Question 36 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks this:
What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification?
In other words what is the result of being in relationship with Jesus Christ?
The catechism gives four benefits:
- Assurance of God’s love
- Peace of conscience
- Joy in the Holy Spirit
- Increase of grace
It seems to me that these four things provide a good checklist to see how we are doing individually and as a group.
Am I acting as if I am assured of God’s love? If so, it seems as though I would be communicating that love to others. I will become a radiator of God’s love into the world around me.
Do I have peace of conscience? Or, I am pressed down by my lack of conformity to the revealed will of God? Do I act as if I know that I am forgiven? Can I forgive myself and forgive others?
Do I display joy? Or, am I pressed down by the circumstances around me? Do I act as if God has been, is and always will be in control? Do I act as if I trust him?
Is grace an increasing trait in my life? Do I show grace to others and allow myself to receive grace? Am I patient with the progress that myself and others are making in “working out their salvation?”
In looking at all of these questions, I realize that there is a gap between my behavior and my belief. I believe in God’s love, I know that I am forgiven, I know that God is in control and I know that I have received and am to give grace. Yet, I do not always live according to that knowledge.
The gap between my knowledge and behavior is wider than I would like it to be but it is shrinking.
As mentioned above, these questions can also be applied to churches. This is a good checklist to assess the health of a congregation.
Would a visitor sense our assurance of God’s love? Does the visitor experience peace, joy and grace radiating from us? Do we give them a taste of the living water of Jesus Christ (see John 4)?
I hope so. The world desperately needs to see believers living out the Gospel.