SHARPER THAN A SWORD

SERMONS

Hebrews 4:12-13 "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."

All articles are written using the NKJV, unless otherwise noted! All articles are written by David Hicks, unless specified otherwise.

- Self Exam -

Most all of us can remember back to the dread of Friday tests in school; finals, pop quiz's etc… However, it was the standard by which the teacher ascertained your mastery of the information that they presented.

Doctors carefully examine their patients for the tell – tell symptoms of their illness, before they prescribe a treatment.

Before we are given a drivers license we must first pass both a written and performance examination, to show that we are capable of operating a vehicle safely (how some people pass this, I will never figure out!).

Prior to a carpenter beginning to saw and hammer; careful measurements must be taken, so that all of the constructed parts fit precisely together.

Examination is a vital part of our everyday life and we all practice it in one way or another. As a manager, I gave my department heads, each, little hand mirrors. The idea is that they should be able to look back at themselves and their willingness to practice what they preach to their subordinates.

There are several verbs used in the scriptures to describe one version or another of this concept of examination. Universally they describe an investigation; enquiry; a searching in order to gather and produce evidence for determining a course of action.

Christians are asked often and in many ways to investigate their state, condition, and status in the service of their God through Christ Jesus. This lesson is an examination of when and how we are to practice this self awareness.

 I. Examine Yourself.

More than not, Christians regard themselves as capable judges of the condition of everyone else but themselves. Someone is reading this lesson and saying, “This would be perfect for so and so!”

This is not the mode of examination that God through the scriptures indicates that He desires us to be engaged in.

1 Corinthians 11:28 “But let a man examine himself , and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified.”

2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

1 Peter 2:13 “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme,”

Jude 1:20-21 “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”

Philippians 2:12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;”

We could continue this list almost indefinitely, however, I believe that these passages convey the idea that we each must pause periodically and look closely at our own lives, service, and spirituality. Self scrutiny is not optional in the life of a Christian, it is mandatory !

Every one of us has the ability to improve our service. Without this vital introspection, we easily become complacent and unfaithful.

The vital point here is that we must be accountable for our own examination in ascertaining where we stand as servants of the Lord. Since each of us will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and answer for our own choices; the ultimate responsibility of knowing our status before the Lord is our own ( II Corinthians 5:10 ).

This doesn't excuse us from adhering to a word of exhortation from a concerned brother or sister. When we become numb to the state of our service; a kind word of encouragement or even a swift kick in the seat may help us determine for ourselves specific needs that we are lacking.

 

 II. The Standard for Examination.

2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you ?--unless indeed you are disqualified.”

There is a definite image that the Lord truly expects His children to see when they examine themselves. A self examination is simply a comparison of this expected image verses what we truly find. The difference then becomes the goal to achieve in order that the complete image can be found. In this passage of scripture, Paul recognizes that the image these Christians were looking for was Jesus Christ in them! Paul would use this same illustration to the brethren in Ephesus , note:

Ephesians 3:14-19 “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith ; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-- 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

We have a High Priest unlike any that existed before, Jesus, the Christ of God. Unlike the priests before Him who entered the most holies and offered a sacrifice for themselves before they offered sacrifice on behalf of God's people ( Hebrews 9:7 ); He has entered heaven itself to offer one sacrifice to put away sins for you and me ( Hebrews 9:23-26 ). In addition, He is uniquely qualified to instruct us in the righteousness of God and how to achieve the image that God wants us to wear, note:

Hebrews 2:17-18 “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Therefore, since Jesus Christ is the standard by which we must examine ourselves in comparison; since he is uniquely qualified to instruct in the righteousness of God; it is therefore, His instruction that we must adhere to when we examine ourselves to find Christ in us.

In the first chapter of the book of James, the author establishes in the 18 th verse , that the “ Word of Truth ”, is the theme. James, within the body of the remainder of the chapter, with this theme, gives us an example of a proper self examination and the standard by which we are to use, note:

James 1:22-25 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer , he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror ; 24 for he observes himself , goes away , and immediately forgets what kind of man he was . 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it , and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does .”

Jesus Christ has revealed His mind and the righteousness of God through the work of the Holy Spirit (the Word of Truth). Thus, the man who looks into it and heeds its instruction finds within its pages an image to achieve. The fact is; the Word of God meditated by Jesus Christ, has the power to transform you and me from the lowly, retched, and miserable beings that we were, into the glorious and fruitful image of the Son of God.

Our examinations are a test of the image we see when we look into that perfect law of liberty. Do we see Jesus Christ in us, or do we walk away and forget Him in our lives?

In addition to the instructions that Christ has given us to achieve, He has also given us certain graces that His word produces to use as markers in our examination. If we look into our lives as servants of Christ and see these graces coming to fruition, then we also know that we are changing our image into that which is desired (see: Galatians 5:22-23 ; Colossians 3:12-17 ; II Peter 1:5-11 ).

 

 III. Attitude Towards Correction.

The concept of correction conjures up very unpleasant mental images. Human nature includes the desire to relish in what we do well and to discount that which we need to improve. Today's business world has even given this practice a title, they call it a, “comfort zone”.

The person who dwells in their comfort zones and discounts their need to correct poor and un-productive characteristics is unprepared and disqualified to make a proper self examination.

So, a proper self examination is useless without honesty !!!

Remember the publican that Jesus compared to the dishonest Pharisee? This man made an honest appraisal of his condition before the Lord, note:

Luke 18:13 “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner !'”

Even though we should not be over critical of ourselves to the point of despair, we must own up to our weaknesses and then determinedly pursue God's will.

The Apostle Paul was arguably one of the most productive Christians that we can read of in the scriptures on behalf of the cause of Christ, However, even he claimed the need to examine himself and work towards the goal of Christ in us, note:

Philippians 3:12-16 “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.”

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

In addition to honesty, there is also the need for humility. In order to truly see the needed improvements in our service to the Lord, we need to achieve a lowliness of our own minds that the wisdom of God can penetrate and take control for growth.

James 4:10 “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

1 Peter 5:6 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,”

An approved worker for the Lord is diligent to present himself as such. This includes a working knowledge of God's word, so that profane and vain things are always visible before them ( II Timothy 2:14 -19 ). All of us, who call on the name of the Lord, must be willing to flee iniquity. We cannot flee that which we refuse to see; we will never repair that which we are unwilling to correct. We will never truthfully examine ourselves without the proper attitude towards our desire to correct our faults.

 

 IV. How Often Do We Examine Ourselves?

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it . 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection , lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

Paul uses this metaphor to describe the life of a Christian, in which we run through this life towards our goal of an imperishable crown (eternal life). Based on this prize to be won and the very privilege that we have been given, just to run, Paul describes that he runs and fights and disciplines his body in order to avoid being disqualified.

In this we learn that there is not a specific amount of time that must be dedicated to self examination, it is a none stop procedure . Our race is not a sprint; it is however, a long distance race, a marathon by which we must continually fight temptation and the desires of the flesh that war against us ( James 1:12 ; 4:7 ; I Peter 2:11 ).

However, there is an examination that we have been prescribed weekly, by which we can summarize our efforts in our day to day lives.

Paul told the Christians in Corinth that when they came together every first day of the week ( I Corinthians 16:2 ); they were to partake the Lord's Supper ( I Corinthians 11:20 ). As he explained the significance of this specific memorial (one that they had perverted and required to be corrected concerning), he commanded them to examine themselves ( vs.23-34 ). This examination is in fact an intent look within one's self for defects against the teachings that they have received concerning the holy nature of this memorial. If in fact we are guilty of an unworthy observance, it lies in an irreverent attitude in discerning the Lord's body ( Vs. 29 ). The Lord's body represents to Christians everything that pertains to life and godliness (a holy sacrifice for our sins and for salvation). To improperly discern the Lord's body can take place in tow specific ways. First, when we entertain the world instead of devote ourselves in holy observance. Second, when we fail to consider one another in love, realizing that we make up the body of Christ.

Interestingly enough, this not only has application in observance of this memorial, but serves as a reminder that we can be guilty of this anytime! Thus, this memorial serves not only as a reminder of what the Lord has done for us, but also a reminder of our need to rededicate our entire life service to Him. Again the concept of examination takes place as we determine if we are as committed to serving Him as He was committed to serve us!

 

 V. Take a Test!

Here is a quick test you can take to see just how skilled you are at self examination:

1 John 2:3-6 “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”

 

Is it time to re-evaluate our self examination skills?

Yep!!!