Look At Yourself!
A. One of the easiest thing to do as a Christian is to look at another and find some fault in them either in what they say or what they do. None of us are without faults, so it doesn't take much effort to find something wrong. But, it's a lot harder to hold up the mirror and look at ourselves. We seldom take out time to look at ourselves before we begin our assault on the perceived faults of others, and often it is because we don't want to see what we know is there.
B. But self-examination is a necessity for the disciple of Jesus Christ. In this passage contained within the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus speaks of the habit we have of sometimes looking harshly at the faults of others while ignoring our own sometimes greater faults. The warning is given to "First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Matt. 7:5) The greater admonition is a reminder that "with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." (v. 2) Simply put: The way we judge others will be the way we will be judged.
C. Let us spend a few minutes today and consider the need to Look At Yourself! Let us consider how we are to see ourselves in the light of the Scriptures, and not our own opinion. Let us consider the necessity to look at ourselves first before we look at others, and what that involves. Sometimes, the belief is that looking at ourselves means that we make sure we are not guilty of the same particular fault that another has before we point it out; that is wrong. What we will see through this study is that we looking at ourselves simply means that we ensure we are in good standing with the Lord in all aspects of our lives.
I. AM I IN THE FAITH? [2 Cor. 13:5]
A. My Faith May Not Be Faith.
1. Is It According to the Scriptures? Our faith may not really be the faith of the Bible if it does not equal the faith that is found within the Scriptures. And that examination must start with the question of whether or not we really are Christians at all. We have the responsibility to look into the word of God and ask ourselves: Have I done what is necessary to become a Christian?
a. I am not in the faith if I simply do what my parents did.
b. I am not in the faith if I simply do what "many people" believe or practice.
c. Is my faith according to traditions of men, or according to the Scriptures?
2. Exhibited in Our Lives. One does not know the real capability or usefulness of something until he puts it to work. If I wanted to know if my axe could do the work it was designed to do (cut down trees), I would not just sit down and look at it, study up on axes and woodcutting and the properties of the iron and steel of which it was made; I would grab it and head for the woods and put it to the test. That is what is demanded of the Christian; putting our faith to the test!
a. My faith is not real if I make excuses for not doing what I know must be done.
b. My faith is not real if I am unwilling to tell others about what I believe.
c. Is my faith in word, or in deed?
B. I Must Do The Examination. "Examine yourselves "
1. Outward Appearances Are Not A Good Measure. The Pharisees were notorious for appearing to be righteous (Matt. 23:28), but their faith and righteousness was false. It was insufficient [Matt. 5:20]. The same is true today: Only I can examine myself to see if I am in the faith.
2. I Must Make The Application. It would do little good for us to examine ourselves, only to do nothing about it. Paul's admonition was that these brethren look at themselves that they might know how they might better themselves, put away those things that must be put away, and ensure that they are truly in the faith.
II. IS MY HEART WITH GOD? [Matt. 15:8, 9]
A. Worship Is More Than Words.
1. True Worshippers Sought by God. (John 4:23, 24) True worshippers will worship God in spirit (from the inner man) and in truth (sincerity). The Pharisees came to God, saying the right things, but believing or meaning little of what they said or did. They did not seek to give God their best, to truly honor Him, or to put His will even above their own; they came to God on their own terms and acted as if that was acceptable.
a. Many today follow rituals that have been handed down by men for literally centuries. Worship is so rigid and emotionless that it is predetermined what will be said and done in the worship for every day of the year, year after year after year. (The liturgy.)
b. Still others follow traditional practices and adhere to them so strenuously that nothing different may be done in worship, even if it is within Scriptural authority. Worship is worship only if offered up in one, particular way, in their eyes, and everything else is suspect. On the other end of the spectrum, some want to do everything and call it worship, from rock and roll musical bits to puppets to dramatic shows that appeal to the entertainment value more than an effort to praise and honor God and His will.
2. Expression of the Heart. Their worship will be true because they truly love God and truly desire to show God how much they love Him. It will not be a matter of mouthing the right words and looking just right in the eyes of those who may see us; it will be solely based on our heart's desire to be pleasing to God in showing our sincere love for Him.
a. Having said this now, we should keep in mind what it means to truly love God. It does not mean we can come to God on our own terms and expect that He will accept anything we offer. That's a dangerous, slippery slope. Love for God means offering up worship in the way He has specified (where He has specified). We cannot forgo or ignore the commands and examples of New Testament worship He has given us and demand that He accept our worship simply because we think it is the way it should be done.
b. True love for God will motivate us to seek out the accepted means of worship as God has determined, and express our love for Him in those ways. Remember, Jesus said it is those who do His will who truly love Him.
B. Whose Will Reigns in My Heart?
1. Self: Heart Far From God. The Pharisees were condemned in this situation because they had held up their own will to the same level as if not above God's. They had determined within their own hearts that what they wanted to do was right and had set aside the will of God in certain matters. For that reason, Jesus said their hearts were far from Him; they were not walking with Him at all, but following the dictates of their own hearts.
2. Submission Demanded. The one factor that will determine whether or not our heart is with God is our willingness or unwillingness to submit to His will. We cannot claim to be followers of God is we're walking in our own ways. We cannot claim to be loving Him with all of our heart if our hearts love our own desires more than His revealed will. Am I willing to submit to the will of God in every part of my life? If so, then I can say my heart is with God, but not until then.
III. IS THERE SIN IN MY LIFE? [Matt. 7:5]
A. Look First At Self.
1. Not Always Evident. As students of God's word, we should have no difficulty identifying sin; it's seldom a problem that we do not know what sin is. But, knowing this, it is still a fact that we often fail to notice sin in our lives. Why? Is it because we didn't know that it was sin? No, it is sometimes a matter of overlooking our own faults while we are concntrating on others' sins. Sometimes we can easily see that others have fallen short, but are surprised when we hear others point out that we have done the same thing. (cf. Rom. 1 & 2, esp. 2:1) Sin is not always evident in our lives, but often because we simply have not looked into our own lives closely enough.
2. Honesty Demanded. When sin is discovered, what do we do? The honest in heart will understand that it has no place in his life if he seeks to please God. He will respond as David did, who, when confronted with his sin, simply said, "I have sinned against the Lord." (2 Sam. 12:13)
B. Willingness To Put It Away.
1. True Repentance. The honest heart will then desire to put sin away from them, no matter how difficult this may be, and the willing ness to put it away will be seen in the act of true repentance. If I look into my life and see that sin is present, I can either make excuses, look for loopholes, and try to defend my actions, or I can repent of the sin and make it right in the sight of God. Repentance is demanded, and what I do will determine whether or not I am willing to put sin away from me.
a. Repentance is more than saying "I'm sorry." Paul taught everyone in every place that they should "repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance." (Acts 26:20) They had to prove their repentance by what they did. Do we, as the psalmist, anguish over our sins? (Psa. 38:17, 18) Do we let sin reign in our lives, or do we put it away? b. Repentance sometimes means making difficult choices and doing difficult things. It may mean separating yourself from those you love. It may mean quitting a job you enjoyed previously. It may mean having to move. Whether or not we do what is necessary will be determined by whether or not we sincerely want to put that sin away from us.
2. No Secret Sins. The psalmist expressed it well when he said, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear." (Psa. 66:18) We must understand that sin can have no place in our lives if we seek to please the Lord. Instead, he said, "I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD." (Psa. 32:5) He understood well what the wise writer would later write: "He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy." (Prov. 28:13)
IV. AM I AWARE OF TEMPTATIONS? [Gal. 6:1 1 Cor. 10:12, 13]
A. When Others Stumble.
1. Self Considered. A danger sometimes when dealing with others' sins is that we ourselves fall into the same temptation. In dealing with others, we may forget that may very well be led into the same temptations and fall just as others have. To ignore the possibility of temptation is to place ourselves in the very situation that might lead us to sin. Here is where a thorough self-examination may produce great benefits, for it is only when we look at ourselves that we may be able to know how to answer.
2. Knowing All Are Susceptible. The proper attitude in dealing with those who have stumbled is that of gentleness, and with the understanding that all of us have temptations, though they may not be the same. None of us is above temptation, but all must deal with the weaknesses of the flesh. Even Jesus was "tempted in all points like as we are," (Heb. 4:15) but He answered the temptations with an answer every time, and He did not sin.
B. When Facing Personal Temptations.
1. Looking For Escape. Though we are all tempted, we are not without help or hope. God provides a "way of escape" for every temptation, if we would but take it. What we may know is that for every temptation, there is an answer from God that will allow us to bear it. Often, it is not that we do not have a way out, but that we are not looking for a way out. Self-examination is necessary to know that we are being tempted and to begin to find that way of escape before it is too late.
2. Understanding Personal Weaknesses. And as we examine ourselves in this matter, we must make an examination to determine what our own weaknesses are to know what tempts us. Everyone is different and everyone has different weaknesses. What is a difficulty to you may not be to me, and vice versa. We must examine ourselves to know what those weaknesses are so that we may be ready to find that way of escape when temptation arises.
Holding up a mirror for ourselves is not always a pleasant task. I imagine if I put a mirror right up front here so we all had to look at ourselves the whole time we were here, many of us would be singing with our noses in the books, and while I was speaking, many would be staring up into outer space for the endurance of the lesson. But, it is something we must do, as disciples, if we seek to be the best we can be. We must examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith; not in traditions and what is popular among men, but in the faith as God has so determined it. We must also examine ourselves to see if our hearts are with God and not set on doing our own will. We must examine ourselves to find sin and rid it from our lives, even examining ourselves to know ourselves and what temptations appeal to us that we may answer and escape when they come. How about you? Are you in the faith? If so, have you examined yourself to ensure sin is not in us? That our hearts are truly with God? That temptations do not lead us to the next step of sin? If you consider yourself, what will you find? Will you join us as we strive to live for Christ? Will you come?
By Steven Harper
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