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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)
How do you know that you are saved, right with God, going to heaven, born again, or whatever other phrase you want to use to describe this most crucial question of life? Paul writes to the Corinthians to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Okay, Paul – if we need to test ourselves, what questions should we be asking? Let me share what I believe are the three most important questions we should ask in order to investigate the genuineness of our faith:
1) Are you becoming increasingly God-oriented?
I became a believer as an 18-year-old freshman at UConn. From the day I knelt by my bed to give my life to Jesus, I found growing in me a desire to know God that had never been there before. The Bible began to come alive to me and make sense. I wanted to spend time with other believers. And I wanted to learn everything I could about God and what it meant to follow Him.
When a person comes to faith in Jesus, they are not only justified (declared not guilty before God as all their sins are put on Jesus and His righteousness is given to them) and adopted (brought into God the Father’s family with all the benefits of an heir), but they are also regenerated, as God replaces the heart that is not responsive to God with a new heart and new spirit that is sensitive to Him (see Ezekiel 36:26-27 - I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws). And as God puts His Holy Spirit in us, we will find growing within us a desire to know God more and to honor Him with our lives. As Paul writes in Romans 8:7-9 - The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.
2) Are you repenting of your sin?
Looking back on my salvation experience as an 18-year-old, another clear evidence that God was now in my life was that many things that had previously seemed acceptable to me now began to feel wrong. There was a growing conviction inside of me that certain things I was doing were not good for me or for those around me, and that I needed to stop doing those things before it got worse.
A second evidence of genuine salvation is a life of continual repentance. As John writes, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth” (1 John 1:6) and “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (1 John 3:6). John is not saying that the follower of Jesus will never sin; rather, that the orientation of their life will be towards obeying God, and when they do sin, they will repent and turn away from that sin back towards the pursuit of God and holiness. If a person is comfortable with sin in their life or has no conviction to turn away from it, they need to question whether the Holy Spirit is truly in them.
3) Is there an increase in the fruit of the Spirit in your life?
Before I became a believer, I had a great deal of pride, self-centeredness, and apathy towards others, especially those who were suffering. But over the years, I have seen the Spirit’s transformation in my life, especially an increase of genuine loving concern for the well-being of others and a humble heart towards those around me.
The Bible is clear that the one who has the Holy Spirit inside of them will be growing in the fruit of the Spirit. As Paul writes in Galatians 5:22-24, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” If God has saved you and put His Spirit in you, then He will cause you to grow in Christlikeness, as evidenced by the aforementioned fruit. Most importantly, you should see a growth in love for others. As John writes in 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
So how did you do on the test? If you feel like you failed the test, the good news is that salvation is a prayer away. As Paul writes in Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Confess your sins to the Lord and put your trust in Jesus, who died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins, as your Savior and Lord, and God will give you His Holy Spirit, bring you into a right relationship with Him, and grant you eternal life.
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