SELF JUDGMENT … "the inseparable condition of a walk in communion with God."

 •  17 min. read  •  grade level: 9
"I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear: but NOW mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself." Job 42:5,65I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. 6Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:5‑6).
It is a common saying that "self preservation is the first law of nature", and, without doubt, nature does prompt self to preserve itself in every condition and circumstance. Naturally man cares for self before any other object, and whether it be in connection with his life, his possessions, his ease, or his character, self has the first place in his thoughts and affections. Even the law of God fully recognizes this, for (addressing man as it does in his unregenerate state, 1 Tim. 1:9,109Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; (1 Timothy 1:9‑10)) it says, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor AS THYSELF". Greater love than this, God's law does not exact from man to his fellow.
Now, as self is a selfish and a jealous being, justification as its first impulse when accusation or conviction is brought against it. Naturally, if it can avoid it, self will never condemn, but will always justify self; and thus self-judgment is a work, not of nature, nor of willingness, but of compulsion and constraint.
Self-judgment, however lies at the very basis of Christianity in the individual soul, and it is the inseparable condition of a walk in communion with God.
I think we may say that self-judgment is an effect of the conscience of a man (sinner or saint) being brought into the presence of a higher standard of righteousness than it has hitherto apprehended; for although self-judgment is a spontaneous act of the conscience of man, as distinguished from his being judged by another, yet self cannot judge self apart from a standard, and that standard or measure must be outside self, and to be of any value to the soul in the way of comparison, it must also be altogether above it. True self-judgment is therefore always in the presence of God, and of His revelation or Word, for here alone a perfect and unchanging standard is to be found. No judgment of self by any lower standard can avail either to arouse the conscience or to raise the condition of the soul.
Indeed we may say that self-examination or self-judgment by any lower than a divine standard, must always partake of, and end in self-justification. Thus, for instance, if the uneasy conscience or dissatisfied soul commences a comparison of its present with a past condition, whatever may be the discovery as to advancement, or declension, it cannot profit or raise the soul above its own either present or past experience. So we find with Job's case, his remembrance of what he had been in the past, gave him no power in the present. (Chaps. 29-30, etc.) He was measuring himself by himself, and though dissatisfied enough with his present, yet he boasted in his past condition, and was proved after all to be "righteous in his own. eyes". (Chapter 31:1.) But no sooner does he apprehend the righteousness and the glory of God than self is judged and abhorred.
Again, the examination of self by comparison with others can only bring the same imperfect results; for though on the one hand self in me, may in a degree be rebuked, and judged in some respects by the higher tone and character of life in another, yet on the other hand I see failure in them, and then there is the tendency to say in the heart, "I am not so bad after all. Though he exceeds me in this, I excel him in that, and our trials and temptations are not the same"; and so self, whether in me or my brother, is excused and justified. Paul sums them all up in 2 Cor. 10:1212For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (2 Corinthians 10:12), saying of those that "measure themselves by themselves", that they are not wise. This, however, is the tendency of the natural heart, and of human religion. Human, rather than divine excellence is set up as the standard. "Saints", so called, are the examples before the soul, as in them may be found a righteousness attainable by human nature, and infirmities offering an excuse for the failures of the flesh.
But how different and how perfect is the work of self-judgment when produced by a divine and unchanging standard, that is, by the conscience of man, a sinner, being brought into the presence of God— the holy God. Gen. 3, Ex. 20, Isa. 6, Luke 5, are well-known instances of what is wrought when God is seen in His holiness, and self is judged in its sinfulness before Him. "I was afraid"; "Let not God speak with us"; "Woe is me"; "Depart from me," are the varied utterances, telling the same tale, that conscience had been brought into the presence of a righteousness which it had not before apprehended. And in the case of a sinner unreconciled to God, or of unjudged flesh in any, whether sinner or saint, the sense of this righteousness is unsupportable, and the conscience seeks to escape from. its presence. And this work still goes on when the souls and the consciences of men are brought into contact with the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel of Christ. (Rom. 1:1717For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. (Romans 1:17).) A sinner is proved to be a sinner by this very gospel, gracious and blessed as the message is (2 Cor. 5:1414For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: (2 Corinthians 5:14); 1 Tim. 1:1515This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15)), and if on the one hand the grace of God, when learned in the cross of Christ, brings peace and salvation to the broken and convicted heart, on the other hand it is the unwavering righteousness of God's judgment of sin in the person of His Son, which breaks and convicts the heart, and shuts it up to this ONE, this ONLY way of salvation.
But it is self-judgment in the believer that we rather desire to speak of and to press upon the consciences of our readers. We have said that it is the inseparable condition of a walk in communion with God; and this is the question which is so important for the soul of every Christian.
God has brought His people to Himself. It is not merely salvation from death and judgment which they obtain by our Lord Jesus Christ, but they are brought "to God". 1 Peter 3:1818For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: (1 Peter 3:18). This has ever been God's purpose in redemption, that man might so have fellowship with Him, and walk with Him. He brought Israel to Himself (Ex. 19:44Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. (Exodus 19:4)); but they refused Him.
In that nation it was tried, and proved that unregenerate man,. however favored, could not have fellowship with God. The mighty signs and wonders by which His presence with them and favor towards them were evidenced, never touched their hearts, nor gained their affections. No mere exhibition of the grace or of the power of God can alter man, or give him power in himself. "That which born of the flesh is flesh." Man to have fellowship and communion with God "must be born again" (John 3), and "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" God has shown how His purpose is now fulfilled. In the death of Christ we learn how the believer's sin, and sins, are judged, forgiven, and put away (Rom. 8:33For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Romans 8:3); 1 Peter 2:2424Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. (1 Peter 2:24); Eph. 1:77In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; (Ephesians 1:7); Heb. 9:2626For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (Hebrews 9:26)); the "old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed" Rom. 6:66Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Romans 6:6). (See also Col. 2:1111In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: (Colossians 2:11).) In Christ's resurrection is declared the way in which He becomes the quickening Spirit, and thus imparts to the believer a new life, a divine nature, in the power of which he can and does have fellowship with God the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ, the Lord (see John 5:2626For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; (John 5:26); 1 Cor. 15:4545And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45); Eph. 1:19,2019And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, (Ephesians 1:19‑20); and 2: 5, 6; 1 John 1:33That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)).
Now it is this new standing, this nearness to God, which gives the believer power for self-judgment. The believer now knows God, is no longer in ignorance of Him or of His will. Not only by outward revelation through the Word, but by the inward witness of the Spirit hath He "shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ". 2 Cor. 4:66For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6). "We have the mind of Christ." 1 Cor. 2:1616For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16). In Christ, the believer is always in the presence and power of divine righteousness, for we are "made the righteousness of God in Him". 2 Cor. 5:2121For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21).
For self-judgment the believer has therefore a perfect rule and measure, AND THE ABILITY TO USE IT. He has only to ask himself, "How has God judged, how has He examined, by what has He tested my nature, my thoughts, my words, my deeds? Do I know peace with God, and have I tasted that the Lord is gracious, even He who bore my sins in His own body on the tree? If so, do I desire to know communion with Him? Then let me ever in honesty and sincerity bring myself, and all that is within me, to the light of His presence, and by the Word of His grace test it, and judge it, even as He has done already. God knows me through and through, and He has given me ability to know myself through and through. Deceitful and desperately wicked as my heart is, yet He has searched it, and I can search it too, and may and should detect every motive and thought, and sift and judge them in their true character in His sight. What will bear His eye, and the judgment of His Word I may allow: and whatever will not, let me condemn it that I may be of one mind with Him out of whose presence the soul can have no true rest—the heart no joy."
True self-judgment then is the judgment of myself as God has judged and still judges me—Christ as the revelation of God, in His love—His righteousness and His glory, is the rule, and touchstone for my conscience: the Word and the Spirit the means and power for applying Him thus.
Faith in, and the practical application of the Word of God to the soul is what we need. The Word which tells us of the infinite grace of our God, tells us also of His holiness. And the same revelation which gives the believer to know his completeness, his standing in Christ, beseeches him to walk worthy of his calling.
Now we must again repeat, that without self-judgment there can be no communion with God. Faith may have believed the gospel, and a soul may know forgiveness of sins and peace with God through the precious blood of Christ: but his fellowship and communion with God depend upon his judgment of self, and confession of sin. It is one thing to be a believer and a child of God; it is another thing to walk in the light of His presence, in the sense of relationship, and of unhindered communion. We may often hear Christians, when spoken to in admonition about some inconsistency in their course, reply that they are "happy in the Lord", thus implying that the thing rebuked does not hinder communion. But what such really mean is, that they know their sins are forgiven, and do not doubt they are saved. This, however, is not communion—this is not the happiness, the joy in God, which He desires for His saints. It is the common portion of God's children to know the forgiveness of sins, indeed no one can call God, Father, who knows it not; but communion, fellowship, confidence, gladness and joy in His presence, are something more, and these cannot be known or enjoyed apart from self-judgment.
"Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" Amos 3:33Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3). Can parent and child go on happily together if there be controversy between them? The nearer the relationship and the greater the love which exists between two, the more sensitive will their hearts be to any difference of judgment or mind. And how infinitely true is this of us in our dealings with God our Father. "His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness", 2 Peter 1:33According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: (2 Peter 1:3); and His desire is that we "may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God", Col. 4:1212Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. (Colossians 4:12); and it is in His presence, in whom is "no darkness at all", that it is our privilege, as it is also in our power, to judge and to bring into light the secret and dark corners of our hearts. And what growth there would be in our souls, what power and what testimony in our lives, if as the light of God shone in we opened up more willingly these dark and hidden things. He knows that they are there, and we know many of them ourselves, but alas! we often close our hearts, desiring to keep within us, or around us, things that will not bear His judgment. "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth." Rom. 14:2222Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. (Romans 14:22). Happy indeed; and one may add, that none other is truly happy.
It is blessed to realize that, for Christians, self-judgment is not a legal exercise, but an evidence of that liberty which belongs to them as children of God.
There should be no sense of bondage for the quickened soul, in having to detect and subdue things which make against its apprehension and enjoyment of the love and presence of its Savior and God. On the other hand how wonderful is the grace of God who has thus given to His people the power of meeting and overcoming by self-judgment all the infirmities, temptations, and conflicts of nature and flesh, which if unjudged must separate their souls from Him, but when judged prove the intense reality of the things so freely given to them of God, and the abounding grace and power of Him with whom they have to do. For we can truly say that our very weakness, and the infirmities of our nature when dealt with in self-judgment, so far from hindering communion, cause the grace of God to be more precious to the soul, and the things which seem to be against us, prove to be for us, giving us, as they do, experiences of God which we would otherwise be ignorant of; for weakness, infirmity, and temptation in themselves are not sin in the believer, though they be evidence of sin in the flesh. It is only as they are allowed, excused, or justified that they defile the soul, and destroy communion.
1 Cor. 11:2828But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. (1 Corinthians 11:28) teaches us how inseparably self-judgment and communion are liked in connection with the table of the Lord. It is there the communion of saints in Christ is openly witnessed, and so each one is to approach in the spirit of self-judgment, lest by the presence of one with a defiled conscience he eats judgment to himself, and destroys communion in the assembly. "Let a man examine himself, and SO let him eat." 1 Cor. 11:2828But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. (1 Corinthians 11:28). For our God is a holy God, and "the Lord shall judge His people". Deut. 32:3636For the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left. (Deuteronomy 32:36). Sin must be dealt with, if not by ourselves then by Him; but He has said, "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged", 1 Cor. 11:3131For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (1 Corinthians 11:31), and this is the way He has chosen for us, and that we should choose for ourselves.
It may be said that all have not equal discernment even of their own hearts, and that we must not judge one another in this matter. This is quite true, but it is not about judging one another, but about judging ourselves that we have been speaking. Every quickened soul can and must judge itself in some measure; what, however, all must own is that the measure is usually low and insufficient. In divine exercises, as in all other things, "practice makes perfect". It is "by reason of use", that our consciences become "exercised to discern both good and evil". Heb. 5:1414But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14). That "all seek their own" is too true of Christians now-a-days, but the perfect Exemplar remains the same, unchanged and unchangeable, for the soul that desires to know the secret of communion with God. Christ, who "pleased not Himself", could say, "I do always those things that please Him". John 8:2929And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. (John 8:29). With Himself—precious and perfect as He was—self was always denied, and thus His judgment was just. (John 5:3030I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:30).)
Extract from "Present Testimony"—Volume 1.
There is no substitute for communion. No amount of enlightenment, or practical walk in the right path, will secure from perversion, if the eye is turned man-ward, instead of Godward. Not only will a Mark return from Pamphylia, but a Barnabas will be carried away by the dissimulation of a Peter.
"The light of the body is the eye: therefore WHEN thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but WHEN thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness." Luke 11:3434The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. (Luke 11:34).
The obedience of faith that looks only to God will enable the saint of God to walk quietly, peacefully, patiently, knowing that; "all things are of God", and He will in His own time make manifest the precious truth of Isa. 30:1818And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him. (Isaiah 30:18); "Blessed are all they that wait for Him".
Circumstances (Joseph in prison) misunderstandings (David before Eliab, his eldest brother) false accusations (Job and his three friends) all proceed from the Lord who winnows our path in order to do us good at our latter end. Let us ever learn to take all the circumstances His wisdom allows from His hand, and seek in exercise before the Lord to profit by them. It is through them we learn our own nothingness and His abounding grace.
When difficulties arise in the Church of God, let us ever remember that "Christ is head over all things to the Church, which is His body". Eph. 1:22,2322And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Ephesians 1:22‑23). "He that is spiritual discerneth all things." 1 Cor. 2:1515But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. (1 Corinthians 2:15) margin. Thus the new-born babe in Christ will have the mind of the Lord, while the most enlightened will miss His mind, if not in communion. Nature will never stand still, and wait to see the salvation of the Lord. Faith, with the eye resting upon God, will alone give us the quiet patience to wait His time to make manifest the perfect wisdom of His ways.
"Christ... loved the Church, and gave HIMSELF for it." Eph. 5:2525Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Ephesians 5:25). How precious it is to Him! Let us then wait upon Him in every circumstance, difficulty, or misunderstanding that may arise, with the eye upon God, and never seek to form the minds of the saints by our own personality, or presence among them. The spiritual mind will ever perceive what is of God and will lead all that seek His glory to walk in His ways.
The great object in ministry should ever be to so minister the truth, that the person of our Lord Jesus Christ will fill the soul, and create the longing desire to "live unto Him". May we so live in the joy of communion that the first step that breaks this sweet fellowship may be detected and judged—"till He come".
H. E. H.
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