Friday, November 25, 2005

#112: A Self-Test To See Where We Stand

There is a test that we must occasionally take, and the more often the better; as we do so, we must not cheat on our answers. That test is called self-examination, the hardest exam in the world. Most of us have a need to color ourselves pretty, much prettier then we really are. It is easier to examine others, since their faults are much more visible to the naked eye, from our perspective. Proverbs 16:2 says, "All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” This is true even for those of us who are living to do the work of the Lord. Here is possibly one of the best tests to make sure our lives are not illusory and that we are Christians in the true Biblical sense. Before taking this test we must resolve to be completely honest with ourselves. If we are not truthful, we will be cheating and robbing ourselves of true life and its eternal destiny.

Here is the test. Ask yourself: If every true and genuine Christian was thinking, doing, saying, and living exactly as I, at this time in my life, would the Church of Christ, His body, be holier, purer, more faithful, more powerful, more loving, more Christ-like than it is right now? If our answer is “yes” in all honesty, praise God, for He is proud of us. May God continue to bless us. But if our answer is “no,” then we must ask ourselves why. Do we have a legitimate excuse for our lifestyle? In everything we think, say, or do, we are an example for others to follow. Are we the best Christians we can be? These are the questions we will be asked at the Judgment. Some will say, "I believed you Lord; isn't that enough for salvation?" To which He will reply, “If you believed, you would have made every effort to be an exact replica of me (Jesus)." One might say in their defense, "But no one else lived that way and they said they were going to heaven. Why should I be any better? My minister never told me about having to live that way. Blame him; don't blame me!” No doubt there will be as many excuses as there are stars in the heavens for our seemingly good lives, but not one excuse will be good enough. At that time He will say to us, "Away from me, you do-nothings; I never knew you."

The Apostle Paul said in 2nd 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?" Galatians 6:4."Each one should test his own actions." Indeed, our lives will be a continual test to see if we loved Him. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12. Paul says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of his world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2). In other words, as long as we conform to the ways of this world, we will not be able to know what God’s will is. We will be blinded. “Aim for perfection....” 2nd Corinthians 13:11.

Another test through which we must constantly put ourselves is how closely our belief parallels the Word of God. There is no doubt that everyone’s belief needs improvement with respect to what God's will actually is. That improvement will never come if we are not constantly watchful for the truth and introspective in our faith: judging of ourselves. As we grow in Christ's perfection, our errors will become self-evident, but as I said, this will not happen without close vigilance. Even as I write these words today, The Holy Spirit is continually showing me errors in my personal devotion to Him. This clean-up must never stop. If it does, it will be the start of a downhill slide that could end in the lap of the evil one.

"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1st John 4:1.

There are many ways we can tell the kind of spirit a person has. The one John talks about is the person who claims that Jesus Christ was not totally human and that He had very special privileges being the spirit Son of God. That’s a cop-out. Such a person has a spirit that does not belong to God. Another way that one can tell the kind of spirit a person has is not so much by his/her words but by his/her life. We glorify God by desiring to live a pure and holy life of belief. When every aspect of his/her life glorifies Jesus Christ, that person has the Spirit of God.

We must remember that Jesus Christ had no special privileges as God's son. He was totally human; He came in the flesh, as we are. Had Jesus been play-acting and had His sinless life come automatically, He would not be a perfect example for us. Jesus had a human nature, but did not have a sinful nature because He did not sin. Can we say that Jesus Christ had a potential for sinful behavior? It may sound like blasphemy, but I personally believe that Jesus as a mere man had the potential to sin but He chose not to because of His belief in and obedience to His Father. Some might say that Jesus was not totally human as we are, since He was born of a virgin and did not have a human father, so therefore could not sin. If that’s the case, if it took no effort, why should we give Him glory and honor? He did something as a man that no one had ever done before and will never do again, and I am sure it took the greatest amount of intestinal fortitude He could muster to live up to His Father’s belief in Him. In other words, through obedience that springs from faith, evidenced by His sinless life, He proved that all normal humans and some not so human have the potential to be gods/goddesses in human form: body of man, life of God. Of course, the trick was—and still is—the possessing of God’s life via His Holy Spirit. Regardless of how He did it, it could not have come easily. He was perfect, pure and holy in spirit; therefore, He displayed it in His human body. God the Father was well pleased with Jesus his Son because He believed and obeyed his Father to the letter. Yes, Jesus could have sinned, but He didn't. If His Father had said, "You are unable to commit sin," it would have been no contest. But He said, "You will not sin, because you will believe and obey every word I say." Some might ask, “Where does it say that in the Bible?” John 14:31. "But the world must learn that I love the Father and I do exactly what my Father has commanded me." Also, all one has to do is to read between the lines with a pure heart and many great truths will smack one square in the face. Not to make little of what Jesus did, I boldly say that Jesus Christ is my only example, my love, and most of all, my God. My only desire is to worship Him all day long.

Therefore, Jesus is our supreme example, our paradigm, as to what our desires, motivations, purity, holiness, love and belief will be. He was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin, because He believed and obeyed his Father. We too can say, “As of today, we will not sin again.” We are able to live this way because we have that same sinless spirit that Jesus had. Is that too much to believe regarding what God has promised us? Is that too much for God to ask of us? No, the power that makes this type of life attainable is given to us by God's grace and only by His grace. Jesus was full of truth and grace, and we may be full of that same truth and grace. The power we receive from God must be given through grace because it can never be attained through our own doing. This power to live as Jesus did is ours through belief in God. Even this amazing belief is a gift of grace to us from God the Father.

These are only a few of the difficult tests we must apply to ourselves to discern whether or not our lives are well pleasing to God. Remember, what we believed and did yesterday no longer counts. Our Lord has amnesia concerning what we did yesterday. We must do the same. What counts are our desires for today and tomorrow. God can read our hearts and minds, and most importantly, our motives. We cannot fool Him. Since that is the case, let’s stop fooling ourselves. As I said before, we can live a life that is pleasing to the Father because we were given this pleasing life as a gift through His grace. Of course, He cannot start to give us His Spirit until we start to make room for that Spirit by getting rid of our desires that stem from our selfish nature. We don't try to live a life pleasing to God to acquire His approval. First comes the approval, and then comes the life. That is belief to the greatest life-changing degree. If God can use just a regular guy like myself to put these words on paper, imagine what He can do for those of you who have education and talent. Yes, we are the ones that God wants to use. What are we waiting for? Give Him the go-ahead sign; give Him your life and not just your leftovers. I personally guarantee along with our blessed Lord that we won't be disappointed. This is a test, yes. Life is but a test.

Here is one more little test to know for sure if you have the living Spirit of Jesus Christ dwelling in your body. As I’ve mentioned previously, to possess His spirit means to have the same motives, desires, love, and driving force that Jesus had 2,000 years ago. Here is the question: How do we know for certain, without a shadow of a doubt, that Christ’s Spirit dwells in our bodies? If our answer is: “I know; I just know,” that answer is not good enough. What hard evidence do we have apart from just knowing it? The only evidence is a life that conforms to that of Jesus Christ. No ifs, ands or buts.

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