John Owen, one of the greatest theologians and godliest men ever to grace our planet says this about the condition of humanity, “Many men live in the dark to themselves all their days; whatever else they know, they know not themselves.”
In recent years, the Lord has graciously opened my eyes to some of my blindspots. And He has taught me to look to Him in prayer continuously for such.
I don’t know how old David was when he prayed, “Examine me O Lord, and try me; Test my mind and my heart.” (Psa. 26:2). Or when he prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psa. 139:23,24). But I wish that I had started the practice of praying these kinds of prayers much earlier in life.
Why are blindspots so prevalent in the body of Christ, even among those of us who have known Him and served Him for so many years?
One conclusion we’ve come to is that in the American church culture (in general) personal examination is minimally practiced, and often is frowned upon. One of the reasons is because of a misinterpretation of some of Paul’s statements.
Paul’s writings have great influence over the body of Christ, so let’s see what Paul meant or purposed when he used the word “examine”. As we jump into this, it is important to note that while the New American Standard Concordance informs us that there are six occurrences of the word “examine” and two occurrences of the word “examines” in Paul’s letters, if you look closely you will discover they do not all come from the same Greek word.
Two of them are translated from the Greek word Anakrino. The others from the Greek word Dokimazo. Anakrino has the basic meaning of “to sit in judgment of another” and is in its essence a legal term.
Anakrino – is used in the following two passages:
I Corinthians 4:3,4, “But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not evenexamine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.”
I Corinthians 9:3 “My defense to those who examine me is this:”
What Paul means is that none of us should assess ourselves based on man’s opinions or judgments. Many of the believers in Corinth were so immature and fleshly that they prided themselves on who they followed, and spoke critically of other leaders in the church, whom they chose not to follow. Paul was aware of what people were saying about him, and he did not allow those critical comments to have any effect on his sense of identity. Rather as he said in vs. 4 we should listen very closely to the Lord’s judgments of our lives.
It is impossible to be involved with the King and His kingdom and not be engaged with people. And it is impossible to not be “anakrino’d” here and there by some of those people, especially if involved in leadership or service. Here then, is an opportunity to filter those voices by listening closely to the Holy Spirit as to our identity and fruitfulness.
Are we encouraged in the New Testament to examine ourselves? And if so, where and how? The answer lies in the passages wherein dokimazo is used for the word examine. Dokimazo means “to test, to approve, to prove” often with the expectation of approval. Its common usage was in dealing with metals. It has more the sense of God revealing something to His kids that as they agree with His assessment and repent of whatever sin is involved, will make them more free, happy and pleasing to the Father. It’s usage does not have the idea of examining to condemn, but rather to cleanse and free.
I Cor. 11:27-32“Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.”
Partaking of communion or the Lord’s supper is of far greater significance than most of us realize. He has commanded and is highly invested in this practice, and thus our posture in this practice is critical. He invites us to come as often as we will, but not glibly or casually. Rather we are to sit in His presence and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to whatever concerns Him about our life, attitudes, motives, etc. Sadly often when the Lord’s supper is administered, this kind of examination of our hearts by the Lord is not encouraged or facilitated or modeled by our leaders.
Here’s the next two occurrences of dokimazo translated examine:
II Corinthians 13:5 “ Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves. Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless you fail the test?”
Galatians 6:4 “But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.”
To Dokimazo ourselves, emphasizesthe need to look to the Holy Spirit for help in seeing what we need to see about ourselves and then repenting of whatever He reveals to us.
God who sees, hears and knows all, and who sent His Son to set us free from all sin, is regularly examining the state of our heart, and regularly seeking to reveal to us what He sees. Paul was very aware of this as can be seen in passages such as I Thessalonians 2:4, “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines (Dokimazo) our hearts.”
Hopefully now we see the call to self examination in response to the Lord’s illumination as righteous and biblical and necessary.
Your prayers are always appreciated that Anne and I will regularly give ourselves to listening to and responding to the Lord’s examination of our hearts.