Christianity 201

August 22, 2014

Are You “In The Faith”?

This is the devotional blog I write and some days that also comprises my personal devotions, but there is also Daily Encouragement, the devotional blog I read. A couple of days ago the theme verse was:

“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).

I thought there might be more to the phrase “in the faith” but that it also might be something that we do need to examine ourselves concerning, since some people who think they are “in” may justify their inclusion on religious premises instead of God’s grace.  Translations treat this phrase as follows:

  • you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it (AMP)
  • living the life of trust (CJB)
  • true to your faith (CEV)
  • still in the Christian faith (GW) (I thought the use of still was interesting here)
  • continuing in the faith (ISV) (see note above)
  • Are you really Christians? (Living Bible) (i.e. Did you ever cross the line of faith)
  • you are really believers (NIrV) (see not above)
  • faith is genuine (NLT)
  • you are solid in the faith (Message)

Bible translators try very hard to avoid doctrinal bias and just say what the text says, but there are three nuances presented above:

  1. The idea of a faith that is being lived out on a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis; that the person is endeavoring the abide in Christ; that there is no pretense
  2. The idea (GW and ISV) that one can abandon the faith; or at the very least, not be walking in it as described in the previous instance
  3. The idea that some Corinthians reading Paul’s letter may be resting on a false conversion; perhaps trusting in works to save them

The Reformation Study Bible says of this passage (in reference to examination or testing):

Paul’s words help clarify the doctrine of assurance of faith. Paul asks the Corinthians to examine their own lives for evidence of salvation. Such evidence would include trust in Christ (Heb. 3:6), obedience to God (Matt. 7:21), growth in holiness (Heb. 12:14; 1 John 3:3), the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23), love for other Christians (1 John 3:14), positive influence on others (Matt. 5:16), adhering to the apostolic teaching (1 John 4:2), and the testimony of the Holy Spirit within them (Rom. 8:15, 16)

The IVP New Testament Commentary Series notes:

The kind of testing Paul envisions is that which proves the worth or genuineness of something (dokimazo; compare 2 Cor 2:9; 8:8, 22; 9:13). In this case it is the Corinthians’ faith that is to be proven. Pistis in this context denotes profession. The Corinthians have professed a belief in Christ, but does their life match their profession? If the life of the congregation is not in conformity with the trutes of the gospel, it negates any claim to standing firm in the faith (1 Cor 16:13).

In the article at Daily Encouragement, Stephen and Brooksyne Weber began by comparing this to an energy audit they had of their house.  Then they write:

In his article “The Place Of Self-examination” by S. Lewis Johnson he comments concerning this verse, “There are literally millions of professing Christians who need to pay attention to this statement of the apostle. They have entered into a shallow commitment to Christianity, they’ve joined the church, they’ve been baptized or they’ve done other things that might make them think that they are genuine believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. They’ve been encouraged to think that, by men who’ve not been careful to point out that there is more to becoming a Christian than subscribing to a statement. They don’t hate sin. They don’t love holiness. They do not pray. They do not study the word of God. They do not walk humbly with God. These individuals, so many of them stand in the same danger in which the Corinthians stood. And the apostle’s words, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith, examine yourselves,” are valid words that each of us should ponder.”

Self-examination or a spiritual audit is important so that we correct ourselves on a regular basis to make certain we continue to bring glory to God in the manner in which we live our lives.

Colossians 1:10-12 provides a list of audit items for our consideration. I will phrase them as personal questions:

  • Am I living in a manner worthy of the Lord?
  • Am I pleasing Him in all respects?
  • Am I bearing fruit in every good work?
  • Am I increasing in the knowledge of God?
  • Am I being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might?
  • Am I attaining steadfastness and patience?
  • Am I joyously giving thanks to the Father?

They also included another key verse that day:

“But let a man examine himself” (1 Corinthians 11:28a).

which is,

in the context of sharing Communion at the Lord’s Table. Before one eats and drinks of the emblems representing the broken Body and shed blood of Christ he is to examine himself. Of utmost importance in this personal exam is the answer to these foundational questions, “Do I have saving faith in Christ?” (Romans 10:8,9). “Do I have any unconfessed sin in my heart?” (1 John 1:9).

If your church has a monthly communion service, that’s coming up in a couple of weeks, but you don’t have to wait until then to perform a spiritual audit; a spiritual self examination.

 

 

April 1, 2011

Joanna, A Disciple of Jesus


Luke 8:1 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.  

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Luke 24:1 But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 3 So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

5 The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man[b] must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

8 Then they remembered that he had said this. 9 So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. 11 But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it.

Today’s reading is from Jeff Lucas; and first appeared in the UK bi-monthly devotional book Lucas on Life — an offshoot of CWR’s other subscription devotional, Selwyn Hughes’ Every Day With Jesus — in November of 2005.

What does a real Christian look like?  Is it enough to believe the right things, attend church regularly, read the Bible and pray — or should there be some more startling evidence that God is at work?  The letter of James insists that when God is really at work in us, then fruit can be seen.

We don’t want to be followers of “mere” religion that makes us feel good, but does nothing else.  S. H. Miller, dean of Harvard Divinity School, says, “Religion which is interested only in itself, in its prestige and success, in its institutions and ecclesiastical niceties is worse than vanity; it is essentially incestuous.”

For some answers we turn to a lady called Joanna.  She is only mentioned twice in the Bible — both times by Luke in his gospel.  But Joanna — a member of Jesus traveling band and one of the first to hear of the resurrection — is a heroine worthy of our reflection because her life was radically transformed by Jesus.  We’ll see that her priorities, her spending patterns, her domestic life — all were dynamically affected by the power of God that had either delivered her from sickness, dark powers, or both.

Let’s follow in her footsteps.

Jeff Lucas also adds as a reading for the day this passage in James:

James 2:14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

Scriptures quoted from the New Living Translation (NLT)