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? 2nd Corinthians 13:5 NIV
Christianity is not a faith based on a bunch of rules we follow to get God to like us (Matthew 22:37-40).
There are grey areas in Christianity.
Although, the term “grey area” is not found anywhere in the Bible. Instead, the apostle Paul tells us that all things are permissible (meaning things not forbidden in Scripture). Nonetheless, many of those “permissible” things are not beneficial to our souls or supportive to our growth (1st Corinthians 10:23-33, 1stCorinthians 6:12).
This basically means there are things Christians can do that we should be really careful about doing (if we do them at all). A classic example would be alcohol use. It is not sinful to use alcohol. However, there are numerous warnings concerning alcohol that should cause all Christians who use alcohol to put some serious guardrails around its use (Proverbs 23:21, Proverbs 20:1, Romans 13:13, Ephesians 5:18)
There are a lot of things Christians don’t have to do—things not commanded in Scripture that we ought to at least consider making a regular practice of doing, simply because those things help us grow.
Handling the grey areas of the faith well is all about practicing wisdom. It’s about having the foresight to seek the Lord for direction and going above and beyond to do life His way (Proverbs 3:5-6). We don’t do these things in a legalistic attempt to earn God’s love. We cannot earn something that’s already been freely given (John 3:16). Instead, we choose to live honorably as a way of saying “thank you” for what we have graciously been given (Ephesians 4:1).
One thing Christians are not commanded do, that we should probably consider doing is what I call a “personal self-check”. The apostle Paul calls self-checks: self-examination (2nd Corinthians 13:5).
Self-checks are one of the “what’s” of the faith.
God wants us to do self-checks because frequent self-checks lead to self-awareness. Self-awareness protects us from falling into patterns of behavior that eventually lead to sin. Without frequent self-checks we run the risk of having “a Nebuchadnezzar moment” where we are warned about our sin but refuse to see our sin or refuse to own our sin despite God’s warning and ample time to repent. Anytime we willfully choose the Nebuchadnezzar route, we receive all the possible consequences of our sin rather than God’s mercy (Romans 1:24-32). The full penalty is always a world of hurt for us and the people closest to us (Daniel 4:4-24).
A self-check is just a series of questions we ask are ourselves on a regular basis. My personal self-check questions are all designed to keep me on the straight and narrow by forcing me to think about my life holistically rather than in just pieces and parts.
They are as follows:
Am I in the faith?
Being in the faith is about more than praying a sinner’s prayer “once a upon a time”. It’s also about more than church attendance. One can attend church and even lead a church and still be very much outside the faith (Matthew 7:22-24). When we are “in the faith” we seek God on a daily basis, we actively seek to disentangle ourselves from sinful attitudes and behaviors. Being in the faith means going out of our way to shore up the weak areas in our spiritual lives. Lastly, those in the faith make church and friendships with other believers a priority (Hebrews 10:25, James 5:16, 1st John 1:7, 2nd John 1:5).
What do my relationships look like?
The state of our closest relationships is oftentimes an indicator of our spiritual health. If our life is strewn with relationships that have been damaged or broken due to our willful sin, selfishness, rudeness or lying. We have a problem that needs immediate attention or our Nebuchadnezzar moment may be right around the corner (Proverbs 11:3, Hebrews 12:14, 1st Peter 2:17, Ephesians 5:21-22, Ephesians 5:25-28, Ephesians 6:4).
Am I walking in integrity?
The best and most basic definition of integrity is being the same person all the time. People with integrity are not chameleons who adapt to fit into whatever situation they happen find themselves in (Proverbs 10:9). Integrity is closely linked to fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). If we truly believe God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. Then we will do our level best to stay within the lines He has drawn for us. If we don’t we won’t.
Is there any area of my life I’m hiding from God or other people?
If there is a part of our life we feel we need to keep on the down-low we most definitely have a problem that requires our immediate attention. Openness and honesty are the hallmarks of a holy, God-fearing people (Romans 13:12).
What does my thought life look like?
Our thoughts determine our actions and our actions determine the course of our life (Matthew 15:18-20, Mark 7:20-22, Ephesians 2:3, Hebrews 3:1). Therefore, every Christian ought to pay attention to what types of thoughts routinely flit through their head. If we frequently think mean, lustful, judgy, angry or greedy thoughts we need to spend some time asking the Lord what’s at the root of these attitudes. Then we need ask God to reorder our thoughts and give us the mind of Christ (1st Corinthians 2:16, Romans 15:5-6).
The “what” of daily spiritual self-checks are absolutely critical to our spiritual health in our broken sin-sick world. Self-checks keep our hearts soft towards God, our relationships with other people healthy and our lives free from the spiritual and moral drift that does us in (Hebrews 2:1)