Friday, March 23, 2012

Examine yourself...

This is from a recent teaching at youth group in response to chapter 4 of Francis Chan's book Crazy Love.

In Matthew 13, Jesus teaches the parable of the sower.  This parable gives us a picture of the differing responses people have to the gospel.  In chapter 4 of Crazy Love, Francis challenges his readers by saying "Don't assume you're the good soil."  Check out Jesus' words from Matthew 13.
1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9He who has ears,a let him hear.”

18“Hear then the parable of the sower: 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.b 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

In 2 Corinthians 13:5 believers are challenged to examine themselves, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!"  Honestly, I think we (Christians) test ourselves all the time.  We are constantly looking at others in the church or our peers in the world and comparing ourselves to them.  When we do this, we inevitably find people on either side of us.  Some that make us feel really lousy about ourselves and some that in turn make us feel down right awesome about ourselves.  This is not the kind of test that will leave us with an accurate understanding of our personal salvation.  If we truly want to examine and test ourselves to see if we are in the faith we must use scripture to do so.

Jesus said "If you love me you will obey my commands." (John 14:15).  Notice how the love comes first.  Obedience is simply a response to that love.  It is not how we earn or attain it.  Its just what you do if you truly love Him.  Its the natural response to His love.  At youth group this last week, we took a tour of 1 John and examined our own hearts.  I encourage you to do the same.  Here are some of the key verses we looked at.

1 John 1:5-9
5This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John  2:4-6
4Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

1 John 2:15-17
15Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 3:4-5
 4Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

1John 3:16-18
16By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

1 John 4:19-21
19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Those verses are incredibly convicting and can be even more incredibly defeating without a proper understanding of the gospel.  Jesus lived the perfect life that we cannot live and died the death that our sins deserve allowing us the opportunity to accept God's gift of grace and mercy where we get to exchange our sinfulness for his righteousness.  So what is this test to see if we are in the faith?  Its an examination of your heart.  When you read these verses do you find that you have calloused yourself to seeing your own sinfulness?  or that you have plenty of great excuses why you don't love your brother, walk in the light, or keep his commands?  or are you willing to confess your failure to live up to God's standard and repent in order to receive not only his forgiveness but the power to overcome the sin in your life through him for his glory?