The apostle Paul urged the Corinthians to examine themselves to see whether they were in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Part of gospel ministry, whether you’re a pastor or a women’s Bible study leader, is to help people dismiss their own preconceived and cobbled-together versions of Christ and receive the real gospel, the real Jesus.
We will frequently minister to people who are either convinced they’re Christians (when they aren’t) or terrified they aren’t Christians (when they are). And we are also called to test of our own discipleship and apprenticeship with Jesus, seeing if the alignment of our souls and lives is walking rightly with Jesus. Here are five questions that can serve as a spiritual diagnostic to help evaluate and examine the state of one’s soul in relation to the true and living God.
1. Do you think Jesus is relevant for your daily life?
Many people are content with a version of Jesus as a mere pious figure, a “Jesus” who isn’t concerned with our sins but wants to send positivity to the masses. But the real Jesus has something to say, to offer, and to bring to every area of our lives. His life, death, resurrection, and reign in the heavenly places are precisely what we need—he is exactly who we need. Jesus isn’t a fixed data point in history. He’s living, active, and inviting you into his merciful kingdom.
Ask yourself: Do I genuinely believe the living Jesus matters for my life, right here and now? Do I consider Jesus Christ the most relevant person in my life?
2. Do you live as though Jesus is relevant for your daily life?
It’s easy to say, “Yes, Jesus matters.” But does your life prove it? Lip service is one of the most dangerous practices in the world today. This is why Saint James tells us that we must be hearers and doers of the word (James 1:22).
Think about decisions you’ve made in terms of your job, marriage, kids, finances, entertainment, and friends. Was Jesus the factor in your choice? I think most Christians would be fine saying Jesus is afactor—even a key factor in their decisions—but we must learn to see Jesus as the ultimate factor in the equation of our lives. That’s what the Lord is worthy of.
Ask yourself: Do I look to God’s Word for guidance in my life? Am I building my life upon Christ and his ways?
3. Do you want to worship God with Jesus’s people?
The Christian life is a communal enterprise. While Jesus is a personal Lord, he’s not a private one. When Jesus saves us, he brings us into his body, the church. We have an organic connection to one another because of our union with him. His disciples love to be with one another, worshiping God on Sundays, hearing the Word, praying, eager to exalt the triune God together (Heb. 10:24–25).
Ask yourself: Is the church a vital part of my spirituality? Do you look forward to gathering with other Christians on Sunday to worship God, encourage one another, and hear from God’s Word?
4. Do you see signs of grace/fruit in your life?
It’s perfectly reasonable to expect Christians to act like Christians. And it’s also perfectly reasonable to realize that we aren’t perfect. We will sin. The Christian life isn’t a perfect life—it’s a repenting life.
There ought to be patterns of change, sacrifice, and recalibrated loves in your life. Maybe there’s an awareness of sins and attitudes that you were oblivious to before you believed in Christ. Maybe you sense a hitch in your heart and mind when someone is gossiping. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control ought to be growing on the vine of your life.
Here’s the thing about fruit—it has to grow. Don’t let the grocery store confuse you. Fruit doesn’t pop out of trees full-grown, ready for the shelf. It takes months of barely noticeable growth. And spiritual fruit is no different. An embarrassingly tiny fruit of patience is still patience. We can rejoice in a grape of kindness, or a budding lime of hospitality, as much as we can rejoice in an apple orchard of generosity.
Ask yourself: Are there new desires, decisions, and ways of being that are happening in your life because you know Jesus has risen from the dead? Where do you see the Holy Spirit’s work in your life?
5. Do you know what will happen in eternity?
One day your heart will stop beating. What happens then? Do you know what awaits you on the other side of this life? There may be no more solemnizing and revealing question.
The thief who was crucified next to Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen to him: “Remember me, Jesus, when you enter into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42–43). He knew he was going to be with Jesus. God doesn’t want any of his children gripped by fear over the inevitability of death. He wants us to see that death has been defeated and defanged by the resurrection of Jesus: “Death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55). Eternal life in the kingdom of God on the New Earth is available to all who trust in Christ.
Ask yourself: Do I know what is going to happen to me when my time is up? Do I look forward to being with Jesus?
These questions are useful for examining ourselves in the faith and helping others to do likewise. Let’s keep a close watch on our spiritual states so we can be better disciple-makers for Jesus Christ.