We are often too easily deceived regarding our own sins. For some reason, we don’t tend to believe we’re the ones the Bible is talking about when it says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). It’s relatively easy to study the Bible or listen to a class and think, “so-and-so needs to hear this!” But how much harder it is to allow God’s word to rebuke and change us in our sins! God tells us to continually, “examine ourselves whether we be in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). What kinds of attitudes can help us to truly examine ourselves? How can we more easily recognize and let God help us deal with our sins?
Pray risky prayers — The Psalmist sincerely wanted to examine himself, so he prayed to God: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). Talk about risky prayers! The person who prays like this had better be ready to deal with sin, because God will most certainly help us see what is lacking (cf. 1 John 5:14-15). We need to be able to honestly and frankly talk to God about our sin. We also need to be able to ask God to help us see our sin! When we have offended Him, there is no Biblical way to sugar-coat our behavior (Isa. 59:1-2). Risky prayers like the one the Psalmist prayed help us to look honestly at ourselves, and God answers prayers like that!
Stand next to Jesus — Many times we do not see our sin because we are in the process of pointing sin out to others. “Why do you look at the speck in your neighbor’s eye, and do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3). When we carry around a harsh, critical, and fault-finding attitude, we will never see ourselves as we truly are. Why? Because when we find fault with another, we automatically begin to compare ourselves to that person. The only comparison that really matters, however, is how we measure up to Jesus (cf. Gal. 2:20). Friends, when we compare ourselves to the sinless Son of God, we will never measure up. When we stand next to Him, we will always be able to clearly see our faults (cf. Matt. 5:3). What a blessing to be able to see His righteousness! What a blessing to see our own brokenness!
Call sin what it is — The Bible is not shy about calling certain attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors, “sinful.” Sometimes we are slow to examine ourselves because we do not call sin by its true name. The Israelites are not the only ones who ever, “called evil good, and good evil” (Isa. 5:20). We might be robbing God in our contribution (cf. Mal. 3:8), and rationalize that the economy’s not so good. We might be worshipping in vain (Mark 7:6-7), and chalk it up to, “too much stress.” We might be engaging in any of several forms of despicable behavior and call it an, “alternative lifestyle” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). No matter what we call it, our sin is still breaking God’s heart. How we need to be honest with ourselves and with Him regarding our sinfulness!
Brethren, without self-examination we will find ourselves becoming increasingly self-righteous, calloused, and stagnant in our spiritual growth. Our relationship with God will be diminished, and our appreciation for the salvation He has provided will wane. Self-examination may be one of the hardest things God asks us to do, but it is absolutely essential to our growth as Christians (2 Pet. 3:18). We will never realize the joy and blessings of Christianity unless we develop and cultivate the habit of continually turning to God (James 4:8-10). May all of us truly examine ourselves! — JB