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Self-Examination: Why it’s Necessary and How to Make Yours More Effective

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Why it’s Necessary and How to Make Yours More Effective

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The apostle Paul gave his life in the service of Christ and raised up many churches. It seems none had as many problems as the Church in Corinth. In this Church, Paul found many who were still carnal and careless with the gift of salvation God offers through Christ. In 1 Corinthians 11:19, 21-31, Paul states that he does not praise their attitudes. He goes on to strongly state that they were not properly examining themselves in the light of the Passover and Christ’s sacrifice. Some had already suffered and even died for taking the Passover unworthily (verse 30). It is a good admonition to examine ourselves from time to time and especially at the Passover. We must never let ourselves sink into the attitudes Paul wrote about. We are to take the Passover in remembrance of Christ (verse 25).

In 2 Corinthians 13:5, the apostle Paul admonishes the Corinthians to “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” This letter was written because of the many problems Paul could see (12:20). It is good to recognize the strong language Paul uses and be sure we prepare for the Passover in a way that pleases God. The word translated “examine” is the Greek word peirazo, which refers to an intense self-inspection. It refers to taking a spiritual inventory of our lives, and the intensity is always great when we approach baptism, but the concern to be pleasing to God should never leave us. How are we doing in our Christian walk?  And are we showing the appreciation we should have for Christ’s sacrifice by the way we live? This deep self-examination is what we do before baptism when we recognize that we have sinned before God and need to make a complete turn from sin to godliness as we strive to walk as Jesus walked. The gift God gives at baptism is the full forgiveness of all of our sins and the presence of the Father and Son in each person through His Spirit. Your past sins no longer exist, but we are left with faults such as vanity, ego, pride. God works in us like the Master Potter to help us improve.

What self-examination can reveal

When we examine ourselves, our objectives should be twofold. One, we should be trying to identify areas in our lives that need changing and asking God to work with us. In Ephesians 4:22-24 we’re urged “put off . . . the old man” and put on the new man. Even after our initial washing from sin at baptism, God expects us to continue to work at overcoming.

The second thing our self-examination should accomplish is to establish that we are indeed “within the faith.” The Greek word peirazo used in 2 Corinthians 13:5 carries with it the idea of examining ourselves for the purpose of making proof of something. If we’ve been in the Church a while, we should grow in confidence and be able to know that we have changed and our efforts are to walk as Christ walked, using the Word of God as a guide. Any improvement we see is a confirmation that God is working in us. We can come boldly to our Father when we are more confident that we are pleasing Him (Hebrews 4:16).

Self-examination is not just for Passover

Self-examination is important throughout our journey of conversion. Individuals who are considering baptism will have spent some time contemplating how helpless, flawed and incomplete they really are without a deep, personal connection with God—and how God’s forgiveness gives us hope and the relief to know we are on the right path.

The nuts and bolts of self-examination

If we’re going to accomplish what we should with our self-examinations, we need to put in some quality time, and we need to be thorough. Just reflecting on our flaws for a few minutes in the car as we drive to the Passover service isn’t sufficient. What follows are some steps we can all take to make our self-examinations more effective. The focus here is on preparing for Passover, but these suggestions could apply to any self-evaluation, any time of the year.

Seek God’s involvement.

Set aside a day before Passover to fast and for extra prayer time. Fasting increases our sense of humility and reminds us how much we need God—which is exactly the mindset we need to have for self-examination and the Passover service. If we sincerely ask God to reveal our faults to us, He will (see Psalm 19:12-13; 51:6; 139:23-24). We all know we are not worthy of His grace, but we need to be confident of His love. God will never forsake us.

Use the Bible as the yardstick for evaluation.

Plan some personal Bible studies before Passover, dedicated to helping you appraise your spiritual life. Carefully reflect on what you read in God’s Word, to see how you measure up.

A good place to start is the Ten Commandments. Go through each commandment, and think about whether you are keeping them faithfully. Another idea is to meditate on Galatians 5:22-23, which lists the fruit of the Spirit. Think about how you are doing in these areas, and how you could better exemplify these traits. You might also go through Galatians 5:19-21 (listing the works of the flesh) and Proverbs 6:16-19 (listing six major sins God hates). Honestly ask yourself if you’re seeing any of these attitudes or behaviors in your life.

Certainly, we should study Jesus’ character strengths, such as compassion, wisdom, self-sacrificial love, forgiveness, conviction, submission to God, etc. Reflect on whether we exhibit these qualities. We might also meditate on Micah 6:8, which basically sums up how God wants us to live. Think about all the ways we could show mercy, live justly and walk humbly, and how we might improve in these areas.

Examine motives too.

Our actions alone are not proof that our hearts or minds are where they should be. We might be obeying God and serving others for the wrong motives—such as to try to “fit in with the group” or “look good” to others, or simply out of blind obedience. We should consider our motives to ensure we’re doing the “right things” for the right reasons—because we love Christ and the Father, want to honor Them in how we live our lives, and because we’re truly convicted that God’s way of doing things is the best way (Psalm 139:23-24).

Reflect on God’s role as our Master Potter.

Romans 3:23 tells us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are going to see weaknesses. However, we need to always remember that God doesn’t expect us to overcome on human strength alone. While we have our parts to play, God is the manager of our conversion process. God will teach us and guide our spiritual development, and give us His Holy Spirit to help us overcome. What we need to evaluate most is our attitudes, and how willingly we’re yielding to God.

During our self-evaluations, whether we are looking at sins or spiritual progress that’s been made, we must always remember that God is our Master Potter and we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8). God has promised to “never leave us” and “bring to completion” the work He started in us (Hebrews 13:5-6). These are precious truths we should reflect on as we examine ourselves and prepare for Passover. We have every reason to be encouraged, because we know our bodies are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit and that He who has begun a good work in us will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).