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By Nelson Thomas Mumbai

Most medical experts would advise, once you cross a particular age it’s always good to undergo a periodical health check-up. There are many who had to pay dearly for neglecting this sensible counsel. So even in spiritual life, we need an occasional spiritual health review to see how our spiritual life is. Do not just assume that we belong to Christ and everything is satisfactory.

Notice how Apostle Paul exhorts Christians in Corinth as well as Galatia to examine their spiritual level.
1Corinthians 3:10c: -“But let each one take heed how he builds on it.”
1Corinthians 11: 28:- But let a man examine himself and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
1Corinthians 11: 31:- “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.
2Corinthians 13:5:- “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.”
Galatians 6:4:- “But let each one test his own work”.

Though  the context may be different in each passage, yet we can take common lessons based on these instructions for introspection. Whether it’s our personal Christian life, observance of Lord’s Supper or undertaking of spiritual ministries, carefulness is needed on our side. Cf. Act 20:28; 1Tim 4:16 Apostle Paul is calling upon the church members as well as the leadership for a sincere evaluation of themselves. We will consider seven things about this vital spiritual exercise of self-examination.

  1. It’s foolishness to judge the mind of others.  Matthew 7: 1.

The Lord Jesus as well as apostle Paul forbids us from examining other’s life. “Judge not, that you be not judged. “Judge nothing before the time”. 1Cori 4: 5. “Do not judge according to appearance.”  John 7: 24a

 Yes, for some it’s entertaining! A fallen man finds joy in finding fault with others.  For example, consider the joy and excitement of people watching a game. The spectators carefully look at every movement of the players and analyse as they progress. Viewers are least concerned about the mental strain and physical effort of the players. What actually excites them is the success of their favoured team or the failure of the other!

The same thing happens in everyday life too. We may examine others from a distance, but what about our own life. Many do not consider, if we were in the same circumstances what would have been our response? By judging all others except ourselves we are actually deceiving ourselves. Being obsessed with finding fault in someone’s life, we lose the precious opportunity to correct and mend our own ways.  Such an attitude is self-deceiving and destructive. With an arrogant and self-righteous attitude, one will begin to criticise and accuse others unnecessarily. This will hurt many hearts and break many relationships. Ultimately, it will destroy their own life, for they will be counted as critics or even sadists and many will stay away from them!

The word of God categorically condemns such judgemental attitude. Matt 7:1; 1Corin 4:5. Judging someone for their disposition, profession or attire is utterly foolishness. One’s behavioural differences, occupational choices and dress style are the personal preferences of each one and we have no right to scrutinize it. 
Moreover, we can never understand the true state of human heart to pass an accurate judgment. God alone knows the mind of man. Jer 17: 10. When our judgement is based on simply what we see and hear, we only come to wrong conclusions. 1Samuel 16:7. Not only that, such judgemental attitude is rebellion against God who is the only true judge, for we are trying to take His place!
Nevertheless, a local church can examine their members! Not their motive or spirituality, but their doctrine and practice. The Lord Jesus appreciates elders who did so and thus exposed the false teachers in the assembly at Ephesus. Reve 2:2 Cf. 1Jn 4: 1, 2; 1Timo 3: 10; 1Cor 5: 1 – 5. With the help of the Holy Spirit and by exercising the gift of discernment, the leadership has to do it, else they would be  accountable to the chief shepherd.  Cf. Reve 2: 14, 20.

  1. Our knowledge is limited and imperfect. 1Corinthians 4: 3b, 4.

Not only about examining others, even to judge ourselves - actually speaking, we are incapable! So Paul writes, “I do not even judge myself”.  We are not really fit enough to scan what is going on in our own heart. Solomon made it clear.  “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit.”  “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Pro. 16: 2, 25 (ESV).  We are always right in our own eyes and only at a later stage we may realize the blunders we made.
Two possible mistakes:

  1. Too much introspection.

We may lament like Elijah, ‘it is enough’! 1Kings 19:4. Sometimes our heart condemns us – it may not be from God. Cf. 1Jn 3: 20: Devil can also do it to discourage us. The result is depression and inferiority complex

  1. Too much self-confidence.

Another possibility is the superiority complex as a result of feeling, “I am right in every aspect”.  Remember, even when we feel everything is satisfactory, there may be much failures or even sins concealed or ignored.
Why is it so?
Not only because of the limitation of our knowledge but also due to the deceitfulness of our heart. Jeremiah writes, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9.  Our heart isvery subtle and hard to understand. “Who can understand?” – No one can!
That’s why Job does not want to justify himself. Though I am in the right, my own mouth would condemn me; though I am blameless, he would prove me perverse.” Job 9: 20 (ESV) Job knew, even if he is right he cannot justify himself. So, our conclusion about others or even about ourselves cannot be reliable or true.

  1. God knows exactly and responds accordingly.  Jer 17: 10.

Scripture makes it very clear frequently, it is God alone who knows every human heart fully and precisely. Notice the following verses:
Jer 17:10:-I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds." 
Jer 16:17:- For my eyes are on all their ways. They are not hidden from me, nor is their iniquity concealed from my eyes.”
1Sa 16:7:- But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."
1Chro: 28: 9:- “the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.”
Job 34:21:-   "For his eyes are on the ways of a man, and he sees all his steps.”
Pro 5:21:- For a man's ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths.”
Rev. 2: 23:- “And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.”
Not only He knows, but the Lord also carefully searches the innermost parts of our being. Nothing is hidden; all things are naked and open to Him. He does search our minds, ways and even intentions and react accordingly.

  1. We can examine ourselves only by the help of God.  1Cori 4: 4.

In the light of our inadequate knowledge and God’s perfect understanding of our deepest being, the only way to examine ourselves is by God’s own help. That’s why Paul said, “For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.  1Cori 4:4. Job also said in the same manner, “Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!  Job 31: 6. Job wanted God to examine Him. His friends tried but it was only hurting. Job says in 9: 15, 20 ‘even if he is right, he will not say it before God, because God may find something wrong.’  We cannot depend on what others say or even our own assumption. 
The Lord Jesus counseled the Laodecians to buy eye salve from Him to heal their blindness. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” Rev. 3: 18.  
How terrible it is to hear, ‘you are poor, naked, and blind’.  Reve 3:17. Yet we think we are right. Unable to see the full truth we may distort the reality. Let us go to Him, plead with Him to search, try and help us to see exactly as we are. That’s why psalmist prayed, 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!” Psa 139: 23, 24.

Yes, God alone can do it. Let’s allow the Lord to focus His all-seeing eyes to penetrate into our innermost being and test us. Consider how  we lie quietly before an ultra sound scan or MRI technician! We allow those invisible rays to penetrate into our body to reveal those minute parts that normal eyes cannot see. Yes it’s not easy, but beneficial indeed.  Similarly let’s yield to the Lord, let Him examine us thoroughly.

How does it happen practically? We need to come to the Lord searching the sacred pages of His word and pouring out our heart before Him. No wonder the word of God has been compared to a reflecting mirror and a two edged sword that can pierce the depth of our heart to bring out the hidden things. Jam 1: 23; Heb 4: 12.

  1. Nothing shall remain hidden secret forever. 1Cor 4: 5b.

Another truth to consider in this connection is the reality that one day every secret shall be revealed. Paul was very much aware of it. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” 1Cor 4:5b. The Lord Jesus also reminded His listeners, nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” Matthew 10:26
Not only that God knows the entire secret exactly, He will also make it known. Sooner or later all our secrets will be out! It’s absolutely impossible to keep something hidden forever. Few years ago we could not comprehend it easily, but today it’s a well-known fact, nothing is concealed. Someone is watching our movements and activities. Even what we do today in the comfort of our home in a smart phone or computer is all being noticed by someone! Then how much more it’s known to God Almighty, and He will definitely bring it out at the right time.
Today itself!
Many think, God will reveal only in future! Not necessarily, He has the right to reveal at any time, may be even here on earth itself to fulfill His purposes. Notice some incidents:
Joshua ch. 7: Achan thought no one had seen but God worked in such a wonderful way that he was caught and dealt with severely.
1Samuel 2:22:- Sins of the sons of Eli. They did it very secretly – but the Lord did reveal at the right time and punished them too.
1Samuel 11:2ff. Sin of David – did very secretly – how cruelly and subtly. For a year God waited that David would repent and confess. Finally He sent Nathan to make it known.
There are many such examples. God examines, closely watches the lives of His people and brings out the truth at the right time. In the book of Revelation chapters 2 and 3 we see the risen Lord evaluates those 7 local assemblies and presents His view of them. He refers to even their affection and attitude to Christ, which is very much internal and invisible.
Remember, the Lord scrutinizes the intentions behind our spiritual services also. At the judgment seat of Christ, it will be revealed whether the much publicized activities are for self-glory or God’s glory.  1Cor 3: 13; 4:5; 2Cor 5: 10. That’s why we should not judge the motive of others. God Himself kept it pending!

However, it seems that the Lord reveals the sins and failures of God’s people today itself so that we may repent, confess and find cleansing by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. In any case, the main point is that nothing shall remain secret forever. Sooner or later we will have to face it, it shall be known. God will do it.        

  1. Sin can never go unpunished. 1Cori 11: 31, 32.

There are some believers who think, once saved they can live in any way! They misunderstand the security of salvation. No doubt the Lord Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.” John 10: 28, 29. Paul adds, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.Romans 8:1

Security of salvation is a New Testament doctrine, but that does not mean a born again believer can live as he pleases? Read 1Corinthians 11: 31, 32:- But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”

 Yes, no condemnation, no hell for a born again believer. However the transgression of believers will have to be dealt with here itself before we die. Sins of unbelievers will be judged in future. (Judgment at the Beema is only for evaluating our work for Christ to give us rewards. 2Cori 5: 10 – that has nothing to do with sin.)

Remember, Christ died for our past, present and future sins. Col 2: 14. In the atoning sacrifice of Christ, any sin, sin of any time has solution, but one has to come to Christ, confessing his sins. In order to lead a fallen Christian to do so, God deals with him in the best possible manner.
God will give him time to judge himself, come to Christ with confession and pleading for cleansing by the precious blood of Christ. 1John. 1: 7, 10. If he fails to do, the Lord will intervene. With various steps of chastisement, God our Father wants to lead the erring one to the cross for confession. Heb 12: 4ff. This chastening is not punishment but disciplinary actions by God our loving Father to prompt us to repent, confess and turn to Christ for forgiveness and cleansing.

Each sin and rebellion has to be dealt with. Our forgiveness and cleansing is always based on the blood of Jesus Christ. 1John. 1: 7, 9. Repentance and confession is the basic requirement for that. We cannot simply hope to hide, forget, and cover up our rebellion and disobedience. That’s why it’s essential to make sure there is nothing in our life that is not acceptable to God.

  1. It’s deception to be ignorant of our real state. Gal 6: 3.

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
How many examples are before us when someone simply kept on ignoring the medical advice and collapsed in an unexpected moment! It can happen spiritually too! We may think everything is alright when it is not true; however God reveals on a fine morning the reality through His own way. How sad and terrible that would be.
The Lord Jesus warned of such an occasion in Matt 7: 22, 23;  “On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” They thought Christ knew them but never. They simply went on in their assumption.
In the parable of ten virgins, five simply assumed that they had oil when it was not so, they were deceived by their supposition. Mat 25: 1—13. The rich man of Luke 16 also assumed that he was on the right track, but the rest is well known. Luke 16: 19 – 31. It is possible to expect a huge reward yet everything was burned up as it was being tested by fire. Cf. 1 Cori 3: 12 – 15.

All these passages show how deceptive it is to just assume to be right and never consider to examine life in the light of God’s word. It is high time we judge ourselves, yes by the help of God to correct our life and amend our ways. Let’s settle things before it’s too late and live a true and clean Christian life in God’s perfect will.
Believer’s self-examination is an essential spiritual exercise that the scripture recurrently exhorts us. It can be done not by our own intelligence but by the gracious intervention of God. It’s neither to regret nor to be proud over the past, but humbly to yield to God Almighty for His grace to lead a better life ahead for God’s glory.   




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