Testing the Grinch Within

Teddie’s out of the office for her annual year end vacation this week and next. That means, among other things, I get to type up and send out the connect card prayer requests. No big deal. Glad to do it.

Among the requests that went out to the leadership team were my own. They included this one: for my servant heart – our son and grandchildren are in town for the week.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are multiple joys attached to the yuletide invasion of Joel and his tribe. But it also tests the reality of the gospel in my heart during an already busy time of year. And I can find myself easily irritated and Grinch-like.

For example, I went to take a shower earlier today. All I ask for is a relatively few minutes of uninterrupted, hot water streaming from above until I get myself clean. Any idea how hard that is to come by with four extra people in the house, three of them children?! It amazes me how little patience I can have with inconvenience. Perhaps I should have gotten that prayer request out on Monday instead of waiting until today!

Jesus warned against sins of hypocrisy (Matt. 7:5). I seem never to be far from putting on airs or keeping up masks in my flesh.

One thing that helps is focused self-examination, always, of course, under the lavish grace of the gospel.

Recently I came across this test for self-evaluation proposed by John Wesley for waging war against hypocrisy.

Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I’m a better person than I really am? Do I laugh at the mistakes of others, reveling in their errors and misfortunes? Do I insist on having my own way? Is there a tendency for me to put others down so that I’ll be thought of more highly? Do I pass on to others what is told to me in confidence? Am I thoughtful in expressing ‘thanks’ to people for what they’ve done for me, no matter how insignificant it seems? Am I a slave to dress, a slave to friends and their opinions, a slave to work or habits? Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying? Did the Bible live in me yesterday? Did I disobey God in anything yesterday? Did I insist on doing something about which my conscious was uneasy? Did I handle discouragement well or did I have to be coddled? Am I enjoying prayer? When did I last speak to someone about Christ? Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize or hold resentment toward? If so, what am I doing about it? Is Christ real to me?

Frankly, I don’t ever want to take a walk down a road lined with signs asking those questions without gospel grace bracing me from condemnation. Still, giving ourselves to this kind of disciplined testing of ourselves to see that we are in the faith is commended to us in Scripture (2 Cor. 13:5) and and can reveal to us some measure as to how much the gospel is working itself out realistically in our every day lives.

Might 2013 be a year where at least once or twice a week we take a test for self-evaluation and not just at Christmas? Here’s to keeping the Grinch at bay and granting Jesus free reign.

4 responses

  1. I couldn’t agree more, PC. I need to ask myself these tough questions. I think, however, that two things might be helpful here. One would be a brother or brothers doing the asking of these questions a la Hebrews 3:13. Very often we can breeze through these sorts of questions on our own. Even under the new covenant, our hearts remain deceitful and ever in need of His writing of His law on it until we enter into His presence. Not that we can’t lie to our brothers, deceiving ourselves and them as well; but a regular meeting together with brothers who are honest about themselves and who love us too much to let us remain as we are in our sin can go far in breaking the spell.

    Secondly, I think that perhaps, as you allude to, a holding up of Christ in our examinations and a constant embrace of the gospel of His grace is necessary if we are to keep from falling into self-pity, self-condemnation, and the like. If we are not looking unto Him as we look at ourselves, we are treading on very thin ice. As M’Cheyne famously put it, “For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ.” It’s easier to quote than it is to do; and while I do not think that ten looks is necessarily to be taken literally, the sentiment of it ought to be taken very seriously indeed.

    That being said, thanks for this helpful post, PC; and thank you for always being an example to me and to the flock in examining yourself, submitting to the examination of others including your bride, and for ever pointing us to the One who came to bring us back to Him.

  2. One thing I do appreciate about you is your rare and refreshing candor. Thank you for being open about your selfish, sinful “grinchiness.” Don’t get me wrong. I am not pointing the finger at you, relishing your weakness while I cruise unaffected at high altitude. I also struggle with the same hell bent. Thank you for helping us by pointing to a life of constant awareness of sinfulness and, consequently, of daily repentance.

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