I’ve been having a dialogue with Scot McKnight on spiritual growth over the last several weeks, as our church has studied his book, The Jesus Creed. Below is Scot’s Love Test, for those of you interested in evaluating yourselves.
The Love Test: A Spiritual Formation Assessment
by Scot McKnight, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary
This is a self-test of how we see our own “tangible love.” It is designed to help each of us measure our own spiritual growth. The secret to this test is utter honesty with oneself over time. There is no “right” or “wrong” answer, though the answer at times will seem obvious. For each question, honesty is the key. A higher score tends to suggest a higher level of mature Christian love.
1. I sense myself being most spiritual when: (1) I am reading the Bible, (2) I am doing something religious for others, (3) I am attending church, (4) I am communing with God, (5) I am exercising love toward others and God.
2. When I pray, I sense that my prayers both to God and for others are natural expressions of my love for God and my love for others. (1) Never, (2) almost never, (3) sometimes, (4) often, (5) always.
3. I know that God loves me: (1) but I’m not sure he does love me, (2) but I rarely experience God’s love as real, (3) and I sometimes experience God’s love as real, (4) and I often experience his love as real, (5) and I always experience God’s love as real.
4. To love others means to “embrace” (not necessarily physically) others outside of our normal circle. (1) But I almost never embrace anyone outside my normal circle, (2) I sometimes embrace someone outside my normal circle, (3) I often embrace someone outside my normal circle, (4) I am always embracing someone outside my circle, (5) I am working to get others to embrace others outside their normal circles.
5. Love for me involves (1) always accepting others and their behavior regardless of who they are and what they do, (2) always discriminating who someone is and what they do before I accept them, (3) sometimes accepting others regardless of who they are and what they do, (4) sometimes discriminating who someone is and what they do before I accept them, (5) usually accepting others and their behavior regardless of who they are and what they do.
6. Spiritual formation for me is centrally focused on (1) knowing the Bible and obeying everything God has taught us in the Bible, (2) serving others, (3) developing our relationship with God through spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible reading and solitude, (4) loving other people in concrete ways, (5) both and at the same time loving God and loving others.
7. I believe that a person can “begin all over again” before God when a person (1) cleans up her or his own act, (2) makes intentional and deep resolutions in the heart to clean up her or his own act, (3) actually begins to clean up her or his own act, (4) acknowledges to herself or himself that she or he needs to clean up her or his own act, (5) simply tells the truth about herself or himself before God.
8. It really matters most to God (1) what my reputation is in my own world, (2) what my reputation is most of the time, (3) what others think of me and who I know I really am, (4) who I think I am, (5) who I am before God.
9. I embrace Christians of all sorts and with all kinds of stories, (1) but I find some Christians unacceptable, (2) I find few Christians unacceptable, (3) I find lots of kinds of Christians acceptable, (4) I find most Christians acceptable, or (5) I find all Christians acceptable.
10. I think Christians ought to grow in their faith regularly and clearly and (1) I think conversion is a powerful event that should spiritually change people rapidly, (2) I think those who don’t grow are probably not even Christians, (3) I think those who are growing slowly to be either lazy or spiritually deficient, (4) I sense that most Christians are growing even if slowly, (5) I think growth happens over one’s whole life.
11. One characteristic that ought to be visible in all Christians is love. (1) I find that I am loving rarely during the day, (2) that I am loving sometimes during the day, (3) I find that loving is hard but I work at it, (4) I find that I am becoming more loving, (5) I sense that I am almost always loving toward others.
12. Compassion is often mentioned in the life of Jesus, and it something about Jesus we should try to emulate. When I see someone in need, (1) I rarely stop to help the person, (2) I sometimes help the person, (3) I often help such persons, (4) I help them unless I am pressed for time, or (5) I always help such persons, even if it means interrupting my schedule.
13. As I follower of Jesus I sense that (1) I changed mostly just after my “conversion” and admit that I haven’t changed much since then, (2) I changed some at my conversion and some not long after that, (3) I’ve changed rather unpredictably since my conversion, (4) I have changed fairly consistently since my conversion, (5) I am conscious of my need to grow every day.
14. When I think of how I can have a kingdom influence in my world, (1) I dream big and think of influencing “city hall,” (2) I dream big and try to contact people of influence, (3) I dream realistically and contact people who I think may help, (4) I dream realistically and contact my closest friends, (5) I dream big and love everyone I meet.
15. I practice justice most often when (1) I support those who punish those who have abused others or broken laws, (2) I rectify wrongs done by people in power, (3) I do good to all that I can, (4) I love my neighbor as myself and practice the Golden Rule, and (5) I help others learn to love God and to love others.
16. The society Jesus wants is a society in which humans are restored to God and to one another, (1) but I rarely am involved in restoring persons to God or to others, (2) I am sometimes involved in restoring others to God and to others, (3) I often help people get restored to one another, (4) I sometimes help people get restored to God, (5) I am devoted to helping people get restored to both God and others.
17. Jesus was joyful, and I believe joy is characteristic of a spiritually-formed person. (1) I am rarely joyous, (2) I am often annoyed by joyous people, (3) I am sometimes annoyed by joyful people, (4) I am often joyful, (5) I am joyful and joyous when others are joyful.
18. Jesus clearly believed in Eternity, and thought we should live in light of it. (1) I admit that I suppress thoughts about Eternity, (2) I am a bit frightened by Eternity and so rarely think of it, (3) I sometimes think of Eternity and I wonder about it, (4) I think of Eternity quite often and it influences how I live, (5) I think of Eternity often and it shapes my life considerably.
19. Believing, or having faith, in Jesus Christ and God is central to the gospel, and (1) I see faith as believing the right things about God, (2) I see faith as accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, (3) I see faith as a choice to follow Jesus daily, (4) I see faith as an ongoing trust in God, (5) I see faith as an aspect of my love for God in heart, soul, mind and strength.
20. Abiding constantly in the Lord’s power and love is central to spiritual formation, (1) but I find abiding constantly to be nearly impossible in my current condition, (2) I find abiding constantly to be difficult, (3) I find abiding constantly to be difficult but I am learning and growing, (4) I find abiding constantly to be a challenge that I am frequently successful in accomplishing, (5) I am constantly abiding in the presence of the God.
21. If God is truly God, and if Jesus is the Incarnation of God, then living for him and “under” his will is an aspect of spiritual formation. (1) I find the term “under” or the term “submissive to God” to be unacceptable, (2) I know living “under” God is important but I still find it very difficult, (3) I find living “under” God’s will to be mostly good, (4) I find submitting to God’s will to be good and I am growing, (5) I find being “under” God’s will to be the most liberating thing I can do.
22. I sin. (1) I almost never confess my sin, (2) I sometimes confess my sins, (3) I often confess my sins but I don’t sense I am improving, (4) I confess my sins and find that I am growing, (5) I find that I confess less sins now than I did five years ago.
23. When someone does me wrong, (1) I usually hope they suffer for it and I will never forgive them for it, (2) I sometimes hope they suffer for it and I doubt I will ever forgive them for it, (3) I struggle with thinking what it will be like to forgive them, (4) I struggle but I am committed to forgiving them for it and I usually do forgive them for it (5) I struggle, I am committed to forgiving them, and I do forgive them when I get the chance.
24. I am committed to the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. (1) But I have never tried to get someone to convert to Jesus Christ, (2) I used to witness to my friends and others, (3) I still sometimes share my testimony and hope it will have an impact on others, (4) I sometimes share the gospel with others, (5) I regularly work with people to convert them to Jesus’ gospel message about the kingdom.
25. Everything I read in the NT teaches me that God has provided everything for me in Jesus Christ. (1) But I find myself most often dependent upon my own resources, (2) I find myself too often dependent upon my own resources, (3) I find that I often depend on God but also on myself, (4) I am becoming more and more dependent upon what God has done for me in Christ, (5) I am conscious that I am deeply dependent upon Christ all the time, and often I am not even aware of it.
So, our little secret. How did you really do? What can we work on? – God