We can all remember our school days when we were faced with exams. We spent all day in school — and still we panicked when it came to test time. Why? Perhaps it's because our time in the classroom was only one part of the learning process. The other part was time at home engaging with the material through homework, worksheets, and flashcards — all designed to prepare us for exams and to make sure we had a grasp of the material and were headed in the right direction. The exam brought panic because it was the culmination of all of our hard work and the measure of our direction and mastery of the material.
These exams and tests were for our benefit. They measured our growth, highlighted our strengths and weaknesses, and guided us to the paths we should take. The same is true of our spiritual lives. We face tests and exams on a spiritual level, but they count for greater consequences because the results of these tests are indicators of our eternal future.
We must examine ourselves with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and always be ready to be tested. Always being ready for exams is foundational to a positive life in Christ. Throughout 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote about all that God taught him and what gave him power to live positively in Christ in the midst of fear, trepidation, imprisonment, and flogging. In his conclusion to this letter he says, "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!" (2 Corinthians 13:5, NASB).
The Corinthians of old fell into the trap that some of our modern educators have fallen into today. If students are not keeping up and succeeding in school, some believe that the standards must be too high — so they lower the standards. The problem is that lowering the standards and changing the curriculum doesn't insist on accountability.
Worse than the education system is evidence that this is happening in the churches of Jesus Christ, too. People don't want to believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven and eternal life. Some churches are saying, Let's lower the standards. Let's stop talking about this particular truth. We'll water down the truth and not talk about the central truth of Christianity. Instead, we'll talk about relationships and good communication. We don't want to offend people because they are the most important part of the church.
However, the Apostle Paul would tell us that this type of compromise will only lead us in the wrong direction. This type of thinking causes frustration and disappointment. Paul is telling us that to have the peace and assurance of our salvation, believe the Word of God. Examine yourself and find out if you are in the faith and living in the truth — or if you are not.
God is not going to change His Gospel to make it palatable for people who don't like it. He is sovereign, and we need to accommodate Him; He doesn't have to accommodate us.
King David — a man after God's heart — cried out to God saying, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV).
When we refuse to examine ourselves on a regular basis we are taking God's grace and salvation for granted. But don't miss the fabulous news: In this test that the Bible talks about, we can be always a success. Even those who fail the test can succeed. If you examine yourself on a daily basis and find that you are in the faith, then you will be overjoyed by His grace and mercy and will give God the glory. But if you examine yourself and find that you have moved away from the truth, then God has given you an engraved invitation to repent and to return to the truth.
God promised in His Word to receive anyone who turns to Him. The moment you come face to face with the reality that you have departed from the faith by sinning gravely and you repent, God in His grace and mercy receives you. He embraces you. He forgives you. He restores you. You are, again, overjoyed by His grace and mercy and give God the glory. Either way, God is glorified. Examine yourself.
Excerpted from My Journal, a monthly devotional magazine from Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef.
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