We concluded the series on the Charismatic movement with the final message last week on the subject of spirituality. I want us to continue to consider that topic, and for the next few weeks I want to bring messages on the 'Growing Christian'.
Every Christian is either in a state of spiritual growth or stagnation. If we are growing spiritually, we pray, study the Word of God, share our faith, love biblical teaching, and long for the Lord's Day. The believer who matures in Christ is sensitive to sin, swift to repent, and desires to stay in a right relationship with the Lord and with others. When we are growing in the Lord we continually think on the things of God and speak of them at every occasion. This is a result of being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
But the stagnant Christian's life reveals that the power of the Spirit no longer flows. They find time for everything but prayer and Bible study. They don't feel comfortable talking about Jesus in front of others and often camouflage their faith. They may go to church but they don't look forward to it; rather they just endure it.
Before we can grow in our relationship to the Lord, we must be confident in our relationship to the Lord. When considering our confidence in our relationship to the Lord:
I. There are basically three groups of people.
A. First, there are Confused Christians who struggle with doubts.
1. In the back of their minds there is always the question, "Am I really saved?"
2. They worry over this and ask, "Did I believe enough?" "Was I sincere enough?" "Did I really mean it when I asked Jesus to save me?"
3. They think, "How can I really be a Christian when I struggle with so much sin and doubt?"
4. Satan our enemy loves to exploit these feelings.
5. He knows that if he can keep a Christian in doubt, that lack of confidence will mean zero spiritual growth.
B. Second, there are Counterfeit Christians who believe they are genuinely saved.
1. They really believe they are Christians.
2. They may give money and serve as volunteers for ministry.
3. They sit alongside genuine Christians in the church pews but they are unredeemed.
4. They are trusting in something other than Jesus for salvation.
C. Third, there are genuine Christians who are confident and growing in their relationship to Christ.
1. They have examined their lives to be certain they are in Christ.
2. Though they sometimes fall into sin, their hearts are tender and they quickly repent and trust in God's faithfulness to forgive.
3. Being confident in our salvation is a dominant theme in the New Testament.
(2 Corinthians 13:5) Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
II. There are three key words in this verse, "examine," "prove" and "reprobates."
A. First, Paul says, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith"
1. "The faith" here refers to true Christianity.
2. We are to "examine" ourselves to be certain that we are true believers.
3. "Examine" means "to try, scrutinize, assay."
4. The root word carries the idea of piercing, looking through.
a. As a student, from time to time you are given examinations to test your mastery of a subject.
b. Medically, we go to a physician for an examination, to find out about our health.
c. Militarily, an officer reviews or examines his troops to be sure they are up to standards.
d. Legally, a witness is put on the stand to examine his knowledge of a case.
e. Scientifically, a slide is put under the microscope to closely examine its contents.
f. We are to pierce the outer shell of our lives and closely examine our hearts to be certain we are "in the faith."
B. Second, the Apostle commands, "Prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you'
1. The Greek word for "prove" is different from the one for "examine."
2. Its means specifically "to approve."
a. Before buying a used car, you would want to take it on a test drive and to a trusted mechanic to be certain as possible that it was reliable.
b. When a new ship comes out of the shipyards it is taken to proving grounds to be sure it is seaworthy before setting out on a long voyage.
3. We are to "examine" our hearts, but much more we are to "prove" our lives in order to be certain that we are genuine Christians.
C. Third, we see the warning at the end of the verse, "Except ye be reprobates"
1. The root word for prove meant "to approve."
2. The word used here for 'reprobate' means "unapproved'!
3. So what Paul is saying here can be put like this, "Approve your standing before God so that when you stand before him you will not be found unapproved. Test yourself so that you will be confident in your faith."
III. Wrong Ways to Test Our Relationship with God.
A. Outward Morality.
1. We all know that there are some good people in the world.
2. They are very moral. They like to help others.
3. They are honest and trustworthy, generous and kind.
a. You have car trouble and a "Good Samaritan" comes along and helps out.
b. But just because they were helpful that doesn't mean they are saved.
4. There are people who are kind, generous, grateful, helpful, loyal and honest with everyone but God.
5. The Pharisees were outwardly moral, but…
(Matthew 23:27) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.
6. Many folks wouldn't think of offending us, but they offend God constantly.
7. Remember the Rich Young Ruler?
a. He claimed he had kept the commandments of God.
(Mark 10:20-21) And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. (KJV)
b. His outward morality was spotless, but He lacked the most important thing, a willingness to follow Jesus at any cost.
c. We can be moral and upright in our dealings with others, but that doesn't prove our salvation.
d. We can be outwardly moral without being saved.
B. Religious Activity.
1. There are a lot of religious people in hell.
2. Ever notice how many people wear the cross and other religious symbols?
3. People whose lives in no way reflect biblical Christianity, yet they wear a cross around their necks.
4. Charles Spurgeon said, "Many men carry a cross on their breast but the genuine Christian carries the cross in his heart."
(2 Timothy 3:5) Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
5. Many are religious but have no evidence of the life-changing power of the gospel.
6. We may attend church every week, with a cross around our neck, and a Bible under our arm and still not be saved!
7. Religion gets no one into heaven, only a real relationship with Christ is sufficient.
C. Ministry Involvement.
1. I must be saved, look at how involved I am in church!
2. May I remind you of the recent discovery of the BTK serial murderer in Kansas…he was very involved in his church!
3. There are also several biblical examples.
a. There was a man named Judas Iscariot.
(John 6:70-71) Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.
b. There was another man by the name of Saul of Tarsus who was quite religious.
(Philippians 3:5-7) Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
c. Ministry involvement is a poor substitute for salvation.
(Matthew 7:22-23) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? 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.
D. A Past Decision.
1. For some this is all they have…
2. They point to a time in their past when they prayed a prayer or walked an aisle or talked with a pastor or were baptized.
3. They look back to that historical event and rely on that memory to confirm their salvation.
4. Salvation is present tense…not past tense!
5. I know that I am saved not just because of what happened thirty-one years ago, but because of what God is doing in my life right now!
(2 Corinthians 5:17) Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
I will close here for now. Next week we will consider the positive side of self-examination of our faith.
(2 Corinthians 13:5) Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? Tonight, are we 'in the faith'? Are we growing in the confidence of our relationship with the Lord? I am not saying that our relationship is everything that we want it to be…but are we confident that we are saved? That is the first step toward growing into what God wants for us to be. Fulfilling His plan for our life requires that we know and are confident that we are 'in the faith'.