Examining your life is essential to your growth as a Christian believer. Seeing your own sins and failings will make it possible for you to confess, repent, find forgiveness, and grow in grace. These are the steps by which we move forward in the Christian life. If you can’t see your own failings, you can’t make progress.
Self-examination is also a dangerous business. Satan will try to subvert your self-examination by pulling you down into self-condemnation and despair. So be careful. While you have one eye focused on your sin and failure, keep the other eye focused on God’s grace given to you in Jesus Christ.
God has given two gifts to help you examine yourself successfully. These are his Word and his Spirit. The Word will show you sins and failings. The Spirit will open your eyes to see them.
Self-examination, rightly pursued, will bring great benefits to your Christian life.
Three Guidelines for Self-Examination
1. Be intentional.
Set aside a specific time to examine your own life. Find a place where you can be alone. Bring your Bible, a pen, and some paper. Expect God to show you things that need to be confessed and changed. You may choose to tell a friend that you have set aside time to examine your life. You might ask them to pray for you, and commit to share what God has shown you.
2. Be specific.
Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to see what is going on in your life. Read the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Work through the ten questions that follow, noting what God brings to your mind.
3. Be a believer.
Bring what God shows you to him in confession as a believer. Pray, believing in the blood of Jesus Christ shed, so that the sins you are confessing should be forgiven. Pray, believing in the power of the Holy Spirit, enabling you to change. Pray, with confidence that God is gracious and loving towards you, and that he is working in your life.
10 Questions for Examining Your Life
1. First Commandment: God
You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)
What disappointments has God allowed in your life? How have these affected your love for him?
Pain and disappointment often reveal the degree to which we love and desire God’s gifts more than we love and desire him. Your confession will begin here.
2. Second Commandment: Worship
You shall not make for yourselves an idol. (Exodus 20:4)
In what ways would you want God to be different from who he is?
The desire for God to be different is idolatry. It shows discontent or dissatisfaction with who he is or what he does. This is sin and will be part of your confession.
3. Third Commandment: False Religion
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. (Exodus 20:7)
In what ways do you least reflect the image and likeness of God?
Being a Christian means that you bear the name of Christ. People make judgments about Christ by what they see in those who bear his name. Use this part of your confession to ask God for growth in areas where you need to better reflect his character.
4. Fourth Commandment: Time, Work, and Rest
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. (Exodus 20:8-9)
How could you improve what you offer in your working life? How can you better order your life so that you complete your work and preserve time for God and for other relationships God has entrusted to you?
God has set a pattern for your work and rest in the way that he created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. The pattern of God’s work gives us a template for work, reminding us that God calls us to be productive and to find joy in the work that he has given us to do. Take a careful look at the vigor of your work and the balance of your life.
5. Fifth Commandment: Authority
Honor your father and your mother. (Exodus 20:12)
Who has God placed in a position of authority in your life? What are they saying to you? How are you responding?
Father and mother are the first authority figures God places in your life. Difficulty in submitting to others often indicates difficulties in submitting to God’s authority over your life. Examine yourself carefully here.
6. Sixth Commandment: Peace
You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13)
With whom are you most angry and frustrated at this time? Is there someone with whom you are looking to get even? Are you harboring resentment in your heart?
Our Lord traced murder back to its roots in anger (Matthew 5:22). You may not be able to bring healing to every relationship, but you can guard your own heart. Confess any bitterness in your heart to God. Ask him to cleanse it from your soul.
7. Seventh Commandment: Purity
You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14)
In what ways have you given expression to lust?
Jesus traced adultery back to lust in the heart (Matthew 5:28). Lust will destroy your soul if you feed it and allow it to grow in your life. Your thoughts reveal who you are in your heart. Make an honest confession to God as you examine this area of your life.
8. Eighth Commandment: Integrity
You shall not steal. (Exodus 20:15)
How can I take less and give more?
God gives. Satan steals. The essence of stealing is that you take what God has trusted to someone else, but do not give what God has entrusted to you. Use this part of your self-examination to look at what you are taking from others and what you are giving back. Look especially at what you are receiving from God and what you are giving back to him.
9. Ninth Commandment: Truth
You shall not give false testimony. (Exodus 20:16)
What has God trusted to me?
In the ninth commandment God calls you to be a person who can be trusted. Make a list of what God has entrusted to you. Take an honest look at how you are being faithful or unfaithful with that trust. Ask God to prepare you for what he will entrust to you in the future.
10. Tenth Commandment: Contentment
You shall not covet. (Exodus 20:17)
What are the greatest desires of your heart right now? How do these relate to God’s purpose in your life?
All of our sins flow from the root problem of sin that lies in the human heart. Being a sinner, you desire the wrong things. You don’t find joy or satisfaction in the right things. That is why God gives you his Spirit to change and renew your heart. Use this final part of your self-examination to look beyond sins you have committed to sins that may be growing undetected in your heart. Ask God to cleanse your heart of wrong desires and to keep you from future sins.
Self-examination is vital for every Christian and especially for leaders. Take the free Open the Bible for Leaders course Watch Your Life taught by Pastor Colin Smith. In the course you will learn foundational truths to help you obey the command to watch your life closely (1 Timothy 4:16).