I assume like everyone else, the Corona virus caught me off guard. I was not expecting thousands of people to lose their jobs, be quarantined, or to see toilet paper fly off the shelves. If anything this historic time in our lives has reminded me of the providence of God, that all of our plans are in His hands, and that ultimately my plans for even tomorrow will only occur if the Lord wills (James 4:15).
In addition, this time of being quarantined at home has also provided me the opportunity to ponder my own life more and to “take a look under the hood” so to speak. Maybe you are like me and guilty at times of being in such a rush every day that you cannot remember the last time you paused to examine yourself spiritually and observed what is going on around you. In an odd way, COVID-19 has forced me to do just that.
The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:5 is speaking to the church in Corinth and right before he gives his final greeting he urges the believers to “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!”
My wife and I are burdened and continue to weep with those who weep during the spread of this virus, but we also rejoice in that God has providentially given us time to pause and “test ourselves” to see if we are truly in the faith; and I believe you should too if you claim to know the Lord Jesus Christ. Living in eastern Kentucky, we live in what is often referred to by evangelicals as the “Bible-belt”. What this means is that it is more common to see someone profess to be a believer in Christ than to reject the claims of Christianity and even more rare to reject the existence of God.
This is a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because the gospel has impacted the culture and worldview in this region but it is a curse in that many individuals assume to be believers but they have never experienced true conversion, they are not born-again but simply acknowledge the claims of Scripture.
Is it possible that you might fall under this category? Is it possible that you carry the label Christian but do not actually know Christ? Then maybe, by God’s grace, this sudden free time on your hands due to COVID-19 has been given to you by God himself so that you can test yourself to see whether you are truly a disciple of Jesus or just a religious consumer; and if found to be the latter, turn to Him in genuine faith.
So how do we test ourselves? I believe the apostle John best answers this question in 1 John 2:4-6. John says, “Whoever says ‘I know him [Jesus]’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” We test ourselves by observing the life of Christ and how he walked, and then observing our own walk.
Before you fall into despair, I am not saying we must live a perfect life of obedience in order to know whether or not we are truly saved. But I am saying that we can mirror his love, self-sacrifice, faith, and obedience. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “grace does not save a man and leave him as he is”. For those who are in Christ by faith, we should see an observable difference in their daily walk than before they claimed to know Christ as Lord. If after testing ourselves we have to make excuses for why there is not observable change, then maybe we do not know Christ at all. If Christ is truly in us, then should we not expect our lives to be more like His?
When I was a young child, I wanted to make my father proud. I looked up to my dad and in more ways than one I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to mirror his actions and attitudes. Likewise, as a Christian, we should strive even more to mirror the actions and attitudes of our Lord Jesus Christ, but for what purpose? Because we love Him and cherish Him above all else. This is why John says “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (v.6). The greatest sign of genuine conversion or salvation is that we yearn to be like Christ. For the believer, it pains us to see the chasm that still remains between our character and the character of Christ. The unbeliever, however, knows no such pain.
Do you know Jesus after examining and testing yourself? Are there observable changes in your life of obedience to Christ or is your life no different from the next unbeliever? My friend, if this is you, there is good news. Jesus came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15)! Look to the One who has lived the life you and I never could, and died the death we deserved. Only in Christ do we find salvation and not just mere behavioral modification, but true transformation by grace alone. May you join me in imitating the life of our Master for His glory and our neighbor’s good.