Auto-diagnostics, or self-testing, is done all the time by sensible people. They take regular stock, for example, of their health, and make sure everything is going OK. Thus women will wisely check for lumps in their breasts, to detect possible breast cancer.
If you live down under, it is vital to regularly check for melanomas or skin cancer. Any driver will of course inspect the basics: petrol and oil levels, tire inflation, and so on. The cook will monitor what is in the oven and keep an eye on its progress.
Thus self-examinations and routine testing are part and parcel of normal life. It should be the same in the spiritual life. We should have regular spiritual check-ups, examining ourselves and our spiritual condition. Not to do so would be foolish in the extreme.
Indeed, not to do so is to be disobedient, since we are clearly told to do such spiritual testing. In 2 Corinthians 13:5 we find this command: “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?”
This is a vitally important warning and exhortation, especially for the modern church. Today’s easy-believism and cheap grace helps no one, but it may result in sending millions of people who wrongly think they are Christians to a lost eternity.
We all need to take careful stock of our spiritual condition. Are we in fact really true disciples of Christ? Or do we just think we are because we raised our hand at a meeting years ago, go to church, and live a basically moral life? Getting this issue right is the most important matter in any person’s life.
Now as always we need to keep in mind some basic biblical truths here, and make important theological distinctions. Salvation is of God: he is the one who woos us, draws us to himself, and has made the complete provision for our salvation based on the complete and finished work of Christ.
“By grace you are saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). So there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. It is all his work from start to finish. But that is not the end of the story. Sanctification follows on from justification, and we are told to offer proof of our justification by our progressive holiness and our willing obedience.
Jesus said you will be able to judge people by their fruit (Matthew 7:16). So we are called to be fruit inspectors, especially of ourselves. We must make sure we really are his followers. We must take regular spiritual inventory of our lives. And Scripture offers plenty of tests as to whether we really are his disciples.
Jesus of course made it clear time and time again who a real follower of his was. Consider just a few passages as found in the gospel of John:
-John 14:15 If you love me, you will obey what I command.
-John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.
-John 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
-John 15:10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
Paul too made it clear as to those who really were part of God’s family. As just one example, consider his list as found in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
John in his epistles also offers plenty of tests as to those who are truly his. Here are some of them, from each chapter of 1 John:
-1 John 1:5-6 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.
-1 John 2:3-4 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.
-1 John 2:9-10 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.
-1 John 3:6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
-1 John 3:9-10 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.
-1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.
-1 John 3:24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave 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.
-1 John 5:1-2 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.
-1 John 5:18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.
The many warnings in 1 John alone should show us the overwhelming importance of testing ourselves. And there are plenty of these basic tests. If our profession of faith is not backed up by a godly life, then hard questions must be asked of us. Our walk must match our talk in other words. Yet there are far too many folks who are simply fooling themselves here. They think they are saved but they are not.
D. A. Carson, commenting on 2 Cor 13:5 says this: “There are millions of professing believers in North America today (to say nothing of elsewhere) who at some point entered into a shallow commitment to Christianity, but who, if pushed, would be forced to admit they do not love holiness, do not pray, do not hate sin, do not walk humbly with God. They stand in the same danger as the Corinthians; and Paul’s warning applies to them no less than to the Corinthian readers of this epistle.”
Thus we are to make our election and calling sure as Peter exhorts us in 2 Peter 1:10. And we all have a role to play in this. Sure, on the one hand our salvation is all of God. But on the other hand, our sanctification is a two-way transaction. God does his bit but we are certainly called to do our bit.
As Martyn Lloyd-Jones comments on Romans 6:12-14: “The New Testament calls upon us to take action; it does not tell us that the work of sanctification is going to be done for us. That is why it does not put us into a clinic or a hospital where the patient is told ‘It will be done for you’, and ‘Allow the Lord Jesus Christ to do it for you’. It calls upon us to take action, and exhorts us to do so. And it tells us and commands us to do so for this reason, that we have been given the ability to do it….
“We are in the ‘good fight of faith’ and we have to do the fighting. But, thank God, we are enabled to do it; for the moment we believe, and are justified by faith, and are born again of the Spirit of God, we have the ability. So the New Testament method of sanctification is to remind us of that; and having reminded us of it, it says, ‘Now then, go and do it’.”
Or as James Montgomery Boice wrote, “It is not merely a question of our being delivered from the law’s condemnation. Christ has delivered us from the law’s power, too. He died to start the process of sanctification and not merely to provide propitiation from wrath. . . . Justification and sanctification always go together, so that you cannot have one without the other. . . . According to Romans 8:3-4, sanctification is the very end for which God saved us.”
Kevin DeYoung concludes his important new book The Hole in Our Holiness with these words: “God wants you to be holy. Through faith he already counts you holy in Christ. Now he intends to make you holy with Christ. This is no optional plan, no small potatoes. God saved you to sanctify you. God is in the beautification business, washing away spots and smoothing wrinkles. He will have a blameless bride. He promises to work in you; he also calls you to work out. ‘The beauty of holiness’ is first of all the Lord’s (Ps. 29:2, KJV). But by his grace it can also be yours.”
Finally, J C Ryle from his vitally important book, Holiness: “We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world…. to talk of men being saved from the guilt of sin, without being at the same time saved from its dominion in their hearts, is to contradict the witness of all Scripture.”
We are saved to become Christ-like. If you are not becoming Christ-like, you may well not be a true follower of Jesus Christ. So my friend, examine yourself – today.
(For Australians, all the books mentioned here can be found at Koorong books.)