“Well John, Upon Further Examination…”
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3).
If some sort of subject matter expert, like, say, a doctor of some kind… perhaps a cardiologist, ophthalmologist, or oncologist… were to begin a sentence in the above manner, “Well John, Upon Further Examination…” emotions such as trepidation, dread, or perhaps a threatened and fragile hope may begin to bubble up.
Why? Because the sentence likely ends with some deeper revelation or diagnosis of reality that may well change our life, right? Taking a closer, much closer, look at most anything invites us into the threat or the freedom of squarely facing reality.
Odd isn’t it? Even if someone were to say something to us as simple as, “Get Real!” it forces us to re-consider things at a level that feels foreign somehow. What’s up with that?
Whether the deepest fears or the deepest freedoms are stirred up in the process of a deeper examination depends entirely on the perspective, the worldview, of a person.
Reality for some is paralyzing, and for others energizing. The difference is a matter of one’s “macro and micro perceptive”—how the universe works, and how my personhood works within it. For many, having forgotten or been ill informed about the former, we can be full of ambivalence, avoidance, and consternation about the latter. Or maybe not… It’s complicated, right?
A Story of an Examination… Scary but Secure
During the time I worked for my father in his industrial rubber business, one of my favorite responsibilities was to make field inspections for his customers. Coal and hard rock mines, smelting factories, grain elevators, manufacturing and power plants, heavy construction… I loved being in the midst of and deep into the action!
One of the “deeper” inspections was dropping 2,500’ down into an iron ore mine near Ironton Missouri. The main conveyor belt used to move the mined rock to sub-stations for crushing was failing. The customer requested we examine and diagnose the problem; recommend the best course of action, and eventually bid on whether or not the $3,000,000. belt (one of the largest in the world at the time) would have to be replaced.
For cost efficiencies, the mine ran 24/7, 365. At 3 A.M. in the morning, we had a window of 2 hours to complete the work. Not only did my team have the fun-filled-fear of dropping down what seemed like a never-ending shaft in a high-speed elevator, but we were then faced with the challenge of moving along very confined spaces in the horizontal shaft until we could position a portable X-Ray machine on either side of the 86” wide conveyor belt.
Our suspicion was that the salinity in the mine was so high that the steel cables in the belt were corroding and failing over time.
It was wild, exhausting, messy, a bit scary, and yet safe and fascinating work! After collecting the data, I had the pleasure, and the trepidation, of being with the customer to offer our report. The report began, “Well Mr. Jones, upon further examination…”
Justifiably so, the mine supervisor was fearful the behemoth-of-a-belt would have to be replaced… And at great cost.
Self-Examination: The Hard yet Rewarding Work of Knowing Our Own Heart
The above passage from St. Paul to the new-born church of Rome, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned”, is carefully designed to lovingly yet boldly challenge the First Century Christian—and all of us by inference:
God has granted a differing measure of faith to each of his children, and Paul calls upon each to examine, inspect, access, and know himself or herself realistically. It’s important to see the passage in its context: Romans 12:3-13:14
Sober self-examination—the very necessary, and yet rewarding work of knowing our own heart—is not only something that’s asked of us by God in trinity, but should be done regularly by each one of us, and in community.
By analogy, descending deep into an iron ore mine, like examining our own heart, can be wild, emotional, scary, messy, exhausting, and fascinating work. But here’s the rub, my fellow race runners, if you are in Christ, He has gone before you, into an abyss like no other, and vanquished anything that can be life-threatening to you and me. Remember, for the Christian, since the threat punishment was finished on the cross, only purification awaits those who know God and themselves more and more realistically. We are safe, secure, and seeking to be sanctified in Him!
An Offer to “Apply the Portable X-Ray Machine to Our Heart”
Please use a faithful, close, and trusted friend, a community, to apply all or some of the following questions to your own heart and faith life. Some are over-lapping and repetitive: Not to worry, the exercise is designed that way. We should not let any emotions akin to “trepidation, dread, or perhaps a threatened and fragile hope” or even resentment or anger, dissuade us from an examination of this kind.
Print it off, journal about your answers, share them with anyone in your life who will be Jesus incarnate to listen, fully accept, and encourage in ways that are uniquely aimed to help you KNOW yourself, GROW in conformity to Jesus Christ, and SOW the seeds of your witness into the hearts of others.
What makes you a valuable person?
What gives you a sense of personal security and significance on a daily basis?
If God were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into My Heaven?’ how would you respond?
What about you brings God’s approval of you on a daily basis?
Articulate “the gospel” as briefly as you can.
What does “the gospel” have to do with how you live your life?
Jesus asked a disciple, ‘Who do you say I am?’ How would you answer this question?”
Even though notions of what “conversion” means can vary, can you recall what the manner of your adult conversion experience was? E.g., “Before I thought God was like… But afterwards, I saw God as…”
There was an incident in a Colorado High School when a gunman threatened to kill a young lady if she admitted her allegiance to Jesus Christ. What would you do in that sort of situation? Please explain.
Picture your life being threatened amidst a natural disaster of some sort. What scares you MOST about dying? What LEAST?”
If you’re a parent, what three things are the MOST important things about your children?”
It seems like so much destruction has been committed in the name of RELIGION. How might you explain this?
Until we sup’ again, beloved of God, awesome and faithful race runners, KNOW, GROW, and SOW on!!