Category Archives: Self-Evaluation

Introspection: Don’t Go Down There Without the Gospel

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In the Bible we are instructed to examine ourselves to see whether we are truly believers (2 Corinthians 13:5) and we are also called to confess our sins to the Lord (1 John 1:9).  To obey both of these commands requires that we look within ourselves.  We have to know what the sin is before can confess it and we have to see evidence of faith to help us see if our faith is real.  Self-examination is an important practice for Christians as we seek to love and serve our King, but please allow me to give you a warning as you look inside yourself.

Self-examination can very easily move from a humble desire to walk in the light before God to a concentrated effort to find confidence and esteem in yourself apart from God.  If you’re not careful, you can find yourself engaging in something that seems to others as very contrite – the practice of someone who is taking holiness seriously – but is actually fueled by a self-righteous attempt to find evidence of your own worth so you can feel good about yourself.  If you find what you’re looking for (as rationalized and duplicitous as it may be), then you’ll be proud and self-reliant, but if you don’t find what you’re looking for, then you’ll be devastated and insecure.

Some counsel: don’t go spelunking inside your heart without first anchoring yourself to the gospel.  The gospel will remind you that you desperately needed to be rescued…that will keep you from pride when you see your “credentials”.  And the gospel will remind you that you stand before God in the righteousness of Christ…that will keep you from devastation when you see the wretchedness of your sin.

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And the Things of Self Will Grow Strangely Dim

Lately, I’ve been blessed in the remembrance of this old refrain:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

In addition to “the things of earth”, however, I might like to add “the things of self”: the things of self will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.  I add these words because of the devastating effects that can result from fixing your attention and concentration on yourself.  We become angry, depressed, anxious, and jealous because we spend so much time and energy thinking about how all of life connects back to what we want – our desires, dreams, and ambitions.  When our circumstances seem to be falling in line with those desires, dreams and ambitions, then we’re happy and calm, but when our circumstances don’t fall in line, then we very easily become upset and stressed.

It is true, we must look within ourselves if we’re going to be faithful to the Lord in this life (i.e. – identifying sinful motives, detecting the lies you believe in your heart, etc.), but so often the problem is that we remain looking within when we should be looking outside of ourselves to Christ.  As we’re looking within to evaluate our hearts, if we’re not careful, we can get stuck inside ourselves as we ruminate on missed opportunities, failures, and what we perceive will be a future of the same.  Before we know it, we’ve tanked hard and the after-effects of a downward spiral leave us gazing inward more than ever as self-pity begins to feel like home.

Does this sound familiar to you?  It does to me, which is why I find so much encouragement in the refrain above.  Turn your eyes upon Jesus reminds me of 2 Corinthians 3:18: And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  As it has been said, we become what we behold, so as we behold self, we can only hope to become increasingly more selfish and self-centered.  But in beholding Jesus we can hope to become increasingly more like him as the things of self grow strangely dim.

 

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How to Give Up Protecting Your Self-Righteousness

Yesterday we looked at the Christian’s fight against sin and the need we have to confess to God even the sinful desires in our hearts that seem to come out of nowhere.  The need for this comes from the reality that sinful desires actually don’t come out of nowhere but are in our hearts because we are sinful by nature.  In other words, our sinful desires do not come from Satan or some unknown outside source but from within us, whether we are conscious of them or not (see Matthew 15:19 and James 1:14).

Today I want to write about one of the reasons I think we may not like the idea that we are responsible for our sinful desires.  We have all had numerous experiences where in the middle of doing something seemingly virtuous, a sinful thought appears in our hearts and minds that is sick and corrupt.  It’s one of those thoughts that scares you because of the depth of its depravity and makes you feel dirty for having thought it.  Immediately, you shake your head (as if that’s going to do the trick) and say to yourself, “No!”.  You try to go back to what you were doing but the thought still threatens to unfold in your mind, and even after it’s gone the fact that it was in your mind still haunts you.  To confess that such thoughts come from within you obliterates any remaining dignity you thought you had, so you choose to write it off as uncategorized evil and only confess the sins you feel like you actively chose.  You know that if you confess that such thoughts come from you, then you are admitting you are capable of atrocities reserved only for the real scum of the earth.   We all want to protect our own self-righteousness (which is an illusion in the first place), so we hold back those desires from the light of the gospel.

Many of you are familiar with 1 John 1:7 which tells us we need to “walk in the light”, but do you remember the benefit John gives for doing this? – “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin”.  Similarly in verse 9 we are told, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  These verses, though often quoted to unbelievers who need to come to Christ for salvation, are actually written to believers to encourage us to walk before the Lord as an open book, believing that God, through Christ, continually cleanses us and removes many of the temporal consequences of sin that we experience as a daily reality in this life.  If we refuse to confess our sinful desires to God, we will miss out on the benefits of God’s conscience-cleansing, burden-lifting grace for those sins and should not expect to grow in great measure.

The gospel of Jesus Christ deals with sin fully and completely, so one of the best things we can do for God’s glory and our joy is to stop trying to protect our pride and spill out all known sin in confession to the Lord.  Stop hanging on to the lie that you yourself are good and embrace the reality that God is good  Then, remember that through the death of Jesus you receive the blessings of that goodness more and more as you agree with God about your sin… even the sin at the level of your desires.

 

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Recovering from a Missed Opportunity

We’ve been having problems with our minivan.  The main issue is proving to be quite enigmatic because it’s been in and out of the shop four times since we bought it ten weeks ago.  The whole thing is kind of maddening because the van is only a year old, but we’re asking the Lord to help us trust him.  Each time I take the van back up to the dealership, I deal with same service agent.  Yesterday, was my latest trip up there and this service agent said something to me that God must be honored for.  He said, “Thank you for not going off on me.”  In other words, “Thank you for not getting in my face, yelling at me, and demanding that things be done perfectly.”  He went on to talk a bit about the people who do treat him in this way and I explained to him that I understand he is not the one who designed the vehicle and put it together.

Last night as I was describing this interchange to my wife, she asked the question, “Did you say anything to him about the gospel?”  Immediately, my heart sank.  Not only had I not said a thing about the gospel, but it did not even enter my mind to bring up Christ to this man.  What went wrong?  What was my problem in that moment?  Why did I not recognize the opportunity and jump on it?  The door was wide open for me to tell him of the Savior who has made me different than all the others who had berated him, and I blew it!

In evaluating the situation and asking myself what was going on in my heart, I’ve come to the conclusion that I walked in that dealership yesterday with a “you better have fixed it this time” attitude.  I was preoccupied with ME, seeing myself as a victim of this car company’s neglect, and holding onto a sense of entitlement that kept me from setting my mind on Christ and thinking of the soul of this man who has been trying to help me.  I was blinded by the lie that I deserve to be served, when the truth is I deserve only hell.

How am I to respond to my sinful preoccupation?

  • First, I must confess it as sin and ask God for forgiveness, remembering that sin is not only the bad I do but the good I don’t do.
  • Second, I must praise the Lord at the remembrance of the cross of Christ by which that sin is forgiven and the righteousness of Christ by which God still loves me perfectly.
  • Third, I must pray that God would help me to forget myself and recognize the opportunities all around me to proclaim his excellencies.
  • Fourth, I must take advantage of the occasions when my mind is freed up to fill it with God’s word instead of thoughts that only serve to bolster my already bulging ego.

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What to Preach to Yourself on Your Birthday

Today I turn 31, and I gotta tell ya, 31 feels a lot like 30 but without the orderliness of being divisible by 10.  I will receive  phone calls, cards, texts, and posts on my Facebook wall today from caring people who God has given me the privilege of knowing.  I will receive gifts from some of these same people and a birthday dinner at the restaurant of my choice with my family tonight.  At the thought of all this I must admit I’m excited, but I want to make sure that this excitement comes from the right heart and points to the right end.  So, here’s a list of truths I’m going to preach to myself today to keep my eyes fixed on God:

  1. Today is not my day – I know this is contrary to popular belief, but the idea that my birthday is a day when I get to indulge myself, do what I want, and essentially abuse God’s grace because it marks the day I was born is a form of popularity I want my heart to fight against.  God made me and caused me to be born on this day 31 years ago, and he has given me every day and every breath since then by his grace.  Therefore, just like every other day, this is God’s day and I want to celebrate the love he has poured out on me.
  2. There is another birthday that is more important than this one – Although I cannot tell you the exact day that God converted me through faith in Jesus, I know that day is more important than the day of my physical birth. God’s creation of physical life is most certainly to be celebrated, but Scripture tells us that God’s creation of spiritual life is what causes the angels in heaven to rejoice before him (Luke 15:10).  This life is fleeting, but eternal life with Jesus is… well… Eternal!
  3. There is a gift that is better than all other gifts – I am humbled and blessed that God has put people in my life that will take the time and money to purchase a gift for me… or give me money to spend on books at Together for the Gospel.  But all of those gifts are shadows of the gift God has given me in sending Jesus to die in my place for my sins.  The gifts I receive today should point me to that gift and I should use them to worship Christ and serve him more joyfully.
  4. Today marks another year closer to eternity with my Savior – The older we get the more it seems that birthdays become days we wish would sneak past us so we don’t have to think about getting older, the reality of getting closer to the grave, and all the opportunities we’ve missed along the way.  But for the Christ-follower birthdays should be marked by more celebration and excitement because getting closer to death means getting closer to life without sin in the full presence of our King in a perfect world with brand new bodies.

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12 Things That Usually Accompany a Self-Righteous Spirit

On Sunday I was given the privilege of filling the pulpit while our senior pastor went camping with some of his boys.  Each time I get an opportunity to preach at Calvary Bible Church, I take the next passage in the Sermon on the Mount, and this past week had me in Matthew 7:1-6: the “judge not, lest ye be judged” passage.

While this text is often used as a death blow defense against someone’s moral judgment on our lives, it is obvious from the context that Jesus spoke these words as a weapon not to protect our self-righteousness, but rather to attack it.

One point of the sermon was meant to help us determine when we have a self-righteous spirit, so we can take that sin to the cross, remember that it’s forgiven and lean on God for the grace to repent.  To help us with this exposure, I listed twelve things that usually accompany a self-righteous spirit.  Last week Trevin Wax posted a list of 11 Questions to Discern a Judgmental Heart, so you’ll see a bit of overlap, but there’s enough that’s different to benefit from both.

  1. Seeking to judge the motives of others.
  2. Holding others to your own personal convictions in addition to the standard in the Bible.
  3. Judging people before asking questions and getting the details.
  4. Judging by appearance alone.
  5. Looking for evidences of failure in others before looking for evidences of grace.
  6. A tendency toward being hypercritical and nit-picky.
  7. Delight at finding fault in others.
  8. Disappointment when you don’t find fault in others.
  9. When it comes to others, making mountains out of mole hills (i.e. – exaggerating their issues).
  10. Sensitivity to the sins of others, but blindness to your own.
  11. A failure to receive correction with humility.
  12. A desire to expose the sin, but not to help address it.

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What Are Your Functional Saviors?

In light of yesterday’s post, Learning to Be Suspicious of Yourself… Not God, I thought I’d provide these fill-in-the-blank statements (taken from The Bookends of the Christian Life by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington) with the hope that God will use them to help you identify the things you look to as “saviors” in the place of Christ.  It may that you have received Jesus as your Savior for the forgiveness of sin, but that does not mean you always carry him and his saving-ness over into your day-to-day life. Things like security, respect, pleasure, comfort, possessions, and significance are what we frequently look to as refuges when life gets hard.  These things don’t have the capacity to save us from the influence and effects of sin in our lives; they will fail us.  By God’s grace we need to identify these “functional saviors”, de-throne them from our hearts, and replace them with Christ.  The Savior of our past and future is also the Savior of our present.

 

-I am preoccupied with __________.


-If only _________, then I would be happy.


-I get my sense of significance from ____________.


-I would protect and preserve __________ at any cost.


-I fear losing _________.


-The thing that gives me the greatest pleasure is _________.


-When I lose ______ I get angry, resentful, frustrated, anxious, or depressed.


-For me, life depends on ____________.


-The thing I value more than anything in the world is _________.


-When I daydream, my mind goes to ___________.


-The best thing I can think of is __________.


-The thing that makes me want to get out of bed in the morning is ________.

 
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