In my teen years, my little sister and I worked out an agreement when it came to receiving parental discipline. Whenever I’d get in trouble and was scheduled for a whuppin’, I would check in with her before I stepped in the house so she could alert me to the threat-level I was facing.
On the days when this happened, she’d hurriedly meet me outside our yard and say, “Shegz, listen. Dad and mom found out you were at Jay’s party yesterday. Don’t lie when they ask you, okay? Just admit it. It may lessen your punishment!”
A warning, to which I’d respond to by saying, “Thanks, Dupsy. Okay, remember, if my excuse doesn’t diffuse the situation and stuff’s about to go down, immediately start crying on my behalf like we agreed, okay? Make sure you start crying BEFORE daddy pulls out the cane, okay?...and cry nice and loud too!” (My sister was dearly beloved by my parents and they couldn’t stand the thought of her crying, so her tears were always my fallback).
That plan worked on many occasions when we were growing up. But then, my sister grew up and got wiser. She started demanding payment, at which point, our partnership had to dissolve. I kid!
These days, I need not check in with her because I’m a grown man!
However, being married, there’ve been a few times when I’ve needed to check in on the “state of affairs” with my wife before I headed home from work, usually after a dumb fight the night before.
So, during the day, I’d send a text message to her to “test the waters”, “Hi sweetie [smiley-face-emoticon], you should see this hilarious YouTube video I just watched about dancing Nigerian babies [more smiley-face-and-kissey-face-emoticons]. I’ll show you when I get home.[smiley-face-emoticon].”
It only worked 9% of the time.
On the days it didn’t, she’d simply text back, “ok”, minus the smiley face emoticons. This usually meant, “You’re not getting off that easy, wise guy!” My wife, of course, loves me, and her anger doesn’t run deep. So we were usually back to our fun selves within the next day or two.
Speaking of knowing what you’re getting into, did you know, there is a “check in system” that helps you determine if you’re in the right spiritual standing with God? A way to verify if your faith is authentic, or if it’s like the “seed that has no root and is easily uprooted”?
It’s in the book of 1 John, where the apostle says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” In other words, there is a way to test yourself to see if your faith in Jesus Christ is authentic, a way to determine if indeed, you are headed to eternal life with Christ (or separated from Him for eternity).
This test is über -important. You know why? Because Jesus said many people who wear the label, “Christian” will someday face the shock of their lives when He reveals the true motives and inclinations of their heart. In Matthew 7, at a future date when all mankind assemble before God, Jesus says many will come to Him saying, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
So you see what happened there? Some people evidently forgot to check in and test the authenticity of their faith, while they still had the time.
I assure you, this blog post is not a scare tactic. It’s simply a caring reminder to drop in for a check in so you’re not disappointed on the day when the genuineness of your faith will matter most.
So, back to John’s epistle. In it, he lists several “tests” by which you can come to know you have eternal life through Christ. As you read along, keep in mind that your life may not reflect all these qualities 100% of the time, however, the list should reveal a consistent trend that has marked your life from the day you trusted in Christ till the day He comes to get you (or calls you home).
Ready? Here we go. Can you answer each of these in the affirmative?
1. You enjoy spending quality time with Jesus Christ and God the Father. (1 John 1:3 and 5:1)
Have your affections for the LORD ever been so deeply stirred, that like David the Psalmist, you cried out (or wanted to cry out), “This one thing I ask, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE, simply gazing on His beauty and seeking Him”?
This certainly won’t always be the case, but you should be able to point to seasons in your life when this was true. The fact is, an affectionate relationship (on your part) with God is basic to salvation. So, do you love God enough that you actually like spending considerable time getting to know Him and His Son, Jesus Christ? Whether through studying the scriptures, praying, worshipping, celebrating, resting…whatever.
Your answer to that question may reveal much about the genuineness of your faith.
2. You love the Church and actually want to be around God’s people, sharing life in Christ with them. (1 John 4:12)
I know it’s become popular for millennial Christians to mock the Church for all its inconsistencies and hypocrisy. Yes. We definitely have some huge issues that require some serious addressing. But, hear me on this, in spite of her lamentable weaknesses and appalling failures, Jesus Christ has never stopped calling her, HIS BRIDE! He still loves her and has promised He will someday return to completely rid her of her ugliness (and restore her to her full beauty).
So let me say this as frankly as I can, if you claim to be a Christian but don’t like Christians, then you may be lying to yourself about your relationship with Christ. That’s scriptural by the way. Incidentally, it’s by your love for other Christians that the world will know you belong to Jesus.
While our mission remains firmly about reaching men and women far from God, gathering regularly with other Christians and loving one another is a true mark of one who is truly a follower of Christ.
3. You live a confessional and repentant life before God so that your “account is always current”. (1 John 1:8-10)
I truly wish that the moment each person puts their faith in Jesus Christ, sin in their life were completely done with. But that is not the case. Though we’re given a new heart capable of eternal good, our precious treasure is still confined to our fallen physical body (jars of clay) in a fallen world.
So, newsflash: Christians are still capable of great sin.
What makes you more of a Christian, however, is your willingness to admit that you still have some lingering junk/sin in your life. According to John, your willingness to admit that you sin, and the willingness to confess it to Christ and trust in HIS forgiveness, is truly a test of the authenticity of your faith.
If you claim to be without sin and sit on some high moral pedestal, speaking low to others, then you my friend, make Christ out to be a liar and His word and His life is not in you! A true Christian is one who embraces the fact that they have been saved by the loving grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. A true Christian is one who knows that they have a Savior in heaven who invites them to lay down their daily junk and forgives them of those sins.
Fact: There is no sin in your life so great that the cross of Jesus Christ isn’t greater than!
4. Your heart is obedient and receptive to God’s word. (1 John 2:3-6)
Perhaps the simplest place to start is with the question, “Do you enjoy digging into God’s word?” I ask because in order to be obedient to it, it helps plenty to know and be familiar with what it actually says. Your love for, and desire to know God’s word is the starting point to authenticating your faith in Christ. Like the Psalmist, have you “hidden God’s word in your heart that you might not sin against Him?”
Assuming that you ARE a student of the word, is your heart inclined to follow through on the instructions that have been made clear to you in it? I phrased that question in that manner because there are people who don’t follow through on obeying the scriptures because “it’s just all too confusing.” Fine. How have you lived in obedience to the parts you DO understand?
Incidentally, Jesus makes the point that when you are faithful to “little truths” entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit from the Bible, God entrusts you with more truth. But if you reject the truth the Holy Spirit is teaching you through the Bible, then even the little you have will be yanked away.
Listen, a true test of whether you are a follower of Christ is revealed in your willingness to obey the truth the Spirit of God reveals to you in His word. So, how obedient are you?
5. You intentional pursue godliness whether you’re alone in private or with people who couldn't care less about God (1 John 2:3-6).
Many of us look really good on Sunday mornings. If you saw some of us singing and taking sermon notes at Church on a Sunday morning, you’d be impressed and conclude we really loved Jesus.
The true test of your faith, however, is what your life looks like Monday to Saturday! One song captured it best, it sings, “I say on Sunday how much I want revival, but then on Monday, I can’t even find my Bible!”
When you’re removed from the walls of the Church and surrounded by people who could care less about God, do you assimilate into their lifestyle or is your love for Christ and faith in God still so remarkable in that sphere that it sometimes causes people to think you odd? Perhaps even stir up a little bit of opposition? (Cos let’s face it, whoever wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted).
How about those private times when no one is watching? Is your love for, and faith in Jesus still vibrant during those private moments?
Don’t miss this fact. Jesus know those who are His, for nothing in all of creation is hidden from God’s sight. When you stand before Him and He reviews your life, will what is shown reveal that you were truly His? Or will it show that you were only part of Him when people were watching?
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves, my friends!
6. You can identify a decreasing pattern of sin in your life (1 John 3:4-10)
So we’re on the same page, this isn’t speaking of a complete absence of sin in your life. Rather, it’s speaking of NOT continuing in sin as A WAY OF LIFE.
Here’s an important piece of truth for every follower of Christ, though you very well will still struggle with some level of sin in your life, you should be able to look over the course of your faith and identify a decreasing pattern of sinfulness in certain areas. Something should have changed. Certainly not everything, but something; Healthy trees produce fruit!
When John says in verse 4, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.”, what he means here is that you can’t be a true believe if you live your life as if there were no law. See what’s happening there? There is a difference between someone who sins and doesn’t give a care in the world about whom if offends and someone who sins and is deeply broken by it because they know they have offended God.
A true follower of Christ detests wallowing in sin. A true follower of Christ may struggle with sin frequently, which, according to John, is different from “practicing” sin. A test of the genuineness of your faith could very well be determined by how comfortable or uncomfortable you are in sinful patterns in your life. A true follower of Christ longs to be completely free and fights like crazy to be free of the sin that Christ has already freed them from.
So ask yourself, does my affection for Christ scream out to me in the midst of the sin that I’m still entangled in? Or am I so numbed to sin in my life that I don’t even care? You answer to these questions may reveal who you truly are.
Six tests. How did you do?
If you failed woefully, do not be discouraged. This test is intended to prep you for THAT day. The good news is that you can make certain today what you’re worried may prove uncertain when you stand before Christ.
Jesus Himself invites you to come to Him if you’re burdened and weary, and He will give you rest for your mind and soul. It starts with you acknowledging that sin in your life has separated you from God. Confess it to Him even now, as you read. Ask Him to forgive you and have His way in your life. Invite Him to be the Lord and Savior of your life. Most of all, ask Him to be the LORD of your life, to grant you new life in Him so you can live daily for Him. The Bible itself says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
May this be true of your life today and on that day when you stand before Jesus.
Check in today.