None of us like inspections any more than we like pop quizzes in school or checkups at the doctor’s office. We tend to resent going to the emission centers before getting our car tags or having to wait for the city codes division to inspect the electrical work on our house before flipping on the switch. But imagine living in a world without safeguards, supervision, standards, or checkups.
The Bible teaches that we need inspection and examination in our inner hearts as well. David makes this the theme of Psalm 139, which could be aptly titled “A Plea for Inspection.” He began Psalm 139 by saying, “Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.”
He went on to say that we can never escape God’s inspecting eye, nor do we want to. Then in a twist at the end, David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Psalm 139 begins and ends with inspections. “You have searched me and known me…. Search me, O God, and know my heart.”
When did we last pray like that, asking God to put us on the examination table and probe our hearts? When did we last say, “Lord, audit my thoughts and weigh my motives?” Though we love Psalm 139, we don’t often seriously pray the last two verses.
In Our Prayer Time
Let me suggest three times and places where spiritual introspection is appropriate. The first is in our prayer time, as we’ve seen in Psalm 139. Outside of God’s guidance and grace, self-examination is hazardous. According to Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”
When we ask God to examine us by His Spirit, we’re placing ourselves in the hands of the Great Physician. When we open our Bibles and prayerfully look at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word, we’re on safer ground. Try this prayer from Psalm 26:2: “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my mind and my heart.” Periodic checkups during our prayer times will help keep life in check.
In an Accountability Group
It’s also important to have a group of friends who know you, love you, and talk to you honestly. The book of Proverbs speaks of the importance of a friend’s rebuke. Proverbs 15:31-32, for example, says, “The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise.… He who heeds rebuke gets understanding.” We can’t see ourselves as others do, and we aren’t likely to trust the criticism of a foe. But a loving relationship can be a zone of effective correction.
At the Lord’s Supper
The Lord provides another place for periodic self-examination—at the Lord’s Table during communion services. The apostle Paul made this point in 1 Corinthians 11, as he rebuked the church in Corinth for their irreverent worship services. “Your meetings do more harm than good,” he said (verse 17, NIV). He specifically brought up the Lord’s Supper and reminded them of its meaning: “I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is My body’” (verses 23-24, NIV).
Paul then went on to say, “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (verse 26, NIV). After again warning the Corinthians about treating the Lord’s Supper shoddily, he said: “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup” (verse 28, NIV).
Every observance of the Lord’s Supper is an opportunity to examine your heart and confess your sins. It’s a periodic check for an exam or a tune-up when we can scrutinize our actions, words, thoughts, motives, and emotions.
Two powerful words for periodically keeping life in check are: “Search me.”
David Jeremiah is the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church and the founder and host of Turning Point for God. For more information about Dr. Jeremiah or Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.