When I worked at General Motors my final job was as a team leader. In training for that position we viewed all kinds of statistics that apparently told a story of poor quality in the cars we made. The numbers were in comparison to our Japanese competitors. The purpose of this “self-examination” was to help us emphasize quality with the employees on the line, so we could sell more cars and make more money. This is an appropriate means of improvement, but can be a problem when not looking at the analytical data properly. Wrong use or misinterpretation of information often leads to undue criticism and unnecessary grief. My father was an auto worker for 33 years and can report the validity of the last statement, as for years the American auto worker was told they had quality issues with their work. One of the issues was that the very data managers used to show a problems, revealed a different story. General Motors certainly had more instances of quality issues, but in comparison to other auto makers, they made several million more cars per year than the nearest competitor. This factor alone created the potential for more errors. Because of the higher volume of produce vehicles they had to employ hundreds of thousands more employees, which raised potential for more quality issues. The real kicker was that when averaged, General Motors percent of problems was right in line with the average of the Japanese auto makers. Final analysis (pun intended): a wrong view of analytical data leads to faulty self-examination leading to a negative perception of one’s performance. Truly I am not real interested in promoting one car company over another, but the story illustrates a real pitfall when we become over focused on self-examination or happen upon it in a faulty manner. If one were to look at the political landscape over that past few years they would see politicians examining their performance to the point of being obsessed. In many cases they are not speaking from a settled position of integrity or belief in policy, but pandering to what their analysis in polling says people want to hear. Conclusions drawn from faulty self-examination is also affecting many people we love including the young folks of our lives. In a country where eating disorders have reached startling proportions, we need only look at what young people analyze and examine themselves against in media to see this troubling trend. Often the perceived standard of body health is found in a professional athlete who pummels their body for a living or in an airbrushed star who kids analyze themselves by. It’s no wonder they find only failure when they look in the mirror.
From this we can draw a conclusion: Examining ourselves is necessary and helpful, yet when out of balance we find depression, frustration and unnecessary heartache. Simply put we don’t enjoy life.
Self-examination can be a wonderful tool in our walk with Jesus, as long as it is endeavored upon with the help of the Holy Spirit. It was the Psalmist who wrote, “Search me oh God and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24). Thank God, for all who trust in Jesus, receive the Holy Spirit who leads in proper self-analysis. But just as the world can become out of balance in this crucial area so can the follower of Christ and experience similar depression, frustration and unnecessary heartache. Simply put we can stop enjoying life, and forget what it means to enjoy the Lord.
This can arise when we look at the Bible as a “grade book” instead of what it truly is. We understand that a grade book is where standards are recorded, those doing well pass, those not doing well fail. In II Corinthians 3:18 we read, “We all with unveiled face, behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, and are transformed into that image as by the Spirit of the Lord”. In this instance the writer is referring to the ongoing blessing of sanctification guaranteed by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, as we seek the Lord Jesus. Truly the written Word of God is of the greatest value to us in this ongoing endeavor. As we dive into the Word of God we understand that it reveals Jesus from Genesis to Revelation. The scriptures reveal the love of Jesus, the actions of Jesus, His righteousness and His power. Jesus Himself tells us, “Truly I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works I do he will also do; and greater works than these”. We also see the Word is full of holy behavior we are called to in Christ and read that we are to be doers of the Word not just those who hear it. Scripture is a wonderful “mirror” reflecting Christ and assuring what we are becoming as by the Spirit.
The problem is we can begin to analyze our progress in such a way that we see only what we are not, instead of what we can be. In sincerity we vow we will accomplish a certain part of the Christ life and we endeavor to do so, but when the war with our flesh ensues we grow frustrated. At these times if not careful we can forget we are transformed as by the Spirit. We can begin to whip ourselves over our failure. The joy and prospect of the Holy Spirit working this transformation in our lives is replaced by a sense of pressure and frustration. We may exchange faith in God’s work, for a settled position of “I can’t make the grade”. This is when the Word of God becomes a “grade book” where you and I make only “F’s”. This is truly sad, for His Word is His book of Promises, where the soul who exercises faith see’s that Jesus never fails. To choose this latter disposition of the Word of God is a great place to begin to enjoy the Lord in our life. Truly this idea of using the Word of God erroneously as a “grade book” can be seen in II Corinthians 3:5-6where we read,
“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God. Who has also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit for the letter kills but the Spirit brings life”.
Since we know that we are saved by grace through faith and not of ourselves, we can declare with joy that salvation was God’s complete and sufficient act for all who trust in Christ. We must also remember and equally declare that our promised transformation as new creatures in Christ is His complete and sufficient work. Enjoying the Lord begins with His sufficiency in Jesus cross and resurrection. It continues with Holy Spirit led self-examination that sees Jesus through the scriptures not as grading our failure but promising He will complete the work He began in us. Essentially enjoying the Lord begins with our understanding that He passed the test (God’s standard for judgment), and He will pass it through us as we are renewed day by day.
Our active part is not that of condemning ourselves, but being honest about where we are and what Jesus is calling us to. We remember that sin has no dominion over us and we seek to choose righteousness, He then as by the Spirit brings His life and character through us. Sweet Victory!!! Truly this seems wonderful, but in our experience it seldom is that quick. Many a sincere followers’ frustration begs the question, “Can we truly enjoy the Lord when we struggle consistently with recurring weakness and besetting sins that overshadow the promised victory of Christ”? Yes we can, but having the proper perspective in self-examination is essential.
In the next writing we will look at enjoying the Lord in the difficulties and failures we encounter as we attempt to walk in Him. Look for it in the next few days, and while you wait enjoy the view of the Lord Jesus we have in the Scriptures, for in Him all blessing and enjoyment are yours.