The final point of the message, “The Maturing Christian Takes Sin Seriously,” yesterday was that one of God’s ways for his people to “avoid” having to take the extreme measures of disciplining a sinning Christian was for true Christ-followers to examine their own lives on a regular, consistent basis. Paul talks about that very thing in 1 Corinthians 11: “So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died. But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way. Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-32 (NLT))
The unfortunate thing is that this kind of examination of our soul and our behavior has fallen from popularity. Sometimes for good reasons … It became a morbid kind of self-flagellation. Other times it is because “confession” became a part of the rote of the worship liturgy of the church and felt meaningless.
But without a systematic and intentional effort of examining our lives we can all too often find ourselves drifting far from God’s paths of righteousness. Right there in the principled prayer that Jesus taught his disciples we find “forgive us our debts / trespasses / sins” and “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Then in the book of Revelation Jesus speaks to seven churches, five of which have issues that Jesus tells them that they need to deal with.
How long has it been since you have examined yourself? … taken an extended period of time to read and meditate in God’s Word with the purpose of putting your life up to the examination of Scripture … listened for the Holy Spirit’s conviction in regards to your life and how you are reflecting the glory of God?
The season of Lent was developed by the church as an intentional time for the people of God to humble themselves before the Lord and examine their hearts and lives. When you read the Old Testament you find God prescribing times of confession and repentance for the people of Israel. He mandated a rhythm of life that included seasons of examination and turning to God.
There are a couple of good articles that you might want to read that point to this same issue: “Spirituality Without Ongoing Repentance is *NOT* Christian Spirituality.” CLICK HERE. Another is “The Mark of Christianity That is Disappearing from Our Worship” CLICK HERE.
One critical element to keep in mind that helps keep us from that morbid self-flagellation and improper guilt and shame is that true Holy Spirit inspired and filled CONVICTION will always draw us toward Christ for grace and cleansing. When conviction comes from the Holy Spirit we can’t get enough of God’s Word, God’s people and God’s gracious love and mercy. When the feelings are CONDEMNING and we feel guilty and shameful to the point that we don’t’ want to be in God’s Word and being at church is totally uncomfortable, then we can know that it is an emotion inspired by the Devil.
May this Lenten season be a time of careful personal and spiritual assessment where the Holy Spirit leads us to Christ and his mercy, grace and cleansing for sin.