By James Smith
"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves!" 2 Corinthians 13:5
There is much spurious religion in the world. Many pass for Christians--who are not. This fact places professors in solemn circumstances. When there is much counterfeit coin in circulation, people in trade are doubly cautious. They look at the proffered piece carefully, they rub it, ring it, weigh it, and test it in a variety of ways. No one will take base coin--if they know it. Nor will people take what is suspicious without examination.
Friends, have we any religion? If so, are we sure it is the genuine article? Many are deceived, and deceived to the last! The foolish virgins were. The multitudes referred to by Jesus were, when he said, "Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and in your name cast out devils, and in your name have done many wonderful works? Then I will profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me you that work iniquity."
How is genuine religion to be known? How can I tell, if I am taught by the Holy Spirit, and have the grace of God in my heart? In many ways, there are many tests. Let us look at a few.
First, if I am a new creature--sin is hateful to me. Not only open and flagrant sins--but all sin. The sin of the heart, that no one sees or knows but God himself. All sin of thought, word, and deed. I see its deformity, its injurious nature and character, and its opposition to God's pure and holy law. I hate it for its own sake, and also because it dishonors God, crucifies the Lord Jesus, and grieves the Holy Spirit. Because it degrades my nature, blasts my character, wounds my soul, and exposes me to the wrath of God. Because it injures my fellow men; and has introduced disorder, disease, and misery into God's world. The more I know of sin--the more I hate it! And the depth of my spirituality may be ascertained by the degree of my hatred to sin--all sin.
Where there is no hatred to sin--there is no true religion.
Where there is but little hatred to sin--there is but little true religion.
Where there is deep, intense and increasing hatred to sin--there is not only saving grace--but a growth in grace.
Second, if I am a new creature--the Lord Jesus Christ is precious to me. He is all my hope. My everlasting all hangs on his word, work, and sacrifice. I prize him above all besides. I place implicit confidence in him, and desire to honor and obey him in every action of my life. I love him--for what he has done and suffered to save souls from death. I love him--for what he has said in his holy word. I love him--for what he is in himself, being the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely One. I value Jesus above health, wealth, fame, friendship, and everything below. If Christ is not precious to the soul--then there is no genuine faith, for Peter says, "To you who believe--he is precious," and if there is no faith, there is no true religion. Oh, to love Jesus more! Oh, to enjoy him more! Oh, to make him in my daily experience, the Alpha and Omega, the first and last, the all in all!
Third, if I am a genuine Christian--I long for holiness. For deep, abiding, increasing holiness. To be like Jesus in body, soul, and spirit. To be perfectly, perpetually, eternally holy. To be kept from every sinful temper, sinful inclination, and sinful action. Sin is the burden of the Christian's soul--and holiness is his element and delight. He loves pure thoughts, holy worship, and clean paths. Where there is no desire for inward and outward holiness--the Holy Spirit is not; and where the Holy Spirit is not--there is no genuine Christianity. For "if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him."
Fourth, if I am a godly man--SELF is laid low. By nature, we all think more highly of ourselves, than we ought to think. But grace daily shows us more and more of our inward depravity, throws increasing light upon our polluted hearts, and shows us with increasing clearness, that sin is mixed with all we do! Our holiest duties appear crowded with imperfections. We can take no pleasure in anything of our own, and are deeply humbled before God on account of our infirmities, as well as our sins. We are ashamed of all we have done, and seek to have every act of service sprinkled with the precious blood of Jesus. The longer we live, and the closer we walk with God--the more we are abased in our own sight, and the lower we sink in our own estimation. If we are pleased with, and proud of ourselves--we have no true godliness; but if we abhor ourselves, and repent of sin in dust and ashes before God--there is no doubt but the Spirit of God dwells in us!
Finally, if I am a temple of the Holy Spirit--Christ is exalted by me. I not only think highly of him, feel love to him--but I aim to exalt him in all my purposes, plans, and life. In every act of service, in every hour of suffering, and in every time of trial--I wish to exalt Jesus. If I pray, or if I praise; if I speak, or if I act--I desire in every prayer, in every song, in all I say, and in all I do--to exalt Jesus. My grief is, that I honor Jesus so little, my desire is, that if I eat or drink, or whatever I do--I may do all to the honor and glory of my dear Redeemer. Indeed, there is nothing renders the thought of heaven so sweet to the real believer as this--that there Jesus is exalted to the highest, exalted always, and will be exalted forever! Oh, to join the throng that always praise him, to take part in the service that always honors him, and to find myself fully employed in exalting him to the highest pitch.
Friend, are you a true Christian? Have you these evidences? There are many more--but dwell upon these, examine yourself by these.
Is sin hateful to you? Do you dread it more than disease? More than anything, and everything besides?
Is Jesus precious to you? Do you love his dear name, trust in his atoning blood, and strive to copy his lovely example?
Is holiness the object of your desire, prayer, and pursuit? Would you rather be holy--than healthy, wealthy, or exalted to the highest pinnacle of fame?
Is self laid low? Have you low views of yourself as a sinner, and as a professor of Christianity? Are you in the dust, and never so much so, as when you are happy in religious services?
Is Christ exalted by you? Do you strive to set him on high, to show forth the honors of his name, and to make his praise glorious?
If so, you are blessed of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. You may rejoice in the Lord, and glory in the Holy One of Israel. But if not, then look to Jesus at once, flee to him without delay, sincerely believe in him--and soon you will have all the proofs I have presented in your own experience. Faith is the root on which they all grow--and they are the fruits and evidences of genuine faith. "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves!"