J.C. Ryle in his book Practical Religion (first published in 1878) encourages his readers to examine their spiritual lives by asking themselves 10 probing questions. The questions are as relevant today as we too live in an age of great spiritual privilege and great spiritual danger.
1. Do you even think about your spiritual condition at all?
“Sadly, there are many that never think about salvation. They never stop to think seriously about death and judgment, about eternity, about heaven and hell. They are too concerned about business, pleasure, their family, politics or money.”
2. Do you ever do anything about your salvation?
“There are many who sometimes think about Christianity, but who never get any further than thinking. Perhaps when they are in trouble, or when someone has just died, or perhaps they met a real Christian or read a Christian book they think a good deal about. But that is where they stop.”
3. Are you trying to satisfy your conscience with outward religion?
“Many make this mistake. Their Christianity consists entirely in outward duties…but their is no devotion to Christ in their hearts.”
4. Have your sins been forgiven?
“You know in your heart that you are a sinner – that you have fallen short of God’s standards in thought, word and deed. You know, therefore, if on the last day your sins have not been forgiven, you must be condemned forever.”
5. Have you experienced the reality of conversion to God?
“If we are to leave sin and learn to love God, a great change must take place in their lives. And if that change has taken place, it will be seen by its fruit.”
6. Do you know anything of practical Christian holiness?
“Real holiness will make a person do their duty in their own home and at work and will affect the way they live their daily life and cope with its problems. It will make them humble, kind, unselfish, considerate of others, loving and forgiving.”
7. Do you know anything about enjoying the means of grace?
“By ‘means of grace’ I mean five main things: reading the Bible, private prayer, meeting with other Christians for worship, taking the Lord’s supper and keeping the Lord’s Day holy.”
8. Do you ever try to do good in the world?
“Do you try to do good to others apart from your own friends, family and church?”
9. Do you know anything of living the life of habitual fellowship with Christ?
“This kind of fellowship does not deliver from the experience described in the seventh chapter of Romans (battling with sin). But it does enable us to look away from ourselves to the Lord Jesus, and to rejoice in him.”
10. Do you know anything of being ready for Christ’s second coming?
“It is one of the certainties of the Bible that Christ will come to this world again. He will come to punish sinners and to bring the salvation of his people to perfection in his everlasting kingdom of righteousness. To be ready involves nothing more than being a real, consistent Christian.”
J.C. Ryle ends this chapter on “self-examination” with these words, “Are you asleep and thoughtless about spiritual realities? Wake up! You are like someone sleeping in a boat drifting towards rocks which will destroy it. Wake up, and call upon God!”
Later in the book he writes, “Real Christianity rules in the heart. It governs the affections, leads the will, directs the tastes and choices and decisions. Does your Christianity rule in your heart?”
Good questions to ask at the start of a new year.