Given the nature of man, every person, hence every era, tends to be egocentric. Yet, it is difficult to imagine a more narcissistic age than the present. Everything is about “me.” Not only does our culture expect all matters concerning family, work, and recreation to be about “me,” but even the macro environment bears significance only to the degree that the individual is affected: no direct personal impact, then of no consequence. National affairs, even worldwide events, are viewed through the lens of immediate personal relevance. Nothing is important except as it makes me more or less comfortable. Natural disasters that devastate a nation or international wars may be noted with little interest or concern, but a “bad hair day” can ruin the attitude of some people. With such a self-centered perspective of the world, it seems a little ironic, then, that most people spend very little time in spiritual self-analysis. And so the Word of God reminds us that there is one self-focused (if you will) endeavor that all believers are required to perform, namely, that “each one must examine his own work” (Gal. 6:4).
The Method of Self-Examination. The fact that believers are to examine themselves does not mean that we have the liberty to create our own standard and use our own judgment. James warns us that some people who are simply hearers of the Word rather than doers are like “a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was” (1:23, 24). However, “one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (v. 25). Our examination, then, requires us to study the Word so that we may know and understand it—but then also do it. The questions on our exam are not, “Have I read the Bible?”; “Am I memorizing verses?”; “Do I understand the doctrine of sanctification?” There is basically one question: “Am I doing what the Word of God instructs me to do?” And we must answer that question in view of all the light we have received, all the truth to which we have been exposed, realizing that the proctor is the Holy Spirit and the “grader” is God.
The Reason for Self-Examination: For the Sake of Others. There are certainly many reasons to practice self-examination. Among them, the apostle Paul mentions two that benefit others. First, we cannot help others who are sinning unless we have examined ourselves and have forsaken our own sin. Paul says that “if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual [something determined only through holy self-examination], restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (v. 1). Second, we are commanded to “bear one another’s burdens” (v. 2), but we cannot obey God in this regard while we are encumbered with our own unconfessed sins. When we attempt to help in such a fashion, we succeed only in causing more burdens.
The Reason for Self-Examination: For the Sake of God’s Glory. As the mouthpiece of God, Paul commands believers to bear the burdens of others, not only for the sake of their needs, but in so doing we “fulfill the law of Christ” (v. 2). We cannot truly glorify God apart from obeying His Word. Failing to do God’s will surely brings chastening on us but, more importantly, it dishonors our Savior and Lord.
The Reason for Self-Examination: For Our Own Sake. Few things are sadder than the eternal loss suffered by believers who are neither who nor what God saved them to be. But, first, honest, scriptural self-examination delivers us from the harm caused by self-deceit. “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (v. 3). Second, genuine self-examination enables us believers to “boast in regard to . . . [ourselves] alone, and not in regard to another” (v. 4). That boasting, of course, will be honest recognition and sincere praise to the Lord for the work He has been pleased to do in and through us. God is examining us; are we examining ourselves?
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