Speaker: Rev. Shine Thomas
I remember when I was a child I was not that thrilled about taking tests. I am so glad that those days are behind me. However, I still sometimes go through tests; but they are medical tests, personality and aptitude tests but I do not have to study for them. As the secular world conducts tests to check the condition of our body, our knowledge, the Bible also asks us to test our Christian faith.
Today we are going to see the guidelines given in the Bible which can assess our Christian faith.
2 Corinthians 13:5 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?
Paul here is writing to the church at Corinth. They are people who already love God and attend church but now they are having a little problem getting along with each other. Paul is asking them to test their faith. We need to test our faith on a regular basis.
Sadly many think that they are in the faith, but they are not. There are times in life when we are so involved with our family, our secular job, or sometimes even the ministry that we forget to get our hearts checked. The church at Ephesus did not check their faith and had lost their first love. God had told His people that they worship, but their hearts aren’t in it. So there are times when we are doing things for God, but we are just going through the motions. So very often we need a faith test.
Many of us feel that when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, then our faith is intact. I do not think this is right because see what it says in James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. So the people who believe that there is only one God who is Jesus Christ are not necessarily in faith. They know the truth but they are lost. So there is more to faith than simply believing in Jesus.
How do we test our faith? How do we know we are in faith?
1. CHECK YOUR LIVES.
Faith brings a definite change of life.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
If anyone truly believes in Jesus Christ, then the obvious next step would be to get away with the old lifestyle, old talk, old friends, old thinking. It is the decision to make Jesus Christ the Lord and Master of our life. Our faith is intact if Jesus is the Lord and master of our life. Earlier the world was our lord, now Jesus is our Lord. Accordingly, there is a change in our life and that change is called repentance. It simply means that we turn around and start going in God’s direction. We were going our own way and now we turn our lives over to Him and we begin trying to live the way God wants us to live.
There are lots of people who were immoral before they accepted Christ and they’re just as immoral afterwards. There are people who were dishonest before they accepted Christ, and they’re just as dishonest afterwards. They were greedy before, and they’re still greedy even though they call themselves Christians.
Now I suggest that if your life is not changed, if you can’t point to some definite changes that God is making in your life, then you’re failing the test – because faith always brings about definite and sometimes dramatic changes in our lives. And these changes are occurring because we have repented; we’ve turned and gone God’s way, and Jesus is our Lord.
The change of life will make us a witness. When that happens we’ll not be ashamed to proclaim our faith in Him. I will confess Him with my lips. I will confess Him with my work. I will confess Him with my lifestyle. In everything I do, I will be giving a testimony that Jesus Christ is the Lord of my life.
Now have you passed the test? Are you in the faith? Is Jesus the Lord of your life? Can you say that ever since following Christ there is a definite and positive change in your life? Is your life a testimony?
2. CHECK YOUR OBEDIENCE.
We have faith in Christ if we obey his commandments.
1 John 2:5 But if anyone obeys his word; love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him.
John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
So the litmus test of our faith in Christ is to keep his commandments.
God accepts the praise of only the ones who obey him. Psalm 103:20-21 20 Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. 21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Without obedience to God how much ever you praise him you are not accepted by God.
God hears the prayer of only the ones who obey him. John 9:31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will.
We can enter God’s kingdom only if we obey him. Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Illustration: Once MK Gandhi was traveling on a train to attend a freedom fight meeting. Gandhi always used to travel in third class. In this particular journey he had a co-passenger who had come with a Veena and used to eat betel leaf very often and spit out of the train causing discomfort to the fellow passengers. Very often this man would to take his Veena and sing patriotic songs and songs on Gandhi, not realizing Gandhi was sitting beside him. Irritated with the nuisance of the betel leaf spitting, Gandhi told him to refrain from doing so to which he angrily said, “It’s my seat, I’ve paid for it, and I will do what I want to do here.” On reaching the destination when people garlanded Gandhi, it was then that the co-passenger realized that Gandhi was traveling with him. Later that day in the evening meeting this man played the Veena on the stage and sang about Gandhi before Gandhi’s speech. After the meeting was over he came and told Gandhi, “I am a great follower of you. I am sorry to have treated you like that; I never knew you were Gandhi.” Gandhi said, “Singing about me does not make you a follower, if you want to follow me, do what I say.”
We all sing a lot about Jesus. But the song just remains a song but not in our obedience. We have faith in Christ if we obey his commandments.
3. CHECK YOUR LOVE.
Love one another.
1 John 4:11-12 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4:20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
Do you get the point? John is emphasizing it to make sure that we do not miss it. He is saying that if we love God, if we have faith in God, we will love each other. If we’re going around saying that we love Him but we don’t love each other, then we’re not in faith.
Illustration: Marquis de Lafayette was a French officer who served under President George Washington. After retirement, he returned to France and resumed his life as a farmer of a vast estate. The 1783 harvest in most of Europe was a terrible one, and many people were on the verge of starvation. However, Lafayette’s farms were largely unaffected by the devastating blight and his barns were full of grain. One of his friends said, “The bad harvest is good news for you. You can double your price. This is the time to sell.” After thinking about the hungry people in the surrounding villages, Lafayette disagreed, “No, this is the time to give.” That’s the kind of love God is talking about!
In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed for love and unity in us. John 17:20-21 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
Think of the oneness of the Father and the Son. Never any divisiveness, any jealousy, any competition. They are one. They’re so much one that we have a hard time explaining their difference. And God wants His people to be just as united.
Illustration: Christian love is like a “mashed potato love.” You go out to market and pickup the potatoes and put them in one bag. Now, all the vegetables are in the same bag. Then we bring the bag home and put the potatoes in a single cover and keep them in the fridge. Now the potatoes are all together but they are different. The next day we take them and peel them and put them in the cooking pot. Now they’re closer together. Their skin no longer separates them. But they’re still individual potatoes. Finally it is cooked and we mash and mix them together, and they all become one. That is what God wants for us. No superstar standing up and saying ‘Look at what a big potato I am.’ But all of us mixed and blended together, one in Jesus Christ.
If we really love God we will love one another.
4. RECOGNIZE THE LORD’S BODY.
If you are in faith you will recognize the body of the Lord. How you relate to the body of Christ?
I think that “recognizing the body of the Lord” has two significances. 1. Church is the body of Christ. Romans 12:4-5 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Do you recognize the church, give importance to the church as it is the body of Christ? Are you faithful in it? Are you giving of your time and your talent and your energy to make the church a true reflection of the love of God expressed through Jesus our Lord? Or are you just a Sunday worshiper? God expects everyone to be connected to the church.
The second significance of the body of Christ is to recognize the body of Christ that was crucified for us. How do we recognize the body of Christ now? Partake from the communion.
1 Corinthians 11:23-32 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
Have you ever really stopped to think about that passage? Now here is what Paul is saying. “Every time you gather around this table recognize the death of Jesus. With Jesus’ death as a standard, we ought to look deep inside and examine yourself. You ought to give yourself a test. And here is the test of faith, ‘Am I recognizing the Lord’s body?’”
I think recognizing the Lord’s body includes two things: First of all, “As I partake of this communion, am I thinking about Jesus hanging on the cross? Do I see the nails driven into His hands and feet, and His blood splattered brow? Do I hear the antagonism of the crowd? Do I see His pain? Do I realize that He is hanging there for my sin – that my sin put Him there, my sin drove the nails?” Are you recognizing the body, or are you just taking the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary for granted?
The second significance of recognizing the Lord’s body is to judge yourself before you partake of the Lord’s Table. 1 Corinthians 11:28-32 AMP 28Let a man thoroughly? examine himself, and only when he has done? so should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without discriminating and recognizing with due appreciation that it is Christ’s? body, eats and drinks a sentence (a verdict of judgment) upon himself. 30That careless and unworthy participation? is the reason many of you are weak and sickly, and quite enough of you have fallen into the sleep of death. 31For if we searchingly examined ourselves detecting our shortcomings and recognizing our own condition?, we should not be judged and penalty decreed by the divine judgment?. 32But when we fall short and? are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined and chastened, so that we may not finally? be condemned to eternal punishment along? with the world.
Therefore when we partake from the Lord’s Table we are constantly judging ourselves. Notice what Paul says about examining ourselves. He says, “If we judge ourselves, then we won’t have to worry about the judgment of God.” All the time you have been judging yourself and correcting yourself/ Therefore as with every passing communion we are judging ourselves, so when Judgment Day comes, you can walk in with complete assurance with Jesus as your Savior and Lord.
Illustration: In all our schools we had monthly and term examinations. Some students wait until the final exam to study whereas the smart ones prepare well for every monthly exam. So when the final exam comes he need not worry, he can just revise and walk confidently and score high marks.
I think now we can see what Paul says. “If you have passed all tests correctly, if you have been testing your faith every now and then, then when the final exam day comes, on the day of judgment you won’t have to worry about it because all along you have been judging yourself.”
God expects us to constantly keep checking whether we are in faith. It is possible that we can get so caught up with our life that we miss our mark. Let us check our lives, check our obedience to the Word of God, check our love for one another, and recognize the body of Christ.
Continue reading: The faith test – Part 2.