Examination of Conscience

Detail from St. Thomas - Georges de La Tour
Who perceives his unintentional sins? Cleanse me from my hidden faults. Moreover, keep Your servant from willful sins; do not let them rule over me. Then I will be innocent and cleansed from blatant rebellion.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. 
Psalm 19: 12-14

Lately, I've felt entrapped in a spiritual mire; stuck in a pattern of 'doing what I hate'. (Rom. 7:15). 

I frequently have trouble viewing my problems from a proper perspective, and my tendency is usually to blow my bad qualities far out of proportion and overlook the good qualities and victories in my life. I struggle against this, but it's easy for me to fall into a fatalistic mindset. I begin to give credence to the lying voice that whispers, 'you've failed. You are failing. You will always fail.' So it's a very healthy thing for me to have some standard other than my warped self perception against which to measure my spiritual progress. 

Several years ago, Dad introduced me to the practice of examination of conscience, or spiritual inventory. The idea is to take a list of spiritual qualities or instructions from Scripture, such as the Beatitudes (Mat. 5: 3-12), the Armor of God (Eph. 6: 10-18), or any of the numerous lists scattered throughout the Epistles (Romans 12: 3-18 is the one I currently have taped to my bedroom mirror), and use that list to formulate a set of questions to ask yourself at the end of each day. The goal is to measure that day's spiritual progress and regress; identifying your areas of spiritual strength and weakness and learn, by trial and study, accountability and much, much prayer, how to grow through your strengths and stop wallowing in your weaknesses. 

I don't run through the examination of conscience nearly as often as I should (probably the reason why I struggle so mightily), but part of last week's scheduled Bible reading was Psalm 15; David's description of a Godly man. As I read through the listed attributes of righteousness, I was reminded of the practice of spiritual inventory. I decided to formulate David's list into a series of questions for myself, and for anyone else who cares to use them. 

Psalm 15

Lord, who can dwell in Your tent? 
Who can live on Your holy mountain?
Have I recognized and worshiped 
God's holiness today?
Have I longed for and sought unity and
fellowship with Him?
The one who lives honestly, 
Have I lived honestly and avoided all
appearance of evil?
Have my words, thoughts, actions and desires
reflected the truth of my identity in Christ and
born witness to the fact that God's Spirit is
living and working in me?
Practices righteousness,
Have I striven to meet the standard of
God's righteousness in word, thought,
action and desire, or have I settled
for mediocrity?
Have I allowed myself to fall into either
pride of futility by comparing my 
righteousness to that of other people?
Have I taken advantage of every
opportunity for acting on God's 
And acknowledges the truth in his heart -
Has any part of my heart clung to 
deceitful or ungodly things?
Have I consciously striven to open
every part of my being to God's truth?
Am I holding any unconfessed sin 
back from Him?
Have I acknowledged truth only 
with my mouth and my intellect, or 
have I allowed God to root it deeply 
in my heart so that it may be
integrated into every part of my life
and be present in each thought?
Who does not slander with his tongue,
who does not harm his friend or discredit his neighbor.
Have I spread any gossip, lies, or
unverified assumptions, spoken any
word or engaged in any thought
that could be harmful to the
character or well-being of another
Have the reputations of friend,
family member and stranger
been safe in my care?
Have I been faithful, in so
much as I am able, to refute
the idle or slanderous gossip of
Have I committed murder by
hating another person in my heart?
Have I shown each person the same
patience, love, and mercy that my
Heavenly Father has shown to me?
 Who despises the one rejected by the Lord
but honors those who fear the Lord,
Have I lived in such a way that
those who honor the Lord desire
and seek my companionship?
Have I actively sought the Lord's
guidance in my relationships?
Have my relationships with others
reflected my desire to become more
Have I chosen to associate with
those who will draw me further away
from God, or do I seek relationships
that will strengthen my walk with Him?

Who keeps his word whatever the cost,
Have I made any foolish or empty
Have I allowed fear, laziness, a
hectic schedule or any other distraction
to prevent me from keeping my word and
fulfilling my obligations to God and to others?
Have I submitted my priorities and agendas 
to God's control?
Who does not lend his money at interest
or take a bribe against the innocent -
Have I been guilty of turning a blind
eye to corruption, or to the abuse
of the helpless and the disadvantaged?
Have I lived sacrificially; caring
for those God places in my path,
regardless of the cost to myself?
Have I been responsible to use my
God-given resources and blessings 
wisely; in a way that will advance His
kingdom and bring no harm to others?
Have I allowed greed, pride, fear, or
any other vice to motivate any decision I
have made?
Have I relinquished all control of my
finances, time and other possessions, and 
dedicated them fully to God?
Have I recognized and glorified God as
the giver of all good gifts and the sustainer
of life?
The one who does these things will never be moved. 
Have I lived in the knowledge that
God is present in the midst of my
struggles, and that He is working in
every circumstance to draw me closer
to Himself?
Have I faced every situation in the
strength of the Lord and with prayer?
Have I held tightly to faith, hope, love,
and a trusting reliance upon God's promises?

If you, like me, had to answer most of these questions with a dejected 'no' or a startled 'ouch!', then I'll ask you to join me in repentance for sin and praise for victory. Let's walk forward with both hope and humility, realizing that we will often fail but that, with God's help, we will also succeed.