“Opportunities to Examine Ourselves”
Pastor Mike Wing
Grace Community Bible Church
Many of us are familiar with the little ditty that says, “To dwell above with saints we love, O’ that will be glory. But to live below with saints we know, that is another story.” This is so humorous to us because it reminds us of how difficult other people can be. What I find truly humorous is the fact that most of us who read this, while readily recognizing the difficulties caused by others, will not stop to seriously consider – let alone acknowledge – how our attitudes and behavior can, and do, contribute to the frustration of other believers. We are far more adept at seeing the weaknesses in the lives of others and exposing those weaknesses than we are at seriously examining our own faults. “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,.. ” (Proverbs 16:2a)
Critiquing other Christian’s service or complaining about their shortcomings is soothing in many ways. First of all, it takes the pressure off of ourselves. By focusing on all of the problems and shortcomings of others, we do not allow ourselves the opportunity to be confronted with our own weaknesses. Along that line, we tend to thrive on failure in the respect that it is much easier to recognize it -especially in others – than deal with it in ourselves. D.A. Carson has noted in his recent book, “A Call to Spiritual Reformation”, “There are some people for whom the only interesting news is bad news. If they hear of Christians who are in trouble, a pastor who has fallen into sexual sin, a theological institution with internal difficulty, an evangelistic endeavor that is floundering, then they are full of concern. Their piety demands that they denounce these evil times; their rectitude ensures that they will intone their solemn analysis of the sins that have brought forth such a tragedy. But if there is really good news, if they hear of Christians who are joyful, growing in holiness and effective witness, if they learn of a pastor who is very fruitful or an institution that is proving remarkably strategic, then their interest wanes. They find nothing to denounce, no foil for their own rectitude.” Secondly, by being overly concerned with the failures of others we are given a false sense of assurance in our Christian walk because, in measuring ourselves against the real or even perceived failures of others, we will always come out superior – in our own estimation.
These truths were made more personal to me recently after attending a Men’s Retreat. I found myself being very critical of the speaker. For reasons not given here, I believe my concerns were scripturally justified. But, not wanting to simply critique this man, I desired to have the Lord use this as an opportunity for me to grow in areas that I had perhaps not anticipated. As a result, the Lord brought to mind some questions about myself that I needed to address.
1. Did I pray for the speaker? Did I pray for him as he prepared for the retreat? Did I pray for him during the retreat when I became concerned about the direction of his presentation? Did I pray for him after the retreat when I voiced my concerns with others? Did I pray that God would prepare my heart prior to attending the retreat?
3. Is my “humor” sometimes offensive to others?
4. Do I draw attention to God in all that I say and do, or do I communicate in such a way that I draw attention to me talking about God?
5. In my disappointment with the speaker/message, did I seize an opportunity to encourage others or did I simply pass on to them my disappointment?
6. How many times (opportunities missed) have I gathered together with other believers and never discussed the glorious truths of God’s word or encouraged a time of prayer?
This is not an exhaustive list of the questions I have been asking myself in the days following the retreat. Rather it is a reminder that we can and should use every opportunity given to us by God to examine ourselves with the same intensity with which we can so readily examine others. As I began to seriously consider these questions, my mind was drawn into a far more beneficial time of looking into God’s word, prayer, and repentance. I recognized areas in which I had failed in my Christian responsibilities and have sought to correct them with the Lord’s help. Though these lessons learned through times of self-examination do not nullify the genuine concerns we may have regarding a particular circumstance, they do give a more balanced perspective.
In Matthew 7:1-6 we are given some principles concerning a biblical mindset needed to confront doctrinal error and/or ungodly behavior that threatens the purity and integrity of the body of Christ.. Many people know verse 1 which states; ” Do not judge so that you will not be judged .” This verse, taken out of context has become the justification for never refuting error or confronting sin. The problem is that a few verses later we are told to; “Beware of the false prophets , who come to you in sheep’s clothing , but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” This cannot be done without using discernment and making a biblical judgment. The solution to this supposed dilemma is found, as usual, in the context of the passage. ” Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye , but do not notice the log that is in your own eye ? ” Or how can you say to your brother , ‘ Let me take the speck out of your eye ,’ and behold , the log is in your own eye ? “You hypocrite , first take the log out of your own eye , and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye . ” (Matthew 7:3-5) Our Lord is not telling us to avoid making any judgments concerning the doctrine or behavior of others. Rather, He is making it clear that before such biblical judgments can be made, we must first make sure that we have dealt with the sin in our lives. This is done initially through faith in Jesus Christ and then, on an ongoing basis in the believers life through prayer, study and repentance. Without this foundation, we are in no position to examine someone else.
Self-examination is needed for several reasons; 1. It prepares us to recognize and biblically deal with sin by forcing us to our knees in prayer and drawing us to the word of God. In His presence we are reminded that God and God alone is the standard of what is right and wrong. 2. Self-examination humbles us and thus tempers our response to problems with gentleness and patience by reminding us of our own weaknesses. 3. Self-examination helps foster a God-honoring unity within the church by not allowing an overly critical spirit to thrive unchecked. “Brethren, even 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. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load. ” (Galatians 6:1-5)
C.H. Spurgeon has said, “Other men’s imperfections show us our imperfections, for one sheep is much like another; and if there’s an apple in my neighbors eye, there is no doubt one in mine. We ought to use our neighbors as looking glasses to see our own faults in, and mend in ourselves what we see in them. What we wish to see we shall see, or think we see. Faults are always thick where love is thin.”
May God gives us the grace needed to humbly examine ourselves, the wisdom to recognize unbiblical teaching and practice wherever it may be found, the determination to contend for the faith, and the realization of our absolute dependence upon Him for all of this. In these days of wickedness and spiritual deception, we need to recognize error and confront sin, but we must first be in a position spiritually where this can take place.
“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.” (Psalm 139:23-24″)
“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. ” (Romans 12:3)
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to give me a call.
Pastor Mike Wing
Grace Community Bible Church