Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Examining Ones Faith

The following is an article written by Steve Camp that deals with a touchy area with most professing believers, that of examining their faith to see if it is true. I would encourage you to read this and contemplate the questions at the end. To know where you stand with God is of utmost importance. I can speak from personal testimony that if I had been asked these questions during the 8 years I thought I was a Christian I would have understood earlier my true position with God.

Could I Be Called a Christian?
...what is the evidence of your salvation

"Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!... " 2Corinthians. 13:5

We all have PhD’s in rationalizing our behavior; we have all graduated with high honors. Most people are "good Christians" in their own judgment and by their own assessment. But we can never render the final verdict upon ourselves for our own conscience is defiled and our discernment skewed. The Apostle Paul gives this insight on the flawed value of self-analysis, "For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord" (1 Corinthians 4:4 emphasis added).

The Narrow Road
If Paul, being the greatest Christian to ever live, would not trust - dare not trust his own self-evaluation, how much more we?. It is a narrow road that leads to heaven (Matt. 7:12ff) and few are they that find it. As Matthew Mead so appropriately states, "...self-love deceiveth truth for its own interest." The heart of man is the greatest imposter and cheat in the world; God himself states it, "The heart is deceitful above all things [and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)]. Despite that astounding appraisal of the human condition, we are still commanded to take self-inventory. We must judge ourselves not by the standard of ourselves, but by the Word of God; by the Lord's standard and rule (2 Timothy 3:16-16); by the Lord's wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:24-25); by the Lord's divine verdicts (Psalm 19:9)..

The Almost Christian
Therefore, we must examine ourselves--eliminating ourselves as the standard, the rule, the judge and jury. Sunday morning worship services in America are littered with thousands of people pretend­ing to be Christians. They enjoy the music, support church programs, find benefit and solace in a stirring sermon, relish in the fellowship, and may even serve as an elder, deacon or sunday school teacher - "yet be no better than almost a Christian" as Mead decisively proclaims. They have come to church but have never come to Christ! They haven't taken stock of their spiritual condition - they have not examined themselves. And if by chance they do, it is not with the probing double edged sword of God's Word (Hebrews 4:12), but with the crooked plumbline of moral standards, good works, philanthropic gestures, acts of kindness or good will, and worse -religion. They are moral people headed for a "moral" hell. Jeremiah Burroughs, a Puritan divine, cuts through that illegitimate prideful system of useless righteousness when he says, "repent not that you are civil, but repent that you are no more than civil." One of the marks of a true Christian is that he embraces a life of repentance - he loves God and hates sin (2 Timothy 2:19).

To still be in love with your sin and "wedded to your idols", as Spurgeon says, is to "insult the gospel, pervert the truth and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness." The Christian life is not marked by a life of disobedience, unbridled passion, unbroken pride and unguarded pleasure. The true Christian is one that is evidenced by a life of obedience, a life of holiness, a life of righteousness, a life of virtue, a life of godliness, a life of Christ-likeness!

How May I Know I Am Elect?
A.W. Pink gives seven points of reflection that I would urge you to use as a thermometer to take the temperature of your spiritual health.

First by the Word of God having come in divine power to the soul so that my self-complacency is shattered and my self-righteousness is renounced.

Second, by the Holy Spirit convicting me of my woeful, guilty and lost condition.

Third, by having had revealed to me the suitability and sufficiency of Christ to meet my desperate case and by divinely given faith causing me to lay hold of and rest upon Him as my only hope.

Fourth, by the marks of the new nature within me - a love for God; an appetite for spiritual things; a longing for holiness; a seeking after conformity to Christ.

Fifth, by the resistance the new nature makes to the old, causing me to hate sin and loathe myself for it.

Sixth, by avoiding everything which is condemned by God's Word and by sincerely repenting of and humbly confessing every transgression. Failure at this point will surely bring a dark cloud over our assurance causing the Spirit to withhold His witness.

Seventh, by giving all diligence to cultivate the Christian graces, and using all diligence to this end. Scripture encourages healthy self-scrutiny.

"Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you" (2 Peter 1:10a). No where more important should this examination occur than when approaching the table of grace - holy communion (1 Corinthians 11:28). John MacArthur reminds us, "Self-examination is as important today as ever. When statistics tells that more than a billion people in the world are Christians, one must wonder who established the criteria. Such figures certainly do not square with what Jesus said about many on the broad road and few on the narrow." (Matthew 7:13-14).

Even those who belong to the right church can be deceived and utterly devoid of the righteousness of God through Christ... The Bible teaches clearly that the evidence of God's work in a life is the inevitable fruit of transformed behavior (1 John 3:10). Faith that does not result in righteous living is dead and cannot save (James 2:14-17). Professing Christians utterly lacking the fruit of true righteousness will find no biblical basis for assurance they are saved (1 John 2:4). These words are not meant to spark feelings of doubt about your salvation if you are genuinely saved. However, they are meant to prick the hearts of those who have a false security in themselves, based on good works absent of true faith. I would implore you to turn the penetrating laser of the Word of God upon your life. Is it "wood, hay and stubble", that will ultimately burn, or will your life stand the test and be proved to be "gold, silver and precious stones"? (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Is there enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian?

*"The Almost Christian Discovered" by Matthew Mead
*"The True Christian Love For the Unseen Christ" by Thomas Vincent

1. Think of one example from the past week in which you rationalized or made excuses for some sinful action or attitude on your part.

2. Why is the Word of God the only sure and absolute standard by which we are to examine ourselves, as opposed to our own moral preference or presupposed religious/social expecta­tions?

3. Ponder the following Scriptures: 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 2 Corinthians 6:11; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:19; Ephesians 4:15. Do you think sanctification (growth in holiness and conformity to Christ) is in any way optional for the believer?

4. What is the evidence of a true believer? Is this evidence characteristic of your won life in light of 2 Corinthians 13:5?

5. What areas in your life would cast doubt in the minds of those around you that you are indeed a Christian? Will you commit these areas to the Lord?

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