Q: I know this might be a silly question, but the Bible makes reference to examining yourself. What does it mean to examine yourself?
A: There are two main matters that we must examine about ourselves: Whether we are ready to partake of communion, and whether we are of the true faith (1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5).
The idea of examination is to prove, try, or test something to see if it would meet with approval. It involves discernment, scrutiny, and discipline. In summation, would our spiritual condition and our faith be approved of God?
In the matter of examining ourselves in relationship to communion, we must first discern what spirit we are operating in. The Bible is clear that the unseen must be properly discerned (1 Corinthians 2:10-15). By discerning the spirit that is in operation, we will be able to determine if we have a right heart attitude. If the heart is not right, it will not be open for one to properly receive on any front, whether it be truth, instruction, communion, or edification.
A closed heart simply represents a stiff-neck. A stiff-neck is based on prideful rights that can harbor and justify ungodly ways that range from anger, to unforgiveness, to bitterness, etc. Such a stiff neck will refuse to repent or come into submission to that which is righteous and approved of God. Those in this condition should not only refrain from taking communion, but they need to believe the promise of 1 John 1:9, and humble themselves before the blessed New Testament Priest, to once again confess their sins and seek forgiveness in order to find restoration of the soul.
It is vital that Christians not only examine themselves during communion to ensure the integrity of the experience, but periodically in their walk. A wrong heart attitude towards matters of heaven will ultimately produce unacceptable fruit. It is for this reason Jesus stressed that people will know, not only others by their fruit, but they will also know where they are as to their spiritual condition before Him. However, it takes a love for truth and integrity to examine ourselves in the light of God’s penetrating Spirit and Word to know our present standing with Him.
When it comes to the test of our faith, it is the way to prove our point of reliance. It is easy to delude ourselves about where our faith rests. We can say all the right things, but in our heart we could be relying on that which is worldly, selfish, religious, and destructive. In a sense, we are testing our foundation. Are we really grounded in the Christ of the Bible, upon His Word, and in line with the leading of His Spirit?
If individuals are relying on something other than God, promoting something other than the reality of Christ, or exalting any cause other than the Gospel, regardless of how religious or good it might be, it is idolatrous. Such a foundation is shifting sand and will not withstand the test of truth. It will not edify others, nor will it be approved of God because such idolatry always operates outside of the accountable and protective boundaries of His Word.
As you can see, the greatest personal examination will always bring us back to who our head (source) is, which is influencing our attitude towards life (Christ or Adam), who we are serving (God or sin), and who or what we are exposing ourselves to and coming into agreement with the Law (judges the flesh) or the risen Christ. (See Romans 5-7.) It is important that we examine ourselves to see if there is any idolatry in our lives, because like the rich young ruler, eventually out of love, our holy God will shake our foundation and put His finger on any idol that may be present in our hearts and minds. Sadly, many people who are not prepared to face their idols will stiffen their neck against the truth and will maintain their idol, insist on their way, while demanding they are right.
The harsh truth is that we cannot afford to be in wrong standing with God in the matters of spirit, truth, attitude, and conduct. We must remember the warning of Matthew 7:21-23. As Christians, we have been given the tools and avenues to ensure right standing with God, but if examined, we must be prepared to be found wrong in order to be made right before God to ensure we are approved of Him.