The Spiritual Discipline Of Self-Examination
We live in a time when self-expression is rampant! Online communication has given every individual the opportunity to share their opinion. Blogs, forums, message boards, Twitter, Facebook, etc., etc., etc. Social media “opportunities” abound for those interested in self-expression.
But in the midst of all this communication, one thing seems to be woefully neglected by many (not all)—self-examination.
Is this a problem that only came into existence with the onset of the internet and social media? Not at all. The vehicle of our sharing may change, but we humans remain much the same.
Paul tells us in Romans 12:3: For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
How often do I really do this? As I come across the responsibilities, joys and conflicts of my life, am I examining my heart and mind? When I find myself offended, do I examine myself? When I desire change in others, do I examine myself? When I react with anger or sorrow or have no emotion whatsoever, do I struggle to discover the reasons behind my reactions?
This practice of self-examination is spiritual discipline. It is a practice that…takes practice. It takes time. It takes patience. It is a daunting prospect to look at oneself so closely. But it is an essential ingredient in the life of any person who seeks to follow Jesus. Why? Because following Jesus is about following…Jesus. And we must learn to discern when we are doing so and when we are instead following self. This takes self-examination…by faith.
It is difficult for us to be honest about our own character and motivations if we do not examine ourselves by faith. Our Heavenly Father alone truly knows us. He knows our darkest thought and our highest hope. In the act of self-examination, we must appeal to His knowledge of us while depending on the grace and victory provided by our advocate Christ Jesus. It is through the lens of Christ that we must learn to see ourselves and examine ourselves. Paul acknowledged this when he wrote to the Corinthians about his ministry in 1 Corinthians 2 when he said, “But we have the mind of Christ.”
The entirety of the gospels reveals to us the character of our savior. It is by faith and with this example that we must think of ourselves. As our Lord was dependent upon His father, we too must learn to be dependent on him (John 5:19). Do our concerns reflect the concerns of Christ as His concerns reflected the concerns of the Father? Does what brought him joy and what brought him sorrow bring the same to us? Do we hold as paramount those things that he held paramount? Do we hold as negligible those things he held so? Do we react as He did to mistreatment, disrespect, abuse and unrighteousness? Christ is savior (2 Timothy 1:10), Christ is advocate (1 John 2:1) and Christ is our example (1 Peter 2:21).
If indeed Christ is in us, then it is his will to, in us, live! It is his will to have his thoughts, feelings and actions manifested through us! Beloved, the most difficult times to practice the essential spiritual discipline of self-examination are also the most crucial. For our sake and the sake of those we are called to minister to (all those around us) it is in the hard times, the moments of anger, offense, disillusionment, disappointment, sorrow and despair that we must choose Christ.
This is not a practice of condemnation but of true freedom. True freedom that we are blessed to receive as we (as Paul says it in Ephesians 4:22) put off the old self and are renewed in the spirit of our minds. Christ has freed us. Christ is freeing us. As we continue to live in Christ He will then live through us, bringing freedom to those still in bondage.
I am reminded of the Peace Prayer of St Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
Beloved, may we pray this daily and in doing so, may we remember that Christ desires to sow these things inwardly as well as outwardly.
The prayer continues…
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
Blessings and Freedom in Christ!
In His love and gratefulness to and for you.
Pastor Brian Torres
(Mt 10:20; Eph 2:22, 3:17; Col 1:27; Rom 8:10; 2 Cor 4:6-7; Gal 2:20)February 1, 2019