When it comes to our physical wellbeing, we are quite careful and concerned.
We brush our teeth every day and see our dentist twice a year. Once a year we undergo a physical examination by our family physician, and perhaps in some instances seek more frequent blood tests and electrocardiograms. Our optician sees us regularly, varying according to our age and condition, so that our precious eyesight may be preserved, and so that we miss nothing of what is ordinarily to be seen round about us. If we are women, we are ever on the alert for those signs of what might be a malignant tumor. If we are men and have passed more than half of the three score years and ten, our blood pressure becomes a matter that concerns us, and we like to have it checked, especially if we do get that dragged down feeling, and do not feel quite as spirited as we used to be.
When something does develop that looks somewhat serious, we do not delay to seek help or at least consultation.
We are concerned about this life. We are interested in staying here as long as we can, and in enjoying it as fully as we can while we are here. We seek physical wellbeing, comfort and pleasure. Life is sweet; and we want to keep it that way. All too well do we have before our minds the words of Solomon, who, in the wisdom God gave him, taught us that the days will come wherein we will have to say sincerely, and will say without prompting, that we have no pleasure in them.
Now all this in itself need not at all be evil on our part. We have entrusted to our care an amazing body. With the psalmist we can surely say, “I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are Thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well.” Psalm 139:14. We are called upon to take good care of that body. We may not risk our lives unnecessarily, nor may we ruin them by careless, indifferent living.
But let us not be behind in our concern for our spiritual wellbeing! There is a time to be concerned about it. And that time is right now! That time is here with every tick of the clock, with each movement of the second hand on your watch, with every breath of life and every heartbeat.
We do have set times when there are special occasions for concern about the matters of our spiritual life. Those to which we refer are the moments when we partake of the sacraments. Yes, both of them require a self-examination. We are all aware of the fact that Paul writes to the church at Corinth, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.” I Corinthians 11:28 The urgency of this is expressed by Paul in the next verse, “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” Indeed, we take spiritual inventory before we eat and drink at the table. But the same thing is true when we present ourselves or our children for baptism. The parents are asked some very pointed and important questions. The adult who seeks baptism is also asked to search his soul and take careful inventory before he is given the sign and seal of holy baptism. And all this is Scripture’s plain teaching as far as baptism is concerned, as surely as it is for Holy Communion. John the Baptist insisted that those who came to him repent. When he saw a group of Pharisees coming to him seeking baptism he sent them away with the words, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.”Matthew 3:8. And when the Ethiopian eunuch desired baptism, Philip asked him to search his heart and see whether he believed with all his heart. Acts 8:37.
But above and beyond these there is the calling constantly to take spiritual inventory. Doing so we will have far less difficulty when these special occasions for soul-searching are required. And the Word of God speaks of this and even warns us in regard to it. It was not without good reason that Paul wrote to this same church at Corinth, in his second epistle, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates.” II Corinthians 13:5. Get that! He says, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith.” So often we seem to be more concerned as to whether brother or sister so-and-so is in the faith. And all too often we are eager to prove that others are not in Christ, rather than to obtain the assurance and joy that we ourselves are in Him. We are ready and quick to judge the other. We scrupulously avoid the mirror of the law of God to have a good look at ourselves. We like to give an examination and a test. We do not want to submit ourselves to them. But the command stands there: Examine yourselves! And that admonition comes to each and every member of the church of Christ.
Another sobering truth that bears consideration is found in the words of Jesus in His “sermon on the mount.” He declares, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21-23 How urgent then that each and every one of us examine himself to see whether he be in or out of the faith!
No, the words of Jesus here do not mean that the wicked actually will talk back in the judgment day. These words do not mean that they will boast before Him of what they did. It means that now in this life this is their false opinion of their works. They did not examine themselves, but were ready to call others devils, which they then “cast out.” They did not prove themselves to see whether Jesus Christ was IN them; and now they find that they were reprobates, in the same punishment with these “devils,” even though all their lives they posed as and deceived themselves into thinking that they were Christians.
There is so much today that goes under the name of Christianity that actually, as Jesus makes plain here, is antichristianity. And rather than going around trying to find out who these antichristians are, we had better examine our own hearts. We had better look into our own hearts to see what really is there, and to see what is lacking there.
It is not a question as to whether you know the faith. The enemy of the faith knows that faith; and that is exactly why he can plan his attack against it. He is quite willing to learn it thoroughly in order to destroy it completely. He will read up on the subject and view it from every possible angle in order to find a way to take it away from you. No, it is not a question of knowing the faith. It is a question of being IN the faith.
Now being in the faith means to be living in that faith. It means that faith is the sphere wherein we move, and that this faith controls all of our thinking and willing. These words of Paul were preceded by the strong warning,” I write to them which have sinned, and to all other, that if I come again, I will not spare.” And it is in that connection that he speaks of examining ourselves to know whether we be in the faith. It is one thing to say that we believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ His Son, and in the Holy Spirit; that there is an holy catholic church; the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. The devil himself can say that he is in the knowledge of that faith. He has no doubt about the virgin birth and the resurrection and ascension of Christ. Intellectually he knows the faith once delivered to the saints. And he knows it in minute detail. But it is another thing to live in that faith so that we worship and serve and love this God, and put all of our trust in His Son for our salvation; hope for the resurrection based upon the forgiveness of sins; and live as members of that holy catholic church, revealing ourselves as members of the body of Christ, always in all things serving and glorifying Christ the Head.
Unless these are found in us and in our walk of life, we cannot say that Christ is in us; and we have to conclude that we could be reprobates; and indeed are such unless it still pleases God to turn us and implant within us the life of Christ, and give us the evidence by the fruits mentioned above, as that which characterizes a walk in faith.
It is not a question of saying, Lord, Lord, but a question of living before Him in such a way that our every thought, word and deed says that He is our Lord. Patting ourselves on the back and telling ourselves what nice people we are is not going to fill our hearts with that which God demands in them. The prophesying we did “in His name” is not going to fulfill in us the prophecies of salvation and glory that He has promised to those in whom Jesus Christ is by His Spirit. Casting out “devils” who tormented us in our social patterns, made our earthly lives miserable, and made us live in a sphere of poverty and crime, with fear and insecurity, is not going to keep us from sharing their poverty in hell. Claiming to do all this in Christ’s name does not make it a work that pleases Him. Remember Jesus’ words that many shall be put out of the synagogues, and many shall be killed by those who claim to be doing God service? John 16:2Instead of being in the faith these are killing those who are in the faith. No wonder that Jesus will say to them,” Depart from Me ye that work iniquity.” They said, “Lord, Lord,” but the devil was their lord and master.
It is a question of examining our hearts to see whether we find in them the love of God. Yes, these who cry, “Lord, Lord,” say that they love God and have done these mighty works in His name and for His glory. But Jesus says our crying, “”Lord, Lord,” must be accompanied by and proceed from a desire to do God’s will.
Is there a difference? There certainly is! There is no difference between loving God and between doing His will. But there is a difference between saying that we love God and do this and that in His name, and between doing His will. There is a difference between being in the faith and between deluding ourselves into thinking that we have Christ in us.
Many of these movements that claim to be in Christ’s name certainly are not at all! But this we will have to leave until a later date. Meanwhile we wish to conclude at this time by declaring that these lines, no more than those of Paul and of Jesus, are not meant to frighten, cast doubt and take away from the sincere child of God his joy and comfort. These lines, with Paul’s word and Jesus’ admonition, are written so that we may become richer and stronger in our assurance that Christ is in us and that we are not reprobates.
A good business man will take inventory to know what goods to order and what product does not sell. In His fear the serious-minded child of God wants to know that he is a child of God. He wants to rejoice in the blessedness of being in the faith and of having Christ in Him. He looks forward to the day when he shall hear Christ say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” For that reason he will examine himself. He will do this for the joy of assurance, not for the sake of discouragement. Because God is his Lord, he will want to be sure that all his deeds manifest this lordship. And where there is a shortcoming, he will pray for grace to be found faithful with the prayer of the Psalmist, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14