A Little Test for the Professing Christian

A number of years ago, preaching to his beloved 10th Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, Pastor James Montgomery Boice threw out a little test for his congregants—especially the youth of his church. He set it up this way:

What I cannot understand is people, particularly young people, believing that everything is well with their souls simply because their parents or friends are Christians, when for their own part they are not following Jesus Christ in any significant way whatsoever.”

Is this your delusion? If so, let me ask this:”

Can you think of one significant thing in your life, for which you are yourself personally responsible—not something that was decided for you—which is different because of your supposed relationship to Jesus Christ?”

One thing?”

Is there a sin you have left because you love Christ and know that He would want you to leave it? Is there a commitment you have made because it is something you know a Christian should do? Have you ever chosen something that is right simply because it is right and not because it was expedient or because of what someone else might think of you if you had chosen differently?”

Think carefully. If you do not have a pattern of life along those lines—rejection of sin, Christian commitments, and righteous choices—how can you possibly suppose you are a Christian? You are merely a member of a Christian family or a member of a Christian church, and that does not make you one of God’s true people, any more than mere membership in the nation of Israel made a Jew one of God’s elect.” (Boice, Roman’s Commentary, pp. 1129-1130).

Those familiar with Boice know he was a “grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone” guy. He was one of the latter 20th century’s greatest preachers and Reformation theology voices. His concern that Sunday morning was for those who were delusional; those who presumed to have saving faith but whose life was void of any such evidence. So he dropped a pop-quiz on them; one they would privately score, paraphrased this way: “Can you document for me, please, examples from your life where you have consciously rejected sin, walked in His steps, and made God-honoring choices?” The point wasn’t to develop a list; the point was to see if there was a pattern.

The follower of Jesus certainly doesn’t always emulate His Lord. But if following Jesus was a crime, the prosecuting attorney should have briefcases of evidence to present and the jury should only deliberate for a moment before coming back and declaring, “Guilty as charged.” And everyone in the courtroom should nod in agreement, saying under their breath, “Of course he is; that was obvious.”

Boice’s test that morning was a good one. Go ahead and take it yourself; especially if you have grown up in the church. Class will be over soon; you don’t want to fail.

Pastor Rich Hamlin
April 14, 2011


  1. Thank you Pastor Rich for challenging us biblically to examine ourselves. I love your’s and Dr. Boice’s pastoral passion for their congregation’s to live their lives in keeping with their professions of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I believe the biblical doctrine of examination of one’s self is a fruitful exercise for the Christian that is in keeping with the call to pursue the mortification of sin daily and the pursuit of holiness through sanctification. I would like to note that what the Bible refers to as examination of one’s self is not the same as the world’s meaning. The worldly meaning does indeed turn one into one’s self through introspection, that is looking at one’s inner feelings, thoughts, a self-reflection as it were. Whereas the Bible’s meaning is far more directed at not reflecting on one’s inner feelings and throughts, but rather a critical judging of one’s motives and actions in light of the Word of God. I love this text in Hebrews 4:12 and recall it daily “The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” I also love reading 2 Peter 1:3-15 and applying the virtues that the Apostle Peter reminds me of as I daily examine myself. As a Christian, I need and desire for God’s Word to remind me everyday, no matter how painful the conclusions may be of my self examination, so that I may prove that I am in the faith and so that I can put away sin and pursue holiness as part of godly sanctification. I turn to God’s Word daily as my “plumb line” to measure my motives, my thoughts, my actions. I recommend to everyone who professes Christ Jesus as Lord and desires to bear fruit in keeping with righteousness, to do the same…and do it often!

    Pastor Rich, your questions above will be used by Rob & I to help us in self-examination. I hope all who read this will do the same.

    For further reading: Psalm 119:59; Lamentations 3:40; Haggai 1:5,7 (call to consider [examine] your ways); Matthew 7:3-5 (how to judge righteously); Luke 6:41-42; 1 Corinthians 11:23-31 (self-examination in preparation of Lord’s Supper); 2 Corinthians 13:5 (test, prove yourselves [faith])

    Suggested Links: Examine Yourself by John MacArthur http://www.gty.org/Resources/Positions/P03_Examine-Yourself

  2. I appreciate that we have an order of service at Evangelical Reformed Church that is a back and forth communication between God and us. Within the liturgy we are called by God to examine ourselves.

    In one part of that liturgy we read the law aloud. We then examine whether or not any of us has kept the law, which we are called to obey and live out. Hopefully we realize all of us fall short of that particular law or any of God’s commands for that matter. We are also likewise “crushed” by that law and moved towards repentance.

    But then comes the promise for those who believe and trust in Christ’s sacrifice, as sufficient for our many sins. As we confess our sins to the Father, through our mediator Christ, He forgives us and purifies us from all unrighteousness(I Jn. 1:9). He does not allow us to remain where we are spiritually and continues to sanctify us.

    We also examine ourselves before we take the Lord’s supper. Do we understand the meaning of the supper? Are we repentant believers? Are we clothed, not in our own righteousness, but Christ’s?

    It is obvious Pastor Rich cares deeply for his flock and wants to present them as holy and blameless.

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