The Word for today:
2 Corinthians 13
mark this: 2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?
All the following traits and activities may characterize a real Christian, but they don’t make a person a Christian.
Being born into a Christian family.
You can’t inherit Christianity like a genetic trait. Every individual has to make a personal choice to believe in and obey Jesus Christ.
Going to church.
It’s a good place to start, but you can go to church every week for your entire life without really knowing God.
Believing in God.
Followers of any number of world religions believe in God. But that doesn’t make them Christians.
Praying to God.
Adherents to countless religions all over the world pray. Christians don’t have a monopoly on prayer.
Doing good things.
Or at least, not doing bad things. Many atheists live decent lives and even do laudable things for humanity. They would be the first to say they’re not Christians. So just being a good person is not enough.
Reading the Bible.
You can read the Bible without applying it to your life. Jesus said, “Blessed are hose who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28).
Christians often look like the list above. The problem is that a lot of people who aren’t Christians look like that, too. So that list is not at all a reliable indicator.
Probably the best test consists of just one question:
Am I a Cain or an Abel?
God doesn’t want us in suspense about where we stand. So in the first few pages in the Bible (Genesis 4), in the very first family, we find two brothers. Together, they stand as two great systems, two classes of people:
The lost and the saved;
The self-righteous and the broken-spirited;
The formal professor and the genuine believer;
Those who come God’s way and those who go their own way.
Abel came God’s way–
By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. (Hebrews 11:4)
Cain came his own way, with his own offering. God wanted a lamb brought, which points to the sacrifice of Christ.
The difference between the boys wasn’t a character difference. The difference was the offering they brought.
When you come to God as a sinner, with nothing to offer except the blood of Jesus Christ, then you are a Christian. You are saved and no one can take away your birthright because He won’t let anyone take it away. Mark the day down, and hold yourself a birthright party.
You’re not a Christian by being born in this so-called Christian nation. You’re not a Christian because you were born in a Christian home. You’re not a Christian because you are a member of a Christian church.
You’re a Christian because you individually came to Christ and said, “God save me, a sinner.”
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.” (Luke 18:9-14)
If you have never come to God on those terms (his terms) I would not let the sun set on another day before that conversation in prayer was held. You might have been teaching Sunday school for 20 years. You might be the pastor. It doesn’t matter. By default, we are all Cains until we are Abels:
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way. (Isaiah 53:6)
So take stock of your faith–
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5)
This verse is asking us to examine whether we trust God for our salvation, or whether we trust ourselves for salvation. If it’s Jesus you look to for salvation from sin, then you are in the faith; you passed the examination!
If you are depending on Jesus Christ for eternal life, then welcome home. But if, like Cain, your faith is really in yourself — in your sparkling personality, your obvious virtue (everybody says you’re a great guy), or in the good deeds you’ve done — then you’ve got a prayer to pray:
God save me, a sinner, by the blood of your Only Son, Jesus.
Now, you’re a Christian.