Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Appeal to Christians for Self-Examination

(A sermon in the tradition of Asahel Nettleton)

1Cor 11:28...But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks unworthy eats and drinks condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

2Co 13:5 examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith, prove your own selves. Do you not know your own selves that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are reprobates? 6 But I trust that you will know that we are not reprobates.

In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he tells them they need to examine themselves, so that they might not partake of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy way. That would include how you are living, how you are treating the body of Christ as the church, but also whether you are a believer or not. This is why we ask those who are not believers in Christ not to participate in the Lord’s Supper, but if you are a believer you are welcomed at His table.

He makes clear the idea of examining whether you are a Christian or not in his next letter to the Corinthians.

2Co 13:5 examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith, prove your own selves.

It plainly says Christians should examine whether they are true believers or not, but most don’t know how. They think if they have been baptized they must be OK. Or if they said a Sinner’s prayer, or if they walked an aisle, or even if they grew up in the church, they’re OK.

Some people don’t remember a time when they didn’t believe that Jesus died on the cross for them. But none of those are evidence according to the Bible. And THAT is the most important question, what does the Bible say about this?

Two things are obvious from this text.

First, it is possible to be saved but not be sure that you are. Some people don’t believe this but why else would Paul say that we should be sure? Sometimes we doubt things that are true, even the things we experienced.

Second, a person Can be sure that he is a Christian. There are those who doubt this, too. They say you can’t know until you get to heaven. But Paul tells us to be sure! Paul also wrote, “I know who I have believed and I am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed unto Him against that day.” John said, “it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know, that when He appears, we shall be like Him.” Do you hear the confidence in there?

Even if you have doubts you are a Christian it doesn’t mean you are totally ignorant of it. You will have some idea that you are. You will have evidence in your life.

When it comes to self examination though, there are generally two kinds of people. One group looks for evidence where there is no evidence. The second group sees some evidence but is not sure that it’s REAL evidence.

Did you ever have a teacher let you grade your own paper? If you were like me, you’d give yourself every benefit of the doubt in order to make a higher grade. Ever do that? You’re supposed to write down the number for Pi in 5 digits and you only write down 3. But hey you got those three right, so what’s the big deal? But not everybody is that way. Some will write down 7 digits, and even if they got the first 5 right, they’ll be worried if they missed #7 whether they should get credit or not.

But there’s another kind of self-testing. By my bed I have a sphygmomanometer, which is a fancy word for blood pressure cuff. Sometimes, when my heart feels like it is beating too hard or too fast I check my blood pressure. In this setting I have no desire to put myself in the best light. I want to know the truth. What are my actual BP numbers? I need to know if I need to call an ambulance or not. You see the difference here? In one example people like to fudge and think they are better off than they really are. In the other example life and death is hanging in the balance and you’ll want to know the truth!

Why do some people approach salvation as iff they are trying to get a higher score on a test than they deserve, when life and death are at stake?

The problem with that is two things: God doesn’t grade on a curve. He doesn’t give points for almost right. You either pass the test or fail. But, if you never know if you pass the test you’ll live your life unsure of your relationship with God and won’t be much use in the Kingdom.

So Paul says Be Sure!

But how? There are a number of things you can look at in your life.

I. The Fruit of the Spirit: If you don’t have any love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, or self control, then stop right there, you don’t have the Spirit of God and you are lost in your sins and headed for a Hell made for the devil and his angels.

But, you say, I have some of those a little, well it may just mean that you are still growing in faith. So dig a little deeper. Even on Fruit trees the fruit isn’t there all year long. The question is have you had spiritual fruit in your life.

II. Let’s find out if you have changed any. There are a couple of lists in scripture concerning who will make it to heaven. We’ll just take one because it makes the point.

1Co 6:9 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor greedy, nor drunkards, abusive, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ…”

Now you might think, hey I never was THAT bad. Really? You never have been greedy, or verbally abusive, or drunk, or even sexually lustful? Seriously? Here’s the thing, even Christians stumble in sin sometimes. But what they don’t do is continue unflaggingly in these things.

You would be surprised how many men in churches are abusive to wives and family. Sometimes it’s women, too. If they are habitually that way, or if someone is still a drunkard, or someone is a cheat in their business; they need to go ahead and assume that they are not going to inherit the Kingdom of God. I’m not talking about the occasional lapse into sin for which you feel convicted and you grieve over it. I’m talking a life of willful sinning!

So, if you aren’t living a life of willful, indulgent sin, let’s go deeper.

III. The positive life test: 1st John is a wonderful book written for 1 primary reason; that you may know you have life in Jesus Christ.

1. 1Jn 4:7 says, “… love is of God, and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God.” If we have a love From God, then for sure we ought to Love God with that love. Do you love God today? Now I don’t mean do you have squishy or fuzzy feelings. Can you look at all God has done for you, sending his son, and Christ dying for you on the cross, without humility and gratefulness? If so, I don’t think you love the Lord.

2. 1Jn 3:23 And this is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Then back in the gospel of John, 1:12 But as many as received Him, He gave to them authority to become the children of God, to those who believe on His name… TWO Simple questions: Have you received Christ? Have you surrendered control of your life to Him and trusted in Him to save you?

3. I’m going to borrow one from James now; Jas 4:9 Be afflicted, and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness. Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn, they shall be comforted.” You see godly repentance from sin includes a real and deep sorrow for sin. We experience real grief when we have sinned against Jesus. Not grieving over sin is like not admitting you have sinned. John says; 1Jn 1:8 if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

4. Do you love to practice your faith? 1Jn 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome. Jesus gave us instructions about making disciples, abiding in His word, prayer, worship, fellowship. Do you delight in these things or do you do them because you are expected to? Do you pray regularly? Does the Word of God bear witness in your heart and mind as God’s very words to you? Do you worship the Lord and fellowship with the saints?

5. And the last one I want to give you is that a True Christian Loves the brethren. 1Jn 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?

Another simple question do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you really? All of them? Ask yourself this, even the ones I don’t really like being around, would I lay down my life for them?

16 By this we know love, He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

If you love them why criticize? Either tell them the truth in love or just lay down your life with your mouth closed.

If you love them, don’t treat them as 2nd class citizens.

If you love the brothers and sisters, treat them as Jesus treats you!

Have you been examining yourself to see if you are in the faith?

Are you? Good!

If not, come to Christ! Surrender to Him. Don’t draw back!

If you know that you are a believer but God has convicted you of sin today, remember, if you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you from ALL unrighteousness.

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