I am in New York for the Labor Day weekend visiting my girlfriend. I wasn’t supposed to come up this weekend, but I will not go into detail about how I decided to come. She and her mom went on a medical/evangelistic missions trip to the Dominican Republic with their church, Bethel Gospel Assembly in Harlem just last week. This weekend, the ministry would be doing a report on the trip, so I decided I should check it out.
Despite my intentions, it is more important to point out that today was also Communion Sunday. There is so much power here in Bethel, and last time I was here, I was forced by the Holy Spirit to examine myself more closely before taking communion. Today I was not as careless as I was last time; however, the topic of the message was not lost on me.
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you– unless, of course, you fail the test?
(2 Corinthians 13:5)
Pastor Brown is preaching Communion themes on Communion Sunday, and this is one of the most important tasks a believer must undertake when sharing in Communion: examining himself.
Certainly, this is not the first time I’ve heard such teaching. I’ve grown up in church, and I studied the Bible with intent in college, but the full meaning of this verse has eluded me. I must admit, I’ve never fully caught on to the message tucked into this verse.
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” This part of the verse has tremendous implications for any believer professing Jesus Christ. Essentially, this verse teaches us to be honest with ourselves, and look into our hearts and souls as if only God were looking along with us. For me, over the past two-and-a-half years, I’ve been horrified with what I’ve found.
The journey of self-examination seriously began only 21 months ago as I was re-reading Dallas Willard‘s Renovation of the Heart. The difference between the first time I’d read it and this time is that I applied not only the good things about the kingdom of God and his promises to my life, but also the bad things Willard talked about: innate human wickedness, lack of a desire that God be God, a true desire that God conform to my wants and desires (as opposed to my obedience), and the truth that the patterns of my life revealed that I effectively placed myself on the throne of my heart where God was supposed to be. It is precisely this that the gospel of Jesus Christ has saved us from.
In order for me to begin a journey with Christ, I had to agree that He would search my heart and reveal to me just how wicked I am without him. Before I could serve Christ, before I could be grafted into his family, it was necessary to admit to myself and to God that the things the Bible says about the world are true for me as well without Christ. Remorse and repentance for my nature of enmity with God was needed for me to truly value and understand the transformation that must take place in my soul and spirit in Christ. This has been where I have been at for the past two years. Although I have been a Christian for the past 5-1/2 years, the Holy Spirit had not revealed to me these truths about myself because they would have destroyed me.
Events leading up to this morning were sobering reminders of my failure to appropriately and adequately examine myself. Two examples quickly spring to mind.
On Friday in our research group meeting, I left feeling very bitter and ashamed in my spirit because I have failed to act on the assessment I have made about my own research habits. Although I examined myself in this area and made an assessment, I have avoided the reality I’ve found and now God is exposing it.
Recently, I have been praying that my body be a living sacrifice. Often, my body can be a source of shame because disobedience and frustration lead me into sexual sin. The truth is Jesus Christ has redeemed our bodies as well as our souls. Jesus is my freedom from being shamed by my [naked] body because he has redeemed it; because I do not regard my self-examination with the appropriate resolve to pursue obedience, I open the doors of my body and soul to more sin.
On Friday morning, I woke up from a dream in which I was chased from my home as a child, and the thugs who broke in shot everyone in the home who wasn’t able to escape. In the dream, it was the children who let the thugs in through the front door, and the children ironically were not spared when the thugs plundered the home and decided they’d leave no witnesses. Before overreacting to my dream, God showed me that this is how demons act when we open the doors of our souls repeatedly to their attacks, even for born-again Christians. When we are disobedient, the consequences of our disobedience compound, they do not diminish. Although Christians can still have victory over attacks we even allow to be initiated against ourselves, God cannot be mocked. He does not withhold discipline from his children.
I see that, as bleak as this dream felt, I am blessed to have heard this sermon this weekend and to have experienced this sequence of events. God is teaching me to examine myself… And, that I know, with him as my witness and the Holy Spirit as judge, whether or not I’ve passed the examination. In view of this, I urge you to be careful not to decieve yourself.
Despite my intentions of hearing my girlfriend’s report, Communion and Pastor Brown’s sermon were the real reasons God has brought me to New York this weekend…Leave a Comment