First Mennonite Church
October 15, 2023
Is Christ Really in Me?
Text: 2Corinthians 13:5-10 (NIV)
5 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? 6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. 7 Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored. 10 This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.
Chapter 13, the closing words of Paul to the Corinthians, is a beautiful illustration of how the books of the New Testament are both direct means of communication between the original authors and their audiences/readers and also how those materials have universal and timeless relevance. Chapter 13 opens with Paul’s setting the rules of engagement with the Corinthians for his upcoming visit with them. Paul’s stern warnings about how he would deal with those who were still opposing him and demanding proof of his apostolic authority would be confronted with the testimony of two or three witnesses. Paul here reminds them that if some see him as weak and unimpressive, they should remember that Jesus was also the same during his earthly life. But they should also remember that Jesus is the power of God manifested in what seemed weak and lowly. That same power operates in the believer, if they truly belong to the faith and Jesus Christ in fact dwells in them.
So in verse five Paul calls them to do two things, but clearly, these tasks are not only applicable to the Corinthians. These are things all confessing Christians should also do. And that is the universal and timeless aspect of Paul’s writings.
Paul commands the Corinthian believers to Examine themselves as to whether they are in the faith. He urges them to test themselves. Spiritual self-examination is necessary from time to time. And that is not because we doubt the faithfulness of God’s salvation. Instead, it is for our benefit. We need to constantly remind ourselves to re-center our lives in the Lord. We need to reassess our walk with the Lord to see whether or not we have strayed or drifted away from the way of the Lord. We need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author, and perfecter of our faith.
But why is spiritual self-examination so important for us, church people? Well, there are a few important reasons.
First, we are all very aware of how the enemy works in our times. We live in a convoluted world where public discourse is salted with religious language, which, if we are not cautious enough, could end up embracing something other than the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Secondly, we who come to church can assume, even presume, that we are Christians—that is: that we are followers of Jesus Christ. We can easily assume that because we pray to God, sing spiritual songs, give our offering, and are regulars in church we have the saving faith and that we belong to Christ. And it is precisely for those very reasons that Paul asks for self-examination: Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.
I will come later to this point.
A third reason, spiritual self-examination is so important is because it is easy for us to test and examine others, especially if there is something in them that we do not agree with. That was precisely what was happening between some in the Corinthian church and Paul. Some were calling Paul, a conman, unimpressive, lacking spiritual authority, weak, and a fraud. In his defense, he says in verse four, “For to be sure, he (Jesus) was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you.”
Paul agrees in that he might seem weak, but that was exactly what was thought about Jesus, yet he was God’s power. Then Paul tells the Corinthians, “Wait until I arrive, then you will see God’s power and authority in me.”
Thus, when we see something in others that we do not agree with, just leave it to the Lord. Any attempt at examining or testing others is stepping on the turf that belongs to God. So, let us examine and test ourselves instead and make sure that Christ is in us and we are in him.
Paul also commanded the Corinthians to test themselves. Testing ourselves requires a conscious effort on our part to be vigilant in our daily lives. Is the character of Christ reflected in our interactions with others? What difference does Christ reveal through me when I am with my friends? Do we show kindness, compassion, or sympathy toward those who suffer abuse or injustices regardless of who they are? Self-examination and testing take the chill away from our souls. Self-examination takes the hardness away from our hearts. It helps by bringing the light of Christ to those areas in our hearts that might still be in the shadows. Spiritual self-examination frees us from the danger of self-righteousness.
Following Paul’s urgent call for spiritual self-examination and personal testing he asks a basic, yet very sobering question: “Is Christ dwelling in you?” So, above all, the question we must ask ourselves is, “Am I really a Christian?”
If there are two questions all church people should ask themselves, they are these two: “Am I really a Christian?” “Is Jesus Christ really living in me and I in him?”
When I was young, a preacher once said to us young people, “Not because your parents are Christians or that you were born in a Christian home makes you a Christian too.” And then he said, “Not because I was born in a hangar makes me an airplane.” This assertion sounds funny, if not silly, but it is absolutely true.
Not because we come to church makes us a follower of Jesus Christ. That is why I invite you to consider the following questions seriously.
Have you ever asked the Lord Jesus to come into your heart and to be your Lord and Savior? Have you asked God for his forgiveness and to cleanse you from your past? Have ever said to God, “Here I am Lord, I place my life into your hands; I want to serve from here on”?
These are the basic questions for spiritual self-examination. And unless we say yes to them, we are in danger of being, what Paul calls, “disqualified.”
Do not run the risk of being disqualified. Spiritual self-examination has the purpose of centering or re-aligning our lives in the will of God. And his will is that no one perishes but come to everlasting life.
My dear brothers and sisters, the true Christian is someone in whom Christ lives and rules. A true Christian is someone who acknowledges his or her need for God’s grace of forgiveness and strength to live a life-pleasing God. A true Christian is someone in whom the Holy Spirit lives to guide and empower to produce the fruit of joy, peace, gentleness, love, self-control, and other godly virtues. The true Christian is the one who seeks God in prayer, worship, and fellowship in the community of faith.
So where do we start? It is by accepting God’s offer
The apostle Paul says in Romans “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved (10:8-10).
Confessing Jesus as “Lord” means we surrender our lives to him. He becomes our Master; his will we seek to do. In our heart we carry the cross of Christ, as we no longer live for ourselves but for him who died for us. Jesus becomes our joy and hope of glory. To have Christ in our hearts means, we love him, we worship him, we serve him, and we commune with him. And in our daily walk with him, we grow in him, becoming, what the apostle Paul says, in the likeness of Christ.
Today, as we close in prayer, let us surrender to the Lord. Let us ask Jesus to take residence in us. Let us surrender our lives to him. Let us ask him to renew our spirit through his cleansing power and the unction of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray!