Jesus gives a strong admonition, that before we talk to another about how they sinned against us; we ought to first consider how we might have sinned against them. In Luke 17:3a he says, “Be concerned about yourselves…”
But how do you go about this process of evaluating yourself? The Psalmist wrestled with this question, and came up with four short prayers (2 words each) that prove to be an excellent starting point.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life (Psalm 139:23-24)
Here is an excellent evaluation process in 8 words or less: Search me, know me, test me, and lead me.
Search me. The Hebrew word haqr is rendered as search, probe, spy, examine. It was used to describe those who infiltrated enemy territory to find weaknesses in the enemy lines or cities. It’s like we should be saying, “Lord, find my weaknesses, my propensities to sin. Locate where I am easily tempted to sin, and eradicate them.”
Know me. In Hebrew throught, the heart is defined as one’s thoughts, emotions, and most significantly, one’s will. On more than one occasion the Bible communicates that, although we think we know this part of us well, we do not.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it (Jer. 17:9).
So when the Psalmist says to God, know my heart there is a humble acknowledgement on his part, that he can’t know it himself. A spirit of defensiveness in our evaluation should be like a neon light warning us that something has gone radically wrong with the process. We want God to know us, because we admit we don’t know ourselves very well.
Test me. The Life Application Bible adds this helpful note:
David asked God to search for sin and point it out, even to the level of testing his thoughts. This is exploratory surgery for sin. How are we to recognize sin unless God points it out? (LAB, p. 1262)
Ask yourself, “Am I thinking the way God thinks about this situation?” A trial or difficulty provides a great test to evaluate our thinking. If our thoughts are wrong, it is only a matter of time before our attitude, words, and actions will declare this.
Lead me. There is ongoing action to this word. It provides opportunity to show a spirit of submission to the Lord through the heart of the evaluation process. Leading necessitates change. If I’m heading one direction, but God is taking me another I will need to submit my desires to his.
For just a moment, imagine this: What if I spent as much time in personal evaluation of my sin, as I spent thinking about how I would address other people in theirs? How might that alter a potentially judgmental spirit?
Oh Lord, search me, know me, test me, lead me. . .