Robert Jeffress - It's Time For a Checkup
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Doctors use tools like stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs to monitor our physical health, but how do we measure our spiritual health or how do we measure the health of our church? Today we're going to look at three criteria by which we can gauge our spiritual health. My message is titled, "It's Time for a Checkup" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
One of the great ironies of human nature is that we have a natural aversion to those things that are good for us, and that's no better illustrated than the attitude we have toward doctors and specifically getting our annual checkup. You know, we'll look for any excuse not to have a checkup. We don't want a doctor measuring our weight or cholesterol or blood pressure. We think ignorance is bliss and yet the truth is a regular checkup is vital to our physical health. By the way, how is your health today? I'm not talking about your physical health, I'm talking about your spiritual health. Is your relationship with God deepening or has it been diminishing?
If God were to sit down with you like a doctor does and give you an evaluation of your physical health, not your physical health, your spiritual health. If God were to sit down and evaluate your spiritual health, what things would he commend you are? He would say, "Man, you're doing great in this area". What areas would he challenge you in? And by the way, what about the health of this church? You know, we have all kind of ways that we measure the organizational health of the church, attendance figures, giving, new members, but how do you measure the spiritual health of this body of believers?
Well, in today's passage, Dr. Paul is gonna put on his white coat and his stethoscope and he's going to sit down with us and check out our spiritual health individually and together as a church. He's going to use three specific measurements to tell us what the true state of our spiritual health is. If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Romans chapter 15, Romans chapter 15. Remember, Paul wrote this letter to a group of Christians he had never met before, he had just heard about them. But this church was centered in the very center of politics, it was the center of money, it was the center of entertainment, and it was the center of evil as well. And to their credit, these Roman Christians were making a positive difference for Jesus Christ in this increasingly decadent world. And so in the opening verses of this letter, Paul actually commends them.
Look at chapter 1, verse 8. He says, "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world". Paul had two reasons for writing this letter. First, he wanted to encourage these Roman Christians. He was saying, "You're doing great and being a witness for Christ". But secondly, he wanted to deliver to them a systematic theology, a doctrine of what was essential in the Christian faith, and that's really what Romans is. It's the Magna Carta of the Christian faith. And so he does that in a very deliberate way. You know, we've talked for a year and a half about this book of Romans and I gave you a very detailed outline of the book of Romans based on the theme of righteousness, a right standing with God.
Paul says a right standing with God is available to all who trust in Christ as savior. But I wanna show you another way to outline this book, just three parts of the book in Romans chapter 1, verses 1 to 17, you have the prologue or the introduction. Then starting in verse 18, all the way through chapter 15, verse 13, you have the body, the main portion of this letter. We've spent 18 months in that. And then finally, in verses 14 to 27 of Romans 15 through chapter 16, we have the epilogue, the final words that Paul has. And today we start verse 14 of chapter 15 with the final words, the epilogue. And today we're going to look at a single verse in Romans 15, one verse, don't get your hopes up, it doesn't mean the sermon is shorter, okay? But we're all gonna just concentrate on one verse today.
Look at verse 14, "And concerning you my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another". Now, to get the full effect of what Paul is saying here, I want you to imagine that you're a member of the Church of Rome, and on one Sunday afternoon, you're sitting on top of the Palatine Hill perhaps where the church met, and your local pastor says to you, "Today I have some exciting news. We have a letter from the apostle Paul and he's written that letter specifically to us". Can you imagine how much interest these people would've had in the greatest leader of the Christian church? They've never met him before. He was famous worldwide, but he had a letter for that church.
And so this local pastor is reading Paul's letter and he gets all the way through chapter 15, and now he comes to verse 14 and he says, "And concerning you, Roman Christians". I imagine everybody was sitting on the edge of their seat, they were leaning in to hear now what would Paul say specifically about their church. What did he have to say? "I am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and also able to admonish one another". I imagine there was a sigh of relief, kinda like the relief you experienced after the doctor gives you a good report instead of a bad report on your health. That's what Paul was doing. He said, "Concerning you, you're doing great". You meet the test of what it means to be a healthy Christian.
And I want you to notice on your outline today the three tests, the three measurements that Paul used to gauge the health of the Christians in Rome. The first test is the test of goodness. He says, "I am convinced that you are full of goodness". That seems a strange thing for the apostle Paul to say. You're full of goodness? Is Paul saying that he believes in the basic goodness of humanity? Not at all. Man is born into this world, not basically good, but basically evil. We saw that in Romans 1 to 3. The Bible says that our problem is we have no righteous, there's not one righteous among us.
In fact, the climax is Romans 3, verses 10 to 12. Paul says, "As it is written, there is none righteous, not even one. There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God all have turned aside, together they have become useless. There is none who does good. There is not even one". And then in verse 23, he says, "For all have sinned, all have fallen short of the glory of God". Man is not basically good, we're born into this world basically evil. We call it in theology the depravity of man. You know, Ephesians 2:8 and 9 reminds us that good works are useless in our salvation. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works lest than man should boast".
Good works have nothing to do to earn our salvation, but good works are vitally important after we're saved because in the very next verse, Ephesians 2:10, Paul says, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them". He's saying a natural result of salvation is goodness, a desire to always do the right thing. The apostle Peter believed the same thing as well. And 2 Peter chapter 1, Peter said that this basic goodness in our life is the primary sign of whether or not we're truly saved. Peter believed in grace, yes, but he also believed that that grace will manifest itself in good works.
Notice in 2 Peter 1, verse 5, Peter writes, "Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith you supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence knowledge". That opening chapter, Peter is saying after you're saved, there are some things you have to do. There are some things you have to supply to make your faith complete. And at the top of the list, notice in verse 5 is moral excellence. That's another word for goodness. If you're truly saved, goodness will permeate your life. And then after going through that list of qualities, he says in verse 9, "For he who lacks these qualities is blind or shortsighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about his calling and choosing you, for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble".
You have any doubts about your salvation? Whether you're really saved or not? One way to know whether you're saved or not, Peter says is, are these qualities present in your life? Is that quality of moral excellence a part of your everyday life? Is there that desire for goodness? Now, again, please don't misunderstanding. We can't be good enough to earn salvation, but once we are truly saved, that goodness will flow out of our life. If it doesn't, then you have every reason to doubt your salvation. That's what Peter is saying. Test number one of your spiritual health is the test of goodness. The second test he gives in this verse is the test of knowledge. He said not only are we filled with all goodness, but we're filled with all knowledge. Now, one respected commentator notes the kind of knowledge he's talking about, he's not talking about head knowledge.
Listen to this. "This does not mean knowledge learned in an academic sense, but rather a sound practical understanding of the Christian faith that will issue that is produce wholesome healthy conduct". What Paul is talking about here when he talks about knowledge is what the Old Testament refers to as wisdom. Wisdom. The Old Testament word wisdom is Chokmah in Hebrew, wisdom. That word "Chokmah" was actually a skill that the book of Exodus talks about. A skill that a special group of Israelites had weavers who were charged with the responsibility of manufacturing the garment that the high priest would wear. God gave some specific measurements and requirements for that garment because that garment represented Jesus Christ himself later on.
And so God said, "You have to make this garment just like I've given you directions for no variation in it at all". And the weaver's ability to follow that pattern God gave them was called wisdom. The Bible says these weavers had wisdom. Why? They could follow God's pattern, his plan. Somebody has taken that definition and said for us, wisdom is the ability to live our lives according to God's plan. God has given each of us a specific pattern and plan for conducting our marriage, for doing our work, for handling our finances, for every area of life. God has said here is the best way to live. And our ability and willingness to follow that pattern is a measurement of whether we have true wisdom or not, that is what wisdom is.
Unfortunately, for many, many Christians, there is a serious disconnect between what we know, what we say we believe, and how we actually live. I mean, we say, for example, we believe that God is watching and evaluating our lives. We say we believe that, but we live our lives as if there were no God at all. Is that true of you? You've sat through enough sermons and enough classes, you know all the stuff up here, but how much of it are you really applying to your life? That's a test of your spiritual health. There's a third test of spiritual maturity that you probably haven't thought about very much. It's interesting that Paul mentions it. It's the test of admonition, the test of admonition.
Look at verse 14, he says, "Not only are you full of goodness and full of knowledge, but you're also able to admonish one another". Now, that word "able" literally means you are competent, you're competent. But what does that word "admonish" mean? The word admonish comes from the Greek word Noutheteo, and perhaps the best way to translate the word is literally to counsel. Now, let me be very clear to you here today and watching on "Pathway to Victory". I think there are instances in which people do need to go to paid professionals, experts who are Christians in the area of counseling, or experts in the area of psychology or psychiatry. And the reason that's important sometimes is, the fact is we are created as body, soul, and spirit.
I think of a well-known pastor in this area who told me, "I would not be alive today in the ministry if it were not for one of the doctors in your church". He said, "I was going through a terrible time of depression. I was thinking about giving up ministry, at times I thought about giving up my life". And he said, "I went to a Christian psychiatrist, and that psychiatrist did test and found that there was a chemical imbalance and prescribed the right medication and today I am more fruitful in ministry than I've ever been". Every one of you would know his name if I told you. Sometimes we need somebody to help us through that. Other times we need somebody who is an expert in counseling, a Christian who can help us shares all problems.
Many problems are the result of sin, but say the area of sexual addiction. The news has been filled this week with people who, you know, have tried to read the Scripture and solve the problem of sexual addiction, but they keep falling back into the same pattern. Sometimes we need a Christian trained who can sit down and help us understand, why do we revert to those same patterns over and over and over again. So don't misunderstand, there are times we ought to seek a Christian counselor or psychiatrist, but what Paul is saying here is simply this, there are not enough psychiatrist and counselors in the world to solve all of the problems of the church.
Ninety-five percent of problems that Christians face today could be solved if they understood how to apply Scripture to their lives, and that's the role of the church. The role of this church, one test of our spiritual maturity is our ability to admonish, to counsel one another. What does that mean to counsel one another? Well, there's a positive aspect and there's a negative aspect of counseling. First of all, counseling involves teaching. We ought to be able to teach other Christians. Now, when you think of teaching, you thought, "Oh, I can't ever get up in front of a crowd. I could never stand up in front of this congregation or in front of a Sunday school class". That's not what he's talking about when he says teaching. The word phrase one another follows admonition. He's talking about in a private setting, we ought to be able to positively point out what Scripture says about various subjects.
For example, if somebody was contemplating a divorce for non-biblical reasons or maybe even for biblical reasons, they just said, "You know, I want to get a divorce". Would you be able to point out in the Bible what the Bible says about divorce when it's allowed? When it's not allowed? Are you competent to turn in Scripture to that place? If a parent came to you and said, "You know, I've got a rebellious teenager, I don't know what to do, I'm at my wit's end". Would you be able to offer advice of what the Bible says the way you handle rebellion in your home? What if somebody came to your friend or a child or grandchild and said, "You know, I just can't get ahead financially, I'm swimming in debt up to my eyeballs and I feel under this pressure and so forth".
Could you turn in the Scripture to help him or her see what God says about what to do with your finances to have financial freedom? If somebody came to you and said, "You know, I'm ready to become a Christian, can you lead me to Christ"? Would you know where to turn in the Bible to lead somebody to faith in Christ? It's both amazing. I have to tell you, kind of discouraging to know that there are people who have sat in the pews for years, for decades that couldn't answer the most simple questions using God's Word about some of these practical issues of life. What Paul is saying is one test of your spiritual maturity is your ability to teach one another, to admonish one another.
And there's a negative aspect to counseling and that is correction. To admonish one another means not only to teach them positively, but it also has... it means correcting them. And quite frankly, if I'm gonna be honest with you, this is my weakest area, I think it's the weakest area of most Christians are willingness to tell people not what they want to hear when you're talking with them individually, but what they need to hear. Again, imagine somebody comes up to you and says, "You know what? My husband, my wife, they're just such a jerk. I can't stand being with them, but I have found somebody and this person makes me just feel so happy and fulfilled and life's too short to be miserable, and I really believe God has brought this other person into my life".
Now, they're not asking you for advice, they're just telling you what's going on in their life. What would you do? Do you just sit there and nod up and down or just remain quiet? Or do you have the guts to say what you're doing is displeasing to God and here's why? If somebody came up to you expressing bitterness toward another Christian or toward a staff member or even toward the pastor. "I can't stand them, they're blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah". Do you sit there and agree with them or nod silently or do you say, "You know what? There is bitterness in your spirit that if you don't take care of is gonna destroy you and may destroy your family, it may destroy the church. You've got to let go of that wrong emotion".
Most of us are unwilling to do that. We value the friendship too much. We don't want people to think badly of us, and so we remain quiet. When we ought to speak up, we ought to correct the other person. That's what God's Word says. You know, Proverbs 27:6 says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy". What Solomon is saying is a friend, a true friend is somebody who tells you what you need to hear. An enemy is somebody who tells you what you want to hear. That's how to tell whether you're spiritually healthy or not. Your willingness and ability to admonish one another. I'm not gonna close today with a dramatic story, with a poem or a song.
Instead, I wanna close today by asking you three important questions, questions you can gauge your spiritual health by. Number one, is your life characterized by goodness? I'm not saying, are you perfect? None of us is. But is in the rare exception in your life or is it the rule of your life? Is your life truly filled with goodness, a desire to please God? Secondly, is your life characterized by knowledge, wisdom? Are you applying what you know to be the truth to every area of your life? And thirdly, are you competent and willing to admonish other people? Do you have the skill to teach other people the truth of God's Word? Are you willing to correct those who live apart from God's will? Your answer to those questions will not only answer the state of your spiritual health but also the spiritual health of this congregation.