Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5).
Paul’s exhortation to be regularly testing the sincerity and purity of your own faith is not given in order to make you doubt your salvation every other day. Faith in Christ is exactly that: faith in Jesus’ finished work, not in our own faithfulness. However, we are to be regularly doing the hard work of honest self-appraisal.
This is a daily, on-going effort. Many times we can tear down idols and then turn around and find they have crept back into our lives again. For this reason, it is extremely important that we be constantly examining our lives by the Word of God, and then acting on the instructions and revelation that we find there. The person that simply looks in the Word, but is not changed by it, is described by James as being like one who looks in the mirror and goes away without adjusting the things that he or she sees out of place.
We are to be regularly doing the hard work of honest self-appraisal.
It is equally important that we both 1) look into the mirror (the Bible) regularly, and 2) change what we find to be out of place with divine revelation.
Yet remember this: after fighting and beating off a particular sin for even several months, you may succumb to it once again. You may be tempted to think of this as a defeat of all that you have tried to do. While it certainly is true that we should strive for a perfect walk with God, it does not mean that we are an utter failure when we fall to a temptation. Look at all the months that the Lord blessed you to defeat the attacks and temptations of Satan! Look at all the triumphs that you have experienced over your besetting sin! Think of how God has been glorified each time that Satan has tried to tempt you and has been defeated through your faith in Jesus Christ!
Faith in Christ is exactly that: faith in Jesus’ finished work, not in our own faithfulness.
Anyone would agree that to lose a single battle in a war, after having won hundreds before, is no reason to assume utter defeat. Certainly the war goes on, and so we should not rest on our laurels. But how encouraging our past victories should be to us! We should learn from our defeat and try not to allow Satan to successfully use the same tactic against us again; we certainly should not throw up our hands in defeat either.
How thankful we should be for the living, vital faith that the Holy Spirit has implanted, and continues to nourish, in each of our hearts! May we live worthy of his great name and may we pick ourselves up, by faith, from each defeat and be all the more resolved to continue, in his might, in our life-long struggle against soul-enemies, for “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).