Why Is a Spiritual Check-Up Important for Christians?

A spiritual check-up will reveal whether we realize our need for Jesus or try to live without his help. The Spirit is working, but spiritual health also requires input from mature believers who offer an objectivity one cannot achieve independently.

Contributing Writer
Updated Oct 26, 2021
Why Is a Spiritual Check-Up Important for Christians?

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

This is from Paul to the church at Corinth. His message is that they should not be careless about their faith or take it for granted. Self-examination is important, but not self-help, and not self-glorification. A spiritual check-up for the Christian always leads to Christ.

Unpacking Christian Self-Examination

Paul exhorts the Corinthians to test their faith. His purpose is to encourage growth where he sees backsliding or stagnation. “Paul defends his ministry and responds to attacks about his Apostleship.”

Jay Smith explained that the church at Corinth had been preaching a false gospel, so Paul was very concerned about what was happening in his absence: “if anyone preaches a different Gospel or a different Jesus, other than what Paul and the Apostles were preaching, they are false teachers and deceitful workers and should not be accepted.”

Paul is telling the Corinthian Christians:

1. Take a close look at what the gospel really is and what it means.

2. Analyze your hearts.

3. Test what you find there against the truth of the gospel.

4. Acknowledge the importance of this exercise: the why of self-examination.

5. You do not have to do this in your own strength.

What Is the Gospel?

The gospel is John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but will have eternal life.” The gospel is also John 14:6: “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him.”

The gospel is Ephesians 2:8-9: “for it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” The gospel describes a work done by Christ to purchase us from the mouth of hell, available to all who believe in Christ for salvation.

There is no other way to God but through Christ’s blood, through his death and resurrection, and by admitting we are sinners who need saving. Only then do we understand why he died and rose to new life.

Looking into Our Hearts

The ESV study guide explains that Paul’s detractors thought “he had suffered too much to be a Spirit-filled apostle of the risen Christ.” Suffering is an important part of the Christian life; we can expect to suffer, some more than others.

Paul “argues that his suffering is the means God uses to reveal his glory.” If one’s circumstances are positive, this is a gift, and God is glorified when we hold those gifts lightly while praising him. But then as now, preaching that salvation leads to a happy, healthy, and wealthy lifestyle on earth is a heinous lie.

God allows suffering, even among his most fruitful disciples. The way they suffer, however, is their testimony to the unwavering goodness and trustworthiness of God, evidence of their heart, their posture before the Lord.

Marshall Segal explains, “When we watch others walk through the valley of the shadow of death with purpose and joy in God, through ups and downs, their faithfulness and endurance inspire fresh hopefulness and vigilance.” God hates for us to suffer, but he has a purpose for it, which the one who loves and obeys him is willing to trust.

Tests of Spiritual Wellness

Rather than only providing his readers with a way to test themselves, Paul invited the church at Corinth to examine his life. He offered himself as a model, having followed Christ as his example, and through his life conveyed the truth of salvation to others. His implied message was this: “to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).

Paul challenged them when he said, “I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. [...] We cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth” (2 Corinthians 13:6,8). He only asked his readers to do what he had already done.

Could they pick up his or her cross and aim, by the indwelling power of his Spirit, to love the Lord, obey him, and put others first? We know that Paul lived by and promoted this worldview because he said “we are glad when we are weak, and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for” (v.9).

Paul did not flaunt his suffering as a way of manipulating or demeaning others — he spoke of it as a means of demonstrating the value of faith and the reality of the Christian life. His faith stood up to many tests; he suffered well and continued faithful.

Why Examine One’s Spiritual Health?

There are frequent references to repentance, to self-examination, to testing one’s heart in both the Old and New Testaments. As always, when a theme arises multiple times, the reader can infer that the issue was a prevalent one.

The Lord made provision in his Word for the person who enjoys periods of fervent and overflowing faith and then loses his or her way, leading to doubt and despair. Self-involvement and pride lead to self-worship. Christ is put to one side as one, ironically, does more Kingdom work, though with half an eye on one’s personal kingdom.

Pastors will sometimes tell their congregations (if they are honest) that they get sucked in by statistics. They are focused on how many people attend, how many new believers are baptized, and how many people take advantage of programs.

But this is not an indicator of spiritual fruit or of a pastor’s heart as he shares the gospel week-in, week-out. People attend church for all kinds of reasons, but these do not always include love for Christ and a desire to become more like him.

“But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor” (Galatians 6:4). What are we boasting about? What are we working for? Where do we find our peace, satisfaction, joy, and significance?

If those attendance and baptism numbers fortify a sense of personal accomplishment but distract from the truth, and from worship, one needs to re-recognize his or her significance in Christ, as a child of God.

In That Lonely Place

Christ was often abandoned by his followers. After his betrayal and arrest, the disciples “all left him and fled” (Mark 14:50). One can expect, as a follower of Jesus, to realize that the tower one is standing in was built on the wrong rock.

Abdicating the throne takes a great deal of courage, and often one loses everything when that happens. When Christ refused to compromise on his message, which was both loving and difficult, he became unpopular.

Although he never had to repent or change his ways, Christ experienced the consequences of spiritual integrity, showed his believers how to endure the loneliness of a gospel-centered life, and experienced the reward God gave him for his obedience. He suffered, but he also defeated our enemies for us because he would not allow his will to supplant his Father’s will.

But he died because of our sin. Even as we become more like Christ, love him more, and hate our sin more, we continue to sin. That in itself points to why we need to revisit spiritual health on a regular basis. We can expect to lose track of what is important.

When our commitment to Christ leaves us out in the cold, good behavior will not save us from the distorted worldview, which leads to bitterness and steers us away from our Savior. This distortion will arise if we are focused on achieving our own goals.

But if we focus on Christ and try to see others and our situations the way Christ sees them, it is possible to thrive spiritually in spite of circumstances. Joy in spite of hardship is a good indicator of powerful faith.

The Spiritually Healthy Heart

A spiritual health check will reveal what we believe about God and about our relationship with him. It will reveal if we believe we are saved by grace or by works. A health check will uncover lies we believe and doubts we harbor about God.

It will reveal whether we realize our need for Jesus or try to live without his help. The Spirit of Christ working in a believer will effect change, but spiritual health care also requires input from mature believers who offer an objectivity one cannot achieve independently.

There is a considerable emphasis in the Bible on the importance of mutually uplifting fellowship. As the disciple is supported, he or she can do something valuable in return: demonstrate Christ-centered, gospel-saturated, humble worship for their encouragement.

For further reading:

What Is the Importance of Spiritual Health?

What Does Spiritual Preparation Look Like?

Why Is Spiritual Maturity Important?

What Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/eakrin rasadonyindee

Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.


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