Are you sure you know what you believe? Do you know why you believe what you do? Equally important, do you believe what you know? These are very personal questions when it comes to religion. No one can provide you the right answers, not even your parents, spouse, Sunday school teachers, etc. It is also a personal choice whether or not to answer them. If it interests you, here are some Bible verses which I think can help you find the answers yourself.
In Acts Chapter 17 Verse 11, Paul and Silas observed that “the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
From this verse we learn that it is proof of true nobleness and liberality of mind to be willing to examine the proofs of the truth of religion. What the friends of Christianity have had most cause to lament and regret is, that so many are unwilling to examine its claims; that they spurn it as unworthy of serious thought, and condemn it without hearing.
We should learn from the Berean Jews to examine the Scriptures daily. If we wish to arrive at the truth, the Word of God should be the object of constant study. A man has very little reason to expect that he will grow in knowledge and grace who does not peruse, with candor and with prayer, a portion of the Bible every day.
The constant searching of the Scriptures is the best way to keep the mind from error. He who does not do it daily may expect to “be carried about with every wind of doctrine,” and to have no settled opinions.
The preaching of ministers should be examined by the Scriptures. Their doctrines are of no value unless they accord with the Bible. Every preacher should expect his doctrines to be examined in this way, and to be rejected if they are not in accordance with the Word of God. The church, in proportion to its increase in purity and knowledge, will feel this more and more; and it is an indication of advance in piety when people are increasingly disposed to examine everything by the Bible. How immensely important, then, is it that the young should be trained up to diligent habits of searching the Word of God. And how momentous is the obligation of parents, and of Sunday school teachers, to inculcate just views of the interpretation of the Bible, and to form the habits of the rising generation, so that they shall be disposed and enabled to examine every doctrine by the sacred oracles. The purity of the church depends on the extension of the spirit of the noble-minded Bereans, and that spirit is to be extended in a very considerable degree by the instrumentality of Sunday schools.
St. Paul told the Corinthians “Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
The particular reason why Paul calls on them to examine themselves was, that there was occasion to fear that many of them had been deceived. Such had been the irregularities and disorders in the church at Corinth; so ignorant had many of them shown themselves of the nature of the Christian religion, that it was important, in the highest degree, for them to institute a strict and impartial examination to ascertain whether they had not been altogether deceived. This examination, however, is never unimportant or useless for Christians; and an exhortation to do it is always in place. So important are the interests at stake, and so liable are the best to deceive themselves, that all Christians should be often induced to examine the foundation of their hope of eternal salvation.
Faith in Jesus Christ, and in the promises of God through him, is one of the distinguishing characteristics of a true Christian; and to ascertain whether we have any true faith, therefore, is to ascertain whether we are sincere Christians.
The word “prove” (δοκιμάζετε dokimazete) is stronger than the word “examine” (πειράζετε peirazete). Prove refers to assaying or trying metals by the powerful action of heat; and the idea here is, that they should make the most thorough trial of their religion, to see whether it would stand the test (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:13). The proof of their piety was to be arrived at by a faithful examination of their own hearts and lives; by a diligent comparison of their views and feelings with the Word of God; and especially by making trial of it in life. The best way to prove our piety is to subject it to actual trial in the various duties and responsibilities of life. A man who wishes to prove an axe to see whether it is good or not, does not sit down and look at it, or read all the treatises which he can find on axe-making, and on the properties of iron and steel, valuable as such information would be; but he shoulders his axe and goes into the woods, and puts it to the trial there.
If it cuts well; if it does not break; if it is not soon made dull, he understands the quality of his axe better than he could in any other way. So if a man wishes to know what his religion is worth, let him try it in the places where religion is of any value. Let him go into the world with it. Let him go and try to do good; to endure affliction in a proper manner; to combat the errors and follies of life; to admonish sinners of the error of their ways; and to urge forward the great work of the conversion of the world, and he will soon see there what his religion is worth – as easily as a man can test the qualities of an axe. Let him not merely sit down and think, and compare himself with the Bible and look at his own heart – valuable as this may be in many respects – but let him treat his religion as he would anything else – let him subject it to actual experiment. That religion which will enable a man to imitate the example of Paul or Peter, or the great Master himself, in doing good, is genuine.
That religion which will enable a man to endure persecution for the name of Jesus; to bear calamity without complaining; to submit to a long series of disappointments and distresses for Christ’s sake, is genuine. That religion which will prompt a man unceasingly to a life of prayer and self-denial; which will make him ever conscientious, industrious, and honest; which will enable him to warn sinners of the errors of their ways, and which will dispose him to seek the friendship of Christians, and the salvation of the world, is pure and genuine. That will answer the purpose. It is like the good axe with which a man can chop all day long, in which there is no flaw, and which does not get dull, and which answers all the purposes of an axe. Any other religion than this is worthless.
Why should not a man be as able to determine whether he loves God as whether he loves a child, a parent, or a friend? What greater difficulty need there be in understanding the character on the subject of religion than on any other subject; and why should there be anymore reason for doubt on this than on any other point of character? And yet it is remarkable, that while a child has no doubt that he loves a parent, or a husband a wife, or a friend a friend, almost all Christians are in very great doubt about their attachment to the Redeemer and to the great principles of religion.
Such was not the case with the apostles and early Christians. “I know,” says Paul,” whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him,” (2 Timothy 1:12). “We know.’ says John, speaking in the name of the body of Christians, “that we have passed from death unto life;” 1 John 3:14. ”We know that we are of the truth;” 1 John 3:19. “We know that he abideth in us;” 1 John 3:24. “We know that we dwell in him;” 1 John 4:13; see also John 5:2, John 5:19-20. So Job said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand in the latter day upon the earth,” (Job 19:25). Such is the current language of scripture. Where, in the Bible, do the sacred speakers and writers express doubts about their attachment to God and the Redeemer? Where is such language to be found as we hear from almost all professing Christians, expressing entire uncertainty about their condition; absolute doubt whether they love God or hate him; whether they are going to heaven or hell; whether they are influenced by good motives or bad; and even making it a matter of merit to be in such doubt, and thinking it wrong not to doubt?
To be in Christ, or for Christ to be in us, is a common mode in the Scriptures of expressing the idea that we are Christians. It is language derived from the close union which subsists between the Redeemer and his people (cf. Romans 8:10).
The word rendered “reprobates” (ἀδόκιμοι adokimoi) means not approved, rejected: that which will not stand the trial. It is applicable to metals, as denoting that they will not bear the tests to which they are subjected, but are found to be base or adulterated. The simple idea is that they might know that they were Christians, unless their religion was such as would not stand the test, or was worthless.
It is only through life’s trials that we can prove to ourselves how much we really believe in the God we know. Let us pray that someday we may have the spiritual maturity of St. Paul to thank God for the trails that come our way.