In some of my past articles I have exhorted people to examine themselves as to whether they are in the faith, just as Paul also did in 2 Corinthians 13:5. But since we all have a tendency to try to examine ourselves by our own standards, I would like to discuss the basis of just examination.
In Matthew 19:16, a young man came to Jesus saying “Good teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Jesus then responded by saying “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God…” (Matthew 19:17).
Jesus was not denying that He is good, nor was He denying that He is God…He was simply correcting this young man's understanding of what good is. He was exposing the young man’s hypocrisy. And none of us can say that we are any better because, according to Jeremiah 17:9, our hearts are just as deceitful as this young man's heart was. We were all born with this same nature and we are therefore deceiving ourselves everyday. This is why the Bible indicates that we need a new heart and a new spirit: “Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31).
It is therefore clear that God does not want us to try to improve our own hearts, because it is simply not possible for us to do so. We need to do away with our deceitful heart. What we need is the heart of God which alone is righteous. If our focus is on self-improvement, then we can be sure that we will fail. But if our focus is turned from ourselves to God, this is where just examination begins! Perhaps the following verses will help explain what I am getting at…
Through the following verse, we find that Job repented when he got an accurate view of God: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes”. (Job 42:5-6).
When Isaiah got an accurate view of God he said “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).
The point is that we can not truly get the right view of our utter unworthiness until God has opened our eyes to the right view of Himself. It is His word that can reveal the true intents of our deceitful hearts (See Hebrews 4:12). This is why Jeremiah 17:10 declares that it is God alone who searches the heart and tests the mind, and this is why even the apostle Paul did not yet judge himself while he was on this earth: “For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord” (1 Corinthians 4:4).
My main point is that it is only God who can rightly judge the condition of the heart. Our hearts are so deceitful that we ourselves cannot even know them, only God can! So if we truly do examine ourselves on a just basis, then it is really God who has examined us. Consider Paul’s humbling words in this next verse: “Of Him [that is, God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption – that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.’” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)
We may recognize that pride is wrong, and yet we still struggle with it…but once we truly understand that it is God alone who examines us; we then understand that we simply have nothing to be proud about. It is no longer such a struggle once we have come to this state. We then see how foolish it is to be proud of how “humble” we are. It is then that we no longer trust in our ability to be “humble”, but we then trust in God alone to truly humble us! So we have a choice: we can either try to be “humble”, or we can let God truly humble us.
I urge you to fully surrender to God now if you know that you haven’t. It should be clear by now that I am not talking about trusting in your ability to surrender, nor am I talking about trusting in your ability to have faith…Jesus said “have faith in God” (Mark 11:12). So true biblical faith is not in our ability to “surrender”, nor is it in our ability to have “faith”, nor is it in the power of our words…but true biblical faith is only in God alone! It is turning away from all our ability to His, and trusting Him to do it.
As I have shown, we can only get an accurate view of our unworthiness by first getting an accurate view of God. This is why the self-love and self-esteem teachings have been such a concern to me. They teach that we need to love ourselves before we can love God or our neighbor. But that makes no sense if we must first esteem God in order for Him to give us an accurate view of ourselves.
The focus must be turned completely from ourselves to God if we truly want Him to guide us. Some self-esteem promoters may use Scriptures, and they may say that positive “self-esteem” is “recognizing who we are in Christ”…but if they want to face the facts honestly they will see that they are focusing more on themselves than Christ, and that really concerns me.
If we are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind as Matthew 22:37 declares, then this leaves no room for other competitors of our hearts affection. Jesus also indicated that we need to love our neighbor as we already love ourselves, and these two commands go together (See Matthew 22:37-40). So true love for our neighbor comes from loving God, not ourselves. Once we truly do love Him with all our heart, soul and mind, we will then understand that it is He alone who justly examines us.
Motivation to Surrender
WHAT IS SALVATION?