There’s nothing like a frequent, honest self-check to help our Christian effort. No one can know us as well as we know ourselves, yet most of us have to admit that we have at times “overlooked” a fault or a stumble, hoping no one would notice. But the more we are honest and alert with our self-recognition, the more spiritual progress we can make.
Notice the personal appeal of the prophet Jeremiah:
Lamentations 3:40–41 40Let us [every one of us] search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the Lord; 41Let us [every one of us] lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven.
He says, Let US search out, i.e., “make careful, systematic search.” Then “examine,” i.e., “track down, search out, dig,” implying “diligence.” Discover what might be falling short in order to correct it!
Then “turn back to the Lord”—turn back where we have gone away.
Here is good advice from the book of Job:
Job 11:13–15 13“If you would prepare your heart, And stretch out your hands toward Him; 14If iniquity were in your hand, and you put it far away, And would not let wickedness dwell in your tents; 15Then surely you could lift up your face without spot; Yes, you could be steadfast, and not fear;
The proposition was: Look, and wherever you discover a wrong, put it away, FAR away.
This is where we need help. From our critics. Yes, they are often our best friends. They “see” where we may (willingly?) close our eyes. They are less “careful” in describing what we are and are quick to tell us. It’s a little like the statesman who told his portrait painter, “Paint me like I am, warts and all.” The statesman was Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England. The time was the 17th century, before the days of photography. The painter’s style, as was usual at the time, was intended to flatter the sitter. Cromwell, well known for being opposed to personal vanity, wanted none of it.
HELP from the Critics
When Paul set up a church in Corinth, he was whole-hearted and whole-souled among them. He had been in the way of Christ for years, and was well aware of the pitfalls. Personally he was totally devoted to Christ, teaching the truth, pointing out what was wrong, and guiding them into every right way.
But many were not inclined to listen. Why? Because they knew more than he did in just about everything! After all, Paul was a Jew, they were Greeks. Paul didn’t think like them. He had not attended their schools or sat under the masters at the university. In the Corinthians’ view, Paul was uneducated, unlearned, unlettered, unscholarly. You will remember that this is how the critics thought of Peter and John.
Acts 4:13 13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.
They realized that Peter and John had been with Jesus! Paul hadn’t even been there! Like Peter and John in front of the Scribes and Pharisees, Paul was a “nobody.” He wasn’t at the Corinthians’ level. And they didn’t mind letting him know.
After Paul left them to journey on westward, he had time to think about it. What could he do to help them with this attitude? So he started a letter to them. And aren’t we thankful he did—because with its many practical lessons it has come down all the way to us.
Paul began with his credentials:
1 Corinthians 1:1–2 1Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God,… 2To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
Paul AN APOSTLE – one specially CHOSEN. He emphasized his credentials to put power and authority into his message. If they rejected him, they were rejecting “the will of God” and the calling of Jesus Christ. Did they realize it?
A few chapters later he addressed it directly:
1 Corinthians 4:1–5 3…with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.
They were judging him for his deficiencies. Certainly he was self-checking all the time. But he was careful. He says, I don’t even know enough to judge myself. Verse 4:
4For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord.
That says it all:
He who judges me is the Lord.
I will be judged, but not now. Paul was humble. He realized he was under God’s scrutiny. And there would be a final, conclusive judgment. He says, verse 5:
5Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
Then we will all get a fair determination from God.
In the meantime we need to check up on ourselves.
I am reminded of a little story that comes from the days before cell phones and smart phones, when if you wanted to make a phone call you either had to find a pay phone or go into a place of business that had an installed line.
As the story goes, young Tony went into the neighborhood drugstore and asked the druggist of he could use the phone. The druggist handed the boy the phone, and Tony made the call.
“Do you need a stock boy?” he asked.
There was a slight pause.
“Hmmm. Is his work satisfactory?” The boy paused again.
“I see. Thank you very much.” Tony hung up the phone and handed it back to the druggist.
The puzzled druggist was looking at him. “I thought your mother told me you already had a job.”
“I do,” replied Tony promptly. “Those were the people I work for . I was just checking up on myself.”
Just checking up. Isn’t that what we need to do?
WE may be satisfied from our side, but how satisfied is God? Is our work ALL for Him, or is much of it for ourselves and our own selfish satisfaction?
How long since you checked up on “you”?
Have we stood aside and taken a long and steady look at ourselves, to see ourselves as others see us—and as God sees us? How long since we looked and asked dispassionately, “Is his work satisfactory? How is he really doing?”
This is why companies have a department called “quality control.” Without this control, how could they measure the product they are putting on the market? One worker is conscientious, another is careless. How can the company keep a standard?
This is the attitude that keeps any good worker producing better and still better work. He’s concerned about the quality of the work he does and likes to check up on it now and then. He doesn’t want to be represented by any piece of work that is less than the best.
Are we as concerned about our spiritual work as Tony was about his job?
Is our work always satisfactory to our heavenly employer? It might pay us to ask for an up-to-date rating from Him tonight.
This is what Paul was saying to the Corinthian brethren, who had been criticizing him.
By the time Paul wrote this part of his second letter to them, things had likely improved, but they still could learn more of this lesson. So brother Paul, in closing the letter, added a few thoughts that surely benefited some of the earnest life-seekers in the church.
This takes us to Paul’s final summing up of the situation at the end of his second epistle to them.
2 Corinthians 13:5 5Examine 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.
Disqualified? The only thing that will disqualify us is our own lack of diligence, self-honesty and determination. This is where accountability to one another can be a HUGE benefit. OTHERS can see what we might overlook. Or let go.
Look closely at his final words in 2 Corinthians 13.
2 Corinthians 13:5-6 5Examine 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. 6But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.
Hear the irony in Paul’s argument. Paul and his brethren might seem “lowly” to the Corinthians, illiterate, uneducated—disqualified!—while they were riding high. We may feel self-satisfied—we are what we are! But what is God’s view?
And so he says, put yourselves to the test. Are you even “in the faith”?
2 Corinthians 13:5-6 5Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ [His truth, His principles, His teachings, His character] is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 6But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified.
2 Corinthians 13:7 7Now I pray to God that you do no evil, not that we should appear approved, but that you should do what is honorable, though we may seem disqualified.
WHOEVER or WHATEVER we can learn from, it is WORTH it! We need our lessons NOW. While time is still extended. That is why
2 Peter 3:9 9The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Paul and his brethren would be true, and he was confident that in time they would see it.
God grant that WE may see our weaknesses and change NOW, BEFORE it is too late, before we stand in from of the final Judge.
After all, we don’t want to miss that final prize, ETERNAL LIFE!