End of Year Testing
This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses. I have previously said when present the second time, and though now absent I say in advance to those who have sinned in the past and to all the rest as well, that if I come again I will not spare anyone, since you are seeking for proof of the Christ who speaks in me, and who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you. For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you. 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? But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test. Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved. For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete. For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down. Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
INTRO: How many of you like taking tests? Why is it that most people hate tests? I know lots of people who think that the whole idea of tests is for torment and misery. But that’s not really the point of tests… Tests reveal things. Medical tests reveal the picture of our health. Tests in school reveal our grasp of the information. That can be scary.
But here’s the thing- tests actually give us confidence. What happens when you score high on a math test? You feel pretty confident about math, right? And if you score low, you feel pretty confident that you need to improve your math skills. That is the purpose of a test.
Wouldn’t you love to be able to walk out of here today, confident in your walk as a Christian?
That being said, I have no delusion that any of you were super excited when you saw that the title of the sermon this morning is “End of Year Testing”. If it puts you at ease at all, I will not be taking up your notes and returning a grade to you.
As we wrap up this letter to the Corinthian church, we see the apostle Paul preparing them for his 3rd visit to them. As we’ve noted several times, this church had some issues and Paul had addressed them both in person and in letter. The first few verses of this 13th chapter give us further insight into the potential conflict Paul anticipated in this upcoming visit.
Let’s look at the first 4 verses again (READ)
The OT Law required 2 or 3 witnesses to prosecute someone accused of breaking the law. Paul knew that in his 3rd visit, if he found those who had been rebuked earlier to still be in sin, it would require stern discipline - likely a removal from the church - in order to restore the health of the church. Furthermore, those who sat by and said nothing would be reprimanded as well.
The Corinthians had gotten so offended by Paul’s discipline that they criticized his every move and motive. They demanded Paul prove that he was a true apostle of Jesus and so Paul tells them that they need to examine themselves because the proof they demanded would be evident in Paul’s next coming.
We might say it this way- If you desire to see evidence of Christ, you better be sure you are not living as an enemy of Christ.
Thus, a test is necessary. We are going to call this the A.G.E. test- no, I’m not asking how old you are. In the next several verses, we will see three areas of testing. It would do us all well to examine ourselves in these areas on a regular basis. After all, how else will we have confidence in our lives?
In every secular job I’ve held, I received annual reviews, which were like tests. I learned the areas where I was doing well and where I needed to improve to be successful.
And that is my hope this morning- that each of us can walk away with confidence in our Christian walk and with a better understanding of areas we need to grow in. It’ll be up to you what you do with it.
So, if you will, open your bulletin, pick up a #2 pencil and follow along in your sermon guide as we begin our “End of Year Testing”
The first area of examination is:
Look at v. 5 (READ)
This is pretty bold. The question Paul asks and I echo to you is:
“Are you in the faith?”
This is a vital question. Now, you might be offended that I’d even ask, but hear me out.
There are a lot of folks who call themselves Christians, but they are so only in name. Perhaps they attend a church and perhaps they got baptized, but that does not make one a Christian. And let me tell you, this is one area of your life that you do not want to be uncertain about!!
ILL: I’ve talked to several folks over the years who are just kinda hoping they make the cut when they get to the judgment seat of Christ. Y’all, that’s not what God desires for us! I want you to be confident that your name is written in the Lamb’s book of Life; That when you stand before Christ, you can say with all certainty “I am a child of God! I am a citizen of Heaven”
In v. 8, Paul talks about how we can only operate in truth. (READ v. 8) If we are Christians, the evidence will reveal this. If not, that will be revealed. Evidence reveals truth.
For example- if you come to me and tell me that you are a man or a monkey- the evidence will reveal whether or not that is true. It does not matter what you say or how you feel- we can only operate in accordance to truth.
And so let’s take a closer look. How can we test our authenticity as a believer? I will pull a few test questions from Scripture:
Q1: Do you have the witness of the Holy Spirit within you?
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
How do you know if you have the Holy Spirit? The witness of the HS is revealed in our fruit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Q2: Do you love the brethren?
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
You cannot say that you love God and hate your brother (1 John 4:20). IF God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to die for all who believe… how can a child of God then NOT love others?
Q3: Do you practice sin?
No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
The keyword is “practice” - you will make mistakes, but the question is do you live in a pattern of sin?
Q4: Do you live in victory over this world?
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
When all things are considered, are you anxious about the things of this world or do you have peace because of your relationship with God?
Church, I so desire that your faith is real. I want you to be confident in your Christianity because it is AUTHENTIC and there is evidence of that in your lives.
The next test section deals with
Let’s read v. 9-10 (READ)
That phrase, “made complete” means “mature” or “sanctified”.
Thus, the main question here is
“Are you growing in your faith?”
You know, I pray for you to grow each week. Actually, one of my main goals through preaching, teaching, etc. is to help you grow into mature believers who will in turn invest in others so they may know Christ and grow as well.
But I cannot make you grow. Still we know that we should be growing- a healthy organism grows; healthy plants grow, healthy humans grow, healthy companies grow, healthy churches grow.
Scripture illuminates this necessity.
but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.
When we measure growth, we are not looking to compare ourselves to others, but rather to look at our own journey. We all are likely in different places in our spiritual walk, thus our metric for growth must be individualized.
So, let us ask a couple questions of ourselves:
Q1: Are you more like Jesus than you were last year?
Q2: Are you praying more today than you did last year?
Q3: Do you understand more of the Bible than you did last year?
Q4: Are you more intentional about sharing the Gospel than you were last year?
So far, we have covered 2 areas of testing: Authenticity and Growth. Finally, we turn to the final section:
In v. 11-14, Paul refocuses on the church at large. Let’s read these verses again (READ)
In these closing words, we are reminded that engagement in the local church is necessary. Christianity is not intended to be lived out in isolation. Jesus established His church in order to accomplish the work of evangelism to ensure the Gospel was shared and discipleship to ensure believers were given a framework and support system to grow in their faith.
The main question addressed here is
“Are you engaged in the life of the church?”
In v. 11, Paul’s instructions are written to the plural ‘brethren’ - “Rejoice, Be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace...”
This is accomplished within a group of believers as we live, worship, and serve together. Apart from genuine engagement in the local church, it is unlikely that you will be able to worship God as He intended.
The psalms are filled with instructions for a people group to worship together. One example is:
O clap your hands, all peoples; Shout to God with the voice of joy.
We have opportunities here for you to join voices and rejoice in the Lord! And if you are in Christ and growing, you have much cause to rejoice!
Further, we are to help one another grow and be encouraged.
Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”
And how else are we to be comforted if not by one another walking alongside us during difficult times. Who better to shoulder our burdens than fellow Christians who share our hope?
Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
We are the bride and body of Christ. Not you individually, but WE the church.
So, let’s ask a few questions:
Q1: Are you faithfully attending and participating in church gatherings?
Q2: Are you involved in a small group?
Q3: Are you serving in some way?
Q4: Are you investing in the ministry of the church?
Tests are necessary so that we can have an honest take on where we are. Sometimes they reveal to us areas that need attention. Sometimes they reassure us and give us confidence. How did you do on the A.G.E. test?
I have asked a lot from you today, and I know that. But I want you to know that I am rooting for you. I am cheering you on. I want you to succeed! I want you to have full confidence that your faith is real… what better Christmas present could I offer you?
That’s why next year we are initiating discipleship paths designed to help you grow in your Christian walk. You’ll hear more on this in the coming months. But folks- I cannot do the work for you. Like I said earlier, what you do with this is all up to you.
As we close this morning, I want to urge you to commit to your spiritual health in the coming year. Will you take God seriously? Will you respond to Him as Lord?