“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves.
Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor. 13:5-6 RSV)
An Inner Change
Is Jesus Christ in you? Paul exhorts every individual in the church to ask himself that question. This, of course, is because all wrong behavior leads at last to that question. Somewhere, somehow, when we are out-of-line with Christian standards we have to ask ourselves,”Am I a true Christian or am I a counterfeit? Have I been born again or am I only putting up a front?”
Those of us who are Christians ought to ask ourselves that occasionally. It is a good idea to examine yourself, that is what the apostle says, especially if there is any kind of wrong behavior involved…
Now the very fact that the apostle could ask a question like that indicates that is what marks true Christianity. A Christian, of course, is not simply one who joins a Christian church. Many people feel that is the criterion, but it is not. There are millions of church members in this country today who are not Christians. Nor does adhering to a certain moral standard in your life, or the fact that you consistently read the Bible make you a Christian. The thing that really marks it is if Jesus Christ is living in you. A true Christian is someone in whom Christ dwells. And the person in whom Christ dwells will have certain inescapable evidence of that fact given to him or her.
That is what Paul is suggesting we ask ourselves. Do we have the evidence that Jesus Christ lives in us? Has a fundamental change occurred at the very depths of our being? It is actually the question, of course, “Are you really born again?” That is a term that has fallen into wrong use these days. Many people who merely change their actions for a little while are said to be “born again.” People are using that term about everything today.
But this is the question that Paul is asking, “Are you truly and permanently different because Jesus Christ has come to live within you?”
You may be asking, “How can I know that?” Well, the answer is found in several places in Scripture. For instance, Scripture speaks of an “inner” witness. In Romans Paul says, “God’s Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God” (Rom 8:16). That is one way you know. There is an inner testimony, a feeling, a sense within produced by the Spirit of God who dwells within that you are part of the great family of God. If we are really born again this will be a mark that we have occasionally borne to our hearts, the “witness of the Spirit that we are the children of God.” Scripture suggests that this will sometimes take the form of a sense of identity with God as a Father. Our spirits will occasionally want to cry out, “Abba, Father.” That is an intimate term for father. We no longer see God as our judge waiting to condemn us, we see him as a loving Father who is concerned for us, whose arms are around us and who loves us deeply.
I had the joy of pointing my barber to Christ a year or so ago. This past week, while I was having my hair cut, he was telling me about the changes that have occurred in his life because he has become a Christian. (One of the great changes is that he gives me free haircuts!…) He told me how confident he feels within, and that many of his friends have been noticing this. They have been telling him, “You are so confident. Where do you get that feeling?” (Some of them have actually been accusing him of conceit because of his sense of confidence.) He told me, “They don’t understand what I feel within, but I’m confident because,” (and this is the way he put it), “I have a deep sense that Daddy is with me all the time.” That is the witness of the Spirit.
So one of the chief marks that we are Christians is that Christ is in us.
Scripture also speaks of a sense of “inner peace.” In Romans 5 the apostle says, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). The sense of conflict with God is ended; the war is over, we are conscious that the problem of our evil, our sin no longer troubles God. The work of Christ has satisfied his justice, therefore we have a sense of peace. We have a sense of destiny. We are going to go to heaven when we die. That is settled and sure not because of anything we have done, but because of what Christ has done. Now that peace is a mark of the witness of the Spirit that Jesus Christ is in us.
Scripture speaks also of new desires that are born in the heart of a new Christian. 1 Peter 2:2 says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” One of the marks of born again believers is that they have a deep and sudden thirst for the Word of God, a hunger to be fed, to know the truth of God. This ought to continue all our lives.
The Bible is a fascinating book. It speaks with tremendous interest to the things that are essential to our knowledge. There should be a hunger to know it.
This week I saw a video tape of a woman Bible teacher telling the story of her conversion. Though she had been a church member all her life, and had read the Bible from time to time, it really was not a very interesting book to her. But the moment she was born again she had a tremendous hunger to know the Word of God… Now the Spirit of God creates that hunger, and, if Christ is in you, this will be one of the marks of it. Because you understand that what Christ did, he did for you, a fundamental change has already occurred in your life. The Spirit of God has entered and released to you the life of Jesus so that it is literally true that Jesus Christ lives in you.
Part 1 of 2