Today’s reading: 2 Samuel 20; 2 Corinthians 13; Ezekiel 27; Psalms 75–76
Have you ever been audited? Maybe by the IRS, an independent audit firm or even by your company’s internal audit team? If you have, I suspect you will agree with my next statement – it isn’t an overly enjoyable experience. While often a little painful, the process is actually pretty straight forward. A person or team of people shows up to examine, or test, your records to determine if you have conducted your business in accordance with established guidelines. Perhaps they are testing whether you upheld the law, followed company policy, or even whether you played by your own rules.
I believe an audit is one of the most valuable tools management has in its toolkit (this should be no surprise to you, feel free to refer to my April 30 post where I told you I was a dork). Think about it. Management sets the direction for the organization, guidelines are published to help company associates carryout out activities that support this direction. If the guidelines are well designed, if they are followed, and if external forces don’t derail everything, the company has a reasonable chance of meeting its objectives. Unfortunately, if, if, if doesn’t really provide a whole lot of comfort. Management doesn’t want to think they know, they want evidence, they want to really know. How can they really know if they are on track? …an audit, of course.
Did you see how audit theory showed up in our 2 Corinthians 13 text today?
1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians are Paul’s letters to Christians who were struggling to live according to the faith they professed. They were a weak church. One of the major issues they faced at the time was the presence of false teachers. These “peddlers” (as Paul refers to them in 2 Corinthians 3:17) twisted the message, questioned Paul’s authority, and tried to lure Christians away from the truth in order to benefit themselves. Much of the book of 2 Corinthians involves Paul defending his personal credibility and the validity of his message. He was using all the tools in his toolkit to encourage Christians to stay on track.
2 Corinthians 13 records Paul’s final advice to the Corinthians as he is getting ready to wrap up his visit. He reminds them that they must turn from their sinful ways, as unrepentant sinners will eventually suffer harsh consequences. Paul also talks about the mighty power of God that Jesus Christ has at his disposal. He reminds the Corinthians that this same power is available to them if they genuinely put their faith in Jesus Christ. This is the same “if” conundrum we talked about above. If doesn’t provide them much comfort. How can they really know if that power is available to them? …an audit, of course.
Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith (2 Corinthians 13:5, The New Living Translation).
Paul is calling the Corinthian Christians to determine whether they have genuinely put their faith in Jesus by conducting a self-audit. A self-audit was a valuable tool for first century Christians, and it is a valuable tool for us today. Similar to every other audit, the hardest part of this audit is going to be the planning – how do we decide what test in order to lead us to the right conclusion? In this audit, we are looking for a series of personal characteristics or actions we can examine to determine if our faith is genuine. A few ideas from the New Testament to consider:
- Do you love others? By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35).
- Do you serve others? …serve one another humbly in love (Galatians 5:13).
- Are the fruits of the spirit evident in your life? But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things (Galatians 5:22-23).
- What kinds of things consume your thoughts? Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).
- Has your faith been tested? Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).
I pray that the results of your self-audit reveal a genuine faith. If they do not, will you have the courage to get on your knees and ask God for help today? Having the mighty power of God at your back makes this a life worth living, you don’t want to miss out on it!