“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” II Corinthians 13:5 ESV
The words of the Apostle Paul ring loud and clear, “examine yourself to see if you are in the faith.” What does that mean to us today? Why should self-professing Christians need to test themselves to see if they are actually saved? Have you ever followed Paul’s instructions and examined you faith? If you read the post from December LINK there was some alarming survey data results from self-professing Christians, which revealed that many were not holding to a biblical worldview and less than 1/3 recognize absolute moral truth. With so many people claiming Christ, yet living worldly lives with no concept of Biblical living, it’s therefore vital to heed the words of Paul and examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith.
When we hear someone say they have faith in Jesus, we need to understand what this means. This saving faith means that despite all the sin and deplorable deeds in a person’s life, they are repenting and turning away from those sins and looking to Jesus Christ, trusting in Him for forgiveness of those sins. Trusting in Him as the living Son of God who came to earth as a man, took their sins with Him to the cross. Here at Calvary, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice in atoning for our sins by taking all of God’s wrath on Himself as payment for those sins with His life, yet just as He laid His life down willingly, He took it back up and raised Himself from the dead and with that giving all those who believe on Him, newness of life and hope of eternal salvation with Him. Faith is NOT merely believing that Jesus lived at one time, that He was a good moral man or great teacher. It does NOT mean that you simply recognize that He died on the cross, or that you believe He rose again. There is a huge difference in recognizing that something happened and placing your faith in Jesus. Don’t dismiss this. Do you realize how many non-believers there were who saw Jesus die on the cross, yet didn’t put their faith in Him? Do you realize that Satan himself knows that Jesus died on the cross? There’s a difference. Examine yourself today friend.
In the book of James we are given examples of 3 different kinds of faith. For our test today, we’ll go through testing our own faith against them. The first example is DEAD FAITH from James 2:17, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James here is assuming that a person has faith, but he is asserting that without works that faith is dead. The typical western evangelical response to this passage is to object and say, “Hey this is pointing toward ‘works-based salvation’. The Bible clearly states all I need is faith, no works.” This is probably one of the biggest misunderstandings in today’s church. James is not saying that you can or should do things in order to get saved or stay saved, but he is saying that works, or righteous deeds, are evidence of salvation, true saving faith. Without that evidence, it’s dead faith. Remember the parable of the sower from Matthew 13? The seed that fell on the rocky soil received it with joy (Matthew 13:20) and immediately sprang up! They made a declaration of faith, yet because there was no root in true faith, the seedling withered and died when things got tough. Consider the words of Jesus from John 15:5-6, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” Those who abide in Jesus, who put their faith in Him, who treasure Him above everything else will bear fruit, those who do not, have dead faith like the withering branch. Examine yourself, are you bearing fruit? Do you desire to bear fruit for Jesus?
The second example is DEMON FAITH found in James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder!” Just like we mentioned earlier, even Satan believes in God. Even demons know that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died on the cross, they too know that He rose again. But they have one-upped the “dead faith-ers” because they have fear of God. In Matthew 8:28-30 Jesus confronts two demon-possessed men who cry out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” They then begged Jesus to cast them into a herd of swine. Do you see their faith? They knew who Jesus was and recognized His power and authority, yet they feared He would torment them and begged Him to just cast them into swine. So demon faith is able recognize and recite orthodox Christian beliefs of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus and even have fear of His sovereign power, yet those of this kind of faith are no more saved than the demons. It’s not enough to know the facts or to be able to recite some truths. Those with demon faith, like false prophets, teachers, and believers, appear genuine because they know the truth, but are not of the truth. Jesus is quick to warn us of this kind, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:15-20 Dead faith produces no fruit, withers and is thrown into the fire. Demon faith fears God, but produces bad fruit and is cut down and thrown into the fire. Examine yourselves.
The third example of faith is USELESS FAITH found in James 2:20 ESV, “Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” It’s important to note here that some versions of the Bible imply that James is reiterating dead faith, but the ESV makes the distinction between dead faith and useless faith. In verse 17 James uses the Greek word nekros which literally means dead, lifeless. Here in verse 20 he uses the Greek word argos, which means “free from labor, at leisure, lazy, shunning the labor which one ought to perform; idle, slow, and barren.” We’ve defined what dead faith looks like, in that it bears no fruit. Useless faith, which likewise bears no fruit, is the category where the majority of “worldly” self-professing Christians would be identified. Each would certainly disagree to having dead faith, despite the lack of evidence by fruit and no doubt very few would confess to having demon faith or empty theology or doctrine, yet the large majority of self-professing Christians fall into the category of useless faith, also known as “lukewarm”. Just look at the definition of the word James uses: at leisure, lazy, idle, and slow. At leisure implies worldliness, self-centeredness, concerned with the pleasures of life, luxury, free time, entertainment, entitlement, freedoms, rights, anything and everything that has absolutely nothing to do with advancing the Kingdom of God. Yet just like the other two examples of faith, Jesus is very specific with regard to those who have a useless, lukewarm faith, “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.'” Revelation 3:15-16 Dead faith, demon faith, useless faith. Withered, cut-down, and spit out. Examine yourselves.
In reading through James, we’ve seen 3 solid biblical examples of fruitless, undesirable, damnable faith. We could easily surmise that true, saving faith would simply be the opposite characteristics, but we need to also test ourselves versus the good qualities. To do this, we could stay in the book of James and find ample characteristics to test against, but let’s instead look at the Apostle John’s first epistle. “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.” I John 2:3-5a Our first point is Obedience. The disciple whom Jesus loved states that our evidence of saving faith is keeping the commandments of God, obedience. Do you love what God loves and hate what God hates? Do you delight in His law (Psalm 1:2) or do you feel it a burden that infringes upon your freedoms and happiness? Jesus says in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Loving Jesus manifests itself through obedience, meaning it is the fruit or evidence of our faith in Him. John confirms this later in his epistle, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (I John 5:3) Obedience.
Our second quality of saving faith is becoming a Follower of Christ. John states, “By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” I John 2:5b-6 This path is hard and it leads to a gate that is narrow (Matthew 7:14), but Jesus commands it of all those who claim Him as their Lord and He began with His disciples, “And He said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) Even after spending day after day following Jesus, the Apostle Peter asked, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” The rewards are not only for His disciples, but also for those who follow Jesus to this day. Are you following Jesus Christ or something else? Anything else is an idol.
“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.” (I John 2:9-10) The third test of saving faith that John provides is Brotherly Love. If you are in the light, meaning with Christ, then brotherly love is evidence. This kind of love is contrasted a few verses later by worldly love, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions-is not from the Father but is from the world.” (I John 2:15-16) Do you love fellowshipping with your brother’s in Christ, sharing and rejoicing over His Word and His work in your lives? Or would you rather commune with those who love the world spending their time on the fleeting pleasures of life? Jesus in speaking with the 12 states, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” What is the evidence of being a disciple of Christ? Brotherly love.
I realize no one likes to test or question anything these days, but it’s necessary because there are so many who identify themselves as Christian, yet lack a love for Jesus and therefore make no attempt to obey His commandments. They pursue the world and her pleasures rather than following Christ and they have no concern for those brothers who have professed Christ as Lord and Savior. We’re not talking about living a life of perfection to the letter of the law, but we are talking about loving the Lord with all your heart, making Him your treasure in life, and not only realizing you are a sinner, but hating sin and making war on it in your life. The fruits that we speak of will not save you, nor will they keep you saved, but they do provide evidence of a genuine saving faith in Jesus Christ. Examine yourself, as the Apostle Paul says, but know that with the testing that Paul speaks of, the greatest assurance of faith in Jesus Christ is the Holy Spirit that resides inside of you if Jesus is your Savior. His presence bears witness to your salvation Romans 8:16. He works in your life to regenerate you and make you a new creature in Christ, He guides you in truth, He is continuing the good work in you that began with your justification by faith in Christ, and He will lead you in sanctification until you reach holiness on your day of glorification in heaven. “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” Romans 8:9
We can summarize with the following quote, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Examine yourselves.
Repent! Believe! Follow Christ and make Him your Treasure!