I have been reading about the period of the Judges in Israel’s history lately. The recurring theme of Judges is that everyone did what was right in their own eyes. This led them into a spiral of apostasy that included both the common person and the political leader. The thing is, although they did whatever they pleased, many of these leaders believed that their actions were still acceptable to God. While God often used the Judges to deliver Israel from their enemies, these men weren’t exactly the best examples of good morality.
Their sins were blatant and often after leading Israel back to God, they would end up leading them astray once more. This led me to think about the importance of regularly examining our Christian walk. It’s very easy to think we’re right in God’s eyes when we’re really not. In the next few paragraphs, we will look at the sin cycle and downfall of Samson, reasons why Christians should examine the authenticity of their faith, and finally, I will give you a list of helpful questions you can ask yourself regularly as you check the sincerity of your Christian faith.
Samson’s Cycle of Sin and Ultimate Downfall
While Samson is often regarded as a hero in Christianity, his life can be characterized as a downward spiral away from Godliness. Samson was a Nazarite from birth and rather than honoring this lifelong vow, he disregarded it. Nazarites were not allowed to drink wine or any strong drink, they were not allowed to drink grape juice or eat grapes, shave their heads, or touch dead bodies (Numbers 6:1-6).
Samson was blessed by God with great strength and intelligence. He used both in battle against the Philistines. However, Samson likely did not recognize that his talents and abilities from God did not make him exempt from keeping the commandments.
We all know the story. Samson had been compromising for a long time. His heart was impure and his actions in battle were often motivated by revenge. Eventually, Samson told his wife, Delilah, where his strength lied and she shaved his head, causing him to completely violate his Nazarite vow. Shortly after this, Delilah sends the Philistines to attack Samson, and sadly, when he goes to defend himself as usual, it doesn’t work. Judges 16:20 says that Samson did not know that the Lord had left him.
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I wonder why he expected God to still be with him. I mean, he took all of God’s commandments for granted. Yes, the Lord is slow to anger but he also does rightfully judge sin. Like Samson, many of us are tempted to believe we are right with God when we really aren’t.
This can be due to many reasons. Some include ignorance of God’s word. When we don’t know God’s commandments, we can’t obey them. Or perhaps, we think that because our lives are going well and everything seems to be in place, we are right with God. This can also apply to people in ministry: just because we are being used by God, doesn’t mean he’s pleased by our actions. Maybe we live our lives for everything except God’s glory and we think that’s okay. Finally, we may think that God’s sovereignty excuses our mistakes and provides a reason to live careless lifestyles. I believe that Samson’s life serves as a warning for every Christian today. We should regularly examine the authenticity of our faith.
Why Christians Should Regularly Examine the Authenticity of Their Faith
While there are countless reasons to examine our Christian faith, I want to share three that really stand out to me. First, we could think we’re standing firm when really, we’re about to fall. Next, we should examine the authenticity of our faith to make sure we’re living lives that glorify God. This is why we’ve been created, after all. Finally, we may not be in blatant sin but we could be drifting away from Jesus without even knowing it.
We could think we’re standing firm when really, we’re about to fall (1 Corinthians 10:12)
In the first half of 1 Corinthians 10, Paul essentially recounts Israel’s history. They experienced God’s presence, his miracles, were members of his family, received spiritual and physical provision from God, and yet, pursued sin rather than pursuing God. They fell because they were careless about temptation. Rather than paying careful attention to God’s commandments, they followed surrounding nations and grieved God’s heart. Temptation is real and we all experience it. We shouldn’t think that we’re above temptation. When we fail to recognize temptation, we inevitably end up sinning against God and falling further and further away from him.
God is merciful but continued sin will lead anyone far from God. It also blinds us. We begin to think that it’s not that bad or we find excuses for our sin. Meanwhile, God is calling us to return. It’s a scary thing to live in sin that you think is okay. Rather than hearing the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we hear the coaxing of our flesh leading us further and further into darkness.
The sad truth is that many Christians faithfully attend church, Bible Studies, and other Christian gatherings and yet are on the verge of a fall. This happens easily when we fail to examine our lives for sin and present our struggles to God. When we take time to examine the authenticity of our faith, we’re in a better position to confess, repent, and continue on the right path.
Our lives are for God’s glory and we want to make sure we’re actually living it for him (1 Corinthians 10:31)
It’s easy to think that we’re living for God when we’re really just living for ourselves. Many in Israel’s history thought this way. When we fail to examine the authenticity of our faith, we fall into this trap.
Sure, you might pray every day and read your Bible regularly. But, when you pray, is it truly unto the Lord or is it to meet a goal on your to-do list? When you read scripture, are you reading it to know God or simply to say that you read the Bible?
While faith is about our actions, it’s also about the heart behind those actions. It’s important to regularly examine whether our actions are motivated to please God or not. We could be doing all the right things in theory and yet still be lost because we don’t genuinely know the Lord.
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We could be drifting away from Jesus and not know it (Hebrews 2:1-4)
Maybe your issue isn’t temptation and blatant sin. But what if you’re drifting away from Jesus and you don’t know it? The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were in a similar predicament. They were on the verge of trading their commitment to Jesus for something that seemed better. The thing is, they thought that they could have Jesus + this other thing. They thought they could return to Judaism and technically still serve God that way. They were abandoning fellowship with other believers and the things that made them unique as Jesus followers.
Christianity is a faith that requires perseverance. If we do not continue moving forward, we will revert back to our lives before Christ. When we don’t take the time to assess where we are in our faith, we can end up drifting unknowingly.
Have you ever been at a place where you felt your spiritual life was struggling and you didn’t know why? Regularly examining the authenticity of your faith can prevent you from getting to this point.
How can we examine the genuineness of our faith?
I’ve shared a few reasons for examining the authenticity of our faith but I also want to help you in case you aren’t sure how to do so. There are a few things you should look out for. Does your lifestyle align with scripture? Are you hearing from the Holy Spirit? What is the condition of your heart? What are the motives for your actions? Finally, does your life exhibit the fruit of the Spirit?
Does your lifestyle align with scripture?
The first thing you need to ask yourself is, “Do I know scripture?” Make no mistake, our lives do not accidentally line up with God’s word. It takes intentional obedience. If you don’t know scripture then you will not know how to live according to scripture. So, it’s important to take the time to read and study God’s word faithfully.
Now, when you are reading scripture and you notice that there are things you need to work on, do you pray through these things and commit to doing them? Or do you just ignore it or think of someone else who needs to hear that word?
We need to be constantly checking ourselves, praying and asking God for help when our actions don’t align, and then making the effort to obey God’s word.
Are you hearing from the Holy Spirit?
God speaks to his people. He leads us and gives us direction. If we’re not hearing from him, it simply means we’re not listening. Often, when we’re drifting from our faith, the voice of the Holy Spirit sounds dull in our lives.
If you’re not hearing from God, that means that your attention is turned towards something else. Simply pray and ask God to show you the things that have become more important in your life than him. Turn off or turn down those voices and pay attention to God’s voice.
If we listen for him, we will hear him.
What is the condition of your heart?
Are you more prone to anger? Hatred? Consumed by lust or pride? In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul gives a list of people who will not inherit God’s kingdom. People who are led by God’s Spirit do not practice certain things. If you find yourself practicing things or having desires and emotions that do not honor God, it may be a good time to assess the condition of your heart and pray for God’s help.
What are your motives?
Sure, you might be doing good things but why? Are you doing them for yourself? To please others? Or is it to honor God?
If you notice that your motives are flawed, this might be a good time to ask God to change them.
Christianity is about action but it is not only about what we do. Why we act a certain way matters too.
Does your life exhibit the fruit of the Spirit?
Finally, a good way to examine the authenticity of your faith is by checking your life against the fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
Do you love others? Do you have the joy of the Lord? Do you have God’s peace? Are you patient? Are you kind? Is your life characterized by goodness and faithfulness? Are you gentle? Do you have self-control?
Please note that this is meant to be an assessment. None of us are perfect. Our lives don’t always align with scripture the way it should, we don’t always listen to the Holy Spirit, there are times when our hearts aren’t in the best place, sometimes our motives are wrong, and finally, we don’t always exhibit the fruit of the Spirit the way we should.
This is precisely why we need to examine our faith. We don’t grow closer to God and deepen our commitment to Christ accidentally. It is an intentional process. If we are humble enough to recognize our flaws, ask God for help, and strive to grow, we will continue to become more like Christ. However, if we think that we’re good when we’re truly not, we can end up drifting away and while we think that we’re right with God, we could be headed down a path of destruction.