Category: Religion and Spirituality

Jihad–“War in the name of God.” Even though all religions want to be seen as peace-loving, history shows that most wars, including the Crusades of the Middle Ages, have been fueled by the religious beliefs of competing armies. The word “Jihad” comes from an ancient Arabic word, but holy war didn’t begin with the Muslims. The Bible itself contains the records of war and violence sanctioned by the God of the Old Testament. Can the origin of religious wars be traced to the Jewish and Christian Scriptures?

The word discern and its derivatives are translations of the Greek word anakrino in the New Testament. It means “to distinguish, to separate out by diligent search, to examine.” Discernment is the ability to properly discriminate or make determinations. It is related to wisdom. The Word of God itself is said to discern the thoughts and intentions of one’s heart (Hebrews 4:12).

A discerning mind demonstrates wisdom and insight that go beyond what is seen and heard. For example, God’s Word is “spiritually discerned.” To the human mind without the Spirit, the things of God are “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 2:14). The Spirit, then, gives us spiritual discernment.

King Solomon was known for his power of discernment, making many wise decisions and moral judgments (1 Kings 3:9, 11). Christians today are to be discerning as well. Paul prayed for believers “to discern what is best . . . until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10).

A discerning person will acknowledge the worth of God’s Word: “All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. To the discerning all of them are right; they are faultless to those who have knowledge” (Proverbs 8:8-9). Seeking discernment is a goal for all who desire to walk righteously: “Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them” (Hosea 14:9).

We are commanded to “hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). But, unless we have true discernment, how can we determine what is “evil” and what is “good”? In order to maintain the purity of the gospel, the church must distinguish truth from heresy.  Wisdom also demands that we properly discriminate between what is “best” and what is merely “good.”

Discernment has many collateral benefits. “My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet” (Proverbs 21:24).

Just as Solomon sought discernment and wisdom (Proverbs 1:2; 1 Kings 3:9-12) to explore the handiwork of God (Ecclesiastes 1:13) and seek the meaning of life (Ecclesiastes 12:13), so should believers seek “the wisdom that comes from heaven” (James 3:17). We must study the Scriptures which are “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

May our prayer be “I am your servant; give me discernment that I may understand your statutes” (Psalm 119:125).

“Stripes,” (Isaiah 53:51 Peter 2:24) in the language of the King James Version of the Bible, and in some  others, means “wounds,” as seen in more modern translations such as the New  International Version. These stripes were administered by whipping the bare  backs of prisoners whose hands and feet were bound, rendering them helpless. The  phrase “by His stripes we are healed” refers to the punishment Jesus Christ  suffered—floggings and beatings with fists that were followed by His agonizing  death on a cross—to take upon Himself all of the sins of all people who believe  Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No  one comes to the Father except through me” (John  14:6).

The whips used were made of braided leather, with pottery  shards and sharp stones affixed to the ends, which tore open the flesh of the  prisoner with each cruel swing of the whip. When we picture this terrible,  inhumane form of physical punishment we recoil in horror. Yet the physical pain  and agony were not all Jesus suffered. He also had to undergo the mental anguish  brought on by the wrath of His Father, who punished Him for the sinfulness of  mankind—sin carried out in spite of God’s repeated warnings, sin that Jesus  willingly took upon Himself. He paid the total price for all of our  transgressions.

Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Peter  wrote, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die  to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed.” In  Isaiah 53, Jesus’ future life on earth was foretold in the clearest of terms, to  include his eventual torture and death: “But He was pierced for our  transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought  us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds (stripes) we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter  2:24).

Although these two verses are central to the topic of  healing, they are often misunderstood and misapplied. The word “healed” as  translated from both Hebrew and Greek, can mean either spiritual or physical  healing. However, the contexts of Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2 make it clear that  they are referring to spiritual healing, not physical. “He himself bore our sins  in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for  righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter  2:24). The verse is referring to sin and righteousness, not sickness and  disease. Therefore, being “healed” in both these verses is speaking of being  forgiven and saved, not being physically healed.

Isaiah 53:5, which is then  quoted in 1 Peter  2:24, is a key verse on healing, but it is often misunderstood and  misapplied. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our  iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” The word translated “healed” can mean either  spiritual or physical healing. However, the contexts of Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2  make it clear that it is speaking of spiritual healing. “He himself bore our  sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for  righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter  2:24). The verse is talking about sin and righteousness, not sickness and  disease. Therefore, being “healed” in both these verses is speaking of being  forgiven and saved, not physically healed.

The Bible does not  specifically link physical healing with spiritual healing. Sometimes people are  physically healed when they place their faith in Christ, but this is not always  the case. Sometimes it is God’s will to heal, but sometimes it is not. The  apostle John gives us the proper perspective: “This is the confidence we have in  approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And  if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked  of Him” (1 John  5:14-15). God still performs miracles. God still heals people. Sickness,  disease, pain, and death are still realities in this world. Unless the Lord  returns, everyone who is alive today will die, and the vast majority of them  (Christians included) will die as the result of a physical problem (disease,  sickness, injury). It is not always God’s will to heal us physically.

Ultimately, our full physical healing awaits us in heaven. In heaven, there  will be no more pain, sickness, disease, suffering, or death (Revelation 21). We  all need to be less preoccupied with our physical condition in this world and a  lot more concerned with our spiritual condition (Romans  12:1-2). Then we can focus our hearts on heaven where we will no longer have  to deal with physical problems. Revelation  21:4 describes the true healing we should all be longing for: “He will wipe  every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or  pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

The spiritual gift of healing is the supernatural manifestation of the Spirit of  God that miraculously brings healing and deliverance from disease and/or  infirmity. It is the power of God that destroys the work of sin and/or the devil  in the human body, such as the healings that Jesus and the disciples performed  (Matthew  4:24, 15:30; Acts 5:15-16, 28:8-9). The gift of healing given to the church is  primarily noted in 1 Corinthians 12, where the spiritual  gifts are listed.

Spiritual gifts are powers, skills, abilities, or  knowledge given by God through the Holy Spirit to Christians. Paul tells the  church that the purpose of gifts to edify other believers, and ultimately, to  glorify God. God gives these gifts for His use, but in the Corinthian church,  they were apparently a type of status symbol or being used to indicate  superiority. Interestingly, 1  Corinthians 12:9 refers to “gifts” of healing in the plural, which may  indicate that there are different gifts of healing. The gifts of healing could  mean a very wide range of skills or abilities. This could be from the power to  do miraculous or dramatic healing, like making the lame walk, or the use or  understanding of medicine. It could even be the ability to empathize and show  love to others to the point of removing or healing an emotional wound.

There has been much debate about the usage of the spiritual gift of healing  among Christians. Some believe the gift of healing and some other sign gifts are  no longer operative today, while others believe the miraculous gifts are still  in operation today. The power to heal was never in the gifted person  himself/herself. The power to heal is from God and God alone. Although God does  still heal today, His healing through the gift of healing belonged primarily to  the apostles of the first century church to affirm that their message was from  God (Acts 2:22; 14:3).

God still  performs miracles. God still heals people. There is nothing preventing God from  healing one person through the ministry of another person. However, the  miraculous gift of healing, as a spiritual gift, does not seem to be functioning  today. God can certainly choose to intervene in whatever manner He sees fit,  whether “normal” or miracle. Our salvation itself is miracle. We were dead in  sin, but God entered our lives and made us new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17).  That is the greatest healing of all.

The spiritual gift of faith is found in the list of the gifts of the Spirit in 1  Corinthians 12. Verse 9 says that some people are given the gift of faith, but  the gift is not specifically explained. All believers have been given saving  faith by God as the only means of salvation (Ephesians  2:8-9), but not all believers are given the spiritual gift of faith. Like  all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual gift of faith was given for the  “common good” which means the edifying of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians  12:7).

The gift of faith may be defined as the special gift whereby  the Spirit provides Christians with extraordinary confidence in God’s promises,  power, and presence so they can take heroic stands for the future of God’s work  in the church. The spiritual gift of faith is exhibited by one with a strong and  unshakeable confidence in God, His Word, and His promises. Examples of people  with the gift of faith are those listed in Hebrews chapter 11. This chapter,  often called “the hall of faith,” describes those whose faith was extraordinary,  enabling them to do extraordinary, superhuman things. Here we see Noah spending  120 years building a huge boat when, up to that time, rain was non-existent and  Abraham believing he would father a child when his natural ability to do so had  ended. Without the special anointing of faith as a gift from God, such things  would have been impossible.

As with all spiritual gifts, the gift of  faith is given to some Christians who then use it to edify others in the body of  Christ. Those with the gift of faith are an inspiration to their fellow  believers, exhibiting a simple confidence in God that shows in all they say and  do. Extraordinarily faithful people show a humble godliness and reliance on  God’s promises, often so much so that they are known to be quietly fearless and  zealous. They are so convinced that all obstacles to the gospel and to God’s  purposes will be overcome and so confident that God will secure the advancement  of His cause, that they will often do infinitely more in the promotion of His  kingdom than the most talented and erudite preachers and teachers.

So to  sum it up, God gives all Christians saving faith. The spiritual gift of faith is  given to some, who exhibit extraordinary amounts of faith in their Christian  walk and who, by their faith, are a joy and an encouragement to others.

No matter what our discouraging situation, there are encouraging verses in the  Bible that can give us hope:

When you’ve lost something, or someone,  who has been very precious to you:
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Revelation 1:18 “I am  alive forevermore.”
John 11:25 “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me  will live, even though he dies’”

When excruciating waves of chronic  pain and weakness are crashing over your head:
2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Hebrews  4:16 “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we  may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

When your cupboard is bare, and your last crumb has been scraped up: 
Matthew  6:33 “Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things  will be added to you.”
Psalm 23:1 “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”
1 Thessalonians  5:18 “… give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in  Christ Jesus.”

When no one seems to understand, or even to care: 
Psalm 55:22 “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the  righteous fall.”
Isaiah  40:11 “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms  and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

When you are being persecuted for your faith:
2 Peter 2:9 “the Lord knows  how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of  judgment.”
John 15:18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

When  the nation, the world, and even the family and the church, seem to be  disintegrating:
Isaiah  14:24: “The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, ‘Surely, as I have thought, so  it shall come to pass, And as I have purposed, so it shall stand.’”
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I  know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not  to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

When life’s fears  and insecurities gang up on you:
Psalm 27:1 “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the  stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”
Luke 12:7 “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all  numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Romans 8:1 “There is, therefore, no condemnation to those  who are in Christ Jesus.”

When your mood is dark:
Psalm 118:24 “This is the  day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice, and be glad in it.”
Romans 8:29-30 “For those  whom God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his  Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he called, he  also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

When worn out  and worn down to the point of giving up:
Hebrews  12:2-3 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and completer of our faith,  who, for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame, and sat  down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such  opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

When abandoned by everyone meaningful:
Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be  strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the  LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5-6 “… God has  said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’ So we say with  confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to  me?’”

When friends and even family seem to be abandoning God: 
Psalm 100:5 “God’s faithfulness endures through all generations.”
2 Timothy 3:1-4 “But  mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers  of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their  parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without  self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited,  lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”

When under powerful  temptation:
1  Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has seized you except what is common to  man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can  bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can  stand up under it.”
James 4:7-8 “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and He will near to you.”
2 Timothy  1:12 “He is able to keep what I committed to Him against that day.”
Hebrews 2:18 “Because He  Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being  tempted.”

When stung by your enemy’s false accusation:
1 Peter 3:14, 16 “But even if you should  suffer for what is right, you are blessed. … keeping a clear conscience, so that  those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed  of their slander.”
Matthew  5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for  theirs in the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you,  persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, because great is your reward in heaven”
Romans 8:31-34 “What,  then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not  also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge  against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that  condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at  the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”

When  circumstances lead you to doubt God:
Psalm 42:5 “O  my soul, why are you downcast? Put your hope in God: for I will yet praise Him,  my Savior and my God.”
Mark 9:24 “I  do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

When gripped by  unrelenting anger and even hatred:
Ephesians  4:31 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along  with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving  each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
James 1:19 “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow  to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the  righteous life that God desires.”
1 John 4:20 “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone  who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has  not seen.”

When defeated with guilt, shame, and remorse:
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our  sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all  unrighteousness.”
Romans  8:1-2 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ  Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free  from the law of sin and death.”

When about to go over the edge with  overwhelming demands, pressures, and expectations:
Matthew 11:28 “Come unto  me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
John 15:5 [Jesus said] “I am  the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will  bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Philippians 4:13 “I can  do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

When the road forks  unexpectedly, or when the multiplied factors of a crucial decision bring  darkening confusion:
James 1:5 “If  any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without  finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
1  Corinthians 14:33 “God is not the author of confusion.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in  the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your  ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.”

When you are  famished of soul, longing for purity and righteousness:
Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for  righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Psalm 23:3 “He leads me in paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.”

When  all roads have been cut off so that only despair seems left:
1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful;  he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are  tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
2  Corinthians 4:8 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;  perplexed, but not in despair.”

When the grave opens before you: 
John 3:16 “For  God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes  in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John  11:25-26 “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will  live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Hebrews  2:14-15 “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their  humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of  death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery  by their fear of death.”

A blessing for all circumstances:
Romans 15:13  “May the God  of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may  overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

 “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called  Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness,” Hebrews 3:13 tells us. First Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one  another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Throughout  Scripture we see instructions to encourage one another and verses that are meant  to encourage us. Why is encouragement emphasized in Scripture? Primarily because  encouragement is necessary to our walk of faith.

Jesus told His  followers, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome  the world” (John  16:33b). Jesus did not shy from telling His followers about the troubles  they would face. In fact, He told them the world would hate them (John 15:18-21; see also Matthew  10:22-23 and 2  Corinthians 2:15-16). But Jesus’ grim forecast was tempered with cheer; He  followed His prediction of trouble with a sparkling word of encouragement: He  has overcome the world. Jesus is greater than any trouble we face.

Without encouragement, hardship becomes meaningless, and our will to go on  wanes. The prophet Elijah struggled with discouragement (1 Kings 19:3-10), and so  do we. It is important to remember that “our struggle is not against flesh and  blood, but against . . . the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual  forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians  6:12). This truth makes encouragement all the more important. It is not just  that we face the world’s displeasure; we are caught in the crosshairs of a  spiritual battle. When we are encouraged in Christ, we have strength to put on  our spiritual armor and remain steadfast (see Ephesians  6:10-18).

Even in places where Christians do not experience overt  persecution or hatred, we all know that life can be difficult. Discouragement is  not an uncommon human experience. At times, recognizing that there is meaning in  the seemingly inconsequential things we do seems next to impossible. We may want  to give up. Yet He who calls us is faithful, and He gives us the power to be  faithful, too (1  Corinthians 1:9).

A man in the early church named Joseph was given  the nickname “Barnabas,” which means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). What a blessing Barnabas was to the believers  of his day! Through the encouragement of Barnabas, the apostle Paul was first  accepted by the church in Jerusalem (Acts 9:27).  Through the encouragement of Barnabas, Mark was given a second chance after an  abject failure (Acts 13:1315:39).

Encouragement  makes it easier to live in a fallen world in a holy way. Encouragement makes it  easier to love as Jesus loved (see John  13:34-35). Encouragement gives hope (Romans  15:4). Encouragement helps us through times of discipline and testing (Hebrews 12:5).  Encouragement nurtures patience and kindness (see 1  Corinthians 13:4-7 and Galatians  5:22-26). Encouragement makes it easier to sacrifice our own desires for the  advancement of God’s kingdom. In short, encouragement makes it easier to live  the Christian life.

Without encouragement, life would soon feel  pointless and burdensome. Without encouragement, we can be overwhelmed by the  very real pains of our lives. Without encouragement, we feel unloved. Without  encouragement, we begin to think that God is a liar or is unconcerned with our  welfare. So, the Bible tells us to encourage one another, to remind each other  of the truth that God loves us, that God equips us, that we are treasured, that  our struggles are worth it.

Encouragement gives us the will to carry on.  It is a glimpse of the bigger picture. It can prevent burn-out. It can save us  from believing lies (“sin’s deceitfulness”). Encouragement helps us experience  abundant life (see John  10:10).

Proverbs  16:24 says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing  to the bones.” God’s Word is full of encouragement. Pleasant words, indeed.

The gift of encouragement or exhortation is found in Paul’s list of gifts in Romans 12:7-8. The word  translated “encourage” or “exhortation” is the Greek word paracletos”, or  “paraclete” which basically means “to call to one’s side.”

Paracletos” can have several meanings, including exhort, urge,  encourage, and comfort. All of these make up the gift of encouragement. For  example, Paul often urged and exhorted his readers to act on something he wrote.  A good example is Romans  12:1-2, where Paul urges the Romans to present their bodies to God as living  sacrifices. By doing this, they would know and understand God’s will.

Interestingly, when Jesus spoke to His disciples in the upper room, He spoke of  the Holy Spirit, as “Helper,” or “Comforter” (John 14:1626, 15:26), which is why the Holy Spirit is referred to as  the Paraclete. The ministry of the Holy Spirit was important to Jesus and to us.  A person with the gift of encouragement can use this gift in both a public and a  private setting. It can be seen in counseling, discipleship, mentoring and  preaching. The body of Christ is built up in faith as a result the ministry of  those with the gift of encouragement.

The gift of encouragement differs  from the gift of teaching in that it focuses on the practical aspects of the  Bible. Whereas one with the gift of teaching focuses on meaning and content of  the word, along with accuracy and application, one with the gift of  encouragement focuses on the practical application of the Word. He or she can  relate to others, both in groups and individually, by understanding their needs  and sympathizing with them. This person can help another person move from  pessimism to optimism.

Probably the best example of one with the gift of  encouragement is Barnabas who is described as “the son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). We see Barnabas in  Acts 13:43 encouraging the  believers to continue in the grace of God. In Acts  15:36-41, Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement over John Mark’s involvement  in their ministry. John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia. Barnabas was  desirous of taking him with them, but Paul was not. While we do not know the  exact words spoken, it seems very likely that Barnabas believed John Mark had  potential in ministry and he encouraged Paul to give him a second chance. Paul  and Barnabas separated, John Mark going with Barnabas, but we see later that  John Mark proved himself faithful, no doubt through Barnabas and his gift of  encouragement (2 Timothy  4:11). This is the result of the gift of encouragement; others are helped  and become more effective for Christ.

This is one of the most important questions in the Christian life. Many  believers doubt their salvation because they don’t see signs of genuine faith in  their lives. There are those who say we should never doubt our decision to  follow Christ, but the Bible encourages us to examine ourselves to see if we are  truly “in the faith” (2  Corinthians 13:5). Thankfully, God has given us ample instruction for how we  can know for sure that we have eternal life. The first epistle of John was  actually written for that purpose, as it states in 1 John 5:13,  “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that  you may know that you have eternal life.”

There is a series of tests in  1 John that we can use to examine ourselves and our faith. As we look at them,  remember that no one will perfectly fulfill all of them all the time, but they  should reveal a consistent trend that characterizes our lives as we grow in  grace.

1. Do you enjoy having fellowship with Christ and His redeemed  people? (1 John  1:3)
2. Would people say you walk in the light, or walk in the darkness?  (1 John  1:6-7)
3. Do you admit and confess your sin? (1 John 1:8)
4. Are you  obedient to God’s Word? (1 John  2:3-5)
5. Does your life indicate you love God rather than the world?  (1 John  2:15)
6. Is your life characterized by “doing what is right”? (1 John 2:29)
7. Do you  seek to maintain a pure life? (1 John  3:3)
8. Do you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life? (1 John 3:5-6) [Note: this  refers to not continuing in sin as a way of life, not a total absence of  sin.]
9. Do you demonstrate love for other Christians? (1 John 3:14)
10. Do you  “walk the walk,” versus just “talking the talk”? (1 John  3:18-19)
11. Do you maintain a clear conscience? (1 John 3:21)
12. Do you  experience victory in your Christian walk? (1 John  5:4)

If you are able to truthfully answer “Yes” to these questions  (or a majority of them, and are working on the others), then your life is  bearing the fruit of true salvation. Jesus said that it is by our fruits that we  are known as His disciples (Matthew  7:20). Fruitless branches—professing believers who do not display the fruit  of the Spirit (Galatians  5:22-23) are cut off and thrown into the fire (John 15:7). A  genuine faith is one that not only believes in God (the devils themselves do  that – James 2:19),  but leads to open confession of sin and obedience to Christ’s commands.  Remember, we are saved by grace through faith, not by our works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but  our works should display the reality of our salvation (James 2:17-18). Genuine  saving faith will always produce works; a faith that is perpetually without  works is no faith at all and saves no one.

In addition to these  confirmations, we need to remember God’s promises and the reality of the war we  are in. Satan is just as real as Jesus Christ, and he is a formidable enemy of  our souls. When we turn to Christ, Satan will look for every opportunity to  deceive and defeat us. He will try to convince us that we are unworthy failures  or that God has given up on us. When we are in Christ, we have the assurance  that we are kept by Him. Jesus Himself prayed for us in John 17:11 that the Father would “protect them by the  power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one.”  Again in verse 15, He prayed, “keep them from the evil one.” In John 10:27-29, Jesus said  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them  eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my  hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can  snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” If you hear and obey the voice of Jesus,  then you are one of His sheep, and He will never let you go. Jesus gave a  wonderful word picture here of Christians securely held within His loving hands  and the Father’s almighty hands wrapping themselves around His, giving us a  double assurance of eternal security.