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 Corinthians 13:5
Remember the story of the ugly duckling? Somehow a swan’s egg finds its way to a duck’s nest and hatches right along with all the other ducklings. The swan chick is similar in appearance to the ducklings, but it quickly becomes obvious to all that there’s something different about him. The swan chick is convinced that he is a duck. He tries to walk like a duck, quack like a duck– but it doesn’t work. He can’t figure out what’s wrong with him.
The problem is, the swan chick wasn’t, in fact, a duck. He might have lived with a duck family. He might have even learned how to imitate the sounds, habits, and mannerisms of ducks, but sometimes, even though it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck– it isn’t a duck.
Sadly, we have the very same scenario taking place in our churches. There are swans among us who think they are ducks. They walk like ducks, quack like ducks, sometimes we’ve even told them they are ducks. Unlike the duck siblings in the story of the ugly duckling, we don’t, as a rule, pick at them and tease them mercilessly. We love them, accept them, and assume they are Believers. Some swans look and sound an awful lot like ducks.
But the fact of the matter is, many– maybe even most –of the people you sit next to in church on Sunday morning are not Believers. They have never been genuinely converted to Christ and become new creatures. Some of them know this consciously about themselves and are just trying to fake their way through because church attendance looks good on a resume or in the eyes of their family and friends. But there are untold thousands who have been deceived into thinking they are saved when, in fact, they are not. Could you be one of them?
Most of us grew up during a time when there was great pressure on churches to “get the decision” and up their baptism numbers. Somehow, this is what evangelism was boiled down to. The pressure started with the higher ups in the denomination and was passed down to individual pastors, who, in turn, passed the pressure on to their church members. Frankly, this dynamic hasn’t waned much and is still going strong today.
As a result, the Gospel presentation Jesus preached– we must repent (Luke 5:32), deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily (Luke 9:23), forsake all else (Luke 14:26), even lose our lives for the Gospel (Mark 8:35) –got watered down and redesigned into the easy believism of, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” and, “Don’t you want to go to heaven when you die?” Let’s face it, in this culture, dying to self and turning your back on everything that’s comfortable and convenient isn’t an easy sell.
(And if you’ve never heard the truth of the Gospel– that you are guilty of breaking God’s laws, and that God will punish your lawbreaking with an eternity in hell unless you turn away from your sin and place your faith in the fact that Jesus’ death on the cross satisfied God’s wrath against you –please take a few minutes to watch the little video in the sidebar, and learn how you can be saved.)
Folks, I don’t care what Rob Bell or any of the other wolves in shepherd’s clothing tell you, Jesus himself said that “the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
So how can you tell whether you’ve found that narrow way that leads to life, or if you’re just one of the many who has been deceived? Don’t bet your salvation on church attendance or service, your own personal “goodness” or even the fact that you recited a “sinner’s prayer” and someone told you that if you “really meant it in your heart,” you were saved. And certainly, don’t wait until you stand before Jesus when you die to find out (Matthew 7:21-23).
Test yourself. Examine yourself. The proof that you’re saved is not simply that you once said a prayer and invited Jesus into your heart. The proof is in the fruit of your life, right now– today. Jesus said,
You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.Matthew 7:16-17
What does the fruit of a genuine Believer look like? The MacArthur Study Bible1 has a great tool you can use for examining yourself. Find a quiet time and place with no distractions, and prayerfully and honestly go over this list with the Lord. Don’t trust your own opinion of your fruit, ask God to reveal to you what He thinks.
I. Evidences that neither prove nor disprove one’s faith:
a. Visible morality: Matt. 19:16-21, 23:27
b. Intellectual knowledge: Romans 1:21, 2:17ff
c. Religious involvement: Matt. 25:1-10
d. Active Ministry : Matt. 7:21-23
e. Conviction of sin: Acts 24:25
f. Assurance: Matt. 23
g. Time of decision: Luke 8:13-14
II. The fruit /proofs of authentic / true Christianity
a. Love for God: Psalm 42:1ff; 73:25; Luke 10:27; Romans 8:7
b. Repentance from sin: Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; Romans 7:14ff; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 1:8-10
c. Genuine Humility: Psalm 51:17; Matthew 5:1-12; James 4:6, 9ff.
d. Devotion to God’s Glory: Psalm 105:3; 115:1; Isaiah 43:7, 48:10ff.; Jeremiah 9:23, 24; 1 Corinthians 10:31
e. Continual Prayer: Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18ff.; Philippians 4:6ff.; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; James 5:16-18
f. Selfless Love: 1 John 2:9ff, 3:14; 4:7ff.
g. Separation from the world: 1 Corinthians 2:12; James 4:4ff.; 1 John 2:15-17, 5:5
h. Spiritual Growth: Luke 8:15; John 15:1-6; Ephesians 4:12-16
i. Obedient Living: Matthew 7:21; John 15:14ff.; Romans 16:26; 1 Peter 1:2, 22; 1 John 2:3-5
“If list I is true of a person and list II is false or non-evident, then there could be cause to question the validity of one’s profession of faith. If list II is true of a person, then list I will be true as well.“
Are you really saved? Are you sure? This test isn’t graded on a curve.
1From: MacArthur Study Bible Index Notes, 1997.
Am I Really Saved?: A First John Check Up