A New Year Examination

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Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”

[2Corinthians 13:5]

It’s 2020, let the vision jokes, puns & metaphors begin. All joking aside, a new year is a threshold we cross that inspires many of us to examine how well we’re doing.

Paul wrote about self-examination. It’s a great practice, not just for the new year, but with each new day.

New years resolutions are self-examinations of how we’re doing regarding the outward man. Paul is urging self-examination of the inward.

What does a spiritual examination look like? How do we do it? What do we look for? Paul specifically states, “whether ye be in the faith.” Let’s look to the scriptures for God’s answer to this important question. Since we’re to ‘PROVE’ ourselves, there must then be things we (& others) can see regarding our faith.

5 Things to examine about our FAITH. This is just my list; you search the scriptures to find what else God says on the matter.

FIDELITY: How loyal are we toward God, His church, His doctrine [2John 9]? Do we believe in the ONE church as spoken of in Eph 4:4? Do we attend as we ought [Heb 10:25-26]? Are we giving with regularity and purpose in our hearts [1Cor 16:1-2; 2Cor 9:6]?

 

APTITUDE: How good are you at handling aright the word of God? Do we study as we ought [2Tim 2:15]? Are we able to teach it [Heb 5:12]? It’s called a sword; can we wield it properly & accurately with love [Eph 6:17; 4:15]?

Do you cry out for the study of God’s word as a newborn baby cries for her milk?

Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.” [Proverbs 2:3-5; 1Peter 2:2]

INFLUENCE: How well am I at leading others to good works?

in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,” [Titus 2:7] How well do I do at edification of the saints?

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”

[Eph 4:12]

TELLING the Good News: Jesus told the man released of the legion to, “tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee,” how well are we doing? [Mark 5:19]

Are we looking at the field that is “white unto harvest?” [John 4:35] Are we looking for that honest, seeking heart?

And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.” [Mark 4:20]

Do people see us as people of hope, in the midst of struggles, that want to ask us about that hope?

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” [1Peter 3:15]

Or do they only hear about how bad people are, how bad life is and how bad we have it in life?

HOPE: Let’s examine our own hope of salvation. Are we living in fear & doubt? Are we uncertain of our salvation? Do we believe that we can be saved?

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” [1John 5:13]

Too many are doubting and this doubt leads to apathy and a negative influence on the rest of us. If we’re in doubt about our salvation then examining of self is in order. We can take the necessary steps of repentance. We have the assurance from God that He will forgive the Christian that will confess her sins. [1John 1:9]

Paul finishes by assuring us, “But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates.” [vs6] May we each discover an ever-growing faith within us.

 

—Spencer

HOGS & CHRISTIANS

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An Evangelist once visited a farmer to talk to him about Christ. “I wouldn’t come to church up there,” the farmer said. “I know old So and So (insert a name) church goer who claims to be a Christian and So and So (insert another name) church goer who claims to be a Christian, and they don’t live any differently from me. I’m as good as they are.” Everywhere the farmer went, he told about the hypocrites in that Church.

A few weeks go by and the Christian went to see the farmer again. “I want to buy a hog,” said the Christian. The farmer showed all his best hogs to him. “I believe I will take that one,” the Christian said. “BUT you don’t want that one. He’s the worst runt in the litter.” “I sure do,” said the Christian. So, they loaded the runt in the truck. The farmer then asks, “What are you going to do with this runt hog?”

The Christian replied, “I plan to take this pig here from your farm and ride all over this area telling folks that this is the kind of hogs you raise?”

“THAT’S NOT FAIR!” the farmer exclaimed. “I have some nice hogs and you want to show people that runt?”…to which the Christian replied, “If it’s fair for the church, it’s fair for your operation!”

It’s a real problem. We face this situation, not with hog farmers, but with our friends, family & co-workers. We fear inviting because they may call us hypocrites. They’d be right because we’re flawed, we’re often broken, but that’s why we’ve come to the Lord. They’d also be wrong because what they don’t see is our desire to repent and grow into the mature Christian that our Lord & Savior wants us to become.

Unfairly, our flaws become obstacles to many. They don’t see that we’re learning and changing. “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?” [Romans 2:21; cf. 2Sam 12:14]

There will be occasions when a member of the Lord’s Body sins and should be rebuked or withdrawn from [cf. 1Corinthians 5:5], but their sinful behavior is not representative of the congregation as a whole, and it’s certainly not representative of the doctrine of Christ! As the farmer said, “THAT’S NOT FAIR!”

Fortunately, the Lord will not judge us as a church, we will face him as individuals [2Corinthians 5:10]. He addressed this issue in the church at Sardis; “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy” [Revelation 3:4]. Read the letters to the church at Corinth. If we measure every person in the congregation by the actions of a few, then no one can be saved.

Since others will judge the church as a whole based on the actions of a few, it’s vital that we all strive to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul rebuked those in the church at Rome; “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” [Romans 2:24].

Don’t let folks get away with judging the Lord’s body for the actions of a few. Rather, let them see our Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, & Temperance. Each of which are present in this beautiful congregation. A congregation that exists to serve the Lord as He commands. A congregation that seeks to remain pure from the influence of the world. A congregation that fights the compromises of denominational division. A congregation that desires to keep the commands of Christ out of the great LOVE that He showed them and that we have for Him.

Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” [1Peter 2:12].

“WHAT ABOUT HIM?” That’s what a child says when they’ve been caught in their bad behavior. Moms & Dads never accept this as an excuse for bad behavior. Neither does the Lord and neither should we.

A sound congregation of the Lord will have decent, but flawed, folks striving to serve the Lord. It will also have some not striving so much. A sound congregation will have mature Christians and some that are young in the faith. It will have a mix of individuals (cf. 1Cor 12:12-26].

Don’t make a decision about the Lord’s body based on those who are working on their flaws. Decide based on the truth of God’s word and your own need for repair. Besides, you would never refuse a gym because of all the overweight people, would you?

Influencing Lot

The New Testament calls Lot righteous. (2Pet 2:8) However, in that same verse he is said to have been “vexed” day to day. I bet you feel like that too sometimes when you look around and see all the troubles, sins and evil that surround us. Unfortunately, Lot and his family were influenced by their surroundings.

Lot had “pitched his tent toward Sodom” (Ge 13:12). He had made his choice of place to live based on earthly reasoning (Gen 13:10). It says that the men of Sodom were “wicked”.

Lesson 1 – If you make your choices about relations, callings, dwellings, being guided by the “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1Joh 2:16) you cannot expect God’s blessings or presence.

God had judged the people of Sodom, and therefore sent 2 angels to destroy it. Unable to find even ten righteous souls, they urged Lot to take his family and flee the city. He went to his sons in law, but they looked at him as if he were joking. (Gen 19:14)

Lesson 2 – The influence of our surroundings can draw away our families from a righteous influence. 1Pe 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

But Lot lingered. The angels had a sense of urgency about them. They knew that when God gives a command, it’s to be done. (Ge 19:15;) They even grabbed him by the hand and took him out of the city. Then his wife looked back, disobeying the order to not look back. (Gen 19:17, 26)

Lesson 3 – Why do we linger? Why do we delay to obey the Lord? And why do we look back? (Lu 9:62; Heb 11:15)

This is not a lesson on moving out to the wilderness and to create a commune. The main difference between us and Lot, is that the world is pitching it’s tent toward us. Paul warned us in (Ro 12:2 And be not conformed to this world:) The Lord prayed for us to be kept from evil (Joh 17:15) not to be taken out of the world. And Paul tells us to not keep company with fornicators (1Co 5:9) but not so much that we have to leave the world. This is wise, because otherwise, how would evangelism occur?

We are to influence the world, not the other way around. ( Mt 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.)

What influences us today?

Is it TV, movies, our culture? Are we driven to make choices based on “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”? Yeah, me too.

Let me remind you, if sin were always painful, no one would do it. Sin appears to us as fun, and entertaining. Moses experienced this. (Heb 11:25) Sin can be likened to rat poison. It is 98% corn meal and 2% poison. Why do you suppose it is? If rat poison tasted nasty, no rat would ever eat it! It attracts it’s victim and then it’s influence kills.

There is a remedy to sin. When we remove something from our lives we should replace it with something else.

Php 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

I’m praying for you, we’re all in this together.