It was a warm and calm April Saturday in North Carolina when skydiving instructor Ivan McGuire began filming two of his students with his helmet-mounted video camera. He carefully looked over their gear ensuring this monumental jump for each of them would be safe and without incident. Ivan himself was an accomplished jumper, logging over 800 jumps to date. With his camera rolling and students pumped they all boarded the plane and took flight far above their intended rendezvous.
Ivan was known for his camera work and took pride in providing shots while minding the safety details for his students. The plan was to have both of his students jump from the front of the plane and he from the rear by himself so as to film from a distance while maintaining the same elevation.
When the moment came to leap all of the jumpers flawlessly were on cue. Soon thereafter, with calculated precision upon Ivan’s signal the students pulled their cords and their chutes opened without fail, the video shows their descent slowing, becoming smaller in his view. Next on the footage one can see Ivan’s right hand move in front of the camera briefly as he reaches for his cord and then his left. Immediately after the camera pans down to his chest as Ivan was coming to realize that he forgot to put on his parachute. He again looked up to see his students faintly visible and shrinking while the earth below grew unforgivably closer at 150 miles an hour. In seconds the video records Ivan’s body crashing to the earth and continues to record the next few minutes of life which Ivan himself didn’t live to experience.
Ivan had not practiced the proper self-examination that would have saved his own life. Because of his experience he grew complacent. Often the obvious fixes in our life are the ones we most overlook; thinking that we surely will handle the issue in the future…perhaps when we have “more time”. Some who later showed onto the scene of Ivan’s demise speculated that he may have thought he was wearing a parachute because of the weight of his recording equipment. Yet, had he simply looked at himself to check he would have immediately noticed what he yet lacked.
What should we as Christians gain from this sad but true story? How observant are we before jumping into the Passover season?
Many have observed God’s Holy Days for years, even decades, yet with each Passover, as with each airplane jump, we must fully examine ourselves or we will miss a crucial element, which can end with us losing our life.
Why should we examine ourselves?
In I Corinthians 11:28 God commands: “let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.” Clearly we understand before we partake of the Passover symbols we are to first examine ourselves. Without first examining ourselves vs. 29 explains that we are drinking judgment to ourselves as we take in the wine. When we eat of the unleavened bread it symbolizes Christ’s broken body. Continuing to vs. 30 we understand that healing comes after first examining why the ailment happened. A chief reason people do not experience healing is because they fail to examine their choices and determine to change (Ex. 15:26; Ps. 103:3).
The purpose as to why we need to examine our self aside from the fact that God commands us to do so, is to prove why we are here and determine if our course is properly aimed (II Tim. 2:15). Notice in II Corinthians 13:5 we are exhorted “Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates (disqualified)? Here we read that if we do not pass the test then Jesus Christ is not even in us. To pass a test one must first be put to one. We must, as instructed, examine our self.
How do we examine our self?
How then do we examine our self? Where do we find a spiritual checklist that defines what is correct –– the standard? This standard is found throughout the pages of God’s inspired word–The Bible. We must use the mirror of God’s Law (James 1:23-25) to see how and in what areas we do not measure up to Jesus Christ–the Standard. Beginning in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus gave what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. Notice in the verses of this chapter that the requirements for one who serves in the Kingdom of God and then remember that we must each individually examine ourselves–a form of self-grading; knowing that even the grading of ourselves is being monitored.
Go through the Sermon on the Mount and take notes of the sermon Jesus Christ gave privately to only His disciples regarding the importance of character and its relation to entering God’s Kingdom. Ask yourself, how you are comparing to the specifications which He listed.
Here are questions with which we can examine ourselves based off of the Sermon on the Mount:
• vss. 3-11 – His message begins with the beatitudes (Latin for blessings). Yet, often referred to as the ‘be-attitudes’. Go through each one and frankly determine where you need to improve. Do these mindsets describe you?
• vs. 3 – Poor in spirit – Do I see myself as spiritually complete and rich or poor and lacking…seeking to grow (Rev. 3:17)?
• vs. 4 – Mourn – Am I sickened by this world’s direction or do I see good in it and salvageable dogma? (Ezek. 9:4)
• vs. 5 – Meek – Am I known for being agreeable and patient or must I ensure that others concur with me?
• vs. 6 – Hunger and thirst for righteousness – Do my internals groan to practice God’s way or do I critique other’s shortcomings from practicing what I consider to be God’s way?
• vs. 7 – Merciful – Do I live with compassion toward others or find myself questioning what placed them into the situation which they now find themselves?
• vs. 8 – Pure in heart – Is my wholeheartedness and sincerity evident as much to others as it is to me?
• vs. 9 – Peacemakers – Where there is an absence of peace do I enter and present it through word selection, tone and my manner?
• vs. 10 – Righteous persecution – When buffeted do I bring it on myself or legitimately suffer for obedience?
• vs. 11, 12 – Rejoice when reviled – How do I react to false accusations and lies against me? Do you return an eye for an eye or consider that they are giving you a reward by placing you in ‘good company’?
• vs. 13 – Am I considered to be as ‘salt’ by others? Keep in mind that salt enhances flavor, preserves and when rightly applied in measured amounts can create thirst for more. Not enough and a meal can taste bland; however if applied too heavily people can gag and even be given to vomit. Salt must be measured to be of value. We must be honest with ourselves, how similarly do we resemble righty measured salt?
• vss. 14-16 – How does our light shine? A true light should shed light on God and His way; do our actions do this? Or, do our actions blind others and cause them to stumble. Those with whom we come into contact should not have a sour report of our conduct (I Peter 3:16). Our good works should be evident.
• vss. 17-20 – Are we obeying God not just outwardly but in the depths of our being? Do we see some commands as lesser or as more allowable to break? How well for instance, do we obey the laws of man whom God has ordained to rule for the time being (Rom. 13:1-6; Dan 4:17)? Must we only obey commands when being watched, or do we also obey when alone or in our mind? The answer to this question leads us to determine if we should focus on self-righteousness or being hypocritical. We today live in a Pecksniffian age but how closely do we relate our beliefs to our practices? Do we appreciate that law is set as a guide for life to preserve and protect us?
• vss. 21-28 – Are we keeping from physical acts like murder, adultery, theft and lying? No doubt we are. Yet notice Christ introduces when we treat one another wrongfully our treatment fits within these categories. To malign someone’s character is theft and murder (assassination). To look after another person with desire is adultery. To speak with guile or while knowingly hiding truth is lying. We must understand that these acts are EFFECTS with the spiritual CAUSES being: hatred, lust, greed and deceitfulness. These are what compose our carnal human nature. We must not let our minds dwell on the causes or else we will become weaker to resisting the physical effects.
• vs. 23-26, – How often is our behavior accused of being offensive? What value do we put on being right and making sure that others know it, versus giving others time and room to grow while we just learn to get along? At times adults prove themselves to be children grown large in not being prudent and peaceful. Becoming an agreeable person is a fine art at which Jesus excelled (Luke 2:52).
• vss. 29, 30 – What in life have we found of so great importance that we would allow it to remove us from entering the Kingdom of God? Are we aware of sins in our life, but deciding to look past them for the time being? Entering the Kingdom of God is to be our highest priority; we must not let anything remove our focus from our calling.
• vss. 33-37 – Can your word be taken at face value? How often do you have to convince others, that you are telling the truth? Or when you agree to do something are you known for following through on your word. In this last generation people are known as trucebreakers, but may God’s Church not have this reputation. We need to be straight with our words both to others and even to ourselves. Often people will set goals for themselves yet their consciences harbor doubt because they have lied to themselves before. We must set our physical will to accomplish that which we set out to accomplish. If this is an area in which you struggle, set small goals and accomplish them, don’t accept failure as an option. This will re-educate your conscience to believe you.
• vss. 38-42 – How hard do you find forgiving your brother? We realize individually we have been forgiven of so much and take comfort in knowing that these offences against God have been removed as far as the East is from the West. We must then be pitifully minded toward our brother fully willing to forgive him, regardless of how many offences he commits against us (I Peter 2:19-25). We must be willing to go the extra mile for him.
• vss. 43-48 – How often do you pray for those who threaten, insult, and falsely accuse you? To a carnal mind this sounds backward and as faulty reasoning, yet notice in verse 48 that this is how to become and think like God. Remember that Jesus Christ died for us while we were yet practicing sin. We too must have this mindset. We know our enemies’ plans will be foiled and work according to God’s purpose.
Those who consider themselves our enemies will soon come to taste of the same spiritual gifts that we do. They too can be used mightily by God when they fully submit to Him. Remember that when this message was given by Jesus there were certain ones who heard these very words and may have put them into practice finding a few years later that one for whom they prayed named Saul later became known as the Apostle Paul. They may have even had some in their own family, put to death because of or by him.
Upon studying these chapters and answering the questions you can examine yourself from the verses. See if you are still in the faith, by your actions and mindset. II Corinthians 13:5 admonishes to “Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith, prove your own selves.” The word “examine” is the Greek word peirazo, which is translated often in other verses as “to tempt or try”. We must then put ourselves on trial—cross examine ourselves, not seeing ourselves as the plaintiff but instead as the defendant, furthermore as the guilty defendant. Peer into the case against yourself, convict yourself in your mind and then consider what punishment fits your crimes (Romans 6:23).
Imagine you were to be awaiting the justice due, sitting alone and thinking to yourself in a cold dark cell. You ask: “If faced with the same circumstances again, would I handle myself differently? Would I decide to do things the same way if you could have another chance? If you determine that you would have acted differently than you would have to admit your wrong without self-justification even in the back recesses of your mind. Only then could you qualify or be counted worthy to find that One has come to pardon you—to take your place.
At baptism we were shaken to our core (Acts 2:37) to understand that we took part in murdering Jesus Christ. What about today, are we still agitated violently or pierced to the heart to realize the morbid part we have played? Are we still bringing the fruits worthy (Matt 3:8, Luke 3:8) of being granted repentance (II Tim 2:25) that we did prior to baptism?
Unworthily, Worthy vs. Counted Worthy
One verse often misunderstood is I Corinthians 11:27. Confusion while reading this verse causes some to ask: “Can we be worthy to take of the Passover?” Or, “If I have not properly examined myself should I skip this Passover?” The Church has long taught that the word unworthily does not imply that we are to be worthy but rather is referring to the manner in which we take the Passover along with if and how we prepare to take it by examination. We strive to be COUNTED WORTHY, through proper examining, and obedience to God. Ephesians 4:1 explains that we are to walk worthy of our calling by not treating our calling cheaply. To think that we must be worthy to take the Passover is incorrect but instead we must be ‘counted-worthy’ (Acts 5:41). To take the Passover in a worthy manner, our consciences must be clear (I John 3:21). A clear conscience is, in a sense, being free from guilt, which can be used as a tool that Satan uses to remind us of our shortcomings as an attempt to derail our seeking God. Guilt is looking back (Philippians 3:13-15, Luke 9:62, Eph. 4:27). Guilt can at first have a benefit (II Cor. 7:10); it can aid in leading to Godly sorrow. Godly Sorrow works repentance in seven steps, covered in the next verse (11). These seven steps are Carefulness, Clearing, Indignation, Fear, Vehement Desire, Zeal and Revenge on sin. When guilt is not according to Godly sorrow, doubt (another tool of Satan) can make one feel as if they cannot come before God’s throne of grace—that they cannot take the Passover worthily. Every year some read this verse, and think that it allows them to skip the Passover because of their failure to examine them self. The fact is, they are wrong. There are no second chances, no do-overs. This verse commands that we examine ourselves before taking the Passover, it does not give a way out or permit us to do neither.
A time is coming when judgment is given, time will be up and the books will be sealed.
Now is the time of judgment on God’s Church (Ezek. 9:6, Rom. 2:9, I Peter 4:17). We are now, without excuse (Heb. 10:26, James 4:17). It is true that God is patient (Ps. 52:1, Rom 2:4), but He does not wink at rebellion (I Samuel 15:23). Now is the time to examine our own selves (Rom. 6:14-18).
Examination is Crucial
Ivan McGuire lost his life simply by overlooking the crucial step of self-examination. Seconds before his life ended, he experienced agony more intense than the final crushing blow. The realization of not sharing more experiences with family and friends would have crossed his mind along with how simple this could have been avoided. At that point in time to him, inspection and double checking lists were more than just methodical procedures but rather life-saving aids he wished he would have heeded. His physical life ended that day but we understand that he yet has an opportunity to live and witness God’s Kingdom when it is set-up on this earth. We brethren are being judged today. Those who fail to grasp the gravity of inaction, the failure to examine one’s self, will bring catastrophic and eternal hurt.
This era of Laodicea is known for judging, but not themselves. We, living in this era are exhorted by God to “anoint your eyes”, this is a process we must continuously practice to remain in the Body of Christ. We must ensure we are giving ourselves more than just a once over lightly, but rather peer deeply into the recesses of our minds and shed light where any shadows fall. This era’s attitude is marinated in an age of self-justification, self-will, self-serving and selfishness. God’s people must have instead a mindset of self-examination. This is the only ‘self’ we are required to monitor and test.
Be sure to take time to examine yourself and then you will be counted worthy to serve in the coming Kingdom of God.