What does it mean to examine yourself (1 Corinthians 11:28)?
The word “examine” which in Greek can also be translated “to approve” so in effect, we are approving ourselves before God.
Paul is essentially asking people to do a heart check before communion, are our hearts in the right place before God?
Should we only do a quick examination before we break bread or should it be a regular part of our worship to God?
I think it can be the word ‘examine’ that we can back away from, it conjures up pictures of examinations at school, doctor’s examinations, all of which can lead to a feeling of dread.
This is such a shame because when we examine ourselves, honestly before God, it can produce the most wonderful awareness of His presence, His grace and His compassion leading to deeper trust and confidence in Him and a greater awareness of His love.
When I first became a Christian, I was taught to regularly examine myself, i.e. keep short accounts with God to be careful that nothing comes between me and Him, to encourage my growth and a deeper relationship with Jesus. When should we examine ourselves apart from breaking of bread?
This has to be personal to each of us, some make it a regular part of their quiet time with God, with others it tends to be hit and miss, some don’t seem to do it at all.
When I have discussed this with other Christians the response that is quite common is ‘Oh no it would depress me’. This can be a lie from Satan, he convinces people they will find only condemnation and God will present them with a list of their ‘wrongs’ and it can also be a faulty view of God, as a headmaster waiting with a stick to beat us. Both totally wrong! When we examine ourselves in the light of the Holy Spirit, it can be a joy that brings blessing and peace.
Personally, for me the best time and place is last thing at night when I get in bed, I know for some that would be the last place as they fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow. I ask the Holy Spirit to show me if there is any way I have offended God, in word, thought or deed and I trust Him to show me. I then gently review my day, I don’t dig, I let the Holy Spirit show me and believe it or not, sometimes there is nothing!
How do I know it’s the Holy Spirit?
He will show me when, how, and most importantly, how I can put it right.
If it’s myself or the enemy, I will have feelings of guilt and will not be able to put my finger on quite what I feel guilty about! But will be sure there must be something!!
I think for all of us, it is generally something we said, thought or did that may have hurt others or it can be an attitude that grieves God. With repentance, our peace is restored or we may find the Holy Spirit prompting us to apologise to whoever we hurt. I think on this point, we must be aware we are not responsible for how they receive our apology, as long as we give it in love and with a real desire to put things right.
It is in this attitude that we can go deeper with God and look at ‘why’ we behaved as we did, not always, but sometimes we find underlying attitudes that with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, God wants to change, perhaps it was a person we don’t really like, perhaps we have underlying anger issues, jealousy, resentment, pride, let’s be honest before God and admit, yes that’s how I feel would you please help me to change, we know a humble spirit God does not despise, in fact He loves it! (Psalm 51:17) He can work with us when we are honest and really desire to change.
If we allow the Holy Spirit to bring any of these and many more issues to the surface we can be certain, He will do so only when it is the right time for us and we are ready to face these issues. He will be gentle with us, encouraging, leading us forward all the time to a deeper and more open relationship with God that is ongoing in strength to strength.
To examine ourselves appropriately and allow the Lord to discipline and grow us, we should have the psalmist’s attitude when he prayed; “Forgive my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12).