As we enter 2012, the Lord wants us to examine our lives to see whether our faith is genuine. Paul writes in 2 Cor. 13:5,
"Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves."
Last year the Lord showed us what it means to fear Him. He taught us that to fear God is to have faith in Him and that those who fear Him or have faith in Him, rely on Him, respond to Him and revere Him. God tests our faith for our benefit so that we can have confidence on the day Jesus returns (see 1 Peter 1:3-9). The testing of our faith will help us determine whether our faith is genuine. In other words, whether our faith is internal or just external. External faith has the appearance of a life that relies on, responds to and reveres God but will soon crumble if it is not the overflow of faith that comes from the heart - internal faith. Jesus addresses this problem in his sermon on the mount (Matthew 5 - 7). The Lord is more concerned with internal faith than with outward religion that is not the fruit of genuine faith. Paul makes the same distinction when he says,
"We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart." 2 Cor. 5:12
Here are some characteristics of genuine faith:
- Genuine faith pleases God. Heb. 11:6
- Genuine faith is more concerned with the heart than with outward appearance. 2 Cor. 5:12
- Genuine faith is more concerned with essence than with form. 1 Cor. 9:19-23
- Genuine faith is the same in secret as it is in public. Mt 6:1,3,4,6
- Genuine faith abides in Christ. John 15:4,5
- Genuine faith lives in response to God and not man. Gal. 1:10
- Genuine faith produces lasting fruit. John 15:16
- Genuine faith gives life to the Body of Christ. 1 Thess. 3:3-8
The Lord is really exposing every form of religion in our lives that does not correspond to our genuine relationship with God. Unless the Church is uncompromising in essence and flexible in form, she will not reach the lost. Religious form is a cultural barrier that prevents the lost from being reconciled to God! The Church must identify whether she is trying to convert the lost to Christian culture or to God (see here for more on this subject). It is time for the Church to be real and for genuine faith to be revealed as believers truly rely on God, respond to God and revere God every day of their lives and not just on Sundays. Let us examine ourselves and let us walk in genuine faith!