It doesn't hurt to do a quick check in the mirror from time to time and make sure everything's OK (no broccoli in the teeth, please!). But whenever we prepare to worship God, and particularly when we prepare for the Lord’s Table, it's essential to look in a mirror. Not just a physical mirror out of concern for what others might think of our outward appearance. But a spiritual mirror out of a concern for what God will see at our inward appearance.
This is precisely what Paul has in mind in 1 Corinthians 11:28. "So a man should examine himself; in this way he should eat the bread and drink from the cup." This speaks of a critical examination, a careful inspection, or putting to the test. The Puritan Thomas Watson describes it this way:
It is the setting up a court of conscience and keeping a register there that by a strict scrutiny a man may see how matters stand between God and his soul. It is a spiritual inquisition, a heart-anatomy, whereby a man takes his heart in pieces, as a watch, and sees what is defective therein. It is a dialogue with one's self.
A couple weeks ago, in my sermon on 1 Corinthians 11:27-34, I gave three suggestions of how you might go about self-examination. Why not use one of these methods in preparation for Sunday, or before the next time you take the Lord's Supper?
1. A five-point inspection. Mark 12:30–31 says "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these." Do an inspection in each of these areas of your life:
- Heart (my inner life, choices, emotions, words)
- Soul (my spiritual disciplines, walk with God)
- Mind (my thought life, dreams, hopes, goals)
- Strength (my body, including stewardship of my time, talents, treasure)
- Neighbor (family, church, coworkers, friends, enemies)
- Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
- Ten Commandments (Exodus 20)
- A Description of the Godly (Psalm 15)
- Qualifications of a Church Leader (1 Timothy 3)
- Criteria for a Widow Indeed (1 Timothy 5:9-10)
- An Excellent Wife (Proverbs 31)
- Wisdom from Above (James 3:13-18)
- Characteristics of Love (1 Corinthians 13)
- The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10)
3. A personal list. Use a list from a man or woman of God who has walked with God in times past. For a fresh approach to self-examination, meditate on Jonathan Edwards' 70 Resolutions, or use these questions, found in George Whitfield's diary. He would ask them of himself at the close of each day.
- been fervent in private prayer?
- used set hours of prayer? (1 hour in morning, 1 hour at noon, and 1 hour in the evening)?
- used spontaneous outburst of prayer in supplication, intercession, praise and thanksgiving every hour?
- after or before every deliberate conversation or action, considered how it might lead to God’s glory?
- after enjoying any pleasure, immediately given thanks?
- planned my day so as to not waste time?
- been responsible and thoughtful in everything?
- been zealous in my work and active in doing what good I could?
- been meek, cheerful, gracious in everything I said or did?
- been proud, vain, impure, or jealous of others?
- thoughtful in eating and drinking? thankful? self-controlled
- taken time for giving thanks (according to Law’s rules)?
- been diligent in studies?
- thought or spoken unkindly to anyone?
- confessed all sins?
What method do you use for self-examination? Feel free to leave a note below.
Photo credit: Rairen