As we approach the Passover, we need to examine ourselves to see whether we are worthy of God's promise of eternal life. Here's how.
Life insurance is big business. Millions of people spend billions of dollars annually to be insured. But to qualify for many — even most — policies, a person must have a complete physical examination, and he must pass this examination before the insurance is issued. Though Insurance companies have huge financial resources, they are not about to dole out enormous sums of money to people without specific conditions being met.
True Christians have a different type of "life insurance." Instead of paying off in money, it pays off with eternal life. Think of it: An absolute guarantee of eternal life is attached to the "life insurance" issued by God!
Man goes to great lengths to fulfill the requirements for physical life insurance, but the majority of people in this world feel they can cash in on God's life insurance without first meeting His requirements. But if you as a Christian fail to pass God's requirements, the only guarantee you face is that of eternal death (Rom. 3:23, 6:23)!
So how can we have God's offered protection against death?
First, God must call us. This world is cut off from God, and no one can gain access to Him unless God specially intervenes in the person's life (John 6:44). Then those few who are called must believe what Jesus Christ says and believe His message about the Kingdom of God. The believer must then repent of his sins and be baptized (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38).
Repentance means examining ourselves by God's standards and seeing our sins, feeling deep remorse for having transgressed God's law and then determining to live by every word of God (Matt. 4:4). Repentance means turning from the way the rest of humanity lives and following the way God wants us to live. God actually grants us repentance (Rom. 2:4, II Tim. 2:25).
Jesus Christ becomes our standard (Gal. 2:20, I Pet. 2:21). We accept His perfect sacrifice for our sins and submit to having Him relive His perfect life in us now.
After baptism, we emerge from our watery graves with our sins forgiven. God's ministers lay their hands on us and God grants us His Holy Spirit (Acts 19:6). It is His Spirit in us that puts our "insurance plan" into effect. (Eph. 1:13-14). We are now guaranteed eternal life. After we die we remain unconscious in the grave awaiting the resurrection, when we will be changed into spirit — into literal, spirit-born Children in the Family of God (I Cor. 15-:50-54).
Does God's insurance plan automatically remain in effect? Can we turn back from God's way and still be saved? No!
Baptism and receiving God's Spirit are only the beginning of the process of conversion. Just after baptism we are not perfect. We have received only a small portion — "the earnest" — of the Spirit (II Cor. 1:22). We are not perfectly like Christ. We can still stumble and sin, invoking on ourselves the death penalty for transgressing God's law.
But we have begun a lifelong process of overcoming. We must continually repent of our sins ("die daily," as Paul put it — I Cor. 15:31) and ask God to forgive us. As we overcome our carnal natures more and more, God gives us more of His Spirit, which enables us to think and act more like God does.
We must finally grow "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). We are then ready to be born into the Family of God at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
But a person can fail to grow spiritually. He can become spiritually lax, and unable to pass a spiritual examination!
God wants to protect us from this happening. He wants us to be maturing spiritually, so we will be qualified to enter the Kingdom. To insure that we grow spiritually, God requires that we renew our baptismal covenants each year at the Passover. During the Passover season we must examine ourselves for sin and determine our level of spiritual maturity. We must rededicate ourselves to becoming like Christ.
We are told to glorify God in our bodies (I Cor. 6:20). Doing this necessitates that we examine the way we spiritually use parts of our bodies. The Bible talks in terms of how we use our eyes, ears, mouth, mind, heart, hands and feet. As the Passover draws near, let's be sure we are maintaining the life insurance God gives us through His Spirit by examining ourselves as to our spiritual application of these various organs. If we honestly do so, we may find hidden conditions that need to be eradicated for our spiritual survival.
1. EYES — Though no bigger than ping pong balls, the eyes are more complicated than the most sophisticated television camera. It is estimated that 80 percent of all our knowledge is gained through our eyes.
But how do we use our eyes? For the glory of God? Are they means by which truth enters our minds? Most people are blinded by Satan and can't see the truth of God (II Cor. 4:4). Consequently, their eyes keep them in spiritual blindness by seeing only false knowledge. Our eyes must not be used this way.
Think for a moment of all the subversive things it is possible to cast our eyes upon. Is it any wonder God uses our eyes as spiritual thermometers? For instance, the eyes can be mechanisms by which lust is aroused (I John 2:16) Just consider the effects pornography or materialistic advertisements have on people. Do you allow your eyes to see violence and sex on television, or movies that depict people breaking God's laws in any number of ways? Do you look at physical things you would like to get and then begin to covet them?
David said, "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes" (Ps. 101:3), but rather, "Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord" (Ps. 25:15). Is this your attitude?
We must discipline ourselves to take our eyes off that which harms us: "And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire" (Matt. 18:9). Of course, this is a figure of speech and is not meant to be taken literally. It is a warning to encourage us to use our eyes properly. We must overcome looking to things that separate us from knowing and living the truth of God.
Consider the myriad of right uses for the eyes. Do we look upon others with compassion, like the Samaritan (Luke 10:33)? Do we look upon the Word of God in intense daily Bible study? Do we watch world events as they race toward the end of Satan's rule on earth (Luke 21:36)? Do we look to God for His mercy and coming Kingdom (Ps. 123:2)? Which is entering our eyes — light or darkness?
2. EARS — Our ears make a computer look like a crude concrete mixer. They are filled with enough electrical circuits to provide phone service to a good-size city. Through the ears we receive verbal communication.
Unfortunately, Satan is the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), and he infiltrates our minds by influencing the words spoken to us by others. These wrong, illicit words are more lethal than a venomous snake. They are often designed to destroy someone's reputation or instill wrong knowledge.
For that reason, we must carefully evaluate everything we hear (Luke 8:18). Just because something is said doesn't mean it is true. Too often people with wrong motives alter the truth and cause irreparable damage (Prov. 26:24-25). Once we know a person is trying to lead us astray or destroy someone's reputation, we simply have to stop hearing him (Ps. 26:4, Provo 19:27). Tell such people you'd prefer not to partake of such conversations.
Remember, though, that there are things we must hear to grow in the way of God (Prov. 22:17). We must open our ears to God's correction (Prov. 3:11-12). Remember to maintain humility when listening to others. They may not always be eloquent, but they need to be heard; too often a man's wisdom is not heard because he is poor (Eccl. 9:16).
Do you listen attentively to sermons or written messages? Do you apply them personally? Are you objective or too emotional? Give heed to the quality of the material you allow to pass through your ears.
3. MOUTH — Through our mouths we are nourished and can communicate with others, both important and enjoyable activities. But through Satan's influence, man puts his mouth to wrong use.
From a physical point of view, the diets of many people in the world's more affluent nations cause them to be overfed and undernourished. True, the Kingdom of God is far more than meat and drink (Rom. 14:17), but we still are required to care for the bodies God has given us (I Cor. 6:19-20). Beyond the responsibility to observe proper dietary habits is the onus to use the tongue correctly. The tongue is one of the most difficult parts of the body to keep under control (Jas. 3:5-8). Many of the proverbs admonish us to guard our uses of the tongue, especially in the area of gossip (Prov. 17:9). Are we guilty of passing on rumors? What about backbiting, making promises that aren't kept, lying, speaking evil of dignities (Ps. 15:1-4, Provo 6:16-19, II Pet. 2:2-11)? Even too much talking can get us into trouble (Prov. 10; 19, Matt. 12:36-37)
With the help of God's Spirit, we must learn to utilize our tongues as instruments to inform, encourage and in some cases correct others. There is a right time and a right way to speak (Eccl. 3:7). "A word fitly spoken is 'like apples of gold in pictures of silver" (Prov. 25:11).
4. MIND — The mind is the body's most wondrous and powerful mechanism. It is the source of thought, and thought is what determines our actions. Both thought and action must be molded to the will of God. This is not easy since the natural mind, influenced by Satan, is filled with enmity against God and opposes His law (Rom. 8:7).
Yet the carnal mind can be brought under control if we only exercise the Spirit of God with which we are begotten at baptism (Gal. 5:16)! We can have the very mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5). We need to apply God's laws in our lives. It need not seem so impossible to overcome our carnal natures if we regularly pray, fast, meditate and study God's Word. Without exercising God's Spirit, we weaken and become unable to properly discipline ourselves.
During the Passover season we must examine ourselves to see how abundantly we bear the fruits of the Spirit, as opposed to the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-23). All our thoughts need to be brought into the captivity of Christ (II Cor. 10:4-5).
5. HEART — The heart is the body's strongest muscle. Without its activity, life would cease. What does the heart represent in the Bible? It is — in part — the source of our attitudes. The carnal heart produces evil thoughts, covetousness, pride, foolishness and deceit (Mark 7:21-23). Hence it is necessary to undergo a change of heart (Jer. 4:4); this is accomplished through repentance and baptism.
[Editor's Note — It is important to understand that in the Bible, the word "heart" — which occurs more than 900 times — is almost never used in a literal sense. It is closely corresponds to the mind, being understood as the seat of the intellect, feelings, imagination, reasoning, affections and will. Notice for example in Genesis 6:5, " And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the THOUGHTS OF HIS HEART was only evil continually". Notice again in Psalms 119:2, "Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with the WHOLE HEART." And again in Matthew 2:37, " Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with ALL THY HEART, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind". Obviously, the word translated as "heart" is used most of the time in a figurative way — just as it is often used that way in our contemporary writing and speaking.]
But our hearts can develop problems after baptism. We can become spiritual heart-attack victims by allowing wrong attitudes to develop under Satan's pull. We must be sure we love God with our entire heart' (Mark 12:30). Do we put Him first in our lives? Are we sensitive and responsive to His will? Do we look on our trials positively (Rom. 8:28)?
Let's check our attitudes toward others. Do we fervently love brethren, neighbors and friends out of a pure heart (I Pet.1:22), or do we only make a show of concern out of a desire for vain glory?
How well do we forgive others? This is an excellent test of our attitudes. God's forgiveness of us is dependent on our forgiveness of others (Matt. 6:14-1'5). Our hearts should be tender, expressing forgiveness and not grudges (Eph. 4:32).
6. HANDS — The hands are designed to carry out the work of the body by holding, moving and utilizing objects. Man's ability to write, build, plant, eat and play would be greatly curtailed without his hands.
No wonder God uses the hand as a symbol of work. "He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich" (Prov. 10:4). This verse shows the need to work hard! Man was made to work six days (Ex. 20:9). Too many are failing to be successful by their sheer laziness.
Paul even had to admonish Christians to overcome their unwillingness to work (II Thess. 3:10-12). We can break the Eighth Commandment by not returning a fair day's work for a day's pay, and as profitable servants we should return more than that. We must examine our work habits to see if they are pleasing to God. We should put all our effort into whatever we are doing (Eccl. 9:10).
We should also share our productivity and assist others when we are able to (Prov. 3:27). Obviously there is a limit to what anyone person can give, but giving is the ultimate goal of the Christian life and should be our first consideration in every circumstance (Matt. 25:31-46).
7. FEET — Our feet carry us more than 65,000 miles in an average lifetime. Biblically, our feet are the principles by which we live and goals we want to achieve. David said, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105). God's laws should guide everything we do. Think about where you are headed in life and don't wander aimlessly.
Examine the goals you have right now — will they lead you to the Kingdom of God? Matthew 6:33 tells us our No. I priority: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." Establish spiritual goals in areas such as personal growth, service to the Church and others and family togetherness.
For help in developing godly character you need to renew the Holy Spirit God has given you "day by day" (II Cor. 4:16). Make this a major goal! You cannot overlook goal setting and please God.
PASS YOUR CHECKUP?
As you can see, we have many things to examine as we near the Passover. The spiritual examination we must pass to qualify for God's "life insurance" is often very painful as we battle Satan, his world and our carnal natures. The going gets tough, But remember that "in your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood" (Heb. 12:4, New International Version). That is a powerful statement to ponder. We have a High Priest who did shed His blood — to overcome the penalty of sin for all mankind!
Taking the symbols of Christ's shed blood and broken body is an awesome event. Beware that you don't approach the Feast in an unworthy manner (I Cor. 11:23-29). Be honest with yourself. See your faults. Determine to overcome them.
God the Father has chosen you for His service, so put forth the effort to renew the covenant designed to grant you eternal life. Detect the spots and wrinkles in your character; then use the power of God's Spirit to remove them and grow toward perfection (Matt. 5:48). By working toward this goal we will be preparing for another goal — being born into the Kingdom of God as God's very Children!
Here are some additional reources related to self examination, change and spriritual growth you will find helpful —
Our good friends with the Church of God International provide this fine article — HOW TO BE AN OVERCOMER
Fasting is often a good way to prepare for the Passover. Here are a couple of helps —