Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test? (2 Cor. 13:5).Samantha over at Carry your Candle has linked to a sermon to a youth group by Paul Washer. I'm afraid the good preacher didn't score many points with his audience. He spoke on a taboo topic: "Test Yourself." You see, poor Paul is deluded. He thinks that simply saying a prayer to accept Jesus isn't enough to make you a Christian. He thinks that not only is there a narrow gate into heaven, but a narrow path. He actually believes that real Christians have a new nature that alters their lives, changes their way of living, and demands personal holiness. In other words, Paul Washer agrees with ... Paul the Apostle.
We are not privy to many sermons on this topic. "Test yourself." We are told that Christians can be "carnal", meaning that they may never ever display any hint of "Christianity" once they become Christians. We are told that all it takes to become a Christian is to say the Sinner's Prayer. And when folks like John MacArthur write books about the evil "Lordship Salvation" concept, there is an uproar. In a Tina Turner parody they cry, "What's works got to do with it?!?" Unfortunately, their outcry isn't against Washer or MacArthur, but against Scripture.
What do we know? We know that "each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work" (1 Cor. 3:13). We know that "the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother" (1 John 3:8-10). We know that Peter, writing to "those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours" (2 Peter 1:1), warns, "Brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you" (2 Peter 1:10).
Now, I'm one who believes in the "Doctrines of Grace" which means that I believe in Election. Yet Peter warns that we should each be diligent to make certain that we are among the chosen. Look at that passage and find out what Peter suggests as a test:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. (2 Peter 1:2-11).Apparently Peter suffers from the same silly delusions that John MacArthur and Paul Washer suffer from -- works are a necessary part of being a Christian. Let's look more closely at what Peter actually says here.
Peter affirms Election when he refers to "Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." He affirms the sufficiency of salvation when he says, "His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness." So far he's right in line with modern American Christianity. Then he deviates. He suggests that we become "partakers of the divine nature" by ... escaping the corruption that is in the world? No, no, Peter, we're just fine with all that. It's ours. We possess it. We're redeeming it. We can be in the world but not of it, and it's okay. We can watch the garbage that the world feeds us, listen to the garbage that its music plays for us, indulge in all the same sin that the world does and still be Christians. No need to "escape" ... right? No, not right. Peter says that we must add to faith. What is added? "In your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love." Oh, yeah, love ... that's good. That's the end of the list. It starts with things that much of American Christianity has jettisoned: Moral excellence, knowledge, self-control. Wait ... it gets worse. "If these qualities are yours and are increasing ..." This climb from faith to love is an ever increasing spiral, building on lower level excellence to greater and greater excellence.
And here's my point ... or, rather, Peter's point: These are not trivial issues. They're not "nice to have." I'm not suggesting you feel badly and get to work on these things. Peter says that if you are not working on these things, you aren't merely being a bad Christian -- you may not be a Christian at all. Peter says that practicing such things are the means by which "the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you."
Christians, these aren't small matters. God is not in the business of making bad people into good people. He is in the business of making dead people into living people. Living people respond differently than dead people. So when we think we're among the living, but our lives reflect nothing of the sort, it's not a matter of self-improvement; it's a matter of being dead. The fix is not to work harder; the fix is to fall on your knees and repent, to come to Christ with nothing in your hand and beg of Him forgiveness and new life.
I suspect that a large number of folks calling themselves "Christians" in America today will have a rude awakening come Judgment Day. The authors of Scripture (and, therefore, their Inspiration) worked hard to warn us away from "casual Christianity." We have largely ignored that warning. We even get angry when people suggest that not all Christians are Christians. Well, don't take it up with me; take it up with God. These are His warnings. We dare not despise them.