A Time for Self-Examination
The point of all this is that each of us who calls himself or herself a Christian should be led to self-examination. And what we should ask ourselves is: “Am I a true Christian, or am I a Christian in name only?” This is a serious question and a necessary one. For if Israel—with all the spiritual advantages that Paul mentions in Romans 9—could be composed of thousands or even millions who were not true Israel, it is certain that the visible church of Jesus Christ in our day is filled with many who are actually unbelievers.
Paul told the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5a).
Peter told his readers, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10a).
How can we test ourselves? How can we be sure we are Christians? There are a number of specific questions to be answered that pertain to the matters I have just been discussing.
1. Do I believe on Christ? The first requirement is faith, because faith is our point of contact with the gospel. Paul told the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31a). Ask yourself, “Have I believed on Jesus?” Not, “Have I believed on him in broad cultural terms?”—like anyone in the western world might be expected to do, especially if he or she has been raised in a Christian home or has attended a Christian church. But rather, “Have I been touched by knowledge of Jesus’ death for me, and have I committed myself to him? Am I serious about following after Christ, obeying his commands, and pleasing him?”
2. Am I following after Christ? The first question leads to the next: “Am I actually Jesus’ follower?” The way Jesus called his followers was by the words Follow me. And when they did follow him, their lives were inevitably redirected. Some had been fishermen, but when they began to follow Jesus they became fishers of men. One had been a tax collector, but after he had followed Jesus, he became concerned with the currency of heaven. Nobody who has begun to follow Jesus Christ has ever been entirely the same or walked in the same paths afterward.
So ask yourself: “Has my life been redirected? Is there anything I am doing now that I did not do before or would not be doing were I not committed to Jesus? And are there things I have stopped doing? Is Jesus my very own Lord and Savior?”
3. Do I testify to Christ? This is a harder point for true self-examination, because it is easier for some to talk about Jesus than for others. It is easier for some to talk about nearly anything than for others. Nevertheless, this is an important question and one worth asking. If you never speak to anyone about Jesus, how can you suppose that you really care about him and love him, not to mention caring about and loving the other person, who needs to receive the Savior?
Nominal Christians do not talk about Jesus. They are content to let everyone believe as he or she likes. They wouldn’t think of trying to impose their beliefs on others. But not all who are Christians are true Christians, just as “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”
Examine yourself. Do you testify of Jesus?
4. Am I learning about Christ? The last of the four questions I have posed for determining whether or not you are a genuine Christian is: “Am I trying to learn more and more about Jesus Christ? Do I know more about him today than I did at the time of my conversion? Or at this time last year?”
I know people who claim to be Christians who never go to a Bible study, never take notes of a sermon and, as far as I can determine, never seriously study the Bible on their own. If you are one of them how can you think of yourself as a Christian when you have no interest in learning about the one who gave himself for you? How can you consider yourself a believer when you really don’t care about Jesus?
Over the last few years I have been talking with diverse Christian leaders, and the one thing most of them say is that they see no hope for the United States or for American Christianity apart from a revival. The drift is so obviously downward. But what is a revival? A revival is the reviving of the alleged people of God, and it is preceded by an awakening in which many who thought themselves to be Christians come to their right senses and recognize that they are not new creatures in Christ and that all is not well with their souls. Revival begins in the church, not in the world. It begins with people like you.
I, too, think we need a revival. But I do not see it happening. I want it to happen. I do not see it. But if it happens, why should it not begin with us? With you? May God grant it for his mercy’s sake.