Questions are excellent. Our savior Jesus of course so often asked people questions. Someone would come to Him and ask him a question, and Jesus would reply by asking them a question. Questions help us to reflect on our own presuppositions, those things we believe and think without even fully realizing it. So let’s practice self examination.
The word says: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves.” (2 Corinthians 13:5 RSV)
William Booth was a brimstone preacher, he was intense, but, I think we can really learn from his directness. He had these 11 questions to challenge himself and his people to growth.
1. 1. Am I habitually guilty of any known sin? Do I practice or allow myself any thought, word or deed that I know to be wrong?
1st John 3:6-8 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.
Are you living in some sort of compromise in your life? This is scary, because we often feel trapped in a sin. Like we can’t quite escape. But if we cry out to Jesus, and put our hope in Him, while also taking action, then we can indeed be free. And freedom feels so good. When you realize, I’m finally free from that sin, there is nothing so wonderful as that moment.
2. Am I so the master of my bodily appetites as to have no condemnation? Do I allow myself any indulgence that is injurious to my holiness, growth in knowledge, obedience, or usefulness?
1st Timothy 5:6 “But she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.”
God has given us many good things in life, good food, good drink, good friends, family, marriage, television, all that good stuff. But are you indulging too far? That is a good question. I don’t want anything to enslave me, whether alcohol, or drugs, cigarettes, or gluttony, eating too much. Or even coffee, or internet, or videogames. A good rule is to practice moderation, self control, and if something does conquer me, time to break free from it.
3.3. Are my thoughts and feelings such that I should not be ashamed to hear them published before God?
Romans 8:5-6 ESV “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
Matthew 12:36 “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak”
Now, please remember, to be tempted, with evil thoughts from the flesh, and temptations from demons, is not sin. That is not sin. It’s not a sin to be tempted. We’re all tempted. But, what thoughts do we entertain? God is always renewing our minds in Christ. God transforms our minds by the renewal of the Holy Spirit. Grow in this area, you will see over years that your thoughts become more and more beautiful, reflecting the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness and so on.
4. Does the influence of the world cause me to do or say things that are unlike Christ?
John 15:19 ESV “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
The world has an influence on all of us. All the thing we’ve been taught in the world, all the text books, and television programs, and internet articles and memes and videos have impacted us in some way. Do you have a mind that sees the world through Christian lenses? If not, you must repent.
5. Do my tempers cause me to act, or feel, or say things that I see afterward are contrary to that love that I ought to [show] always to those about me?
John 13:34-35 ESV “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
By tempers, he means our emotions in the context of values. Does my mood or my mindset cause me to treat people without love? I’m sure most of us could raise our hands and say yes to that. We’ve all gotten upset, or been in a bad mood and yelled at someone. But we can learn a level of control, a level of moderation, where we can love, even when we’re having a hard day. God will help us.
6. Am I doing all in my power for the salvation of sinners? Do I feel concern about their danger and pray and work for their salvation as if they were my children?
Romans 10:14 “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
I absolutely love this question. It shocks me out of my own laziness. How often I catch myself and realize, I could be doing a lot more to win people to Christ. These people are in huge danger. They are in danger of the wrath of God, and being sent to hell, forever. That’s scary stuff. These people need Jesus desperately, what am I doing for them? I’m a pastor and I have to ask myself, am I doing enough? All of us have this charge, to influence people toward Jesus. Not just inviting them to church, that’s a good thing to do, but buying them groceries, giving them bible tracts, talking to them about Jesus, sharing my testimony, all of it matters so much.
7. Am I fulfilling the vows I have made to God in my acts of consecration or at the penitent-form?
The penitent form is when you kneel at the altar before God. If you’ve made vows before God, are you upholding them? Such as marriage vows, or when you’ve promised in your prayers to serve God? Are you following through?
James 5:12 ESV “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.”
8. Is my example in harmony with my profession?
Similarly to 7, am I being consistent? If you’re a Christian you’ve professed Christ. Say it with me everybody. Jesus Christ is Lord. Everybody together Jesus Christ is Lord. That’s a profession. Is my conduct in life matching that level of commitment? God is challenging us to grow. And we will, by His grace.
9. Am I conscious of any pride or haughtiness in my manner or bearing?
Ah yes, the struggle with pride. It’s insidious. Is pride sneaking up in me? Is it slowly growing up like a weed in my heart threatening to destroy all I am in Christ? Pride is hell. It’s awful. It’s the devil’s sin. Get down on your knees before God, and declare he is lord, and I am nothing, and fight that pride. Destroy it. Christ will.
Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
10. Do I conform to the fashions and customs of the world, or do I show that I despise them?
Similar to one of John Wesley’s questions is am I conforming to the world, or am I conforming to Christ? It’s pretty easy to tell. Is my life guided by the Bible or by the television? Pretty simple. Ask yourself, am I really guided by Jesus? Or by myself and my own wants?
1st John 2:16 “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.”
11. Am I in danger of being carried away with worldly desire to be rich or admired?
1 Timothy 6:10 ESV “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
Finally, last question, am I being carried away with the desire to be rich? That’s the deceitfulness of wealth. Or the desire to be admired? That’s a tough one. For me, I really wanted to be a writer, a great writer, and I wanted so badly for people to be amazed by my works and ask me questions about my books, and be spellbound with my brilliant writing. But not anymore. I’d still love to write books, but it’s all about Jesus. But sometimes in the church, it can become less and less about Jesus, and more and more about us, and how great we are. That’s the worst thing imaginable. To turn our faith in Jesus into a way of making ourselves look good. Yuck! Gross!
In conclusion today, all these questions challenge us to grow. Challenge us to look within ourselves to understand who we are. Who are you? How are you living? Are you really living for Jesus?
If you noticed some problems in your walk with the Lord when considering these questions, that’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t throw up your arms and quit. Instead turn to Jesus in prayer, and ask for help. God will help you. God will change you over time. Begin the journey now. Begin to change your conduct, and ask for God’s help, He will help you.