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magnify.wmf (6262 bytes)   Examine Yourself

To find out what?

by David A. DePra

Examine yourself, whether ye be in the faith.
     God tells us to "examine ourselves." But what exactly does He
mean by that? And how do we "examine ourselves?"
     These questions are important, because for many Christians,
self-examination is the PROBLEM, not the solution. We DO
examine ourselves, but we do it to the point where we become
obsessed with our spiritual condition. Some of us even become
depressed and discouraged from this self-scrutiny.
     Actually, unless you are completely deceived by your own
sense of self-righteousness, you won't come up with much that
is good if you examine yourself. What can we point to that is
good, or of any merit? Our obedience? Our works? Nope. God
already tells us that these provide us with NO merit. Ok. So
what are we left with? Our sins, failures, and personality flaws.
And being left with those doesn't provide much comfort.
     Do you see where self-examination really leads us -- if we
do it with an open and honest heart? It leads us to a dead-end.
It leads us to a place where we see we don't have what we need
and have no where to get it. It makes us to realize that we are
nothing; spiritually bankrupt. In other words, it leads us to
exactly the place God wants us!
     Self-examination in the light of God's holiness can bring us
to no conclusion but that we are nothing save the grace of God.
It can leave us with no possibility of escape, except for
resurrection in Christ. And that IS where God wants us to be. He
wants us to realize our utter helplessness and reliance upon Him.
Only then will we stop trying to be something we are not, and
begin believing and resting in Jesus Christ.
     Actually, this becomes clear once we read the entire passage
which tells us to "examine ourselves." It says, "Examine
yourselves, to see if you are holding to --- WHAT? Good
works? No. Wonderful spiritual character? Going to church?
No. Serving? No. Bible study? No. All of those are good
things. But notice WHY God tells us to "examine ourselves." He
says, "Examine yourselves, to see if you are holding to the
Let's read the entire passage:
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith. Prove
your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how
that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
(II Cor. 13:5)
     Do we realize what we are being told here? God is telling us
to examine ourselves, NOT to see whether WE are righteous, but
to see whether our faith is in He who is righteous. We are NOT
to examine our works, or our spiritual condition, to see if WE
measure up. No. No. No. We are to examine ourselves to see
whether we are in the faith -- that is -- to see whether we are
putting all of that aside and placing our faith and rest in Jesus
     The Truth here is fundamental Christianity. But it has been
smothered with religiousity for two-thousand years. God is
telling us that our spiritual condition depends NOT upon what we
do, nor upon what we are. It depends upon foremost upon who
we trust. The self-examination of which Paul speaks is unto that
end: Upon WHAT is my confidence before God based? Upon
my works? Upon my spiritual condition? Or upon Jesus Christ?
Practical Christianity
     Now, if you are like most of the rest of us, when you read this
you may say to yourself, "But I already know that. I already know
that my faith is not to be in myself, but in Jesus Christ." The
question, however, is not whether you know it as a teaching. The
real question is whether your faith IS in Jesus Christ, and not in
     There are ways to discover whether your faith is in Christ,
rather than yourself. So let's look at a few of them, for that is
what God is telling us to do. To start, ask yourself: How much
does fear and condemnation govern me? Does fear and
condemnation govern me when my works aren't too good? Is the
only time I have rest in Christ when I perform well before the
Lord? Then my faith is not fully in Christ. It is in my works. My
works are determining whether I believe I'm right with God.
Here is another question: Do I feel like I'm a failure, or falling
apart, when God uses my failures to expose me as "less spiritual"
than I had hoped? Then my confidence was not based upon
HIM, but upon how well I thought I was doing.
     There is yet another question to ask, which touches upon one
of the more subtle areas of unbelief we may have fostered: How
does it affect me when I do succeed in obeying God? Does it
make me feel as if God owes me something? Do I feel like God
has more favor towards me than before? If doing good works
seems to "increase" my faith, then again, my works are
determining my faith. My faith may not be fully in Jesus APART
from my works.
     Can you see a pattern here? If our confidence before God is
either stablized, or shaken, because of what WE do, then our
confidence is in what WE do. It is not in what HE HAS DONE.
Then we are not holding to faith in Jesus Christ the way God
     The Truth is, if I really am resting in Christ, then NOTHING I do
is going to affect my faith. Does that seem incredible? To most
of us, it may, for we have been trained to think in opposite terms.
But it is nevertheless the Truth. The message of the gospel is
that nothing I do changes the fact that "It is finished." Therefore,
nothing I do need hurt my faith in that finished work.
The Real Warfare
     Examining oneself to see if you are "in the faith" is a subject
closely related to spiritual warfare. How so? Well, we are to
examine ourselves to see if we are standing by faith. But that is
exactly the issue at stake in all spiritual warfare: Whether we will
stand by faith against all that the enemy might bring.
     Notice the key word here: STAND. Again and again we read
in scripture that our faith is to be a STAND. (Read Ephesians
6:10-18) We wrestle, not to win ground, but to hold ground.
And if we will stand and hold that ground, we will actually come
into possession of it -- in a way that is experiential and real.
     What we see here is that our warfare does not consist of trying
to win a victory over the Devil. It consists of standing by faith in
the victory Christ has already won. In other words, instead of
trying to win a victory, our lives are to be spent operating FROM
Christ's victory. The goal of the enemy is to get us to move from
our stand in Christ to a stand upon a substitute.
     Now ask: What is the number one vehicle the enemy uses to
move from our stand by faith? What does he most often point to
to show us that the victory isn't really won? Easy. Our sin and
failures. The enemy simply points to US. He says, "See. You
wouldn't act like this if Christ had REALLY won the victory. Your
failures prove He hasn't. YOU must still try to win it."
     Note the subtle deception. The Devil doesn't necessarily
need to try to get us to overtly sin -- although it is certain he'd
be pleased with it if we did. Rather, he simply tries to get us to
shift our confidence from uncondtional faith in Christ over to our
own performance. And having achieved that goal, he can then
endlessly torment us with our failures, for we will NEVER be able
to do enough good works to be perfect.
     Do you see what is going on here? And do you see the ONLY
solution? The only hope I have of escaping the hopeless cycle of
trying to "win the victory" is to refuse to be moved from faith in
Christ's finished victory. I must refuse to allow my faith to be
either shaken, or exalted, by my performance or spiritual
condition. I must, as Romans tells us, base my whole faith upon
the righteousness of God APART from anything I do. (see Rom.
3:21) My whole focus must be away from myself unto Jesus
     If this seems an impossible task for you to do, then you can
rejoice in that admission. It IS impossible for you to do. But if
you will surrender yourself unconditionally to God, God will do a
work of reduction and depletion which will bring you to that
place. That will not be easy or enjoyable to the flesh. It will take
time and progression. But it is Christianity. It is the Cross. And it
is the only way to real resurrection life in Jesus Christ.
Faith Produces Works
     Christianity is a life based in faith APART from my own works.
But it is important that we understand the place of works in the
Christian life, for from Jesus Himself to Paul, everyone who ever
preached the real gospel of grace has been accused as being a
teacher of licence. So how about it? If Christianity is a life of
faith, then where do works fit in?
     Works, according to the Bible, are to be a product of our faith
in Christ. They are to be an outgrowth of believing and resting in
our Lord's finished victory. But how does faith produce works?
     Real faith -- the kind the Bible talks about -- produces
works because real faith is not mental assent to Truth. It is an
uncondtional surrender to Truth. Or, to put it another way, if I
really believe, and am really standing by faith, then I'm going to
be surrendered to God in a way which will more and more
motivate me unto good works.
     It is actually a moral impossibility to stand by faith and NOT
produce good works. That doesn't mean everything I do will be
perfect just because I believe. It doesn't mean I will immediately
be free of sin or the flesh in practice. But I will, because of my
stand by faith, be growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus
Christ -- unto a life which reflects it.
Good Works
     We live in a time where values, terms, and understanding is
being constantly redefined. What used to have a clear meaning
is now often completely distorted. Such is the age of "relativism."
Nothing is black and white. Everything is relative.
     This mentality has always afflicted Christianity. Because of
that, some Bible terms have come to be somewhat redefined
from God's original meaning. They no longer mean what God
     One term which the Bible uses is "good works." What does
that term mean? Most of us would probably define "good works"
as "morally upright deeds." Or perhaps we'd say, "keeping the
ten commandments." We would not be wrong. But because we
don't go far enough with our definition, we could in time limit the
meaning of "good works," or, in fact, completely redefine it.
     According to the Bible, "good works" are only "good" in the
eyes of God if they are a product of faith. Conversely, if my
works are not of faith, then it does not matter if they appear
"good." In the eyes of God, they really aren't. They are of
unbelief: "Whatever is not of faith is sin."
     Notice that closely. Real good works are those I do because I
believe. False good works are those I perform because I don't
     We see here that the real quality of works are determined, not
by the action they perform, but by the motivation behind them.
In other words, it is more important WHY I do than it is WHAT I
     But wait. How could a person do "good" works in unbelief?
Easy. We do them all the time. Anytime I do good works
because I think it will win me God's favor, or to appease His
wrath, I am doing them because I don't believe the Truth. I am
still trying to manipulate God through my works. I don't believe
that I have uncondtional forgiveness and access to God through
Jesus Christ APART from anything I do. That is legalism.
     Clearly, the way God defines good and bad works differs from
the way we might define them. We usually define works based
on whether they meet a certain outward standard. But God
defines works based on whether they are "of faith." Good works
are motivated by faith. Bad works are not. The outward action,
and the outward results of our works, are secondary.
Faith Is Rest
     God wants us to do good works. But He does not want us to
do them because we don't believe. He wants us to do them
because we do. We see this Truth expressed in one of the
dominating characteristics of faith:  REST.    Faith is REST,
not from good works -- but from trying to earn BY MY WORKS
what God has freely given me by His grace.
     Herein is the fundamental point: We are to do good works.
Lots of them. We are to stop doing bad works. But we are not to
work to EARN anything. We are to believe it is already freely
given to us. And because we believe that, it should motivate us
unto good works all the more!
     There are a couple of ways to illustrate this Truth. For
instance, most of us have to work for a living. We must perform a
task for a wage. If we don't work, we don't get paid. This means
that no matter how much we enjoy our work, our underlying
motivation is the wage we earn. We need it to live.
     Now envision yourself inheriting so much money that you no
longer need to work. Would you still work? If you would, your
motivation for working will have changed. No longer will you be
working because you have to. You will work because you want
to. You will be at rest from all the pressure which comes with
being dependent upon your job.
     It is like this spiritually. In Christ, we have freely inherited all
things. There is nothing left for us to work for. We are free from
the responsibility of earning anything from God through our good
works. But that doesn't mean we don't DO them. On the
contrary, we do them all the more. Why? Because we believe!
Because we love! Because Christ is in us! Good works cannot
help but flow from our union with Christ.
     The ONLY means by which we can do God's will, indeed,
BECOME His will, is through the solid foundation of faith in
Jesus Christ. Unless that foundation is there, then what we build
on top of it will be flawed. Thus, rather than promote licence,
faith in the real gospel of grace is really the very means by which
good works are "really" good in the eyes of God.
Are We In the Faith?
     All of these points are part of self-examination. We are to
examine ourselves to make sure that we are believing and resting
in Jesus Christ. We are to determine, not whether we are perfect,
but whether we are allowing our imperfections to be swallowed
up in His death and resurrection. We are to "examine ourselves"
to allow God to show us whether we are standing in the faith.
For, as Paul concludes, without Jesus, we would be reprobates.
We have nothing of ourselves. He is our only hope.

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