Don’t be Religious Part 5 Examine Yourself

So much of my inspiration for this series was provided by the thought provoking book by A.W. Pink called Studies on Saving Faith.  His writings confronted the religious believer (spiritless) and gave indicators of what a spirit-filled follower of Jesus would look like.

Pink's challenge to the reader was to examine yourself to see if you are truly saved.  The Apostle Paul writes, 2 Corinthians 13:5 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?”   The religious person many times will object to anyone questioning his faith and will ignore passages in the Bible that implore him to test his faith.  He thinks examining his faith is totally unnecessary.

I would like to finish this series by looking at some marks of a spirit-filled believer.  A follower will be 1) drawn by the Father (John 6:44), 2) believe essential doctrines, 3) sealed with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22), 4) endure to the end, and 5) become more like Jesus (sanctification).  Let’s examine each of these marks a little closer.

1.   Drawn by the Father:  Jesus says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44). Pink writes:

 This “drawing” is accomplished by the Spirit: first, in effectually enlightening the understanding; secondly, by quickening the affections; third, by freeing the will from the bondage of sin and inclining it toward God. By the invincible workings of grace, the Spirit turns the bent of that will, which before moved only toward sin and vanity, unto Christ[1].  Without the drawing of the Father, you are not a follower of Christ.  The Holy Spirit must do a work in your life before you will bend your knee to Jesus.

 2.   Believe essential doctrines: We must believe we have been saved by grace through faith and not by our works.  Minimal facts concerning salvation: 1) all people have sinned (Rom. 3:23), 2) the penalty for our sin is death (Rom. 6:23), 3) Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins (Rom. 5:8)[2].  Other possible essential doctrines could include believing in the Trinity, resurrection of Jesus, only one God, and that Jesus is the Messiah.  A person cannot reject an essential doctrine and call herself a Christian.

 3.   Sealed by the Holy Spirit:  In Romans 8 Paul contrasts the flesh [love of sin] with the spirit.  He is essentially making a distinction between a spirit-filled believer and a spiritless (flesh driven) non-believer.  Only a true believer is indwelt with the Holy Spirit.  He writes in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 Now He [God] who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, 22  who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.”  It is the Holy Spirit we hear in our conscience that convicts us of our sin and is shaping us to become like Jesus.  It is an internal pledge or confirmation we are saved.

 4.   Endure to the end: A true follow of Christ will stay the course until he or she dies.  He will imperfectly walk with the Lord his entire life, progressing towards Christlikeness, and not rejecting his faith.  In this passage Jesus was warning his disciples of tough times ahead.  Matthew 10:22 “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.”  Enduring to the end is a mark of a true believer in Jesus.

5.   Becoming more like Jesus:  A changed life can be a demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit.  Paul writes, Galatians 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”   Paul writes in Romans we are dead to sin and alive to Christ.  We will never reach moral perfection but over time the ongoing work of the spirit in the life of a Christian will be evident.

Some of the characteristics above can be observed but others, such as the drawing of the Father and sealing of the Holy Spirit are invisible.  This is why it is so difficult to know who truly believes and who doesn’t.  Some can fool us into thinking they are a follower.  Pink writes about the person who has head knowledge only:

How many rest on their sound doctrinal views of Christ. They believe firmly in His Deity, His holy humanity, His perfect life, His vicarious death, His bodily resurrection, His ascension to God’s right hand, His present intercession on high, and His second advent. So too did many of those to whom James addressed his epistle, but he reminded them that the “demons also believe and tremble” (James 2:19). O my reader, saving faith in Christ is very much more than assenting to the teachings of Scripture concerning Him; it is the giving up of the soul unto Him to be saved, to renounce all else, to yield fully unto Him[3].

A religious person can say she believes all the right doctrines and still be far from knowing Christ.  How many in our churches fall into this trap?  They are resting on doctrinal knowledge but living a spiritless or religious life.

At age 33 I was reading through the Bible and suddenly I became keenly aware of my sin. I was an atheist at the time.  I was living a good life, married to a beautiful wife, had 3 kids, and was doing what I loved to do; teach physical education and coach sports.  I didn’t need Jesus.  And yet, the Father drew me and I saw my life as God does; a sinner, prideful, selfish, egotistical in need of forgiveness.  This was not wishful thinking but the work of the Holy Spirit.  I bent my knee to the free gift of grace through faith.  As I examine changes in my own life I can look back over the nearly 30 years of following Jesus and see how God turned my world upside down.  The process of regeneration can be one of the most helpful when testing your faith.  Pink writes:

Regeneration is that miracle of Divine grace wrought in the soul which enlists the affections Godward, which brings the human will into subjection to the Divine, and which produces a real and radical change in the life. That change is from worldliness to godliness, from disobedience to obedience. At the new birth, the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit, and that love is manifested in a dominating longing and sincere purpose to please in all things the One who has plucked me as a brand from the burning[4].

One of my purposes for this series was to challenge you to examine yourself.  Do you see yourself as God does?  Do you believe the right doctrines?  Are you daily convicted by the work of the Holy Spirit?  Do you identify yourself as a follower of Jesus Christ?  Do you see over time the work of Christ in your life?  As Pink says, are you moving from worldliness to Godliness?  Does the love of God and others dominate your life?  If these are not characteristic of your life, it could be you are religious.  As I told my kids, if what you’ve learned about Jesus from the Bible, church, and me is not true truth then reject the Christian faith.  Don’t be religious!

[1] Pink, A. W. Studies on Saving Faith, Kindle edition Location 1279-1281

[2] Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Faith, Zondervan Publ. 1994, p. 694

[3] Pink, A. W. Studies on Saving Faith, Kindle edition Location 1344-1348

[4] Ibid Location 1509-1512

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