Examine Yourselves

The Need

The year 2002 is rapidly slipping by and before long many of us will be making  our traditional New Year’s resolutions.  The question is, have we achieved the goals we embarked on for this year?

It would be profitable for everyone of us to reflect on this past year and evaluate our successes and failures.  As this practice has been a positive influence for many in the world of commerce, even so it can yield great rewards for the Christian.

In his letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul suggested, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves…”  (2 Cor. 13:5).  May each of us reading this article follow suit and seriously examine own lives to better evaluate our present spiritual standing in God.

The church at Corinth was in a backslidden mode and self-examination based on the principles of God’s word should have alerted them to their spiritual decline. It was during the absence of Paul that false preachers successfully penetrated the work of God and many in the church were uprooted from the foundation they were originally planted on.  But, “other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  (1 Cor. 3:11).

Again in 1 Corinthians 11 Paul wrote concerning the Lord’s Supper.  After highlighting its origin and importance, he detailed some of the judgments that will result from an unworthy participation of this sacred ordinance.  He then continued his letter by very strongly stressing the need for every child of God to examine themselves.  His words were, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.  For this cause are many weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.  For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged [of the Lord].”  (1 Cor. 11:28 & 31).

Self-analysis or self-examination can allow us the opportunity to correct situations in our lives that would otherwise result in God’s chastening judgment.  The child of God must be able to recognize sin, weakness and hypocrisy, and then correct the same with the help of God.

Weights and Sins

The book of Hebrews admonishes us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”  (Heb. 12:1).  We must not overlook the fact that this verse of scripture highlights two major obstacles in the Christian’s spiritual race.  Sin is the more obvious while “every weight” seems to include a wide variety of obstacles to a godly lifestyle.  The fact is that both of these areas are classified as hindrances that should be laid aside.

In our effort to examine ourselves I must stress the importance for honesty.   Someone correctly stated that the greatest con is a con who cons himself.  While it is easy to point our fingers at others, this article is intended to encourage us to look inward.  Let us sincerely and honestly seek to expose — before ourselves and God — our own hypocrisy.

Locating sin, and in particular the ‘besetting sin’, is quite simple considering the fact that it is that area in our lives that presents the greatest obstacle to our Christian walk.  Whether it be a moral problem, prayerlessness, or some other lustful hindrance, “the sin which doth so easily beset us” can be easily isolated and dealt with.

However, the greater difficulty is in recognizing the less obvious areas that Paul described as “every weight.”  These subtle situations in our lives add weights to our ‘spiritual legs’ as we endeavour “to run with patience the race that is set before us…”  (Heb. 12:1).  They may involve anything or anyone who generates obstructions to our spiritual growth and may include our jobs, our education and even other important elements such as a husband, a wife or children.

In establishing the importance of seeking first “the kingdom of God and his righteousness” our Lord Jesus emphatically declared: “If any man come to me, and hate not (love less) his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Matt. 6:33, Lk. 14:26).

A proper understanding of scripture will influence us to conclude that the priorities in our lives are indicative of the validity of our conversion.

It would therefore be spiritually profitable if we can honestly ask ourselves the following questions.

Are we as spiritual as we lead others to believe we are or do we fake an impression to God’s people?

For those of us who are preachers, do we really represent God when we stand in our pulpits or are we just novices in office?

Timothy was admonished by Paul to take heed unto himself and unto the doctrine.  By continuously doing this he would be able to save himself and also save those under his influence.  (1 Tim. 4:12-16).

Truth About Ourselves

In John 8:32, Jesus tried to  convince the Jews that the acceptance of truth was of great importance.  He said: “…and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”  Although this statement of our Lord is popular among preachers, a very important element of truth is often overlooked.  It is the truth about ourselves that focuses on our own spiritual inadequacies.   Truth is fact or reality, and the truth about ourselves is an absolute necessity in determining our spiritual progress.

If utilized correctly, self- examination can determine the spiritual development of any child of God.  However, it is necessary that the word of God become the criteria that provides the principles by which we examine and measure ourselves.  Paul declared that, “they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”  (2 Cor. 10:12).  It must be the principles together with the life examples of the scriptures that provide the standards by which self-examination is determined.

A grave injustice to self-examination is to draw conclusion on the premise of public opinion.  It may very well be that we are such good actors that even those around us are deceived by our hypocrisy.  We may be the living examples of ‘genuine fakes.’

Self-examination must begin by comparing our past years of serving God with our present spiritual standing.

Since our conversion, have we grown in the Lord?

Is our dedication greater today than when we first started?

Are the marks of true discipleship evident in a continuous self-denial and submission to Jesus or are we just doing our own spiritual thing?

The honest answering of these questions can determine our spiritual need.  Let us not forget that truth about ourselves will determine our need for the truth of God’s word.

To accept the truth about ourselves and make the changes that are required by God’s word will set us free.  Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed…”  (Jn 8:31).  A mere head knowledge is insufficient.  We must “walk in truth.”  (2 Jn:4, 3 Jn:3-4).

Isolating Darkness

Paul suggested that the Ephesians should not walk as other Gentiles walk, “in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened…”   (Eph. 4:17-18).  In chapter 5:8 he exhorted  them by saying, “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light…”

The problem regarding light and darkness, as they relate to self-examination, is the inability of many to differentiate between them.

This inability to make distinction will eventually cause the child of God to slip into a spiritual ‘twilight zone’ and walk in darkness without realizing it. Of course, genuine conversion fortified by the Holy Ghost baptism will make the difference.  For this reason the children of God must not fake their conversion or their Holy Ghost baptism.  Anyone faking their Holy Ghost baptism is not only a hypocrite but is still dead in trespasses and sin.

To effectively walk in light one must first of all be delivered from the “power of darkness” and be “translated” into the kingdom of light.  (Col. 1:12-13).  Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica exhorted the saints by saying: “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.  Ye are all the children of light, and…of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.  Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”  (1 Thess. 5:4-6).

It is expected that the child of light be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation…”  (Phil. 2:15).

Acting the Role

The age we live in is filled with actors.  Some are paid to act while others sacrifice their own identity to mimic the personalities, dress and lifestyle of others.  It is strange but true that the imposters of today are far more in number than the real.  Brand name counterfeits, whether it be clothes, jewelry, cosmetics, electronics or even the simplest tool, seem to sell faster than the genuine.  Practicality is quite often abandoned in preference to popularity, leaving common sense almost extinct.

You see, many of us have lost the ability to think for ourselves because someone else’s thoughts and ideas are always at our disposal.  The end results is an ungodly society brimming with fakers and competitors.  Tragically this spirit has crept into the church.

Is it not true that for many of us, God and the church are just added ingredients to our regular life?  Is it not easier for many to sacrifice church and what is demanded by scripture than to sacrifice other natural aspects of our daily routine, such as job demands?   Individuals who have faked their conversion experience will not have their priorities in proper perspective.

The question to consider at this point is, what are the characteristics of a true Christian?  Should the Christian be like the ungodly and act out a role to better accommodate the demands of any given situation?  Is the church just a minor part of our lives or should our whole lives be a part of the church?

Unlike the ungodly person who plays a role to better suit the demands, a true Christian is not acting a role but rather living a life.  God has not called us to be spiritual schizophrenics manifesting multiple personalities.  Rather, scripture demands that the true child of God totally abstain  from the evils of this present world.  God will not fully bless and use His children who are in compromise and complicity with evil and ungodliness.  However, the counterfeit Christian feels no remorse when dabbling in darkness simply because he is merely an actor.

When scripture suggest that we posses the “mind of Christ”, much more is demanded than simply mimicking Christ.  It is expected of us to do everything within our ability to follow in His footsteps, but to develop a mind like our Lord requires a transformation instead of a reformation.

A genuine work of the Holy Spirit is required in our lives so that we would not just play the Christian’s role, but instead allow Jesus to be the very essence of our existence.  Our conversion must be genuine.

In our self-examination we may want to compare our lifestyles with the ungodly.  Do we enjoy the same pleasures, go to the same places, read the same materials, watch the same movies, listen to the same songs and pursue with fervency the same goals as those in darkness?

The Psalmist pronounced a blessing on the man who does not live a life subjected to the ideologies or whims of the ungodly.  (Ps. 1).

Does Christ make a difference in our entire lives or is He simply used to spice up the emotionalism in our religious experience?

Examining Our Religion

At this point, let us consider a few other aspects of our spiritual life. These would include our local assemblies and all that are a part of their normal operations.  Also, on a larger scale we may want to examine our Fellowship.  Due to limited time and space I will confine my observation to only a few general areas.

To begin with, let us consider the validity of our Fellowship being the Body of Christ — the only true representation of God’s work in the Earth.

Personally, I am convinced that it was God who called Brother William Sowders some 70 years ago to separate a people from apostate Christianity.  I am also certain that it was God who brought me out of ‘Babylon’ and into the Body of Christ. But these realities cannot be taken for granted.  We should never rule out the possibility for apostasy amongst us as a Fellowship.  Perhaps an examination of our work over the past years will add enlightenment as to our present standing.

Have we pursued the visions of our forefathers as they relate to holiness and the sanctification of the church?  Are we drawing closer to witnessing a united ministry — a cloud like a man’s hand — bringing our churches into stronger spiritual unity?  Or are we drifting further and further into the world of ungodliness with our assemblies and ministers operating like loose spokes on the spiritual wheel of Christian unity?

Over the past years, we have quoted the scripture in Judges 21:25 that states: “In those days when there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.”  Have we fallen into the same rut?

May God grant us the humility so that we do not see ourselves as impervious to deception and backsliding, the initiative to conduct a careful examination of our present condition, and the wisdom to scripturally correct the crisis.  The examples of biblical history can add caution as we reflect on the fact that every great move of God in the past ended in apostasy and every church that God started was eventually undermined and destroyed by the Devil.

A question that is worth pondering over is this: where was the Body of Christ prior to Brother William Sowders?  We may want to go further back and ask, where was the move of God prior to John the Baptist?

May those of us who have ears to hear open our hearts to perceive that it is quite possible that that which is the very heartbeat of God’s work today can fizzle out into apostasy tomorrow.

Self-Examination

In conclusion we must not ignore or overlook the need for our own self-examination.  But self-examination would be in futility if we fail to pursue a recovery process.  Scripture exhorts us by saying “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts…”  (Heb 3:15).

For many years we have heard great, soul-stirring messages yet with little response.  This practice needs correction.  We must always leave room for repentance and change in order to move on in God.

Unlike the great movements of the past that encouraged soul-searching and repentance, even the most powerful sermons preached in the Body of Christ today, are seldom followed by appropriate altar calls.  It is apparent that tradition holds precedence to what the Holy Ghost wants and we rather dance in response to good preaching instead of repenting.

In Revelation 11, the Apostle John was given a measuring rod and told to “measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.”  It is apparent that at the close of the age, God’s true church (the temple), the sacrifice and commitment of the saints (the altar), and their lifestyle will all be evaluated by the principles of God’s word.  In other words, God’s true church, the Body of Christ, will not be identified by mere human claims.  Rather, it will be the life example that will validate the authenticity of this divine institution.

Finally, we must make distinction between the Body of Christ and the Body of the Beast, the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils.  Then we must honestly determine what has the greater influence in our lives.

Would the Body of Christ, under the headship of Jesus, receive a partial source of its existence from the contaminating influence of the beast? Should we drink both from the Lord’s cup and from the cup of devils?

May God help us to come to the place of being able to hear His voice and not harden our hearts by ignoring the warnings of the Spirit.