“Keep Proving What You Yourselves Are”
“Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.”—2 Cor. 13:5.
1, 2. (a) What thoughts and questions often pass through the mind when we reflect on our true personality? (b) Why is knowing what our true personality is like important to the Christian?
WHEN was the last time that you took a good look at yourself? Were you satisfied with what you saw? What does your personality tell others about you? Are you a complex individual made up of so many different thoughts and feelings that it is difficult to say what your personality is really like? Are you a faithful Abraham one day and a doubting Thomas the next? Are you a submissive Sarah on Monday and a domineering Jezebel on Tuesday? or an energetic Paul on Wednesday and a world-loving Demas on Thursday? What are you really like?
2 As far as other people are concerned, your personality, like your face, is always showing. But is what they see the real you, or are you acting the part of the hypocrite and letting some people see only what you want them to see? Is what they see or what you really are an honor to the great God Jehovah?
3. Why is it important that we examine ourselves, and why can we say an examination of ourselves is an expression of our love for God and neighbor?
3 It is important that we look at ourselves to see what sort of persons we are. We do not want our appearance or personality to offend others. We enjoy the pleasure of good company and we desire others to enjoy our association with them. Therefore, we seek not to displease our friends or our God, who is our closest Friend. Such concern is proper, because it is an expression of our love of God and neighbor.—Matt. 22:37-39.
4. Cite instances where the words “test,” “examine” and “prove” are used in the Bible, and state why such expressions were used by Bible writers.
4 It is amazing how many times the Bible uses such words as “try,” “test,” “examine” and “prove.” It would be worth your while, in fact, to trace the usage of such words in a Bible concordance. You will be surprised, not only at the number of times they are used, but also at where, to whom and why they were spoken. Here, for example, are passages taken from six different epistles of Paul: “Be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:2) “First let a man approve himself after scrutiny.” (1 Cor. 11:28) “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.” (2 Cor. 13:5) “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deceiving his own mind. But let him prove what his own work is.” (Gal. 6:3, 4) “Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:10) “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.” (1 Thess. 5:21) By such appeals the apostle is emphasizing the need for a constant examining of ourselves, that we may be found “blameless and innocent, children of God without a blemish in among a crooked and twisted generation” of mankind.—Phil. 2:14-16.
5. How must we see ourselves, and why?
5 To examine ourselves, as Paul admonishes, we must see ourselves as God does. “He sees what the heart is.” (1 Sam. 16:7; Prov. 21:2) He looks upon our hidden motives and desires. Therefore, to be sure we have God’s approval we must check our hidden motives and desires and discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. We must know why we should make changes in our personality, what changes to make and how. All of this calls for an accurate knowledge of ourselves, our motives, the world around us and God’s infallible written Word, the Bible.
WHY KEEP PROVING WHAT YOU ARE?
6, 7. Why is it necessary that we keep proving ourselves?
6 There are many reasons why we should keep proving what we are. One reason is, We have been born in sin and shaped in iniquity. (Ps. 51:5) The natural bent of our minds is toward corruption. Therefore, to safeguard ourselves from the deceptive power of sin, which is an inherent part of our fallen nature, we must keep proving ourselves.
7 Another reason for proving ourselves is that we are living at a time when Satan the Devil is employing every imaginable devilish device at his disposal to suck all mankind into a whirlpool of destruction with him. He has made prestige, money, possession, power and pleasure gods. And according to Dean Merrill C. Tenney, of Wheaton College Graduate School, these have become the idols of the twentieth century. We must keep testing ourselves lest we be deceived into worshiping these idols that cannot give life.
8, 9. (a) Why must we test our moral inclinations? (b) What other bad associations must we guard against?
8 Still another reason for the testing of ourselves is the fact that the moral bars are down in this world and the danger of slipping into immorality is ever present. This means we must take stock of our associations, because “bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33) They can cause us to slip into old-world ways of smoking, drunkenness, fornication and loose living. Therefore, we need to prove ourselves.
9 People are not the only bad associations that we must guard against. The mind and heart also must be protected, because of their vulnerability to outside expressions and impressions. They must be safeguarded against the immoral effects of bad reading, bad viewing and bad thinking. Sexy movies, gruesome comic books and faithless writings of higher critics are not going to build faith and virtue in us. Know that what we feed into the mind will in time influence us. So unless we become selective in our choice of friends, unless we read good books and pick wholesome entertainment, we will undoubtedly find ourselves drifting into the old world and may very well end up in the ditch of destruction with it. So it is wise that we keep proving what we ourselves are.—Heb. 2:1; 1 John 2:15-17.
10, 11. (a) Why must we guard against overconfidence? (b) What dangers lie behind such attitudes as indifference and negligence?
10 We must protect ourselves from attitudes that are dangerous and destructive to our way of worship, which is still another reason for proving what we ourselves are. Paul warned us not to become overconfident, in these words: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12) Overconfidence can lead us to the folly of relying on our own strength or the power of armaments. It can cause us to lean on our own understanding or the understanding of other men, instead of trusting in the power and wisdom of God.—Prov. 3:5-7.
11 Beware, also, of indifference and negligence. Either one can prove fatal. Indifference can lull us to sleep as to the urgency of our times, and negligence can cause us to flout the table of Jehovah. Therefore, it behooves us to keep proving to ourselves what we are lest we fall victim to these subtle snares of the Devil.—1 Cor. 16:13; 1 Thess. 5:1-11; 1 Pet. 5:8; Mal. 1:7.
12. How is Cain’s example a warning to us, and what counsel does Paul give Christians along this line?
12 There are reasons for concern. The Bible gives us a number of examples of men who fell victim to Satan’s schemes primarily because they stopped proving to themselves what sort of men they were. There was Cain, evidently a man with a wicked temper. God warned him to control his anger, but Cain refused to listen. His uncontrolled anger led him to murder, banishment and a death outside God’s favor. The apostle Paul, therefore, wisely counsels Christians to put away wrath, anger, abusive speech and obscene talk. He says these practices must be stripped off if we are going to merit God’s approval and gain life. Now is the time to examine our dispositions and make the necessary changes by proving what we ourselves are.—Gen. 4:6-16; Col. 3:8, 9.
13. Why is Esau a good warning example, and what lesson is there in his example for Christians?
13 Esau despised his birthright. He lacked appreciation for sacred things. For one meal he “gave away his rights as firstborn.” When he sought to regain these rights he could not, even though he sought a change of his father’s mind with tears. The time to check our appreciation for sacred things is now, lest we succumb to sin and, like Esau, sell the very thing we want most, namely, everlasting life, for the price of one meal, one dishonest, sinful act and continuing that way without repenting. Keep proving what you are.—Heb. 12:16, 17; 3:12-19.
14. In what way are King Saul, King Solomon and Judas Iscariot warning examples for us living today?
14 King Saul refused to believe that “to obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams.” Saul had the distinction of being the first king of Israel, yet he never learned unqualified obedience. Through impulsive acts of disobedience he forfeited the kingship for himself and his family. King Solomon, who had glory surpassing all the kings of natural Israel, fell victim to bad associations. Pagan women turned him away from Jehovah into becoming a worshiper of demon gods. Judas Iscariot, an apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ, allowed himself to become a money lover, a materialist. His greed swept him into disbelief, sin and suicide. All of these were once faithful men, but they fell from their faithfulness when they stopped proving what they themselves were. They serve as warning examples to us to keep proving what we ourselves are, lest we, as they, fail in faithfulness and stray from the path of life.—1 Sam. 15:22, 23; 1 Ki. 11:1-10; Matt. 27:3-6.
EXAMPLES TO BE EMULATED
15. Why are Noah, Moses, Paul and Jesus Christ good examples for us to emulate?
15 The Bible also mentions men whose examples we can copy, faithful men who kept on proving what they themselves were. There was Noah, a man of insight who walked with God and “became an heir of the righteousness that is according to faith.” (Heb. 11:7) There was Moses, a leader of Israel, yet “by far the meekest of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground.” (Num. 12:3) There was the apostle Paul, who was an outstanding Christian minister, a man of zeal, faith and fine works. (2 Cor. 11:23-27; Phil. 4:12, 13) And, of course, in the life of Jesus Christ we have our perfect example. He was a man “tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.” These men proved to themselves and to others what they were by the type of lives they lived, lives of integrity and exclusive devotion to God. For their faithfulness they won for themselves honorable mention in God’s Word and a place in his new world of righteousness.—Heb. 2:17, 18; 4:15, 16; 7:26.
WAYS TO PROVE WHAT YOU ARE
16. What instruments do Christians use today with which to prove themselves?
16 What about today? How do Christians go about proving what they are? What provisions has Jehovah given them for this purpose? First and foremost, Jehovah has provided his Holy Word, the Bible, which contains his commandments and principles pertaining to life. Then he has poured out his holy spirit or active force upon his people, which force makes plain the Bible. In addition, God has blessed men with an organization that supplies them with Bible aids and arranges congregational meetings and assemblies by and through which one can examine himself. Together these act as mirrors by means of which a Christian can view himself from every aspect and angle.
17. (a) In addition to the Bible, what else is needed before that Word can become a lamp to our pathway? (b) From whom does light proceed, and how does the prophet Isaiah show that it would be supplied?
17 Take the Bible for an example. Without study of it the Bible is not a force. Millions of people have copies of the Bible, yet they have made no improvement in their lives. Why is that? Before any mirror can become effective there must be light. A mirror reflects no image in total darkness, neither does the Bible. To see our spiritual selves in God’s Word we must have light from the Author of that Word, namely, Jehovah. Through his prophet Isaiah he declared that he would favor his people with his light, saying: “For, look! darkness itself will cover the earth, and thick gloom the national groups; but upon you Jehovah will shine forth, and upon you his own glory will be seen. And nations will certainly go to your light, and kings to the brightness of your shining forth.”—Isa. 60:2, 3; Jas. 1:17.
18. (a) What channel was used to bring light to men, and how was it passed on? (b) What does this prove? Cite an example.
18 Jehovah’s light was reflected among men chiefly in the person of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ. Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. He that follows me will by no means walk in darkness, but will possess the light of life.” The apostle John introduces Jesus to us as “the true light that gives light to every sort of man.” (John 8:12; 1:1-11) Jesus passed this light on to his followers, saying to them: “You are the light of the world. . . . let your light shine before men.” (Matt. 5:14-16) This means that spiritual things can be understood only in close association with the true followers of Jesus Christ, who possess the light of life, because all others remain in darkness. This fact is well illustrated for us in the example of the Ethiopian eunuch who could not understand the Scriptures until the Christian Philip enlightened him. The Ethiopian eunuch then stepped out of his dark past and became a Christian.—Acts 8:26-38.
19. (a) What steps must be followed today for one to gain understanding of God’s Word? (b) How does the disciple James show the need for an application of knowledge?
19 Today, the procedure is much the same if we are to prove what sort of persons we are. First, we must study God’s Word in conjunction with Jehovah’s people, his Christian witnesses. Then we must allow the force of Jehovah’s Word to actuate our minds to the point of altering our will, desires, interests, disposition, mental outlook and heart condition. If we are to continue in the right way, we must keep on filling our minds with the good things of God’s Word, for the mind directs the body. (Phil. 4:8, 9) For it to be effective we must apply what we learn, as the disciple James makes plain: “If anyone is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, this one is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, and off he goes and immediately forgets what sort of man he is. But he who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.” Happiness results from making improvements and seeing these improvements in our lives, and not simply from the knowledge that changes are to be made.—Jas. 1:23-25.
20. (a) What changes in personality and in their lives were early Christians able to make, and how? (b) What changes are Jehovah’s witnesses making today, and what does this prove?
20 Applying Bible principles daily is not as hard as it may seem at first. True Christians put forth a special effort to heed these principles; therefore, they are able to succeed to a greater degree. In the apostles’ day marvelous changes were made, as indicated by Paul at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Many Corinthian Christians were washed clean from such things as fornication, idolatry, thievery, greediness, drunkenness, reviling and extortion. Today, the true Christian witnesses of Jehovah are making these very same changes with the help of God’s Word, his spirit and his organization. And if a thousand or eight hundred thousand of them can strip off old personalities and put on new ones conforming to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty, then certainly others can do it, if they but sincerely try. But worldlings, lacking a love of righteousness, will not even try. They prefer to fall back on their pet excuse that the Bible is too idealistic for this age. To the extent, however, that we apply Bible principles we prove what we are.
OTHER AIDS FOR PROVING OURSELVES
21, 22. (a) How are the Watch Tower Society’s Bible-study aids a help in the proving of ourselves? Illustrate. (b) How have the Watchtower magazines been a help to us?
21 In addition to the Bible there are other aids to help us prove to ourselves what we are. The Watch Tower Society’s Bible-study aids, for example, provide marvelous ways by which we can make a test of our faith. Like powerful magnifying mirrors, they bring into focus our wrongs that need correcting. Take the Society’s Yearbook, for example. Each day its text and comments enable us to see ourselves as we are. One day we are told to ‘fully accomplish our ministry,’ the next day we are admonished to ‘show fellow feeling, exercise brotherly love,’ and on the third day we are urged to make “public declaration for salvation.” There is a good thought to think on for each day of the year. Therefore, each day we are moved to ask ourselves, Are we accomplishing our ministry? Do we show brotherly love? and so on. Individually we prove ourselves with these penetrating thoughts.—2 Tim. 4:5; 1 Pet. 3:8; Rom. 10:10.
22 There are also the numerous other Bible-study aids such as the books “Let Your Name Be Sanctified” and “Your Will Be Done on Earth.” Do not these publications test the depth of your knowledge? Is not your maturity measured by their meaty pages? Also, the Watchtower magazines over the last few years have been immensely helpful by bringing timely truths on morals, marriage and the sanctity of blood to our attention, thus aiding us to prove to ourselves what sort of persons we truly are.
23, 24. (a) How has the congregation provided a means for each minister to test himself individually? (b) What provision is there for the congregation to prove itself collectively? (c) In what way do assemblies provide for self-examination, and with what results?
23 Each Christian congregation is also a mirror by which we can individually or collectively examine ourselves. Individually we can prove what we are by listening attentively to discourses, by offering comments, giving encouragement, comfort and hope. The Publisher’s Record card, on which the minister’s activity with the congregation is posted, is still another way we can examine ourselves individually. By its record of our activity it reveals the extent of our spiritual interest in others not knowing the truth. Therefore, we would do well if we checked our field service “mirror” often.—Matt. 6:21.
24 Collectively, the congregation can check itself and its progress, its strong and its weak points, by reflecting on the congregation chart where the monthly activity of the congregation is posted. And on a much larger scale Christian assemblies provide a means whereby many congregations can see themselves as a single unit. These assemblies too resemble mirrors in that they tell Christians whether they are spotted with racial and national prejudices, whether they can work together in peace and unity, and whether they truly love one another as a people. Of the outstanding 1958 assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in New York city, the Binghamton, New York, Sun said: The “orderliness of the vast throng and the fact that it was made up of people of practically every nationality, with Negroes and Asians mingling with whites on equal terms and apparent enjoyment, was another unusual and truly remarkable feature.” The assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses prove conclusively that Christians can live together and that they are proving what they themselves are.
A CLOSER LOOK AT 2 CORINTHIANS 13:5
25. (a) Why did Paul tell the Corinthians to test and prove themselves, and what lesson can we learn from this? (b) What danger always threatens, and how can this threat be overcome?
25 Note again Paul’s words at 2 Corinthians 13:5, wherein he says: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.” The Corinthians looked for faults in Paul; they suspected his motives and belittled his work. Paul tells them that they had better be examining and testing themselves, that their position before God was in danger. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from this. Let us not go about seeking faults and suspecting others of wrongdoing. “First extract the rafter from your own eye,” said Jesus, “and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw from your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:3-5) It is useless to hold standards that are not applied. We should first apply Christian principles to ourselves before looking elsewhere. Christians must keep themselves under the judgment of Christ. It is fatally easy for us to make a profession of Christianity a substitute for living by it. Jesus warned: “Why, then, do you call me ‘Lord! Lord!’ but do not do the things I say?” (Luke 6:46) A Christian must conduct his own self-examination to prove to himself that he is following Christ. Others may say he is or is not, but unless he himself knows that he is, unless he himself sees his mistakes and takes steps to right his wrongs, all is lost. Only if we are willing and able to bring our inmost thoughts, feelings and daily conduct under the scrutiny of Jehovah’s principles for life can we know ourselves and prove what we are. If we hide behind self-approval, behind our own virtues in order to escape self-criticism that sincerity and truth bring, if we insulate ourselves from the power of truth, if we refuse to ask ourselves what we believe, what kind of persons we are becoming, we are apt to be led astray into the world of fantasy. For only exposure to the light of truth will strip away all illusions about ourselves and open the way for healing and life.—1 John 1:5-7; 2:9-11.
26. What should be our attitude toward self-examination, and how may an examination of self be conducted?
26 Therefore, it is vital that we individually and collectively examine ourselves, not so that we brood over our faults, rather that we take steps to put our house (our lives) in order. We may do this by asking ourselves pointed questions, such as: Do I believe in God? Do I rely on his Word? Do his thoughts come into my mind when problems arise? Am I forever judging others and never myself? Am I truly humble? submissive? forgiving? loving? Do I feel the need for prayer? Do I desire to pray? to worship? to do God’s will? The quality of our conscious needs is the test of our progress. The more love of God we have, the more we are compelled to seek his presence and commune with him. Examine your quantity and quality of service to God. Ask, Am I bringing forth the fruits of the spirit? Do I prepare my sermons well, make back-calls on those who show interest and hold home Bible studies with them? Do I tell others to study the Bible and not study it myself? Do I teach others and not teach myself? Examine yourself, for we reap what we sow. For by our thoughts and our actions, by our speech and our prayers, we prove what we ourselves are.—1 Pet. 3:1-4; John 15:8-10; Gal. 5:22-25; Romans, chap. 2; Gal. 6:7.
27. (a) What will you discover when you examine yourself, and what should you do when you find need for correction in yourself? (b) What will be the result of constant, sincere self-examination and correction in keeping with Jehovah’s prescribed way?
27 The next time you look into a mirror, ask yourself, How do I look to God? Then go to his mirrors, his Word, the Bible, the Bible-study aids provided through his organization, the congregation meetings and assemblies, and with the help of these examine yourself and learn your answer. You will find that the good that resides in you is because of the undeserved kindness of God and not of your own making, that you have need of much mercy and to show mercy to others. By an examination of yourself you will discover what you truly believe and whether you express such beliefs in your attitude toward life. You will also learn that some things about you need correcting. When you find that out, go to work on yourself immediately, using God’s Word, his spirit and his organization to help you right your wrongs. By your not morbidly but cheerfully taking stock of yourself, by making the needed corrections, you will develop in yourself a beautiful personality like that of Christ. This change will assure for you happiness now and the blessing of life everlasting in God’s new world. So “keep proving what you yourselves are.”—2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 6:3-5.