By Patricia Newman
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
2 Corinthians 13:5
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
Just as it is wise for us to have a health check now and again, so it is right for all who claim to be Christian to examine ourselves, to see whether we are in genuine faith. This is a matter of the highest degree of seriousness because eternity is at stake. The word of God is replete with warnings to believers. It is out of the pure love and goodness of God that He warns. God is love. Love warns.
How can we know that we have saving faith? The evidence of true saving faith is in the life of the believer. Many who regularly attend church are self-deceived and are in terrible danger. Sadly many pastors and leaders are hirelings, wolves in sheep's clothing. As always, it is God's perspective on all things that matters. How does God see you? How does God see me? Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23:
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Clearly, professing Christ or calling yourself a Christian is not the true mark and neither is engagement in church activity. Those that our Lord Jesus refers to here did many great works in His name but they were lawless, unrepentant sinners. God knows every heart and every motivation. Nothing can be hidden from Him; all hypocrisy is laid bare before His eyes (Hebrews 4:13).
God is Truth and God requires authenticity in all those who claim to be His. We must examine our lives as well as our beliefs. We are called to do this (2 Corinthians 13:5). We may have the right beliefs, but by our very life negate the beliefs. Salvation is by the grace of God through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Some depict the word "grace" with the acronym: God's Riches At Christ's Expense. All glory indeed belongs to the Lord for our salvation. The Bible teaches that we do not merit salvation so that no one can boast. Our justification is based on the merit of Christ. The apostle Paul speaks of boasting only and necessarily in the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14). However, the Bible also teaches that saving faith produces the fruit of repentance. In other words, those who are in Christ will necessarily present and live differently from those who are outside of Christ. "You shall be holy as I am holy" (1 Peter 1:6). There is no blurring of distinctions with God. "God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5).
Christians are those born again by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit of a Holy God. Regeneration, being the work of God, necessitates a change in our will and in our desires. This affects and rules our preoccupations and our behaviour. When we are saved, the Bible says that we have been translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. These are wholly opposed. A life lived in the light is distinctive and cannot be hidden. The evidence of our being Christian must be seen in our new life. It is clear from the Bible that the change wrought is so radical as to merit the phrase "a new creation". Are you a new creation? Am I a new creation?
I hear repeatedly in churches, many saying (and quite rightly) that we are saved by faith in Christ's work only. They say that they are looking only to the finished work of Christ on the cross. It is as if they are looking only to the forgiveness of their sins. They seem to stop here; at justification. But the finished work of Christ necessarily includes our sanctification. My continuing concern is that many who say this do not see that it is required that their lives be progressively sanctified. This, I believe, is very, very dangerous. The Bible teaches that our sanctification is God's determined and unswerving will (Romans 8:29, 1 Peter 1:6, 1 Thessalonians 4:3). Where there is genuine faith the evidence will be there. Practising sin is evidence of deception (1 John 2:4).
James says, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (James 1:22). Those who are genuinely saved will progressively show, in their lives, the fruit of the Holy Spirit. When we have been justified, the Bible teaches that we go on to be sanctified. Christ's righteousness is imputed and imparted. Without genuine and increasing sanctification, what we have is fake Christianity. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 makes this clear. It is, therefore, not enough to subscribe to right beliefs, if they do not change us. By examining ourselves in the light of the clear word of God, concerning His children, we may be alerted to our true condition before God. As famously questioned, "If you are arrested for being a Christian, will there be enough evidence to convict you?". If Christ is in us, then His life in us will be evident. Jesus said in John 14: "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (verse 15), and "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me" (verse 21). On the surface, it would appear very humble to say that we are looking only to Jesus for saving faith. But, the reality of faith that is genuine is a changed life. Do you really love Jesus?
To me, one of the clearest signs of new life is indeed a life that is now genuinely focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. The true professor of Christ genuinely delights in Christ, God and His word. Christ is truly Lord and the genuine professor is truly a slave of Christ, progressively knowing and doing His will, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Many in churches profess Christ, they declare and rest on His promises but, in their attitude, manner, speech, dress and life they are virtually indistinguishable from the world. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is conspicuously absent yet they claim that they are Christ's. Is this not deception of the highest order for any soul?
I praise God, with all my heart, for every true minister of God who contends for the faith and who earnestly preaches the truth concerning salvation so that the congregation are not deceived. May we not be like the foolish virgins, who sincerely believed that they were right with God when they were not. May the Lord search us and grant us a desire to be searched, that our true heart may be revealed. Where we have embraced the devil's deception, may the Lord, in His great mercy, grant us the grace to see this, repent, cry out to God for deliverance and know genuine faith before it is too late.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.