Our culture loves assessment tests.
· What kind of personality do I have? Take the DISC profile.
· How intelligent am I? Take an IQ test.
· What are my unique themes/talents/strengths? Take the Strengthsfinder.
We even have assessments for your spirit animal and which character on Friends you most resemble. (I took the first three…not the last two.)
But how do we know how we’re doing spiritually? Most of us don’t know where to turn, so we try our best to be a good person and hope for the best.
We’re a do-it-yourself culture. We self-identify and customize everything, including our spirituality. It’s the salad bar approach: I’ll take a little of this, none of that (it’s nasty), and a whole bunch of this.
This sounds really appealing, and in many faith systems, it’s not only acceptable, it’s encouraged. But Jesus refuses to be one choice among many. He won’t be an optional add-on.
In John 3, Jesus has a conversation with a man named Nicodemus. This Pharisee waited for the cover of darkness to approach Jesus, probably because he was concerned about how he might appear taking instruction from this man who consistently defied the religious system. But you’ve got to admire Nicodemus for his courage – the passage implies he was investigating on behalf of a group of Pharisees.
Nicodemus was a devout, religious leader who had the respect of his peers and his community. His credentials were impressive – which is what makes Jesus’ assessment so shocking. He doesn’t tell Nicodemus to try a little bit harder; He tells him he’s utterly incapable of doing it on his own. And He can’t believe Nicodemus doesn’t know this.
Jesus’ assessment doesn’t come with a range of spirituality – there are only two categories: dead or alive. And His assessment really only has one question:Have you been born again?
Not have you joined a church, lived your version of the golden rule, gone on a missions’ trip, or even memorized Bible passages. Jesus wants to know if you’ve stopped trusting in your own righteousness – and put your faith in His perfect obedience to the Father. He didn’t come to make bad people good; Jesus came to make the spiritually dead alive in Christ.
Trying to impress a perfect God with your list of religious accomplishments is like trying to give a dead body medicine – it’s not going to get the job done.
In my 20 years of pastoring people, one of the biggest frustrations people encounter is trying hard to live the Christian life without ever being born again. I don’t recommend it as a strategy. You end up frustrated and dissatisfied. This was never the plan.
If you want to know how you’re doing with Jesus, this is where you have to start.