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TEXT: II Corinthians 13:5
SUBJECT: Baxter on Self-Examination #2
Tonight, with God's blessing, we'll continue our study of Richard Baxter on Self-Examination. You all know what a physical exam is. It's when a doctor takes a close look at your body for signs of good or bad health. In self-examination, you're poking around your soul to determine its health.
The instrument you use is not an x-ray machine, a stethoscope, or a blood-pressure cuff; it's the Word of God. You read the Bible and compare what you are to what it says you ought to be. The work is not always pleasant, but it's always good for you.
How do you examine yourself? Or do it better? Thus far, we've looked at four things:
IF YOU WANT TO EXAMINE YOURSELF BETTER, KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON YOUR SPECIAL TEMPTATIONS.
Several years ago, a man came to me with a big problem: He was eaten up with sexual desire-for another man. Now, I felt for the poor man, but I can't say I understood him. His temptation is not mine. He has to spend a lot of time and effort resisting that desire; I don't. Not because I'm better than he is, but because my temptations are different than his.
I have my weaknesses; you have yours. Don't rack your soul looking for sins that don't appeal to you! That can only end in the worst sin of all-pride!
Keep your eye on the sins that entice you-not somebody else! Let me give you an example. I Timothy 6:10 says,
"The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil".
Greed has a way of working itself into every part of life. Things that are not wrong themselves become wrong because they're prompted by the love of money. Let me tell you a true story. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Bob is a friend of mine who's a little too fond of money. One day he asked a very pretty and nice girl out for lunch at an Italian restaurant. What do you think he ordered? One personal-size pizza and a soda with two straws! Needless to say, that relationship didn't work out too well.
He struck up another one, with another girl who lived with her aunt. Bob loved this girl so much that he visited her seven days a week. On Monday through Friday, he came by at 6:30 sharp. On Saturdays, he dropped in at noon. On Sundays (because they both went to church, though not the same one), he swung by at about 1:00 and stayed until about 6:45.
What do these times suggest to you? That he is a highly disciplined man? Maybe he is, but I think it has more to do with.Free Food!
Everything Bob did was "innocent". But, taken together, they indicate a love of money, which is not innocent.
I've known Bob for more than ten years. On balance, he's a very good man. He doesn't fornicate or curse or get drunk. You know why? Because these things are not his thing! It's money that turns him on.
Let me give you Bob's real identity. He's me and you. And most other people. We tend to be very careful about sins that don't tempt us, while turning a blind eye to those that do.
If you want to examine yourself with profit, keep a close eye on the temptations that really tempt you. That's Number One. Here is the quote from Baxter,
"Understand your natural temper and inclination, and suspect those sins you are most naturally inclined to, and there keep up the strictest watch".
IF YOU WANT TO EXAMINE YOURSELF BETTER, KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON "SECRET" SINS.
What's more dangerous to your soul? It is a secret sin or one committed in public? Most of us would say the latter. Public sins, after all, can ruin your reputation, cost you your family or even put in jail. But secret sins? They don't hurt anybody. Do they?
Yes they do-maybe far more than wickedness done in the open. Here's why: Secret sins are harder to recognize and repent of. A believing friend of mine once committed adultery. He told me he never felt as instantly and thoroughly filthy as he did that day. He knew what he did was wrong and repented of it that day and has carefully watched against it ever since.
But secret sins? They're not so easy to spot, are they? Nor do we have as much incentive to confess and forsake them. At least not right away and with passion.
That's why you've got to look extra carefully for private sins in your soul. Like a brown snake hiding under a brown rock on brown dirt, they're hard to see-but deadly.
What "secret sins" do I have in mind? The ones that are secret-not only to others-but even to yourself. Thus, I don't mean the thoughts you're ashamed of. But the ones you live with every day-without feeling guilty about them.
Baxter gives a good list of them,
"Suspect yourself most carefully of unbelief and the
lack of love for God and the secret preferring of
earthly hopes to the hopes of heaven".
Unbelief is the worst sin of all. To doubt God's Word is to call Him a liar. Is anyone here untouched by daily doubts? I'm not. Yet when did you last feel ashamed of yourself for unbelief? To not love God is another whopping sin. It's called "idolatry"-"Worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator". Is anyone above this sin? I'm not. Yet when did you last mourn over your lack of love for God? Preferring earthly hopes to the glories in the Other World is a third monstrosity-combining both idolatry and unbelief. Yet when did you last confess that sin?
It's strange that we often feel guilty about little sins-a bad word here and there, a lustful thought, maybe sneaking a snack when you're supposed to be dieting! Yet we overlook the Biggest Sins of All-not believing God and preferring other things to Him.
Hypocrites may do this intentionally. But you and I don't-I hope not anyway. Yet why do we do them? Because they're "secret sins"-not just secret to others, but often secret to ourselves.
If you want to examine yourself better, pray the Lord will show you what's in your blind spots. While you're waiting for Him to do that, read the Bible and find out what the "big sins" are. They may be different than the ones you think of.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxieties; See if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me into the way everlasting".
That's Number Two. If you want to examine yourself better, keep a close eye on your secret sins.
IF YOU WANT TO EXAMINE YOURSELF BETTER, SET ASIDE SPECIFIC TIMES FOR IT.
You ought to keep an eye on yourself at all times. The Proverb says,
"Keep your heart with all diligence,
for out of it spring the issues of life".
The moment you commit a sin, you ought to confess it to the Lord and ask Him to forgive you for Christ's sake. As soon as you feel tempted, you ought to do what you can to avoid it-and to beg God for help. This is similar to the man who weighs himself every morning or who keeps a close eye on his teeth.
These are essential to good health. But sometimes you need more. The same is true with your soul. Keeping an eye on it all the time is good, but sometimes you need a more thorough going-over. Baxter says,
"Take certain times to call yourself to special, strict account: At your preparation for the Lord's Day (for example), At your preparation for the sacrament of Christ's body And blood; on a day of humiliation; and in times Of sickness and affliction".
Going to church with a bad conscience is a very bad thing! It's playing the hypocrite and mocking God. So why don't you make Saturday night or early Sunday morning a time for a special searching of the heart and repenting of known sins? This is doubly true of coming to the Lord's Table. Sick days are a good time to look at yourself. Many holy people have set aside special days for fasting, prayer, and humiliation before the Lord.
The times cannot be mandated or imposed by churches or pastors or anyone else. But you can choose them for yourself. And you will-if you're serious about holiness and a good conscience.
Do you want to keep a good conscience? If you do, you've got to examine yourself. Honestly in the sight of God. So why don't you do it? I know it's hard and painful. But what isn't? It's hard to make a living-but you do it. It's hard to exercise-but you do it. It's hard to take care of your kids-but you do it.
Why? Because these things are important to you. And so is your soul. In fact, it's more important to you than anything else-whether you think so or not. The Lord Jesus once said,
"What would a man be profited if he should gain the whole world-and lose his soul?"
The implied answer is "nothing". The best job, the most sculpted body-even the happiest kids-will mean nothing to you on the Day of Judgment.if you lose your soul forever.
So why lose it? You don't have to. Keep on examining yourself and you won't. People have gone to hell while going to church, while giving to the poor, while reading the Bible, while saying prayers. But no one has ever gone to hell while "keeping his soul with all diligence".
God save us from the suicide of soul neglect! For Christ's sake. Amen.
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