- Commercial airline pilots – drug testing, med. exams, check flights, etc.
- Public school teachers – continuing education, yearly evaluations, etc.
- Police officers – weapons requalifying, yearly evaluations, etc.
- Fire fighters – regular testing, drug screenings, etc.
The average American almost never pauses in his hectic schedule long enough to do any kind of personal inventory or self-evaluation. It is a fact that lots of people feel very threatened by introspective evaluation. We don’t want to look too closely at our lives because we are afraid we won’t like what we discover.
This is true of pastors and church leaders as well. All too often leaders are afraid of evaluation because we don’t want to face up to the fact that serious changes may be needed in the way we are going about things. Evaluation always implies that we will take necessary steps to correct the problems so that we can do better in the future. That involves risk and leaves us open to scrutiny and possible criticism, things that nobody likes.
Now this kind of rhetoric sounds spiritual but, in fact, it doesn’t square with the teaching of Scripture. Evaluation does not stand in opposition to the grace of God. God’s Word clearly reveals that personal evaluation of our lives and ministries is both right and mandatory. In fact, even the great Socrates, though not a believer in the true God, saw the need for regular self-evaluation and mid-course corrections. He is reported to have stated: "The unexamined life is not worth living." I think he was correct.
In I Corinthians 11:26-28, in teaching about the importance of the Lord’s Supper, the apostle Paul makes it clear that we are to examine ourselves before we partake. Listen to his words: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” What does he mean by that? I believe he means that we are to make note of our attitudes, our overt sins and our sins of omission and then confess them to the Lord and receive forgiveness. This same examination or evaluation should lead us to make changes so that the problems do not continue or reoccur.
Brutal honesty in our self-evaluation is necessitated by the perversity of our natural state. We are sinners by nature as well as by choice, and the Bible says that we are rotten-to-the-core.
- Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. Who can understand it?”
- An old familiar hymn puts it this way: “Alas, and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die. Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?” Worm Theology is not popular these days. By far and away modern people prefer “I’m OK, you’re OK Theology.”
The OT has many passages that challenge us to put our own hearts to the test, to carefully weigh our motives.
- Lamentations 3:40, “Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord.”
- Proverbs 14:15, “The naïve person [lit. simple] believes everything, but the prudent man [i.e. wise] considers his steps.”
- Revelation 2:4-5, "But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first."
- Psalm 26:2, “Examine me, O Lord, and try me. Test my mind [seat of our thoughts/intellect] and my heart [seat of our feelings/emotions].”
- Psalm 139:23-24, “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" [i.e. the way of eternal, not temporal things].
- Psalm 119:59, “I considered (= scrutinized) my ways, and turned my feet to Thy testimonies.”
For some of you this year has been the most difficult wilderness experience of your whole life. For others it has been a year of blessings and wonderful things. But hopefully, for all of us it has been a learning experience and an opportunity to sink our roots deeper into the grace and goodness of God and to grow in Christ.
If we insist on going blindly through life, bumping into things, and yet never stop long enough to examine what we keep bashing our shins on, then we are as ignorant as beasts and, moreover, doomed to continue being wounded time after time. This morning, on this the trailing edge of the year AD 2009, before moving into 2010, I am challenging all of us to invest the necessary time and energy to take a perhaps painful look at our lives and our relationship with the Lord to see whether or not things are truly in order. If we find that course adjustments are needed, then let’s covenant with God to claim His divine power to make the needed changes and get our spiritual, personal, family, and even financial life back on the right track headed in the right direction.
[Note: Following is a self-evaluation tool that we used yesterday, allowing 10-12 minutes for people to work on it just before the close of the service with a plea to complete it later at home. I hope that you, too, find it helpful.]
Personal Spiritual Inventory
Take a few moments to pray before you write anything. Ask God to clearly show you areas of your life where changes are needed. Then please respond honestly to the following questions. I highly suggest that you write out your answers because it will help you organize your thoughts.
1. Why do we always feel so reluctant to evaluate our personal and spiritual lives?
2. Are there certain sins in your life that you commit regularly or habitually, sins that perhaps you have tried to excuse or shrug off saying, “That’s just the way I am”? [Name them one by one]
5. Are you now ready to turn these areas completely over to the Lord and ask Him to give you complete victory over the sins which have been robbing you of joy and side-tracking you in your service for Him? If so, then write out your prayer to the Lord, confessing these things as sin, committing them to Him once and for all, claiming His promises of complete forgiveness and of His divine enabling, so that you can finally begin to walk in victory rather than in defeat.
“Dear Lord Jesus…