“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5).
The American church is in desperate need of revival. As we approach the November 2020 presidential election, do we meet the conditions outlined in 2 Chronicles 7:14? Notice, I wrote, “the American church.” Revival is not for left-wing protesters, abortion doctors, and progressive candidates. Revival is for the church.
The problem I am addressing is the sad state of the church. Recent surveys are showing that professing Christians live like everyone else. Evidence of Christian spirituality, in many cases, is nonexistent. The church is marked by compromise with evil, cowardice, and an attitude that basically says, “Let’s wait around and see what happens.” Bad idea. Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor, wrote: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Why are so many Christians refusing to take sides in moral and political issues? Why is it that only one in four Christians even vote? Deep-seated problems of the heart. How can we find out whether or not we are spiritually sick?
I want to suggest that we all need to do some serious self-examination. I am going to use an outline that A. W. Tozer called “Rules For Self-Discovery,” with some modification. The commentary is mine. There are seven. I am going to call them “Rules For Self-Examination.”
1. What Do I Want the Most?
Our cravings and desires tell us much about our spiritual condition. They are reflective of our natures. Birds want to fly, just as fish want to swim. Animals are governed by their physical needs. Look at a pasture and all the cattle have their heads down. They are not praying; they are eating.
Human beings have physical needs since we have bodies. We get tired. We get hungry. But certainly Christians are not just bodies. The Apostle Paul wrote about sanctification: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23).
We can all agree that there is a physical part to us, as well as a spiritual, immaterial part to us. As I’ve grown in the faith, I have become more aware of how the invisible affects the visible. We are physical beings created in the image of God.
If I had a portrait taken of me the day before I was saved, and one taken the day after, there would be no significant changes. My dog did not bark at me the day before I was saved, neither did he think I was a stranger the day after I was saved. But inwardly, I was very different.
Sometimes the spiritual dimension of our being is so powerful that I would have to conclude that we are not physical beings in search of a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings in search of a physical experience. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
What do real Christians want the most? To enjoy victory over sin and temptation; to pray for our loved ones and relatives to be saved before it is too late; to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit; to see and enjoy reconciliation with a spouse, a child, a co-worker. Every Christian wants to see people saved and profess their faith through the waters of baptism. We all have to ask, “Are these the things that I want?”
2. What Do I Think About the Most?
Philippians 4:8 makes it very plain: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
We think with our minds, but we also think with our hearts and our feelings. “For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Examine your thinking, and especially what you think about the most. You will know a lot about yourself.
3. How Do I Use My Money?
When I was a young assistant pastor, my mentor and lead pastor said, “If your pocketbook isn’t converted, neither is your heart.” Christians spend their money differently than non-Christians do. Christians support the Lord’s work. Money is not a “lord” to serve, but a means by which we serve the Lord.
Look at your garage, your home … what have you been spending your money on?
No one should conclude that I am against vacations and various forms of recreation. This is not an appeal to leading an austere life of sleeping in a cave and only eating a bowl of gruel or watery porridge at mealtime. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound” (Phil. 4:11-12). Paul is not saying that we must never want change or improvement, but simply that he is not disturbed or disquieted with whatever his condition is.
4. What Do I Do With My Leisure Time?
When I was touring in Germany several years ago, our guide pointed out that under communism, farmers worked from 9 to 5. If a cow was calving at 11 p.m., it didn’t matter to the farmer. The government owned the farm. Under a private ownership arrangement, however, there is no one who was responsible for the calving cow except the farmer. “Leisure time” is a rare commodity for some professions.
However, most employers allow employees vacation time. People take their vacation and are involved in a variety of pursuits. Some stay home and work through a “honey-do list”—“honey here’s a list of things I would like you to do on your vacation.” Others are quite free in what they do and where they go. Freedom can be used responsibly or irresponsibly. We all have a limited amount of time to serve God. The Bible says, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16).
Family time is a good way to use leisure time. Sometimes our schedules are so busy and cluttered that the family suffers, though we would wish that would not happen. Time for family Bible studies, looking at Christian movies together, attending special services or Christian concerts, are all valid. Leisure time is rare for some, but necessary for all. Use it wisely.
5. What Kind Of Company Do I Enjoy?
The circle of your friends reveals a lot about you. We spend time with people that we are comfortable with because they are like us. We enjoy their acceptance and are glad to be a part of their group. So, who are you comfortable with? Can you speak to God about your friends or do you wish that God didn’t know about your friends?
Someone may ask, “Pastor Larry, are you saying that there are some people we should be unfriendly to? Isn’t that being stuck up and elitist?” We should never have a holier-than-thou attitude. But we have to make a distinction between an acquaintance and a friend. We all have many acquaintances. They are people we work with and go to school with. But friendship goes deeper. A true friend is someone who can encourage us when we are down, and correct us when we stray. A true friend is a person whose values mirror those values taught in the Scriptures. Friends should be chosen wisely because, as Paul reminded the Corinthians, the wrong company can corrupt the best of character (see 1 Cor. 15:33).
6. Who and What Do I Admire?
As the moral standards of our culture become further removed from biblical standards, I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon: People admire those who exhibit the worst sort of behavior. People who despise authority, mock their parents, and live outside the circle of decency and propriety are the new heroes. There is something about the way they flaunt the rules and have no regard for respecting others. They are the new moral models for an immoral culture.
Christian character can be seen in those who admire Jesus and admire those who most model His example. People who are slow to judge and condemn, who think before they answer, who show patience and kindness are regarded as wimps. Meekness is seen as weakness, but meekness is really strength under control. What kind of people are you drawn to? Whom do you admire? Answer these questions and you will experience self-discovery.
7. What Do I Laugh At?
Before I was saved I laughed at jokes—and told some myself—that I would never tell now. In fact, there were two things in my life that I noticed after I was saved: a change in my language, especially when I experience anger, and the jokes I used to laugh at. They don’t produce laughter any longer—only grief.
America is at a crossroads. We need to pray fervently. We need God’s help. Without it we will perish as a nation of free men. The whole world will suffer. The Bible is clear. Good character has a lot to do with the prayers God answers. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Ps. 66:18).