“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.”
–2 Corinthians 13:5
We are continuing this series to examine what it means to be a genuine Christian based on how the Bible defines Christianity. The reason this is such an important subject is because of the confusion on the part of so many church-goers who believe salvation is based on works, good deeds. They may not express it this way; however, if you ask most people how does one get to go to heaven, they will say something like this: “Well, you should go to church and try to live a good, moral life.” Do you see how this is a works-based response? Do you understand that this makes God a debtor? “God owes me salvation because I’m such a good person.” A man or woman is saved, not by good deeds (church membership, baptism, confirmation, generous giving, etc.), but by grace.
Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Now back to the main question: Is it real? Is my faith real, genuine, saving faith and how can I know for sure? We have established that the first, and most important, test question (The Fellowship Test) one must answer correctly is this: Am I truly indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13-14)? Am I having regular fellowship with God by His indwelling Spirit? Have I truly been born again (John 3:3)?
Secondly, is my life characterized by obedience to the Word of God? Understand that no one is perfect; however, our lives should reveal a dramatic change that others recognize. We have become new creations in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17) and are now following in his footsteps by living more obedient lives (The Obedience Test/1 John 1:3-6).
Now, let’s consider one additional test: The Love Test. 1 John 2:9-11 says, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in darkness; he does not know where he is going, because darkness has blinded him.”
Who is our brother? In this case, the word ‘brother’ simply refers to other believers. If someone claims to be a Christian and yet carries hatred in his heart toward other fellow believers, he is still walking in darkness. In other words, you can’t claim to be a Christian and hate others.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45). Jesus always raised the bar. If we are truly his followers, then we are to love everyone, including unbelievers. This is only possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit (The Fellowship Test). It is God’s Spirit in us who enables us to love others, including our enemies. Romans 5:5 states, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
So, how are you doing so far? Are you passing these tests? Are you having true fellowship with the Lord by His indwelling Spirit? Is your life a reflection of one who is walking in the light of God’s will and living according to His Word? Do you have genuine love for the people around you that you encounter daily? “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.”
Next week, we will continue to take this entrance exam to Heaven as we look carefully at The Hatred Test. Stay tuned.