The Apostle Paul is credited with writing much of the New Testament. He was great at writing letters to groups of Christians he had worked with and he labored over them as a Mother does her children. I think that is why I love his writing so much. He had to have been a great mentor. He encourages and disciplines and confronts and strengthens those whom he loved in Christ. I just love that about him, don’t you? So tell me, could your church and your pastor stand the test of the Apostle Paul coming for a visit to see how his teachings are being carried out? Dare I be a little more personal and ask, could your own faith stand the test of Paul coming to see how you are growing and maturing in Christ Jesus? Hmmmm! Honestly I think most of us would probably fail his test and we would probably be chastised by him for not using our time wisely for the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. But never fear we would not be the first he has taken to task.
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, (New International Version or NIV).
It sound like Paul expects Christians to mature and grow-up in the Lord, doesn’t it? So are you growing and maturing? Are you more knowledgeable this year than you were last year about the things of God? Would Paul begin his sermon at your church with words similar to these? I think that most of us would probably have to answer this with a “yes” that Paul would probably be disappointed with most of us today. What else might he say?
I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit? 1 Corinthians 4:14-21, (NIV).
Would this passage be Paul’s continued message to us today? Would he be ashamed of us and would he warn us to take our Christian experience seriously? I think that he probably would. But Paul, I don’t want to imitate you because you never held a job very long, you had no career, no house, no transportation and walked everywhere you went. You were beaten and starved and didn’t smell very good sometimes. You had a way about you that seemed to make most people angry and it was probably because you were smart and you liked to argue and debate with people and show them why they were living the wrong lifestyle and were going to hell. I am not sure that I want to imitate you. Maybe I will imitate one of the preachers of a mega church today, would that satisfy Paul? You know someone like Rick Warren, or Joel Osteen, or Chuck Swindoll, or even Billy Graham, would that be alright? After all they wear nice clothes, live in a nice house, eat regularly, and smell pretty good most of the time I should think! Somehow I doubt that Paul would agree, although some of the ministers of mega churches might be men Paul would approve, but I doubt that all would be. I don’t know about you but I think that I would be out-of-town when Paul arrived. Maybe Timothy would be alright as he seemed to be a little gentler in his approach, but Paul, not so much! What else might Paul tell us today?
This will be my third visit to you. “Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” I already gave you a warning when I was with you the second time. I now repeat it while absent: On my return I will not spare those who sinned earlier or any of the others, since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you. 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? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored. This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down. 2 Corinthians 13:5-10, (NIV).
Gee Paul, do I have to examine my life and my heart and mind to see if I really am a Christian? I mean I already said the prayer of repentance, I was baptized, and I believe that Jesus is God’s Son, isn’t that enough to get me to Heaven? Come on, man, I don’t have time for this! I think if I actually got the chance to say something like this to the Apostle Paul he would give me such a stare of disappointment and shake his head in dismay that I would melt under his scrutiny. You see, Paul took the Christian life very seriously and so should we. We are not to play at being the saved we are to work hard to show others the path of salvation. Are most of us doing this today? I hope so but I sure am glad that the Apostle Paul isn’t making a spot visit at my house and church.
We all need to hear this message. We all need to wake up and realize that Jesus is King and reigns forever. We need to examine our own life and see if we pass the test as a fruit-bearing vine or are we the dead that is cut out. Satan does such a great job at helping us to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are saved. Only when we do the work, when we read scripture, study to understand and apply that knowledge to our lives of service can we know for sure that we are saved. I know some of you are thinking that I am saying we can lose our salvation but that isn’t what I am saying. I am saying that we need to make certain that we truly are saved in the first place. Check out our attitudes against the scriptures and see which side of salvation we are on, the right path that leads to spending eternity with God or the wrong path that leads us into eternity without God. It is a question that only you can answer but if it is a question that you are asking then good, because that means you are examining yourself and not just expecting a full ride to eternity on someone else’s faith shirt-tail! My question to you is this, will you pass Paul’s test of what a Christian is and is not?