mean that it is a gold bar. You have to test to see if it is really a gold bar.
Just because someone says that he or she is a Christian does not necessarily mean that he or she is truly a Christian. He or she will have to subject himself or herself to some tests. Not someone else. At the end of the day, each person must test himself or herself.
But this rarely happens…
II. Hindrances to Examining Oneself
This command may come as a surprise to some. Perhaps you are learning for the first time that you need to do this on a regular basis. That shows how rarely this is done. What are the reasons as to why people don’t do this?
This is a common reason why people avoid doing things. It is the same reason why people don’t want to go for a health checkup or to see a doctor. The results may cause their worst fears to be realized. What if their self- examination shows that they are not believers?
This will result in the loss of face and who likes to lose face? At the core of that is pride. But remember that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. What a sad thing it is if pride prevents you from coming to the Lord.
C. Complacent Attitude
Once saved, always saved
D. Unnecessary Doubt
The problem with this is that there is a possibility that genuine believers may doubt their salvation. There are some very conscientious genuine believers who have the propensity to doubt if they are true believers. But what should happen is that those who are smug and complacent and are not genuine believers have never ever done the self-examination that Paul calls for here. They are the ones who need to call their ‘faith’ into question if it is found wanting.
But because we don’t want people to doubt, we start to assure them. The assurance or lack of assurance can only come after a proper self-examination, not before.
This means that your self-examination should be done in the context of the local church. In doing your self-examination, you may want to ask some church members who know you well and know you for a period of time what evidences of a true believer that they see you exhibit.
III. What Tests Can Be Applied to Test for Genuineness of Faith?
God has made it very clear what a true believer looks like. He is neither nebulous nor unclear. He hides nothing about what a true believer is. Everything is in the Scriptures. There is also no shifting goal post that makes it impossible for you to know. We are going to examine these objective standards that allow you to know for sure.
A. Do you understand what the gospel is?
Very often we use this term like we know what it means. We cannot assume that everyone knows what this term means. In the Greek, this word literally means, “good news.” So the question is: What is so good about this news? It can only be good because of the bad news: We are living in a fallen world, and we are all sinners, enslaved to sin, none excluded and no one can save himself or anyone else. In fact, all of us are dead in our sins and transgressions (Eph 2:1-10). Further, the wages of sin is death. Our relationship with God is broken and as a result we live in rebellion against Him (Eph 2:11-22). Not only that, there is none righteous, none understands, and none seeks God (Rom 3:10-18). We are all depraved and there is nothing we can do about it. That is the bad news.
What or who is the good news about? Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can save us, only Jesus is qualified to rescue us. Why? Because only Jesus is without sin. He is not one of many ways to enter heaven. Only Jesus died on the cross to pay the price to release us from the slavery of sin. We were the ones who were supposed to be on that cross, paying the penalty of sin, which is death. But Jesus took our place. In so doing, Jesus restores our broken relationship with God and we are reconciled with Him because the root of the hostility between us and God--sin--was dealt with by Jesus on the cross.
Why is it such good news that Jesus died on the cross? Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. Remember the wages of sin is death. That is the penalty for our sins. In so doing, He took our place on the cross. We were supposed to be dying for our own sins. But He became our substitute.
But after 3 days in the tomb, Jesus Christ rose victoriously from the grave. Why is that such good news? He did not stay dead, but conquered death, the final enemy. He promised eternal life to His followers, but if he had stayed dead in the tomb, that would have severely undermined his promise of eternal life, when he is dead in the tomb. But in raising to life He also conquered sin because the result of sin is death. His resurrection also signifies that God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus, that God’s wrath against our sin has been satisfied by Christ.
This gospel, good news is the center of our Christianity. It is no wonder that the cross has become the symbol of Christianity. You cannot be a Christian if you don’t know the gospel because amongst other things; the gospel is exactly what you need to believe in in order to be saved. You don’t believe in believing. There has to be content to your belief and this is the content that you have to believe in.
Believing the gospel does not make you a better person, like taking some helpful supplement to improve your health. It is not that you are an ok person, you just need a little something to make you into a better person. It is saying that you are dead in trespasses and sins, and you need Jesus to make you alive. The gospel results in radical transformation: It turns you from someone who is dead in trespasses and sins, to someone God made alive in Christ. It transforms you from a child of the devil into a child of God. It turns sons of disobedience into sons of righteousness. It is more than making you a better person. This is a total transformation of your spiritual state. You are literally “born again;” therefore, you are a “new creation” not a better creation.
B. Do you understand what true conversion is?
In other words, do you know how one becomes a Christian? For example, if someone asks you how he or she can become a Christian, what would you tell him or her?
First, let’s talk about what is not true conversion.
Being born into a Christian family does not make you a Christian. Just because your parents are Christians, and they give birth to you, does not mean you are a Christian. In fact, everyone is born a sinner. David says in Ps 51:5 “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” You were not born good, you were born a sinner. Why? Because both your mother and father are sinners. Even if you are born with a Christian father and mother, you yourself still need to be saved.
Coming to church does not make you a Christian. Yes, Christians ought to go to church, and after Covid, there are even Christians who find it hard to return to church. Christians go to church to worship God, to give and receive edification in the Word and fellowship. But going to church does not make you a Christian any more than going to a car park makes you a car.
Getting baptised does not make you a Christian. Remember the thief on the cross? He put his faith in Jesus and Jesus didn’t say, “Look, I am so sorry but because it doesn’t look like you are able to get baptized anytime soon, I can’t let you into heaven.” Rather, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Baptism is an important first step of obedience for a believer, but we are not saved by works that we do. Likewise, membership in a local church does not make you a Christian.
Serving in church does not make you a Christian. Doing all the good works does not grant you entrance into heaven. Paul says in Eph 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” But after you are saved, then service to God also naturally follows.
Praying the sinner’s prayer does not make you a Christian. What is the sinner’s prayer? It is a prayer to God to express your trust in Him and your acknowledgement of your sin and your desire to turn away from your sin. It is a good thing. But the sinner’s prayer has never saved anybody. Jesus has. There are some people who have put their faith in their sinner’s prayer, rather than in the Lord Jesus Christ.
So what is true conversion?
True Conversion entails faith and repentance. Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:20-21 “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus Himself instructs, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” ( Mk 1:15).
The word faith in the Greek has the same root as the word believe. To have faith in Jesus means to believe in Jesus. Believe what about Jesus? That He died on the cross to save you from your sins. That He is Lord and Master of your life. That He has called you to live a life of self-denial and to take up His cross. You can’t believe that Jesus is Savior without believing that Jesus is Lord. He is one and the same. Yes, believing in Jesus means you get to go to heaven and escape hell, but you can’t ignore the inconvenient “fine print” of self-denial, and cross taking. But it is not merely something you believe in your head, like some math facts you are memorizing for an exam. It is not mere mental assent, but it is is believing and trusting and fully relying on Jesus alone and what He has done for us.
Repentance is a decisive action to turn from our sins and to turn to God. The word repentance literally means, “a change of mind.” Before we were converted, we thought of sin as giving us pleasure, we were the bosses of our own lives, we did what we wanted. But when the Holy Spirit opened our hearts, we realized that we are wretched, we realized how serious and terrible our sins are because they nailed Jesus to the cross rather than thinking how small and trivial our sins are. It is the result of a realization that I caused the death of Christ, I am guilty. That is how terrible my sins are. They incurred the wrath of God. Therefore, there is a need for me to turn away from my previous sinful ways and turn to God.
Both faith and repentance are gifts from God. According to Eph 2:8, faith is a gift from God: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” According to Acts 11:18 Repentance is a gift from God: “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” Salvation is totally a work of God. Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). Yes, there is a call to action for all who hear the gospel call, but we can only act if God has first acted. Acts 13:48 says, “As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” Who appointed people to eternal life? God Himself. You can believe and you can repent only because God has done this work in your heart first (Acts 16:14). That is why God alone gets the glory, not you who are converted, neither the one who led you to the Lord.
True conversion realizes what Jesus demands. Jesus says that unless you are willing to deny yourself and take up the cross, don’t bother following Him (Matt 16:24). He puts these demands upfront. He does not hide them under fine print that you would not bother to read. There are no hidden surprises with Jesus. He makes sure you know everything so that you can carefully consider. There is a kind of easy believism advertised today that requires little from you. As J.C. Ryle well said: “There is a common worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have, and think they have enough–a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and requires no sacrifice–which costs nothing, and is worth nothing.”
C. Do you hunger and thirst after God’s Word?
If you are hungry, you eat food. If you are thirsty, you drink water. These are human needs, necessary for physical life. Without food or water you die physically. If you truly have the spiritual life in you, you also need spiritual food to keep you spiritually alive. A person who has spiritual life in him or her will need spiritual food to stay spiritually alive. You will hunger and thirst after the Word. In Matt 4:4 our Lord quotes from Deut 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
So precious is the Word of God to a true believer that the psalmist can say, “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Ps 19:10)
This is how a true believer feels about the BIble:
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Ps 119:14–16).
O how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps 119:97).
This is someone who prays: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Ps 119:18).
33 “Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. (Ps 119:33–35).
Do you have that kind of desire for the Word of God? Let me clarify because some may ask, “I don’t always wake up in the morning with a strong desire to read God’s Word. Does it mean I may not be saved?” That is a great question. And that is the experience of believers at some point or other. I will admit that I don’t always wake up longing to read and meditate on God’s Word. That does not necessarily mean you are unsaved. Even as Christians, we have the flesh residing within us and our flesh has no desire to read God’s Word. What is the effect of the flesh? Paul says in Rom 7:18-19, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”
So because of our flesh, our desire for God’s Word is not consistent. But you need to observe yourself: Do you have zero desire for God’s Word all the time? Is that a pattern you observe about yourself? That is different from having ups and downs. If you never have any interest in God’s Word, you need to seriously examine yourself.
Additionally, when you do read God’s Word, or study it, or hear it preached, do you understand it in terms of the significance it has on your life? Paul says in 1 Cor 2:12, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” We need to clarify that we don’t necessarily understand everything in the Word of God. I certainly don’t. That is why we study God’s Word because it is like a bottomless mine and the treasures we dig out are unending. What this passage says is that the Holy Spirit will help us to understand the significance of God’s Word in our lives so that it makes a difference. It is not simply in one ear and out another. The Holy Spirit is at work in your heart so that the Word of God has weight and significance.
D. Are you growing and bearing fruit?
I can ask this question in different ways: Are you growing in Christlikeness? Are you growing in hatred towards sin? Do you see the Fruit of the Spirit in your life and do you see growth in these different aspects?
The fact is, living things grow. Things that are living don't stay the same. Likewise, spiritual living things grow, they don’t stay the same.
It is interesting that the church is described as the body of Christ and Paul describes how the body grows in Eph 4:15-16.
Peter calls believers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pe 3:18). Earlier he says in 2:2, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.”
A true believer will bear fruit. In fact, Jesus says, “You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matt 7:20). Our Lord taught in John 15 on the vine and the branches. In vv. 4-5 he says that if we abide in the vine (Christ), we will bear fruit. In v. 8 God is glorified if we bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. In v. 16, the bearing of fruit is the result of our Lord’s electing grace.
Paul teaches in Rom 7:4-5, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. He contrasts bearing fruit for the Lord and bearing the fruit of the flesh.
Gal 5:22-24 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Paul prays for the Colossian believers in 1:10 “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Earlier in v. 6 he talks about rejoicing in how they were “bearing fruit and increasing.”
One thing to note: Producing the right fruit will not make you into the right kind of tree but it is the other way round. We are not an agrarian society, but I think we can all agree that fruit is what a tree naturally produces and it merely reveals what the tree is like. If the fruit is odd-shaped, rotten, or missing, you don’t solve the problem by hanging plastic fruits on the branches. But there are some people who claim to Christians, and they are trying to produce the right fruits by hanging plastic fruits in their lives. It may look real, but it is not. They try their best to produce the Fruit of the Spirit, but it is not real because these are things that only the Spirit can do in our lives, not artificially produced. The solution is to deal with the tree. Only the right kinds of tree will produce the right kinds of fruit.
E. What is your attitude towards sin?
Remember that true conversion entails faith and repentance. Repentance literally means to change your mind, about what? About what we think about sin. We have little regard to sin before we became Christians. In fact, we minimized our sins and took pride and pleasure in them before we were truly converted. But God shows us the weightiness and seriousness of sin in our lives. He is the One who changes our minds about sin. God hates sin and as Christians we also grow to hate sin.
The test that 1 John 3:1-10 gives us is regarding sin. John distinguishes those who are “children of God” vs. the children of the devil. He says in vv. 8, 9, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning…. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.” This is because Jesus “appeared in order to take away sins (v. 5) and He “appeared to destroy the works of the devil” (v. 9).
As a result, the power of sin over God’s children is broken (Rom 6:11-14). If our sins nailed Christ on the cross and caused his death, there is no way for a believer to continue to love the very thing that God hates and that caused Christ’s death.
The question on all of our minds is this: I still sin, I still struggle with some stubborn sins. Does that mean I am unsaved? Afterall, both believers and non-believers sin against God.
A closer attention to the wording of 1 John 3 is helpful:
1. no one who abides in him keeps on sinning (verse 6);
2. no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him (verse 6);
3. whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the Devil (verse 8);
4. no one born of God makes a practice of sinning (verse 9);
5. he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God (verse 9);
6. whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God (verse 10).
These verbs are all in the present tense which denotes ongoing and continuous action. If an ongoing practice of these sins characterizes your life, there is a need for a closer examination.
Do you intend to keep this sinful habit? Do you have no plans to change? These are definitely signs of concern.
But this also highlights the need for the community of believers for accountability. Are you seeking someone to help keep you accountable? There are some sins that it will be very hard for you to get over without the help of another more mature believer. If you continue to keep your sin a secret, you will further strengthen its grip on you.
Also, do you sense the struggle between your flesh and the Holy Spirit? You see this ongoing war described by Paul in Rom 7:22-24, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
There is a revulsion against sin; he is frankly disgusted by it. Even though sin may give pleasure and enjoyment for a moment, what results is regret, shame, and disappointment.
A true believer also comes to God in humble confession of sin. After committing heinous sins, David confessed his sins before God in Ps 51.
Not only does sin grow more and more repulsive to a believer, but he also strives to obey God. “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments cis a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:3-6). Also in 2:29 “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” Also 3:24 “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.”
F. Do You Love People?
This is what John says in 1 John 4:7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” John is quite clear.
First, there is a love for other Christians. Jesus says in John 13:34-3, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
On the other hand, “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 Jn 2:9–11).
There are people who say, I love Jesus, it’s other Christians that I can’t stand.” What does the Bible say about these kinds of comments? Yes, your love for believers will be tested. People will irritate and annoy you. They will offend you. And you will do that to them also. God knows that is the very case and that is why all over Scripture He gives instruction as to what to do when these things happen. There is a need to seek forgiveness and offer forgiveness. There is a need to do what it takes to make corrections and to restore the relationship.
This is especially so in the context of the local church. Members should exhibit care and concern especially for those in the church. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10).
John also says in 1 John 3:16-18, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” This love is shown in tangible ways and not merely by lip service.
That means praying for those in the local church, which makes our Wed prayer meeting so important and significant. That means attending church and not staying on Zoom unless you are providentially hindered.
Second, there is love for the unsaved.
This is the burden that the Lord Jesus has for His own people: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36).
This is the kind of love God has for the world in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” ( Jn 3:16).
This is in part what motivates our evangelism. We have a great burden for the lost who are dying and going to hell. That is why we boldly give them the gospel.
Third, we even love our enemies. Jesus says in Luke 6:27-36, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
This would be counterintuitive and unnatural, but supernatural. For those born of God, the Holy Spirit gives them the supernatural ability to love like that. You can’t say that you love God but be unable to stand other believers. You can’t stay home and watch the service on Zoom every week. You will miss the fellowship of believers and it doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or extrovert. Do you see evidence of love that is rooted in the love that God has for people?
G. What is Your Attitude Towards the World?
When I use the term world, I am not referring to mountains, oceans, buildings on this planet. I am referring to a system and worldview with values and actions that are against God and against the Bible. I am talking about worldliness.
It is what John the apostle warns about in 1 John 2:15-17, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
Do you enjoy doing worldly things for pleasure? They love to go downtown and have a good time and drink themselves silly. They love to gamble their money away. They have no problem sleeping with their unmarried partners and others. They feel no guilt being addicted to pornography.
Jesus calls us to be salt and light (Matt 5:13-14). Salt is used to preserve food, to prevent it from decomposing. Believers are to have a preserving effect on a world that is fast declining. Light is shined in a dark world. This world has no hope, that is why people turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, travel, food to find hope. But there is no lasting hope in this world.
To be salt and light is to live a distinctly different lives, to be mindful of the corrupting influences of this world. Paul warns in Rom 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
But sadly, there are people who love this world more than they love God. Paul asked Timothy to come to him soon because “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (2 Tim 4:10).
One of the major things emphasized by the world is the love of money. Do you struggle with the love of money and possessions? That was the question that Jesus asked the rich young ruler when he came to ask Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? “And Jesus said to him, “. . . You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” (Luke 18:18–21). Very good, He is a good boy, a very good student. He deserves a pat on his back. But notice how our Lord responded: “When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, ‘How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God’” (Luke 18:22–25).
Jesus aims straight at this man’s heart and his affections. This was the one very thing that this man lacks: He was “extremely rich.” Now, there is nothing wrong with that. God has and certainly does bless people with material wealth. But this man loved his riches more than God and, as a result, he chose his riches over the kingdom of God. He would rather have the treasures of this world rather than the treasures of heaven.
Jesus requires us to make a choice: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Mt 6:24). We can’t just be neutral towards both God and the world because James 4:4 says, "You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."
Jesus tells a parable of the one who chooses wealth: “And he said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:15–21)”
This is a good illustration of what Proverbs 11:4 says, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” Paul puts it bluntly: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Tim 6:10).
But for the one who chooses God and heavenly treasures: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Mt 13:44–46).
People who treasure the kingdom of heaven are literally “sold out” for God. Our Lord says in Luke 12:33-34, “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
This self-examination can and should be conducted in the context of the local church. As you examine yourself, you can engage the help of those who know you well, especially those who have known you for a longer period of time. Don’t ask general questions; ask specific questions. Do you see me growing in this particular fight against sin? Do you see my love for others increasing? What about my relationship with my family? If you have friends who are willing to be honest with you and not just be nice to you, that will be a bonus. You want the truth, not nice words that do nothing to expose blind spots in your hearts.
H. Will You Persevere to the End?
True believers do not lose their salvation. But what about those who professed to be saved, but now are not? This is how John explains it, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 Jn 2:19). It is important to note what John did not say. He did not say that these people were once Christians but now they are no longer Christians. He said that they were never Christians in the first place. Otherwise, they would still be in the church. The fact that they abandoned the faith shows that they were never true believers.
The point is that true believers would never leave the faith. Genuine Christians do not abandon Christ. That means it does matter if you once attended church or served Jesus. But are you following Jesus today and will you do so all the way to the end? Once again, this matter of examining your faith is a continuous process.
What does it take to persevere to the end? Jude tells us in vv. 21-25: First we are to “keep yourselves in the love of God.” We have that responsibility to do that. This is similar to what John says in 1 John 2:28 “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”
Paul teaches in 1 Tim 6:12-14, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Heb 10:35-39 “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”
39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
But our perseverance is also God’s work. Jude 24 says that God “is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.” Paul affirms in Phil 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Jesus says in John 10:27-30, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Is there such a thing as a backslidden “Christian”? I doubt very many “backslidden Christians” carefully examine their faith. If they do, will they find many assurances that they are actually true believers?
IV. What To Do After Self-Examination
There are 3 possibilities in terms of where you might land after some serious soul-searching that we just went through.
A. You Are Certain of Your Faith
What has happened is what Paul says in Rom 8:16, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Also 1 John 3:24, “And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.” The assurance is from the Holy Spirit. But keep on abiding in Christ. But remember that this is not a one-off examination, but should be an on-going process.
B. You Are Not Sure if You Are Saved
If you are in this category, it means that you have some reasons to think that you may be saved, but there are some things that you are wondering about or unsure about. If that is the case, it would be best for you to follow up with a more mature believer who knows his or her Scriptures well to be able to help you access your situation. They may be able to ask you more specific questions to help you evaluate or answer some questions you may have. Sometimes, genuine believers who suffer from doubts may also fall into this category. Ask those who know you well to work with you on the questions you may have.
C. You are Certain You Are Not a Believer
If after going through these questions, you realize that you are not a Christian, then you need to do what we have talked about previously, you need to be converted. Put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of your sins. You may already be baptized, maybe a member of this church teaching Sunday School. You have to humble yourself and acknowledge who you really are. You have to believe in what the Lord has done on the cross and repent of your sin. You have to believe that you can do nothing to save yourself and that your performance does not matter to God. You may need to be baptised because you were baptised as an unbeliever previously. Conclusion This is indeed the most important examination of your life, but it needs to be done because it is a life and death issue.