“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?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
True or false? Without all the tools we have today – especially online Bibles, reference materials, commentaries, many books, and generally easy access to so many resources instantaneously – honest Christian self examination was a more difficult thing for people in the early church, as they had no such luxuries.
This likely may not be all that easy to discern. The disadvantage today is that we can take all of these tools for granted, with the entire matter of our spiritual life becoming merely a theological head trip. It can be easy to walk away from a living relationship with Jesus Christ, and fool ourselves with an intellectual approach as a substitute. Dare we say, in terms of our technological advantages, that to whom much is given much is required?
The Apostle Paul minces no words when it comes to the need to “prove” ourselves. More easy going translations replace the word “prove” with “test”, and the word “reprobate” with the phrase unless you “fail to meet the test”. Somehow that doesn’t pack the wallop that is contained in the good old KJV! It’s too soft, with so much at stake in this world’s apocalyptic time!
In the beginnings of the church, there was no Bible as we know it today, let alone all these versions and translations which have come down through the centuries. How even that made it through the politics of the church-state under Constantine is a marvel.
So what were the “yardsticks” against which the early believer might measure and monitor his spiritual state? Is it really any different for 21st Century Christians?
What Paul seems to emphasize throughout his epistles to these early believers is the cross and what it implies for the life of those who would follow Jesus. Repeatedly in many ways he emphasizes the co-death, burial, resurrection, and our position in Christ in the heavenly places, and what this implies for any who name the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then there is also the companionship and infilling with the Holy Spirit as we are converted, transformed, and restored into living manifestations of the sons of God.
“I no longer live!” is the declaration, but “Christ lives in me!” What does that mean?
People are quick to point out, especially these days when traditional morality is regarded by many as politically incorrect, that Jesus did not bring a moral code to the table. Perhaps not directly. However, the transformation He offers through the Cross implies something far more powerful and everlasting – we are made the righteousness of God in Him! That is the faith we live out. It is essentially this: I am dead. Christ lives in and through me.
Therefore a good beginning question for self examination in light of this might be, “Am I dead yet?” The lights are on, so who is home?
We are reckoned dead by the Grace of God through Christ’s passion and resurrection. Self, from which sin arises, is gone! That is to be our faith and our experience. The source of sin was done away with at the Cross. We are new creations!
But, do I live as if this is a fact? Am I dead yet? Is the risen Jesus Christ living in me with no contenders to the throne of my heart and mind? If I am a new creation in Him, then so it is. To them that believe on His name He gives the power to become the sons of God! Does it get any better than that? Does He shine in and through me? Have I surrendered to His Holy Spirit’s direction so that I am about my Father’s business as He was?
These are all questions that we take into the prayer closet with our Lord for self examination. The opinions of men, books, commentaries, and electronic resources are not going to provide the answer. Only a continual one on one with Jesus, as He speaks to our heart while we listen, is going to provided the answer to “Am I dead yet?”. Pray without ceasing, He says! That one on one is as available to us as it was to the illiterate yet saintly Christian in the early church. It may be that we have to toss out the extraneous clutter which gets in the way.
We can declare our mental faith day in and day out, but God doesn’t ask for declarations; He asks for powerful truth-manifesting demonstrations in real time-space. He wishes to make His presence known here and now within us. He isn’t asking for the works of the dead self which we may be inclined to offer, which can come in the form of a lot of head knowledge. He looks for the real time demonstration of the life of His Son in us, shining forth into a very dark world, where Jesus needs to be more real in His people than ever before.
Originally published on my website: