Tuesday 31 July 2012


Certain conditions have to be fulfilled before self-examination is useful. Otherwise it is mere introspection.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
(Psalm 139:23-24).

Here the psalmist asks God to examine him to see whether there is anything which offends Him.

He asks God to not only scrutinise his outward conduct but his innermost thoughts. What are his motives and goals? What occupies the forefront of his thoughts and imagination? What is the focus of his affections?  

Such a prayer implies that he does not trust himself. He knows the corruption of his own heart – that it is often open to self-deception and presumptuousness.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

To use our intellect to search our hearts would be counterproductivejust as using a faulty thermometer to detect fever would yield unreliable results. 

Elsewhere in Psalm 19:12, the psalmist acknowledges his hidden faults and asks that God forgives him.

When we come into God’s presence, the Holy Spirit convicts us on the areas in our lives where we have sinned. Often this comes about when a particular verse or passage speaks to us directly.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16).

No discussion on self-examination will be complete without alluding to the role of conscience.

It is that God-given faculty which tells us whether our thoughts, feelings or actions are morally right or not. It has no executive powers; it does not cause a person to do the right thing or cease to do the wrong thing.

We should live by this rule: “If our hearts (conscience) do not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (1 John 3:21).

But conscience has to be continually sharpened by Scriptures so that its moral standards consistently remain high. A clear conscience is reliable only if the heart is feeding on truth. “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

If we continually suppress the voice of consciencewhen it tells us we heading the wrong wayseared conscience will result. It is no longer effective then as a moral plumbline.

To recapitulate, self-examination is helpful if we are humble and acknowledge that only God can show us where we have gone wrong. Being humble implies that we distrust ourselves and do not depend on our own intellect in the process of self-examination. Also, certain conditions have to be fulfilled for conscience to be reliable.

Finally, self-examination is helpful only if we are willing to repent and change our lifestyle once we know we have sinned:  “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God” (Psalm 51:17).

Depending on the circumstances, self-examination can be a help or hindrance in our spiritual transformation.

“Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1Timothy 4:16).

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living — Socrates.



Should believers banish (completely get rid of) sin consciousness in our lives?

Some say that believers only need to change their mind (ie. correct their past erroneous thinking) when they repent. Is this what the Bible teaches?

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