Exams are important. An exam is defined as an exercise designed to measure progress or test qualifications.
Everyone has taken exams. From youth to adulthood we take exams. However, there is one exam in life that everyone should take. It is a pass/fail exam. What you make on the exam is of eternal consequence. This examination is to determine whether you are saved. By "saved," I mean whether you are forgiven of your sins and justified before God, thereby in a relationship with Him.
The basis for taking this exam is found in the Bible.
2 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV) - Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you fail to meet the test.
Paul writes to the church in Corinth to examine themselves. He wants them to examine themselves for the purpose of seeing whether they are in the faith. This is a crucial exam. The goal is to determine whether Jesus Christ is in you. If not, you fail to meet the test.
As a pastor, I hesitate to tell people they are saved. It is not because I'm skeptical of other people's salvation, I just don't want to be someone's assurance. I never want someone to be lost in their sins, yet think they are saved because at some point I told them so. Assurance of salvation comes when we pass the exam. It is imperative for everyone to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith. The role of the pastor is not to assure people of their salvation, but to exhort them to exam themselves.
So that is my argument for why we should examine ourselves. Let's look at how to examine ourselves.
1. Have I put my complete trust and faith in the finished work of Jesus?
The question demands that we look at where our hope for salvation lies. If we believe that God will forgive us of our sins through any other means than Jesus' death and resurrection, we fail to answer this question correctly. Salvation comes to those who wholly submit to what Jesus has done for us. We do not try to save ourselves via some behavior, action, work, or deed. We push all the chips forward and declare we are "all in" with Jesus. Has this taken place with you?
2. Do I submit my life to God and the authority of His Word?
This second question demands we look at what authority governs our lives, our thoughts, our beliefs, and our actions. True believers do not go on living their lives according to their own opinions. Real Christians come under the authority of the Word of God and align their lives accordingly. This means that what we determine to be true, moral, good, and so on is informed by the Bible. If you have not submitted to the Bible's authority, you fail the test. Is the Bible your authority?
3. Do I treasure and love Jesus?
This question gets to the heart of what salvation means. So many people wrongly believe salvation to be about believing all the right facts about the Christian claims. Instead, salvation is about a new love. We begin to love Jesus. True believers go beyond simply believing in Jesus, and begin to treasure him. Treasuring Jesus is about our yearnings to be with him. Treasuring Christ is about our affections for who is and all he has done. Many people believe in Jesus, but no everyone who believes in Jesus treasures him. What about you?
4. Are confession of sins and repentance regular aspects of my life?
The Christian life is one continuous pattern of confessing sin and repenting from it. Believers are called to be striving continuously for holiness. We do not want to continue in our former ways, but instead, we want to live holy lives. We want to be dedicated to God. This requires a constant turning away from worldliness and passions of the flesh. True believers do not live in habitual sin. They turn from it. This confession of sin takes place in private prayer, but also in a community of believers (James 5:16). Repentance is a turning away from sinful habits and turning to Christ. Do these things mark your life?
This last question gets to the core of who we are living for each day. What characterizes your life? Does your faith in God mark your life? Does your allegiance to Christ and Kingdom show in how you live? There are many professing beleivers whose lives do not match their profession. Do not be decieved, friends. God will not be mocked. He does not desire for people who claim to know Him, but live for themselves. Those who are in Christ live their lives for Christ. We do not continue on living for our own dreams, wants, plans, and goals. We recognize that we were bought at an incredibly high price - Jesus' life - and we lay down our own lives for His glory. So what about you? Who do you live for - Christ or yourself?
After answering these questions, one final question is in order: am I being honest? You must answer the questions honestly in order to know if you pass the exam. If you are truly a believer, you should be able to answer "yes," to the first four questions and "Christ and his kingdom" should be how the last question is answered. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that the Spirit of God testifies to our spirit that we are indeed children of God. The Spirit of God will affirm in our hearts if we have answered these questions accurately.
There is not a more important exam we will ever take. Passing or failing is of eternal significance. My challenge for you is this: if you pass the exam, then praise God for the gift of salvation that you have received. If you failed the exam, plead for God to save you, to forgive your sins, and to turn your life around. Turn to Christ and find life. Believe and you will be saved.
Question: what additional questions would you add to this exam? I would love to hear your thoughts below.
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