Examining Ourselves

Examine yourselves: are you in the faith? Check yourselves out. Or do you not think of yourselves as having Jesus Christ in your midst? Because if not, you have failed. 2 Corinthians 13:5 (Unvarnished NT)

But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 1 Corinthians 11:28 (NASB)


Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or left, turn your foot away from evil. Proverbs 4:25-27 (ESV)

The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps. Proverbs 14:15 (NASB)


So, then let those who assume they are standing firm, watch out that they don't fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12 (KGV)


Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands.  Psalm 119:5, 6 (NLT)

In a variety of ways and in diverse contexts, the Scriptures remind us to check ourselves out or, effectively speaking, evaluate whether or not our attitudes, words, and actions are lined up with what is required by God. Some of these passages are accompanied by vivid reminders of the failures of Israelites and other people. These records are used as stern warnings to Christians. The idea of responsible self-evaluation might seem intimidating or frustrating at times, especially if it reminds us of past struggles and failures with educational experiences, athletic endeavors, job requirements, maintaining relationships, and other challenges in life.

The way some misguided Christians evade accountability through questionable, traditional theological formulae makes this truth foggy and vague for multitudes. For example, if one buys into the idea that a onetime conversion experience is the total requirement for passing the test, he or she might have pervasive blind spots regarding real issues of repentance and obedience. In a similar way, if one latches onto a methodology of systematic, ritualistic behaviors as the essence of the test, there is real danger that he or she may stay oblivious regarding truly required changes of heart.

Of course, there is a keen balance in approaching the subject of testing ourselves, comparable to our discernment responsibilities in dealing correctly with others. On the one hand, we must "recognize them by their fruits" (Mt. 7:16) to avoid being influenced to the end that we be distracted from entrance through the narrow gate (7:13.) We are even to be discerning enough to avoid casting pearls before swine (7:6) or giving what is holy to dogs. Nevertheless, we are not to judge others (in a final sense) and especially not when being hypocrites (7:1-5), with "logs" hanging out of our own eyes while noticing specks in the eyes of others! Similarly, even though we are totally unqualified to pass judgment (in a conclusive way) on ourselves (1 Cor. 4:1-5), we are still responsible before God to test ourselves, pondering the path of our feet and considering our steps.

It is vital to keep in mind that the God who delivered us from deep tendencies to be obsessed with ourselves is not calling us either to plunge into relentless self-condemning doubts or to the opposite extreme of embracing flippant, careless self-confidence. As we test ourselves, we can stay utterly humble, willing to learn and change, and, simultaneously, we can stay enthusiastically confident in God's love! The merciful God who is trustworthy not to allow us to be tempted beyond our ability (1 Cor. 10:13) is also dependable and fair to forgive us of all sins and clean us of all wrongdoing (1 John 1:9) when we honestly confess our sins. The God who asks His people to test themselves does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11); He wants all to turn from darkness, experience real change, and live!

As the One, who undoubtedly wants us to pass the test, is unreservedly eager to offer His fathomless aid through Christ (the mediator and high priest who understands our weaknesses), we should approach Him with unwavering boldness (Hebrews 4:14-16). We can confidently enlist His unlimited help in times of need as we pray for His powerful involvement in our deepest issues of the heart.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!   Psalm 139:23, 24 (ESV)

Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight O LORD [Yahweh], my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:12-14 (ESV)

When we confidently and faithfully depend on Yahweh Himself to steer us clear from the pitfalls of temptation and evil attacks, He leads us by the hand through the most trying, challenging circumstances (Mt. 6: 13). Even the aspects of His fatherly discipline that seem tough and uncomfortable in our lives should not be despised since they are ultimately for our good. Eventually, they are conducive to our being able to share His holy character. We need to remember His wise intentions for us and not give up (Hebrews 12:3- 13)!

As we meaningfully apply the Scriptures to our thoughts and actions, not shirking our responsibility to live a holy life, (for Yahweh is a holy God -1 Peter 1:13-17), we should stay alert in putting on the weapons of light (Romans 13:11-14). Our final salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed!

One word used in the Scriptures for meditation means to murmur or softly repeat words to oneself.

How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked and does not take a stand in the path that sinners tread, nor a seat in company with cynics, but who delights in the law of Yahweh and murmurs his law day and night.  Psalm 1:1, 2 (NJB)

What follows in the first Psalm is the beautiful analogy of a tree planted by streams, a vivid contrast with the dried up picture of the wicked. We can quietly repeat God's words to ourselves as we lovingly practice it, turning a deaf ear to the godless advice that permeates the world around us. We can also help each other to pass the test, "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord..." (Ephesians 5:19 - NASB).

Many understand the old aphorism, "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link," as a matter of practical, common sense. Nevertheless, few seem to apply it to Biblical self-evaluation according to the model one can see in James, chapter 2:8-13. After stating “You shall love your neighbor as yourself" as an umbrella declaration of the meaning of the "royal law," James examines a couple of "links." (I believe it should be clear that James' use of adultery and murder implies the extent to which Jesus taught these as issues of the heart in Matthew 5:21- 30). To fulfill the whole law and yet stumble "in one point" makes one guilty of all.

All Scripture is certainly profitable for getting us on the right track. Sometimes certain lists or step procedures lend themselves to proactive self-examination. For example, one could read the list of "deeds of the flesh" in Galatians 5:19-21 while fearlessly asking God to direct one's steps. Maybe one can perceive that past weaknesses of idolatry, immorality, sorcery, and drunkenness no longer plague his or her thoughts and habits. Nevertheless, are there ongoing issues with strife, jealousy, and outbursts of anger? Is there another currently relevant item on the list? If one is honest, Yahweh is certainly willing and able to provide deliverance, even in the deepest inner realities of the heart.

There is a list in 2 Peter 1:5-8 of qualities as steps to be applied with diligent effort. One can meditatively study this concept of Christian growth, systematically building: faith, moral excellence, knowledge (in practice), self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love (as God loves). Obviously, the idea of diligent, continuous effort in applying these steps does not fit the mold of popular, easy-going, "effortless" religion, but the reward that stems from such diligence is overwhelmingly magnificent!

Thoughtful self-evaluation in prayerful reflection on the Scriptures can be very enlightening. As an example of using the list of steps in 2 Peter for self-testing questions: "Do I add (to the first six virtues listed) brotherly kindness? Am I friendly? Or am I distant and uninvolved in helping others? Am I still self-absorbed in a way that limits my efforts to speak God's message or exemplify God's light while being with others?" I can ask similar questions regarding each of the eight key qualities and effectively (with Yahweh's help) evaluate need for growth.

For if you have these qualities and they continue to increase in you, they will make you neither idle nor unproductive in attaining a full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is blind − or short-sighted − and forgetful of the cleansing that he has received from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more in earnest to make certain to yourselves God's call and choice of you. For if you cultivate these qualities you will never slip, for it is in this way that to you will be generously granted a triumphant admittance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  2 Peter 1:8-11 (Williams NT)

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