Often in counseling, a counselee will say something like, “You have not told me anything that I did not already know.” I’m not bothered or put off by their comment, but I do wonder if they already knew what to do, why aren’t they doing it.
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To Do Or Not To Do
Typically, most of the people I counsel know what to do because they have a level of morality. They know right from wrong. Understanding the correct thing to do is not unusual. Unless there is a searing of the conscience (1 Timothy 4:2), a spouse knows that it’s right to be kind to their partner. Honestly, who does not know that it’s right to be nice? Being gracious to others is part of our human wiring.
Even unregenerate individuals know this; they understand the differences between right and wrong. Paul told us this in Romans 2:14-15.
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.
There are times when I wonder why a person pays me to tell them what they already know. Indeed, there are layers to this perspective, and some sincere folks do not know how to work out their salvation practically (Philippians 2:12-13), but in many situations, the individual knows what they should be doing and are able to do it.
Recently, I asked a Christian couple, who have chosen not to get along, if they wanted to start living like Christians. I said it this way: “Do you both want to be Christians?” The question was simple, though the actual practicalization of it in their lives was not happening.
I’m not attempting to over-simplify the change process, but at some point, you have to examine whether your most authentic heart’s desire is to be like Jesus. If a person chooses not to walk in the steps of the Savior (1 Peter 2:21), you will always find idolatry complicating matters.
Idolatry always wants something different than what Christ expects for you. As long as you want something other than Christ most of all, you’ll not be able to live the practical Christian life, as defined by God’s Word.
What Do You Want?
The Christian life is not rocket science. After the Lord regenerates you, it’s a matter of deciding whether you want to live for Him. May I ask you, “Are you a Christian?” It’s a straightforward question. Are you?
Where I live (Greenville, SC), people joke about being a Christian. What I mean is that we characterize everyone in this part of the US as a Christian. We say this with our tongues in our cheeks, of course. You can go to any part of our town and pick a person at random and ask them if they are a Christian. Most of the time their answer will be in the affirmative.
When I asked you the “Christian” question earlier, I was not asking if God saved you, or if you made a profession of faith. I’m not asking if you “go to church,” or if your parents reared you in a Christian family. And it’s not about baptism. I’m asking if you are a Christian from a James 2 perspective.
So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. – James 2:14
Though your works do not save you (Ephesians 2:1-10), they do point undeniably to the reality of your faith. Who you are on a day-to-day basis tells the story of your faith.
My daily activity is how I want you to judge me. Don’t listen to what I tell you; watch what I do as I live out my faith. It is possible for me to trick you with my words, but it is harder to deceive you by my actions.
Take a Christian Test
I have a few straightforward x-ray questions that will reveal the authentic story that your life is presenting to those around you. These are some of the things I ask people during counseling. These questions can expose the actual condition of your heart and life.
A fantastic way to ask these questions is with a spouse, child, parent, or close friend. Ask them to help you answer them by offering their perspective. Perhaps you need to release them from the fear of being forthright with you (Proverbs 29:25). Assure them that they will not offend you by helping you assess yourself honestly.
Caveat – Answering “yes” or “no” do not affirm or deny whether you are a Christian. What you’re doing is examining the practical outworking of your Christian life.
- Are you a joy to be around? – Hebrews 13:17
- Would you be characterized as an encourager? – Ephesians 4:29
- Are you ready and willing to forgive those who sin against you? – Matthew 6:15
- Are you known as a person who seeks to serve others? – Mark 10:45
- Do others want to be around you because of your relationship with Christ? – John 6:2
- Is your Christianity exportable to the next generation? – 2 Timothy 2:2
- How would you describe a person if they imitated your life? – 1 Corinthians 11:1
- Do you consider yourself as the foremost sinner? – 1 Timothy 1:15
- Is your primary goal in life to love God and others? – Matthew 22:36-40
- Are you approachable? Are you correctable? – Philippians 2:1-5
- How do you practically resist pride and pursue humility? – James 4:6
- Are you consistently Christian in every context of your life? – 1 Corinthians 10:31
- Ask your spouse to name three ways in which they see Jesus in you. – Ephesians 5:21
- Do you lead your family or friends in spiritual disciplines? – 2 Timothy 2:15
- Do you confess your sins more than talking about other’s sins? – 1 John 1:7-10
- Ask your closest friends to describe you in one sentence. What did they say? – 1 Corinthians 2:2
- How would you say that you are affected by the gospel? – Philippians 4:11-13
- Do you look down on, criticize, or gossip about any person? – Philippians 2:14
- Do you usually get sinfully angry? – James 4:1-3
- Which do you do more: confess sins? Commit sins? – Matthew 6:24
- Do you regularly confess your sins to everyone you sin against, not just God? – James 5:16
- Are you a Christian? – Romans 10:13
Call to Action
This article is about living out your Christian faith practically. It is not about how to become a Christian. Your works do not save you, but they do point to the reality of salvation. If you have a concern about your faith or if you need help in your Christian walk, please talk to us here. Be sure to get your free username and password first, here.
Also published on Medium.