by Pastor Jonathan S. Ferriol
The end and the beginning of a new year is typically a time given for soul-searching and introspection. I don’t know about you, but it is for me. It is usually a time in my busy schedule that I engage myself in self-examination; checking my hits and misses, my highs and lows or my failings and successes of the passing year. As a trustee of God’s myriad of trusts (as a father, a husband, a son, a sibling, a pastor, an administrator, a mentor, and most importantly, a child of God!), I consider the discipline of self-examination as crucial and necessary.
Self-examination is an important component of our Christian faith. Apostle Paul urges us to always engage in this sobering act before we partake in the Lord’s table each week (1 Corinthians 11:28). The apostle Paul also urges us to constantly “examine” our faith as a means to determine its authenticity and purity (2 Corinthians 13:5). In other words, we can’t be delusional as Christians. As the brutally frank apostle to the Gentiles himself also says, “We cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth” (2 Corinthians 13:8).
Sin and its corrupting influences have a way of ruining our quest for sanctification. Hebrews 12:1 says that sin could “easily entangle” any believer. Sin does it by disguising itself like it did in Adam and Eve’s time. It is so effective in counterfeiting God’s will and work that a believer who does not observe this biblical instruction to have a “reality check,” could easily fall to any lurking sinful habit or carnal impulse.
The preciousness of God’s gifts and trusts is another reason why we must have this discipline of self-examination. Life is too precious to be wasted. Our spiritual gifts are too valuable to be squandered. 2 Corinthians 6:1 says that believers should not “treat God’s grace in vain.” But, more often than not, too many believers do so, by living in spiritual mediocrity and complacency, instead of being “fruitful branches” or “oaks of righteousness” for the Lord. This problem could be prevented and solved if an honest spiritual inventory is in place in a believer’s life.
Just like in any examination, there’s got to be a standard, a ruler by which everything must be measured and tested. Apostle James points to the authority of the word of God as the only standard by which we should measure our selves. The brother of Jesus writes, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror,” James 1:23. It is not my standard or your own. It is neither the world’s criteria nor your neighbor’s. The word of God is our standard ruler, hence, it is the “final arbiter for faith and morals.”
So how should we then engage in self-examination? Please consider these steps:
1. Be in solitude. Solitude is being alone but not lonely. Spend time alone in the sanctuary or in the privacy of a secluded place where you have the least interference.
2. Meditate. Read and ponder on biblical passages that reveal the character of God and His commands.
3. Pray. Confess your sins as the Holy Spirit reveals them to you. Seek to repent from them.
4. Worship. Thank God for the breakthroughs and blessings He has given you. Ask Him to keep you worthy of these trusts.
5. Discern. Keep a vivid remembrance of the practical steps that God wants you to take to correct an error, continue a virtue or to conquer a new height of spiritual breakthrough.
Testing our real selves in the light of God’s holy standards is a very daunting experience, to say the least. Personally, the boldest prayer for me is the one prayed by the psalmist in Psalm 139:23 saying, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” But daunting as it is, but it is cathartic too, which what I am always so thankful to God for!
I hope that you will usher in 2013 with a new sense of well-being which is transformed in the likeness of our Savior. Throw out the old, and bring in the new! God deserves it and you need it!