How to Examine Yourself
The apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians 13:5 - "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified." Self-examination is an important and necessary task that all Christians should engage in. It is possible for a Christian to become disqualified before God if he ceases walking in the light (cf. I John 1:5-7). We must beware of the deceitfulness of our own hearts! Humans are typically quite skilled at rationalizing away sinful behavior, if their desire is strong enough. Children of God can fall into the same trap. The need for self-examination should therefore be obvious.

But, how should we test ourselves? How should we examine ourselves spiritually? Here are seven thoughts to consider:

As Paul instructed Christians to "pray without ceasing" (I Thess. 5:17), so the wise will also examine themselves continually. Although we should think before speaking or acting, it is always proper to reflect upon how to improve and how to correct any shortcomings or sins after the words are spoken or the action done. To fail to examine one's attitude and behavior regularly in the light of God's word is a serious error.

One will find it difficult to continually examine himself if he lacks the willingness or desire to truly know his heart. Do you have sin buried deep in your heart, iniquities that perhaps don't even bother you anymore because they have been a part of your life for so long? A willingness to measure yourself fairly against the word of God is vital.

If one is willing to examine himself continually, he must do so carefully if the exercise is to be profitable. Question every aspect of your life, no matter how long certain behaviors or attitudes have been present. As a writer who carefully proofreads his work must consider each word, so must Christians carefully investigate every aspect of their lives. A careful testing of self will help prevent labeling things as harmless that are in fact unholy.

If our self-examination alerts us that changes need to be made, we must pursue whatever is necessary without fear or else the examination was in vain. Cowards avoid making changes in their lives that God's word prescribes, but "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (II Tim. 1:7).

In I Samuel 15, God instructed Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. Tragically, Saul only partially obeyed and spared their king, Agag, and the best of the livestock. The prophet Samuel came and obeyed the Lord by mercilessly hacking the wicked Agag to pieces! Friends, when you examine yourself you may find an Agag hiding in your heart. Do not spare him! Confess your faults before the Lord as you purge wickedness (cf. Psa. 51:3). If you allow even a small bit of immorality to reside in your heart and life, you will bring yourself to ruin as Saul did. Acknowledge your sins and then annihilate them from your life to the best of your ability. Show no mercy to the devil as he labors to undermine you via the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

As you examine yourself, you must be honest. Be severe on the sin you find in your life as you approve what is good and seek to strengthen it. Do not make excuses for yourself but fairly distinguish between sins and weaknesses in your life, using the Scriptures as your standard. Honesty with oneself is required if you genuinely hope to improve yourself as a Christian.

As we evaluate ourselves, we would be wise to petition the Lord in prayer - "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psa. 139:23,24).

May all disciples of the Lord test and discipline themselves continually, willingly, carefully, fearlessly, mercilessly, honestly, and prayerfully to please God and to avoid spiritual disqualification.