Saturday, June 10, 2006

Examining the heart

I read some more this morning in Don Miller's book, Searching for God Knows What. In Chapter 13 ("Religion"), he says,

"...working out our salvation involves a very careful searching of the heart, asking time and again what we really mean by attending church, what we really mean by reading the Bible, what we really mean when we worship God" (pg. 204).

In the Bible God is constantly calling us to search our hearts. It says "test yourselves" (2 Corinthians 13:5). It says "Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord" (Lamentations 3:40). David knew how difficult it is to understand oneself; therefore he prayed, "Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind" (Psalm 26:2). One of the main things we're exhorted to do whenever we celebrate the Lord's Supper is examine ourselves before we eat of the bread and drink of the cup (1 Corinthians 11:28).

Like Miller, when I really examine my heart I wonder "how much of my faith I apply in a personal way, deep down in my heart on the level where I actually mean things" (pg. 201). Honestly, many times my motives for spiritual activity and the disciplines of the Christian life are entirely self-centered. I want people to like me. I want to be admired. I want God to like me. I want to feel better about myself. I want to atone for some past sin. I want to have a good day. I want blessings for the future.

None of those motives will do. As Miller writes, "The tough thing about Christian spirituality is, you have to mean things. You can't just go through the motions or act religious for the wrong reasons" (pg. 203). Why? Because being a Christian means having a relationship with God. And God doesn't really care about outward show. He knows me too well to be impressed by my religious activity. Instead, He wants to know the real me (now there's a thought) and wants me to know Him, to relate to Him from my heart. He wants me unveiled in my dealings with Him and others - being genuine, authentic, transparent. When it comes to my own justification, He wants me to get that from Him, not from the things I do to please Him and impress others. His favor is free. I don't have to perform; I just have to believe in Jesus and I'm acceptable...no, more than acceptable - I'm His delight.

As I understand Christianity, I agree with Don Miller when he says, "[Christianity] is a thing of the heart. It's intimacy with Christ, wrestling with the truth of the soul rather than a dog and pony show in the center ring of a circus" (pg. 203).

So what will it mean for me to examine my heart on a regular basis? It will mean reading the Bible more slowly and carefully, not just to check off my to-do list but to hear God speak to me personally. It will mean asking myself questions during the day, questions like: "Why did I say that? Why did I just do that? Why didn't I speak up? Why did I say too much? Why am I engaged in this ministry? Is it for God's glory, or mine? Am I truly concerned for that person, or looking for a pat on the back? Did I do that out of love, or vanity?"

Examining my heart will mean confessing - to God and others - when I realize my motives were lousy. It will mean listening to God as He speaks through circumstances and encounters with other people, instead of being agenda-driven. And, hardest of all, it will mean digging deeper into my own heart, looking at the things that bother me, move me, anger me, worry me, and re-feeling the pain of past mistakes and memories so that I am not seeking healing in anything or anyone but Christ.

What will examining your heart mean for you?

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