Examine Yourself

Are you a Christian?

Many people who claim to be point to some event in the past to substantiate their claim. But inviting Jesus to come into your life in the past is not proof that you are genuinely saved. In 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul says to the Corinthian church, “Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith; prove yourselves (emphasis added).” He wouldn’t have said that if some event in the past were obviously the answer. The Bible never verifies anyone’s salvation by the past but by the present. If there is no evidence of salvation in your life now, you need to face the fact that you may not be a Christian. You need to examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith. How does one do that? Jesus shows us in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).

The Distinguishing Mark of a Christian

Before Jesus was born, the religious leaders of Israel had already decided what it meant to live righteously. They had developed a system contrary to Scripture based on self-righteousness generated by doing good works. When Jesus entered the world, He shattered their religious system by upholding the standard revealed in God’s Word. He revealed how a citizen of His Kingdom really lives.

If you want to know if you’re a Christian, compare your life with the standard Christ presents in the Sermon on the Mount. One word summarizes His standard: righteousness. Examine the lives of many professing Christians, and you’ll find no such righteousness. Someone once told me about a woman who said she was a Christian but was living with a man who was not her husband. First Corinthians 6:9 says that those characterized by sexual immorality (“fornicators”) “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” That woman was living in a state of unrighteousness. But righteousness characterizes true conversion.

Matthew 5:20, the key verse in the Sermon on the Mount, says, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The scribes and Pharisees went to the Temple regularly, paid tithes, fasted, and prayed constantly. But Christ wasn’t impressed with their religious performance. He said no one would enter His Kingdom whose righteousness didn’t exceed theirs. Righteousness–living by God’s standards–is what sets a person apart as God’s child.

Hebrews 12:14 says, “Follow … holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Second Timothy 2:19 says, “The Lord knoweth them that are his; and, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” Titus 1:16 says that some people “profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” A person’s profession of Christ means nothing apart from obedience and holiness. Some people believe you can come to Jesus Christ without a consequent change in life-style. But God expects a transformation. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Being righteous doesn’t mean you never sin; it means you confess your sin to the Lord, repent of it, and despise it. First John 2:3 says, “By this we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” In John 14:15 Christ said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” First John 2:9 says, “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” First John 3:9 says, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

The Bible makes it clear that those who are genuinely saved are righteous and holy. They still sin, but with decreasing frequency. A true believer hates his sin (cf., Rom. 7:15-25) and repents of it, hungering and thirsting for what is right. He obeys God, loves his brother, and hates the evil world system. No one can be a Christian and continue living the way he did before he knew Christ. Making a decision years ago, going to an inquiry room, walking an aisle, or reading a tract on how to accept Christ is not a biblical criterion for salvation–the issue is what your life is like right now. If sin and unrighteousness characterize your life, there is a possibility you are a disobedient Christian–but there is a greater possibility you are not a Christian at all.

The Proper Entrance into Christ’s Kingdom

In Matthew 5:3 Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Greek text indicates that the Kingdom belongs only to those who are poor in spirit. Only those who admit their spiritual bankruptcy and sinfulness can enter the Kingdom. Being “poor in spirit” speaks of being poverty stricken in one’s spirit. Verse 4 shows the result of that inner poverty: “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.” Only those who are broken and mournful over their sin ever receive salvation. Meekness, produced by the crushing weight of one’s sin, also characterizes a person entering the Kingdom (v. 5). When a person is poor in spirit, mournful about his sin, and meek, then he will hunger and thirst after righteousness, and he will be filled (v. 6).

If you didn’t come to Jesus Christ shattered over your sinfulness, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness, you are not a Christian. Some people come to Christ as if they are doing Him some great favor. Sometimes Christians reflect that same attitude by hoping some famous person will be saved because of his potential influence. But whoever wants to come to Jesus must come on His terms: mourning over his sin, and desiring righteousness. When someone comes on those terms, the Lord makes him merciful (v. 7), pure in heart (v. 8), and a peacemaker (v. 9). Then because of what he is, people will persecute him (v. 10), revile him, and say false things about him (v. 11). But he will rejoice, because he’s a citizen of the Kingdom (v. 12).

Vital Signs of a Christian

A Distinct Testimony

In Matthew 5:13-14 Christ referred to believers as “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” A Christian’s life- style will be easily distinguishable from the world’s. Just as salt preserves decaying meat, Christians are a preservative in the midst of a decaying civilization. One reason the prophesied Great Tribulation of the end times will be so terrible is the preserving effect of the church will be gone. Christ compares His disciples to a light set on a hill and salt that has retained its saltiness. Is it evident to those around you that your life is different, or do you do the same things they do? If your life didn’t change when you were supposedly saved, then you aren’t really a Christian.

An Obedient Life

A child of God is characterized by obedience. In Matthew 5:17-19 our Lord said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Christ’s point is this: if you are truly saved, you will be obedient. You will have an overwhelming desire to submit to God’s Word. Paul hungered to obey God’s Word, even though sin was always tugging at him (Rom. 7:15-25).

Matthew 5:21-32 maintains that if you have really been converted, you will think differently. Apparently the Israelites controlled their outward behavior but not their thoughts. The Lord said to them, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old, Thou shalt not kill and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of judgment; but I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of judgment” (vv. 21-22). A believer doesn’t even desire to hurt anyone–let alone kill–because he has a different heart. In Ezekiel 36:26 God promises that when you become redeemed, He “will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and … will give you an heart of flesh.”

In Matthew 5:27-28 Christ says that a Christian is not to commit adultery or even entertain adulterous thoughts. Someone who claims to be a Christian and continues to be immoral, practicing such things as adultery or homosexuality, will never inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Until you are broken over your sinfulness and crawl into Christ’s Kingdom hungering for righteousness, you will never know what true redemption is.

In Matthew 5:33-37 Christ discusses perjury and keeping one’s oaths. He emphasized that true conversion produces pure and truthful speech, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34 ). In Matthew 5:38-47 He adds that a citizen of His Kingdom doesn’t retaliate but is kind. He loves his neighbor (v. 43), and even his enemies (v. 44). The goal is for believers to be like God (v. 48).

No one is a Christian because he went forward at a meeting and signed a card, or because a counselor said he was. In fact, a counselor should never assure someone he is saved after that person verbally commits his life to Christ. No counselor can be sure of that. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to grant assurance to a believer. He grants it by an inward testimony (Rom. 8:16 ) and an outward demonstration.

James 2:17 says that “faith, if it hath not works, is dead.” An unfortunate legacy of modern evangelism is that one’s assurance of salvation is attached to a decision. Biblically, however, assurance has nothing to do with the past; it’s related to what your life is like right now. Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31 ). Evidence of salvation is always present in a true believer.

Sincere Worship

A believer demonstrates the right kind of worship (Matt. 6:1- 18). His worship of God is genuine, in contrast to that of the Pharisees, whose only concern was attracting attention to their spirituality. A Christian gives of his resources because He loves God, not because he craves public recognition (6:1-4). His prayers aren’t hypocritical but a sincere expression of his heart (6:5-15). Also he doesn’t need for others to know that he’s fasting (6:16-18).

A Biblical Perspective of Money and Materialism

According to Matthew 6:19-24 the citizens of Christ’s Kingdom don’t love money: they do not lay up for themselves “treasures upon earth” (v. 19). They refuse to serve money because they know it’s impossible to serve both it and God (v. 24). If you have committed your life to acquiring wealth, you are not a servant of God. If you are a friend of the world, you are an enemy of God (James 4:4). If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you (1 John 2:15 ). Matthew 6:25-34 adds that Christians are not to be preoccupied with the necessities of life. They know God takes care of those things vv. 31-32).

An Uncritical Love of Others

Matthew 7:1-12 emphasizes that genuine believers have good relationships. They don’t constantly misjudge other people and act pious toward them while ignoring their own problems. Christians are known for loving others (cf., John 13:35 ).

Perhaps after this survey of what Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount, you are wondering how anyone could ever live like that. If you’re thinking it’s impossible to do all those things, that’s the very response the Lord wants. After confronting a rich young ruler with his materialism, Jesus said to His disciples, “Verily I say unto you that a rich man shall with difficulty enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God ” (Matt. 19:23-24). It’s impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle! That’s exactly what the Lord wanted people to conclude. Verses 25-26 say, “When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who, then, can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” No man has the resources within himself to live up to God’s standards. That’s why we have to cast ourselves on the mercy of God. The rich young ruler in Matthew 19 wasn’t willing to do that. He wanted to enter the Kingdom but on his terms. However, that’s like trying to put a camel through the eye of a needle. The only way into the Kingdom is by becoming broken in spirit, mournful, and eager for a righteousness that you can’t attain and don’t deserve.

Most people don’t want to meet those conditions. They want to do things their way. They resemble a man with four pieces of luggage–worldliness, sin, Satan, and self–trying to get through the turnstile into the Kingdom. They want in so they can have happiness and stay out of hell, but they want in on their terms. However, the Lord said, “Enter in at the narrow gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in that way” (Matt. 7:13). Many people enter through the wide gate because they can take their baggage of good works and self-righteousness with them. Verse 14 continues, “Narrow is the gate, and hard is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” The Greek word translated “hard” literally means “compressed.” You have to strip yourself of everything to go through the narrow gate.

A Deceptive Illusion of Eternal Life

Notice that the broad way leading to destruction is not marked as the way to hell–it’s marked as the way to heaven! People get on the broad road because it doesn’t require a change of life-style. You simply have to say you made a decision, were baptized, went forward at a meeting, or signed a card. The sad thing is that many people are on that road. But the way that leads to life is restrictive, and very few find it.

If you still cling to your worldliness and self-righteousness, you’re on the wrong road. You may think you’re headed to heaven and that your good works will get you in. But someday you will discover what John Bunyan described in The Pilgrim’s Progress : that there is an entrance to hell from the portals of heaven. In fact Christ warned people to beware of false prophets (Matt. 7:15-20) because they sell tickets to the broad way; they’ll tell you you can get to heaven without changing anything.

In Matthew 7:21-22 Jesus says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father, who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out demons? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Many people won’t discover until it’s too late that they were on the wrong road.

Christ concluded the Sermon on the Mount by illustrating the destinations of the broad and narrow roads. In Matthew 7:24-25 He speaks of a wise man who builds his house on a solid foundation. Verse 25 says, “The rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock.” That man came to God on His terms–he built his house on the rock, which is obedience. Therefore his house stood. Christ continues, “Every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand” (v. 26). The foolish man built a beautiful house; his religion looked good. He is one of those who prophesied, cast out demons, and did wonderful works (v. 22) but never came to God on His terms. Verse 27 says, “The rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.”

What a disaster it would be to come before Christ on Judgment Day and discover you are sentenced to hell because you didn’t come to Him His way! Examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith. As Peter said, “Be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you” (2 Peter 1:10).

John MacArthur – Grace To You

Possibly Related Posts (automatically generated)

A.W. Pink: Take Heed What You Read

Previously, I have shared an excerpt of Arthur Pink’s message “Take Heed What You Read” and now submit in full, with urgency.

“Take heed what you hear” (Mark 4:24): the word “hear” obviously includes what is read, for that which is written or printed is addressed to the ears of our intellect. Few people today realize the urgent need for “taking heed” unto what they read. Just as the natural food which is eaten either helps or hinders the body—so the mental food we receive either benefits or injures the mind, and that, in turn, affects the heart. Just as it is harmful to listen to the rubbish and poison which is being served from the great majority of present-day pulpits—so it is exceedingly injurious to the soul to read most of what is now being published. “Take heed what you hear” and read! But let us seek to be more specific.

The only thing which is really worth calling “religion” is the life of God in the soul-commenced, carried on, and consummated solely by the Holy Spirit. Hence, whatever does not bear the impress of the Spirit’s unction, should be rejected by the Christian: for not only can unctionless messages do us no good—but what proceeds not from the Spirit—is of the flesh. Here, then, is the test which God’s children ought to apply unto all they hear, and here is the balance in which they should weigh all that they read. True, there are varying degrees of the Spirit’s unction. As it is in the natural so it is in the spiritual—there will be a varying amount of wetness from the faintest moisture of dew—as compared to the copious shower. As there had to be “salt” in every sacrifice (Lev. 2:13), so every discourse or article proceeding from the Spirit’s aid, is “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). But O how very much today is devoid of spiritual savor and flavor!

Some of God’s dear people may suppose that it would be presumptuous to set themselves up as judges of what they hear or read—but that is a serious mistake, being both a false humility, and a shirking of duty. The Apostle rebuked the Hebrews because their senses (spiritual faculties) were not developed so as to discern between good and evil (Hebrews 5:13). With as much reason, might it be termed pride for anyone to pass judgment upon the groceries or meats purchased from the stores. Others may ask, “But how are simple and unlearned souls to distinguish between the different religious publications of the day?” Very simply: in sampling your natural food how do you determine whether or not it be seasoned? By your natural taste, of course. So it is spiritually: the “new man” has a palate too! If the God of creation has given us natural palates for the purpose of distinguishing between wholesome and unwholesome food, the God of grace has furnished His people with a capacity, a spiritual sense, to distinguish between nutritious and unwholesome soul food.

“Just as the mouth tastes food—the ear tests the words it hears” (Job 34:3). Does yours, my reader? Are you as careful about what you take into your mind—as what you take into your stomach? You certainly ought to be, for the former is even more important than the latter. If you eat some material food which is injurious, you can take a purgative and get rid of the same; but if you have devoured mental food which is injurious, it stays with you! “The ear tests the words it hears.” Again, we ask, Does yours, dear reader? Are you learning to distinguish between “letter” and “spirit;” between the “form” and the “power;” between that which is of the earth and that which is from Heaven; between that which is lifeless and unctionless and that which is instinct with the breath of God? If the answer is ‘No’, then you are greatly the loser.

How many of God’s dear children listen to the automaton “letter” preachers of today, and yet find nothing suited to the needs of their poor souls! And how many are subscribing for one magazine after another, hoping to find that which will the better furnish them to fight the good fight of faith—only to be disappointed? What they hear and what they read does not penetrate and grip—it has no power—it neither breaks down nor lifts up—it produces neither godly sorrow nor godly joy. The messages they hear or read, fall upon their ear like an idle or twice-told tale—it completely fails to reach their case or minister to their needs. They are no better off after hearing a hundred such “sermons” or reading through a hundred such periodicals, than they were at the beginning! They are no farther from the world—and no nearer unto God!

It is often a long time before God’s children are able to account for this. They blame themselves; they are exceedingly loath to say, “This message is not of God.” They are afraid to act in the spiritual, as they do in the natural, and condemn and discard that which is worthless. While they feel a lack of power in the sermons they hear, or the articles they read, and while their souls steadily get dried up like a potsherd—they are slow to realize that this is the inevitable effect of the unctionless preaching they listen to, or the unctionless literature they read; and that such dryness and leanness of soul is inevitable—by their association with unhumbled and empty professors. But in due time God opens their eyes, and they see through the flimsy veil and discover that both the sermons they hear, and the literature they read—are only the product of a dead profession!

Ah, it is a great thing when once the Holy Spirit teaches a soul—that it is power which is lacking from the lifeless preaching and lifeless articles of dead professors. It is power which the renewed soul seeks—a message which has power to search his conscience, to pierce him to the quick, to write it upon his heart; a message which has power to bring him to his knees in broken-hearted confession to God; a message which has power to make him feel that he is “vile”; a message which has power to drive him to Christ, for the binding up of his wounds, for Him to pour in “oil and wine,” and send him on his way rejoicing. Yes, what the renewed soul longs for (though at first he knows it not) is that Divine message which comes to him “not simply with words—but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction!” (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

Sooner or later, every Christian comes to value “power,” and to count as worthless, whatever lacks it. It is by Divine power, that he is taught in his own soul, by which he is made to feel acutely his sinnership, his carnality, his beggarliness. It is Divine power working in his heart—the same power which brought Christ again from the dead (Eph. 1:19, 20)—which draws his affections unto things above and makes his soul pant after God “as the deer pants after the water brooks” (Psalm 42:1). It is this Divine power working in him which reveals to his burdened spirit the Throne of Grace, and causes him to implore mercy and to seek grace “to help in time of need.” It is this Divine power working in him, which makes him cry “Make me walk along the path of Your commands—for there I find delight” (Psalm 119:35).

Those who are partakers of this Divine power (and they are few in number) can never be satisfied with a powerless ministry, either oral or written.

“Those who live according to the flesh—have their minds set on what the flesh desires,” (Romans 8:5). They are charmed with oratorical eloquence, catchy sayings, witty allusions, and amusing illustrations. On just such “husks”, do the religious “swine” feed!

But the penitent prodigal can find no nutriment therein! Men “of the world”—and they may be graduates from some “Bible Institute” or possessors of a diploma from some Bible Seminary, now styling themselves “preachers of the Gospel”—will speak of the things of the world and “the world hears them” (1 John 4:5). But those who are seeking to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling” obtain no help therefrom, yes, they perceive clearly that such sermons and periodicals are “broken cisterns, which can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13).

“Take heed what you hear” and read! More than forty years ago the saintly Adolph Saphir wrote, “I think the fewer books we read—the better. It is like times of cholera, when we should only drink filtered water.” What would he say if he were on earth today and glanced over the deadly poison sent forth by the heterodox, and the lifeless rubbish put out by the orthodox? Christian reader, if you value the health of your soul, cease hearing and quit reading all that is lifeless, unctionless, powerless, no matter what prominent or popular name be attached thereto. Life is too short to waste valuable time on that which does not profit. Ninety-nine out of every hundred of the religious books, booklets, and magazines now being published, are not worth the paper on which they are printed!

To turn away from the lifeless preachers and publishers of the day—may involve a real cross. Your motives will be misconstrued, your words perverted, and your actions misinterpreted. The sharp arrows of false report will be directed against you. You will be called proud and self-righteous, because you refuse to fellowship empty professors. You will be termed censorious and bitter—if you condemn in plain speech—the subtle delusions of Satan. You will be dubbed narrow-minded and uncharitable, because you refuse to join in singing the praises of the “great” and “popular” men of the day. More and more, you will be made to painfully realize—that the path which leads unto eternal life is “narrow” and that FEW there are who find it. May the Lord be pleased to grant unto each of us—the hearing ear and obedient heart! “Take heed what you hear” and read!

~ A.W. Pink (1886-1952)

Possibly Related Posts (automatically generated)

Scripture Truth: Let No Man Deceive You

2 Thessalonians 2:1-17

Man of Lawlessness

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and by our gathering together unto Him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as if from us that the Day of Christ is at hand.

Let no man deceive you by any means, for that Day shall not come, unless there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sitteth as God in the temple of God, showing himself to be God.

Remember ye not that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth, that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now holdeth back will hold him back, until he is taken out of the way.

And then shall that wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming– even him, whose coming is according to the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all the deceit of unrighteousness in those who perish, because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you for salvation, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, whereunto He called you by our Gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold to the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God even our Father, who hath loved us and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

Bible Version: 21st Century King James (KJ21)

Possibly Related Posts (automatically generated)

The Happy Man

The happy man was born in the city of Regeneration

in the parish of Repentance unto life.

He was educated at the school of Obedience.

He has a large estate in the county of Christian Contentment,

and many times does jobs of Self-denial,

wears the garment of Humility,

and has another suit to put on when he goes to Court,

called the Robe of Christ’s Righteousness.

He often walks in the valley of Self-Abasement,

and sometimes climbs the mountains of Heavenly-mindedness.

He breakfasts every morning on Spiritual Prayer,

and sups every evening on the same.

He has meat to eat that the world knows not of,

and his drink is the sincere milk of the Word of God.

Thus happy he lives, and happy he dies.

Happy is he who has Gospel submission in his will,

due order in his affections,

sound peace in his conscience,

real Divinity in his breast,

the Redeemer’s yoke on his neck,

a vain world under his feet,

and a crown of glory over his head.

Happy is the life of that man who believes firmly, prays fervently,

walks patiently, works abundantly,

lives holy, dies daily,

watches his heart, guides his senses, redeems his time,

loves Christ, and longs for glory.

He is necessitated to take the world on his way to heaven,

but he walks through it as fast as he can,

and all his business by the way is to make himself and others happy.

Take him all in all, in two words,

he is a Man and a Christian.

“The Happy Man” is taken from The Happy Man – The Abiding Witness of Lachlan MacKenzie (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1979), p 5. Reprinted from the volumes transcribed by Mr James Campbell and published in 1928 and 1930.

Possibly Related Posts (automatically generated)