“Self-examination is asking oneself the right questions and following them through until one arrives at the right answers.”
We are biassed in our own favour, so we must call in the help of heaven by prayer and ask God “Examine me, O Lord, and test me; purify the motives of my conscience and my heart” Ps 26:2. We may deceive ourselves, but God will not deceive us and we should pray to Him not to allow us to deceive ourselves.
This bias or prejudicial attitude applies to the whole of life because “the heart is deceitful above all all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jer 17:9. In effect, this teaches that we are biassed in our own favour, which is why we need to call in the help of heaven in self-examination. We need to pray for the help of the Holy Spirit to open our understanding to Scripture and to examine ourselves in the light of Scripture. “For Thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness” Ps 18:28. “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly” Pro 20:27.
- It is possible to begin with the wrong question.
- It is possible to have the right question but to fail to follow it through to the end.
- It is possible to have the right question and to be side-tracked by the wrong answer at any stage of the process.
“Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith; prove yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are unqualified to judge?” 2Cor 13:5. This is an important matter to examine – but it is not the only one. Further, it is commonly quoted as an exhortation to make our “calling and election sure” 2Pe 1:10, whereas it is a challenge to detractors to examine themselves as to their own Christian behaviour.
“Lord, is it I?” Mat 26:22. The Lord Jesus taught His disciples to examine themselves, and sensibly they involved Him in their self-examination. We need to pray for help in self-examination. Thus Paul reminds us to examine ourselves prior to and during the Lord’s Supper: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” 1Cor 11:28. The Greek word houto translated “so” means “in this manner”: we are to partake of the Lord’s Supper in a self-examining manner. This implies that the Lord’s people should be well-schooled in self-examination. There are many things to examine in our lives, and many things to change.
22 Jan 2011: Jonathan Edwards on self-examination.
2 Dec 2019: the utility of self-examination in the criminal situation.
9 Dec 2022: the famous Augustine of Hippo examined himself with a series of questions and answers in his Soliloquies, available as a PDF here.
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