When you examine your conscience you are looking for more than a list of rules that you have broken. You are seeking to look deeper into yourself, into your very being, and to ask, in the light of God’s word, how can I be transformed into the likeness of Christ, and become more receptive to the presence, guidance and power of the Holy Spirit?
For many people the process of examination begins with the question: What have I done or not done? This requires honesty. But you should not dwell on this question too long.
The important question is the one that follows: Why do I act as I do? Are there habits that I have developed which cause me to behave in this way? Are there situations that I need to distance myself from, or people who tend to lead me astray? Are there aspects of my lifestyle which seem to invite trouble?
It is when you begin to understand why you behave as you do, that you can avoid making the same mistakes again, and can move more fruitfully to the third question: How can I begin to co-operate with the Holy Spirit?
Try to remember these three questions as you undertake the following examination of your conscience.
Spend some time in quiet prayer.
If it feels appropriate reflect on one or more of the following scriptures. You will find that God’s word both convicts and also offers hope of His love and mercy:
Psalm 107:13-14 You were in serious trouble, but you prayed to the Lord, he rescued you. He brought you out of the deepest darkness and broke your chains.
Isaiah 1:16-18 Wash yourselves clean. Stop doing wrong and learn to live right. See that justice is done. Defend widows and orphans and help those in need. I, the Lord, invite you to come and talk it over. You sins are scarlet red, but they will be whiter than snow or wool.
Micah 7:18-19 Our God, no one is like you. We are all that is left of your chosen people, and you freely forgive our sin and guilt. You don’t stay angry forever; you’re glad to have pity and pleased to be merciful.
Luke 15:4-7 If any of you has a hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost, what will you do? Won’t you leave the ninety-nine in the field and go and look for the lost sheep until you find it? And when you find it, you will be so glad that you will put it on your shoulder and carry it home. Then you will call in your friends and neighbours and say, “Let’s celebrate! I’ve found my lost sheep.” Jesus said, “In the same way there is more happiness in heaven because of one sinner who turns to God than over ninety-nine good people who don’t need to.”
Romans 8:1 If you belong to Christ Jesus, you won’t be punished.
Look at the following exchange between Jesus and one of the teachers of the law. It is recorded in Mark 12:28-31:
One of the teachers of the Law of Moses came up while Jesus and the Sadducees were arguing. When he heard Jesus give a good answer, he asked him, “What is the most important commandment?” Jesus answered, “The most important one says “People of Israel, you have only one Lord and God. You must love him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” The second most important commandment says: “Love others as much as you love yourself.” No other commandment is more important than these.”
In this passage, Jesus suggests that all of the commandments can be summed up as follows:
- Love God
- Love your neighbour
- Love yourself.
Use each of these as a heading to guide your confession.
Spend time reflecting on them.
Ask the three questions that were highlighted earlier:
- What have I done or not done?
- Why do I act as I do?
- How can I begin to co-operate with the Holy Spirit?
If it seems helpful, use some of the following prompts to guide you:
- Does God seem distant at the moment?
- Do you pray regularly?
- Do you read the Bible and try to understand what it means?
- Do you allow the teachings of Jesus to shape the way that you live your life?
Love your neighbour
- Do you contribute to the happiness of your family or detract from it?
- Are you a good parent?
- Have you kept your marriage vows?
- Do you encourage people or do you tend to use them?
- Are there some people who you refuse to forgive?
- Are you generous?
- Do you set a good example at work?
- Do you really care about other people, or are you just interested in your friends?
- Have you done anything that makes you feel ashamed?
- Do you abuse your body by eating or drinking too much?
- Would people say that you are proud and boastful?
- Are you sometimes closed-minded?
- Do you somethings get bogged down by disappointment and self-pity?
- Are you truthful in your words and actions?
If it seems helpful, use the following prayer to bring each memory of hurt or failure to God:
Loving God, the Bible, tells me that if I confess my sins You are faithful and just and will forgive my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Claiming those promises, I confess …
I ask you to forgive me, heal any memories of hurt or failure and draw me closer to you. Amen
Be with us as we seek to follow in Your footsteps. May our lives be filled with humility and prayerfulness and may this attract many to your kingdom. Let our lives reflect the light of Christ and the hope of faith. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen