THE NEED
FOR SELF-EXAMINATION
WRITTEN BY RON HUTCHISON

Now as they were eating, He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me." And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, "Lord, is it I?" He answered and said, "He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born." Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, "Rabbi, is it I?" He said to him, "You have said it." (Matthew 26:21-25).

This passage is a record of one of the many events that took place in the life of our Lord shortly before He was crucified for our sins. The announcement that Jesus made on this occasion brought great regret to the disciples. To think that Christ should announce that one of His own disciples would turn traitor and bargain with the enemies of Christ! This event stands out in one sense as the supreme tragedy of the ages. No one has ever done anything so treacherous as to betray the Son of God - the Savior of the world.

As a result of this traitorous act, the name Judas is one of the most dishonored names in the history of the world. It has come to be synonymous with treachery and betrayal. We shudder to think that by some act or deed we too might become guilty of betraying Jesus.

We might claim that we would never be found guilty of such an act as Judas committed. But each of us should be reminded of the divine warning given through the apostle Paul when he said, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12). The mistakes of others should cause us to be ever mindful and always examining ourselves lest we also become the betrayer.

It is interesting that when Jesus spoke of His betrayal, each disciple asked, "Lord, is it I?" Now that seems unusual to me.  Usually people will point an accusing finger at others and ask, "is it brother so and so? Is it sister so and so?" But that's not what happened in this case. Each must have felt his own weakness and realized the power of temptation, They did not accuse each other, but each considered himself. And, isn't that how it should be? Shouldn't we each be examining ourselves as we read this lesson, instead of looking at others to see who the lesson is intended for? It was Jesus who said, "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:1-5). Now we ought to understand that Jesus' teaching here does not prohibit helping our brother get the speck out of his eye, and thus does not forbid all judging. But before we can do that we must get the plank out of our own eye. Then we can see clearly to help our brother get the speck out of his eye. In other words, examine yourself first, get the sin out of your own life first, then you'll be able to help others overcome sin too.

OTHERS EXAMINE US

This lesson is about self-examination. Realizing this responsibility involves recognizing that even though we are to examine ourselves, there are others who examine us too. And that places responsibility upon us.

God examines everyone of us continually. "Examine me, O Yahweh, and prove me; Test my mind and my heart." (Psalm 26:2). The Bible teaches, "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:13). The Psalmist wrote, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in the realm of the dead, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me." (Psalm 139:7-10). There is no where we can go where we can hide from God. He is everywhere. He knows everything. He sees all. Thus He continually examines us. What does He find when that examination takes place? Does He find one faithfully seeking to follow Him, or one who is rebellious and sinful?

But God is not the only one who examines us. The world constantly examines Christians. They see our life. They know whether we set an example of loving Christianity or hateful rebellion. They may not know what true Christianity is, but most people know enough to know that a sinful life is not in harmony with the claim of being a Christian. They know what a hypocrite is and they know if we are hypocrites.

The fact that God examines us and that the world examines us should point out the need for self-examination. Paul wrote, "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." (2 Corinthians 13:5). To examine yourselves refers to self-examination. That examination is performed to see if we are in the faith. That simply means to see if we are living in harmony with God's revealed will in the New Testament. He says that Jesus Christ is in us unless we are disqualified.  We can be disqualified if we don't pass the test.  Paul wrote about the Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 11, and in verse 28 he said, "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup." Each one of us must make this self-examination to see if we are in the faith - To make sure we are living as Christ would have us to live as he teaches in His word.

NEED FOR SELF-EXAMINATION

The continual need for self-examination can be seen in the realization that each one of us (no matter who we are) are subject to temptation. "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted." (Galatians 6:1). Now we all ought to recognize our responsibility to those who are in sin. The spiritual, the faithful must try to restore them in the spirit of gentleness. But the other part of this verse is eye-opening too. We must consider ourselves, lest we also be tempted. The teaching is simply this: in helping to restore others we should never become so high-minded as to think it could never happen to us - that we could never give in to temptation. If we ever get to that point, we have surely already fallen. If we ever get the idea that we believe that we are above temptation and that Satan can never reach us we are on our way to the biggest fall we have ever had.

All of us need to keep this in mind. Sometimes we elevate preachers and come to believe they are above temptation. Some preachers even contribute to that myth -- they want people to think they are perfect. Then when the preacher is tempted and gives in, it hurts greatly. But preachers are just like anyone else. They are subject to the same temptations, mistakes and errors that everyone else is subject to. The same is true of overseers in the church. They are not perfect men. They will make mistakes. They will sin sometimes. This just points out the need for self-examination. Too many times we have a double standard when it comes to preachers and overseers. We think they are to live better lives than we are. But that's not true -- they may have different responsibilities in the church than we do, but everyone of us must be faithful -- must be pure -- must live worthy of our profession of being a Christian.

The Bible teaches, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23). The Bible also teaches, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:8). I must examine myself first before I condemn others. This does not mean that I must live a sinless,  perfect life before I can follow the commandments of Galatians 6:1 or before I can practice church discipline. But it does mean that I will do my best not to be a hypocrite while obeying those commands. I will not condemn in others what I will not condemn in myself.

Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 10:12 bears repeating, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." God teaches us to do right, but He doesn't force us to do right. In fact, people often do the very opposite of what we would expect. Who would have expected faithful Moses to strike the rock and thus not be able to enter into the promised land? Who would have expected David to commit adultery with Bathsheba and then end up murdering her husband? Peter could not imagine himself denying Christ. We have to be careful because when we say "I'll never do that" we will invariably end up doing it.

This is where self-examination comes in. If we examine ourselves in light of God's word, then we will be on guard for the attacks of Satan.

THE BLESSINGS OF SELF-EXAMINATION

There are great blessings that come from self-examination.

First, there is peace of mind. A person who can't be at peace with himself, can't be at peace with others. A person who can't be at peace spiritually harms himself both spiritually and physically. Doctors tell us that many illnesses people suffer from are the result of an unsettled mind. That's certainly not to say that all are and that everyone who is physically ill is so because of sin in their lives. But some physical ailments are brought on by a lack of peace with God - by sin in our lives. When people are pulled between conflicting motives. When desire pulls one way and conscience the other, there can be no true peace.

But this state of mind can be overcome when we carefully follow the teachings of Jesus. "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27). Obedience to Jesus is the only thing that can give us that peace of mind that we all desire. Following His will in our lives is what will do it. Self-examination will result in that peace of mind that we all desire and need.

WHAT DID PAUL MEAN?

What did Paul mean when he said, "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." (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul's enemies had demanded proof of his apostleship and he had furnished it. Now he admonishes them to examine themselves to make sure they were in the faith. To be in the faith is to be faithfully following the will of God. Paul's charge is for us too. We must examine ourselves and see if we are truly living the Christian life. Is there something lacking in my conduct that shades the light of my influence before men? Am I faithfully using my abilities and talents the Lord has given me in His service? Do I faithfully attend all the worship services and opportunities for Bible study? Too many shirk their responsibility by saying, "There's not much I can do." In many cases this is an excuse disguised as humility. And it really reveals the condition of the heart. And what the person is really saying many times is, "there's not much I want to do." Now it may be true that because of poor health or something of that nature we can't do what we used to do or what we would like to do. But let's not try to find some excuse for shirking our responsibility - let's be sure that we don't deceive ourselves into thinking we can't do something when we really can.

Read Matthew 25:14-30. The man who hid his one talent would have hidden a dozen if he had them. The men who had 2 and 5 talents would have used 1 if that is all they had. The real trouble with the person who hides his talent is slothfulness, for the Lord called the one talent man a wicked and slothful servant. This presents the real reason for lack of service. He was unfaithful and idle. He was robbing God. He was keeping others from work by refusing to put the money into the place where it could draw interest. The person today who does not use his talents simply hinders the cause of Christ. This is why self-examination is so important. We may think that we are doing alright but self-examination may prove that we are not doing all we can do. It is easy for us to talk about how little others are doing, but the main question is, "What am I doing?"

We must continually examine ourselves to see whether we are worshiping and serving God in the right way - according to His will. Am I taking advantage of the opportunities for service? Am I taking advantage of the opportunities to teach others? Am I taking advantage of opportunities to worship and study? Can we see the need for self-examination? Can we see the blessings of self-examination?

Now it is again time for self-examination. Examine yourself - Are you a Christian? Have you obeyed the gospel? Examine yourself - Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 16:16)? Are you willing to turn from your sin in repentance (Luke 13:3)? Will you confess Christ (Acts 8:37)? Will you be baptized for the remission of yours sins (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16)?

As a Christian have you been faithful? Have you gone back into the world of sin? Have you fulfilled your responsibilities and duties before Christ? Repent, confess sin, pray (Acts 8:22-24; 1 John 1:9).

Ron Hutchison


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