Examine Yourselves Part Two
Topic: Faith Passage: 2 Corinthians 13:1–13:10
Grace Community Church
June 13, 2021
Examine Yourselves Part Two
5 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! 6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. 7 But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.
We’re looking at Paul’s exhortation (warning) to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith. But what does it mean to examine ourselves? How can we know if we are in the faith or out of the faith? While Paul doesn’t specify exactly how we examine our faith, when we consider the two serious issues going on in Corinth it points us to examine the root of our faith and the fruit of our faith.
- Examine the root of our faith
The false teachers were working to uproot the Corinthians from the gospel of grace and replant them in a legalism that taught that Christ began our salvation, but we need to complete it by keeping the law. Jesus did some, we do some. That sounds fair. But the minute we try to add to Jesus’ finished work on the cross, we empty the cross of its power.Our faith is to be firmly and deeply rooted in Jesus Christ and all his finished work at Calvary. Examining the root of our faith to see if it is in Christ and Christ alone.
- Examine the fruit of our faith
Fruit is one of the insightful ways the Bible describes what our lives and our faith produces. It’s an insightful metaphor because it makes the connection between what we do and what we are. Fruit comes from the root. A pear tree bears pears. An apple tree bears apples. You can staple apples on a pear tree but it’s still a pear tree by nature. The root determines the fruit.
Fruit goes to our nature, not our outward appearance. Jesus said a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. If someone’s nature is bad, then ultimately their fruit will be bad. Conversely if we are rooted in Christ, there will be Christ-like fruit in our lives.
Galatians 5 describes the fruit of the Spirit:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Gal. 5:22-23
These are the fruits of the Spirit. Paul then contrasts them with the works of the flesh:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,
21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as warned you before, that those who
do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal. 5:19-21
Compare that list to the “fruit” some in the Corinthian church are displaying:
quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, disorder… impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality. 2 Cor. 12:20-21
Reading that list and comparing it to the “works of the flesh” we can understand why Paul is saying, “make sure you are really Christians.” Because the fruit of your lives should look very different if Jesus is really living inside of you.
I mentioned last week that many Christians struggle with doubt and insecurity about whether they are really saved. I think most of us do at some point. For many the issue that worries them isn’t the root – they have a strong confession of faith in Christ. What worries them is the fruit – or the lack of it. They are worried they don’t see enough evidence – enough Christian fruit - in their lives to assure them they are Christians.
We don’t want to examine the fruit of our faith in a way that is filled with doubt and unbelief, we want to examine the fruit of our faith with faith! Faith that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it unto the day of Christ Jesus! Faith that the power of the Holy Spirit is working in us – and faith that He wants to produce more and better fruit through our lives. Let’s examine with eyes of faith, not eyes of doubt and unbelief. OK?
- Begin by examining the type of fruit, not the amount of fruit
We’ll get to the amount of fruit in a minute, but if we aren’t careful, a performance mindset can creep into our examining of fruit where we say, “there’s fruit, but is there enough fruit?”
John D. Rockefeller was the first American billionaire. When someone once asked him the question, “how much money is enough?” he answered, “just a little bit more.” Satisfaction was always just beyond his reach. Assurance will always be just beyond our reach if we base our assurance on the amount of fruit rather than the type of fruit.
Ask yourself this question: is there evidence of the fruit of the Spirit growing in my life? Is there love growing? Is there patience? Is there joy? Is there self-control? Is there kindness growing in my heart?
You say, “yeah, but not enough…” – that’s not the question yet. That’s about amount, not type. A pear tree doesn’t become a pear tree when it produces a certain amount of fruit. The fruit is a product of what it is, not the other way around. We aren’t children of God because we bear fruit, we bear fruit because we are children of God! If you see even small amounts of the fruit of the Spirit, rejoice that you are a child of God and have faith that God has more fruit where that came from!
If, on the other hand, for someone the honest answer is “no”, if an honest assessment shows no evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, if your life is characterized by anger, or immorality, or gossip, or slander; or all these things; if the footprint you leave behind you is one of division and rancor, Paul’s warning is a wake-up call to your soul. Better to examine now when you have a chance to repent and turn to Christ in faith, then to wait for the ultimate Examination Day when eternity spreads before you and it’s too late to change your examination results. So if the answer is “no”, let the fear of God fill your soul and turn to Christ in faith. But for those who say, “yes”, my second encouragement is this:
- Press for progress and go for growth with faith in the power of the Spirit!
Another way to say this is, have faith and take the initiative to grow more fruit! Paul says, “don’t you realize this about yourselves – that Jesus Christ is in you?” It’s possible for a Christian to be unaware of the power of Christ in us!
Fruit is different than root. I would never encourage you to make every effort to add more justification to your salvation. Our salvation, our justification, our redemption, our adoption, these were 100% accomplished by Christ – we add nothing except to place all our faith and trust in Christ. That’s root. But fruit is different – that we can and should make every effort to bear more fruit.
We can have more, we can have less, depending on what we do and what we believe. We can make progress or we can lose ground depending on what we do or don’t do. We can grow more fruit, or we can produce little fruit, depending on what we do or don’t do. Not talking about legalism, talking about believing that Jesus is living in us – let’s be what we are! Jesus said if we abide in him we will bear much fruit to the glory of the Father. Fruit isn’t the product of us “trying real hard for God”, it’s the product of God working in us and through us, but we play a part. We believe, then we act. We pray, then we press for progress. Here are three practical suggestions.
- Press for progress at the point of impact
The fruit of the Spirit doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it happens at the point of impact. Here’s what I mean.
- When your kids exasperate you for the hundredth time, that’s a point of impact. What fruit will you produce - patience or impatience? We can’t learn patience when nothing is tempting us to be impatient. It’s the point of impact where we are tempted to be impatient that we can ask the Spirit to teach us patience.
- When someone treats us badly or says unkind things about us, that’s a point of impact. Will we retaliate in kind or will we show kindness in response?
- Love is the first of the fruits of the Spirit, and Jesus tells us we are to love our enemies. That’s the greatest point of impact there is! It’s not hard to love the people who love us. It’s supernatural to love the people who hate us. We need to abide in Jesus cause there’s no way we could love our enemies from our own hearts. Jesus, help me remember that you died for me when I was still your enemy, and fill my heart with your love for that person that I want to hate.
We could go on, but you get the idea. We cultivate the fruit of the Spirit at the point of impact when our flesh wants to act in one way, and the Spirit presses us to act in a very different way.
It’s about progress, not perfection. And when we fall short and snap impatiently at our kids, or speak harshly to our spouse, or treat a co-worker unkindly, that doesn’t have to be failure, it can be a great learning experience and opportunity for growth, if our conscience is sensitive to the Spirit’s conviction.
Ask the person for forgiveness, and ask the Spirit to change you so you do it differently the next time.
What’s your point of impact right now? Believe that Jesus lives in you and ask the Spirit to empower to you make good choices and bear good fruit.
- Go for growth in good works!
The letter of Titus has some of the most beautiful declarations of Christ’s saving grace in all the Bible, but there is also a running theme of doing good works throughout the letter.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Jesus gave himself to redeem us and purify us and make us his own possession – and make us a people who are zealous for good works. Jesus-living-in-us wants to energize us with a zeal for good works!
Galatians, the same book that vehemently calls us to reject salvation by good works, also encourages us to do good works: So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Gal. 6:10
Zealous for good works, seizing every opportunity to do good to people. It’s real practical, but it’s also very spiritual. Jesus-living-in-us wants to do good to others through us.
We weren’t saved by good fruit, but we were saved for good fruit! And if we want to strengthen our inner sense of assurance and joy in our salvation, growing in good fruit is one of the most effective ways to do that! Listen to 2 Peter.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ… 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8,10-11
Peter is saying that as we make every effort to bear more fruit of the Spirit, as we press for progress and go for growth, it abounds in fruit and rebounds back to us with a stronger sense of assurance and joy in our hearts that we are children of God.
With our roots firmly and deeply planted in Christ and the gospel of grace, let’s make every effort to abide in Christ, rely on the Spirit’s power, be what we are, and do the good God has called us to do.
More in Messy Grace: Second Corinthians
June 20, 2021Leaving People with Hope
June 6, 2021Examine Yourselves Part One
May 29, 2021Minimizing Mess, Maximizing Grace in Relationships