What the Bible Says About Self-Examination | Farm and Rural … – Lancaster Farming
Background Text: Psalm 139:3, 23-24
Devotional Text: 1 Peter 3:10-11
Another year has passed and we welcome in the new year, always hoping that it will be a good one for us. Even if the past year was not so great in our lives, there is something about turning the calendar to a new year that renews our hope in something better.
As people in general, it is normal for us to look back at our lives, whether it is to look at the entire past year, or just the past day, week or month. We replay in our minds things that we have thought, said and acted upon to gain a perspective on the way our lives are going, and if there is something we could have done better, we resolve to do better in this new year.
Our Bibles have a lot to say about this process that goes on in our minds. From Old Testament to New Testament, we find helpful words to keep us on the right track for a good life.
We begin with Lamentations 3:40, which tells us, “Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord.”
In the above scripture, Jeremiah was speaking to the people of Jerusalem. At that time (circa 586 B.C.) many had been taken as captives to Babylon, while others were left behind. In chapter 3, Jeremiah was reminding the people that though they had turned away from God, God was always faithful and would forgive them if they came back to him in faith.
This reminder that God forgives is a lesson for us too. As believers in Christ, God has forgiven us and given to us a renewed life and an eternal life. By examining who we are from time to time, we ask God to show us if we have acted in a way befitting a believer in God.
If we ask him, God will give us a better understanding of who we are, and, not only that, will help us to improve ourselves and our lives.
In Psalm 139:23-24, we learn to ask God to help us in self-examination, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
This is not a difficult thing for God to do because he knows us through and through. See the words found in Psalm 139:3 — “You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything that I do.”
This is just one of many scriptures telling us that God truly knows who we are.
As we go to the New Testament, we read these uplifting words concerning our new life in Christ from the apostle Paul. Paul wrote to the new believers about what it meant to live the new life in Christ. His words speak to us too.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul reminded those who put their faith in Jesus that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old is gone, the new is here!”
From his letter to the believers in Rome found in Romans 12:2, Paul wrote, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Then, to the faithful in Ephesus, Paul reminded them in Ephesians 4:21-24, “Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God — truly righteous and holy.”
As we read these scriptures they should be showing us that not one person is perfect. Even as believers, we do not become perfect people. We still have our faults, like all people do.
However, as we follow the teachings of Christ we become closer to following the path laid out for us by God, and our lives become more content, peaceful and loving.
Reading the Bible, or listening to teachings based on scripture, should be only part of renewal. Here we read in James 1:22-24 some advice from the brother of Jesus, “Do not merely listen to the word (or read it), and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”
Are we doing the same thing when we read our Bibles? Do we just read the Word and then put our Bibles away, never acting on the teachings?
Here are three more scriptures from the New Testament that focus on various unhealthy attitudes we need to be aware of.
Matthew 7:5 — “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” In other words, do not be quick to criticize someone else.
Galatians 6:3-4 — “If a person thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let every person prove their own work, and then he can take pride in himself alone, without comparing himself to someone else.”
It isn’t healthy to compare ourselves to other people. We each have our own lives to live and we never truly know what is going on in someone else’s life. Take care of your own needs and do not envy what someone else has. That is the way to a healthy life.
1 Peter 3:10-11 — “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.”
Finally, as we look to the new year with hope for a better, more peaceful life with contentment, let’s remember these words from Proverbs 4:23 — “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
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The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh is the pastor of Schenevus United Methodist Church in Schenevus, New York.