Summary: Self-examination fuels spiritual formation. If you aren't growing closer to God, you're falling away from Him.
John Wesley (1703-91), English theologian, evangelist, and founder of Methodism, was so concerned with building a righteous fellowship that he devised a series of questions for his followers to ask each other every week. Some found this rigorous system of inquiry too demanding and left. Today, the very idea of such a procedure would horrify many churchgoers. Yet some wisely follow just such a practice. Chuck Swindoll for example, has seven questions he and a group of fellow pastors challenge each other with periodically:
A. Have you been with a woman anywhere this past week that might be seen as compromising?
B. Have any of your financial dealings lacked integrity?
C. Have you exposed yourself to any sexually explicit material?
D. Have you spent adequate time in Bible study and prayer?
E. Have you given priority time to your family?
F. Have you fulfilled the mandates of your calling?
G. Have you just lied to me?
A. Biblical writers have much to say about self-examination
1. Paul: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.” (2 Cor. 13:5).
2. John: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:8-10).
3. Others saw the need for such self-analysis, too. According to Socrates, the Greek philosopher, “the unexamined life is not worth living”.
B. Self-examination is a powerful tool in the life of the believer. It illuminates sin, and points us to the cross as our only means of recompense. However, examination that is not followed by sincere and immediate repentance has no value; it is only information.
C. David, when approached by the prophet Nathan, examined his behavior, repented of his sin, and God forgave him that very moment.
D. Today we find Job in a time of self-examination. He makes his final defense before God and his friends (a closing argument of sorts), and defends his integrity in the midst of tragedy. His model for self-examination is a good one for modern day believers, too.
A. Job’s resume was impressive; a godly man with expansive wealth and good fortune. Satan challenged him (in a test approved by God), took nearly everything he had including his health, and left him with a bitter wife and boils from head to foot.
B. Along came his friends, who after seven days of silent mourning beside him heard him cry out, in indescribable anguish, cursing the day he was born. This led his friends into a series of long discourses under the subtitle of “You probably deserve everything you’re getting”.
C. Finally, after hearing them impart their “wisdom”, Job responds with a lengthy discourse of his own on the subject of wisdom, followed by a summary defense of his claim of innocence.
D. He follows that summary (chs. 29-30) with a detailed analysis of his life and walk with God. In his self-examination, we hope to find a model we can apply to our own lives.
[Self-examination is the stimulus of spiritual formation. You can’t have one without the other.]
IV. JOB’S SEVEN POINT SELF-EXAMINATION
A. Job’s oath of innocence (ch. 31) is his final effort to compel God to do something about his plight. So vehement is his denial of sin that he uses “negative confession”, meaning he calls a curse on himself if each sin is found in him. (“if guilty” oath occurs 19X in chapter 31). Let’s look at his self-examination in more detail:
1. Have I been enticed by sexual impurity? (1-4 [lust], 9-12 [adultery])
a. Job knew the heritage God gives sinners is ruin and disaster. He did not look lustfully at women; he knew God looked on him, seeing all he did (7:19-20; 10:14; 13:27)
b. In our sexually charged society, this is tough, yet Paul taught his listeners to “flee every form of sexual immorality”
2. Have I withheld truth from anyone in any matter? (5-8)
a. His business and personal dealings were without blemish, though it would be easy for one of his wealth and position to take advantage. He knows God will find him blameless in these matters
b. It is still easy to take advantage of a situation; consider the clerk, who can’t make change without a digital cash register. Ever get too little? Too much?
3. Have I denied justice to those who sought it from me? (13-15, 38-40)
a. Job’s inference here is that he would not be able to seek justice from God if he had not treated his own servants fairly. He even regards them as equals in God’s creation (15, cf. 10:8,11), which no doubt turned some heads among his friends.