Scripture Reading: Lamentations 3:40-5:22 / Hebrews 1:1-14 / Psalm 119:129-136
Physicians encourage men and women to conduct routine self-examinations for the presence of cancer. Forty percent of women are the first ones to detect their own breast cancer and most testicular cancer is detected by self-examination. Those statistics confirm the great importance of establishing regular self-exams. Early detection is also one of the greatest factors towards a higher cure rate.
Our spiritual lives are also susceptible to problems as well and require self-examination. Spiritual diseases manifest themselves through our sinful habits and disobedience. We have a tendency to be drawn away by our own lust and open our lives up to the destructiveness of sinful waywardness.
This first verse jumped out at me as I read it this morning, “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:40) Rebellious Israel faced the wrath of God. They never imagined their sin would bring so much destruction. God warned them repeatedly and mercifully called them to repentance.
Jeremiah now calls them to move past the grief of their lives and to honestly examine their ways. Israel excused their rebellion and rejected God’s ways. Jeremiah calls them to humbly and without excuse test their hearts, actions, motives and lives.
When we fail to examine ourselves, pride and self-delusion are quick to take up residency in our lives. Our hearts are easily hardened and perspectives tainted.
I wonder at times why we fail to see greed, envy, gossip, slander, anger, arrogance, and harshness in our lives. We struggle with critical spirits, conceit, jealousy, maliciousness, unforgiveness, bitterness, criticism and hypocrisy. We either ignore these or they are hidden from us but amazingly others see them clearly in us.
We must realize that prayer and repentance are not to be reserved for the “nowhere else to turn to” times in our lives but are to be a regular way of life for us. Repentance isn’t for our “misery” but for our “growth”. None of us have reached spiritual perfection and are in need of the Holy Spirit’s constant work. Christlikeness is a journey where God shapes and molds us into Christ’s image.
One of my favorite childhood songs was the hymn, “Cleanse Me”. I had a yearning for God to take my life and completely forgive me of everything that was wrong and sinful. I wanted a pure heart, a clean heart and a heart after God. The hymn lyrics were taken from David’s prayer, “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.” (Psalm 139:23,24) Self-examination is not an event…it is a lifestyle.