For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Painful Art of Self-Examination

My friend Paul Hambrick recently pointed out this interesting video. As I watched the poor guy load up a big ol’ shot, then whiff and hit himself, I couldn’t help but think of my own experiences in preaching.

On more than one occasion I’ll labor away over a text during the week, loading up a big ol’ shot so to speak. And then on Sunday, I unload the “shot” and lo and behold, the next thing I know it’s hitting me square in the face. God’s Word has a way of doing that sometimes.

In fact, there are many other times when the “shot” is directed at me to begin with. I’ve often told our folks that what I share with them on Sunday may be nothing more than the truth God is dealing with me about, and I’m just including them in the conversation. So often, the text I’m studying convicts me more than anything I can say to others on Sunday.

The truth is, whether the “shot” is intended for me, or whether God just does to me what He did to this boxer, self-examination is a good thing. It may not always be pleasant; in fact it rarely is. But it is helpful and healthy.

I don’t need to bring up well known texts like the Matthew 7 admonition to check our own vision before correcting that of others; you all know that. But we often need a reminder to apply it, don’t we?

Paul encourages us in both of his Corinthian letters to “examine yourselves.” It’s a healthy exercise. And it should be the focus of our hearts every time we hear the Word of God.

As always, Charles Spurgeon put it quite eloquently when he said:

“Let not any one of you, as he goeth out of the house of God, say unto his neighbor, “How did you like the preacher? What did you think of the sermon this morning?” Is that the question you should ask as you retire from God’s house? Do you come here to judge God’s servants? .... But, O men! ye should ask a question more profitable unto yourselves than this. Ye should say, “Did not such-and-such a speech strike me? Did not that exactly consort with my condition? Was that not a rebuke that I deserve, a word of reproof or of exhortation? Let me take unto myself that which I have heard, and let me not judge the preacher, for he is God’s messenger to my soul: I came up here to be judged of God’s Word, and not to judge God’s Word myself.” (New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. 4, No. 218)

Good questions whether we’re reading the Word, hearing it, or teaching it. The first “target” should always be our own hearts. It may hurt from time to time; kind of like giving yourself an uppercut. But our overall spiritual health will benefit, as will our usefulness in the kingdom.

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