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A MAN MUST EXAMINE HIMSELF
by Philip Owen

            We live in a world filled with imperatives.  The consequences of disobeying many imperatives often seem negligible or even nonexistent to the natural eye. We must stop when a traffic light turns red, but at 2:00 a.m. with no traffic in sight . . .   We must attend school until a certain age, but if we cut a class now and then, who really cares?  Under penalty of law, we must not remove those strange tags on mattresses and cushions, but if we do who would ever know, or care, and what could the consequence possibly be?  The point is that our everyday experience undermines our view of authority.  But God is no ordinary authority.  And as surely as He blesses obedience, He chastens disobedience.  When the Word commands us to do something, we may be sure that it must be done.  One requirement of all believers is that we lead “examined” lives.

            1.  A self-examined life.  Many people go through life without ever seriously considering their values, goals, ambitions, and motives.  They live in the moment and for the moment.  A believer should never live such a life.  “A man must examine himself” (I Cor. 11:28), Paul told the believers at Corinth.  In this instance, he was speaking in reference to taking the Lord’s Supper “in an unworthy manner” (v. 27).  But the requirement to examine ourselves does not begin and end with our conduct around the Lord’s Supper.  Every command or exhortation includes an implicit imperative involving self-examination:  Do I love my neighbor as myself? . . .  Am I giving cheerfully? . . .  Does Christ have first place in everything?  A vast distance exists between an egocentric person and a believer who constantly examines his life in the light of God’s Word.  The former is self-focused and self-consumed; self is the center of his universe.  The latter is consumed with the Lord and measures his life by the Word of God in order to please the Lord.

            2.  A brethren-examined life.  No one likes a busybody; in fact, the Word warns against becoming such a person:  “Make sure that none of you suffers as . . . a troublesome meddler” (I Pet. 4:15).  On the other hand, the Word of God requires and genuine love dictates that believers watch out for the spiritual well-being of one another.  “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,” commands the writer of Hebrews (10:24).  That consideration requires some knowledge and assessment of the spiritual state of a brother or sister in Christ.  When Paul commands—“if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Gal. 6:1)—the unavoidable conclusion is that brethren must be examining one another in order to recognize (1) those caught in a trespass, (2) those who are spiritual, and (3) those who are spiritual who, nevertheless, are capable of falling to temptation at any moment.  Gentle and loving watchfulness is the fixed characteristic of mature believers.

            3.  A God-examined life.  Few verses are more familiar to the earnest believer than those recorded in a prayer of David.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psa. 139:23, 24).  The inescapable truth is that God does examine every life in complete detail—thought, word, and deed.  But whereas self-examination and brethren-examination will inevitably come short, His examinations are complete and totally accurate.  What is significant and helpful to our walk is the attitude David evinces.  We cannot avoid being examined by God, who already knows not only all that we have thought, said, or done but all that we will think, say, or do.  But David requests God to examine him so that he (David) might learn God’s assessment of him.  He does not want to rely solely on his own judgment or that of his fallible acquaintances; he wants to live according to God’s assessment.

            Like it or not, believers live in a fish bowl.  And though we may sometimes deceive ourselves and others, we never deceive God.  Rather than trying to hide who we are, rather than being hypocritical, we should embrace the examined life as the means God has provided to help us live victoriously for His glory and our blessing.  “A man must examine himself.”

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