I recently heard a preacher say: “it’s dangerous to live your life believing a lie”. His context revolved around getting to the end of one’s life and finding out that the information you based your choices in life on was false. The same preacher later said: “to be uninformed is bad, but to be misinformed is worse.” He was making a point that the latter is worse because it’s harder to correct. These statements highlight a malaise plaguing our world today. Not only do we often operate with flawed paradigms, we seldom question those paradigms. It seems to me that very few people take out time to reflect these days. This is probably because we’re too busy, running from one task to another, one appointment to another, that by the end of the day, we have little, or no energy left for any introspection.
That said, we can do without regular introspection? Experience shows us that the choices that shape our lives are often products of our paradigms. For many of us, those paradigms are shaped by our culture, beliefs or upbringing. If this is the case, how confident are you that your paradigms are grounded in truth? How often do you reflect on your beliefs and the impact they have on your life? These questions aren’t easy questions to answer, but they’re essential for those who seek to be intentional about how they live. These questions don’t exist in a bubble, either. Undergirding them are existential questions we would be wise to confront. Questions like: “How did I get here?” “Does my life have any meaning?” “Do I have a purpose?” “What happens after I die?” “What will be my legacy?” and so on.
I’ve met people who actively avoid reflecting on these questions. But I’ve noticed that this doesn’t exempt them from the consequences of their choices. Life often has a way of forcing us to confront these questions. Scripture also tells us that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he [Proverbs 23:7]. If it’s true that my life is a product of my decisions and my decisions are governed by my thoughts, what’s the likely outcome if I seldom stop to examine my thoughts and choices? It seems to me that while scrutinizing my paradigms might be painful because I may have to confront some uncomfortable truths about myself, unlearn or abandon certain ideologies, the alternative is worse. If only the truth can set a person free [John 8:32], then whoever is living a lie, irrespective of how sincere they are, is ultimately in some degree of bondage.
It’s estimated that Jesus asked over 300 questions in the Bible. His questions suggest that Jesus was an advocate of introspection, especially when it leads to the truth [Psalm 51:6]. His questions were usually convicting, often compelling His hearers to confront the truth about themselves. God’s word carries the same potency today [Hebrews 4:12]. But why did Jesus ask so many questions? Could it be that our convictions need to change if we’re to experience lasting change in our lives? Could it also be that a question or an honest self-examination initiates this process? When I examine the lives of men and women I admire, I find they often embraced introspection. Furthermore, whenever they spoke or made decisions, it was usually with the sort of insight and clarity which eludes many.
While introspection is a good discipline for everyone, it’s particularly essential for a Christian. Repeatedly, God commands us to continually meditate on His word [see Psalm 1:2, Psalm 119:15]. Doing so keeps God’s word at the forefront of our minds so that we don’t forget it [Psalm 119:11]. Those who meditate on God’s word and diligently do what it says are guaranteed to prosper and be successful [Joshua 1:8]. Conversely, Christians who don’t meditate on God’s word consistently are unlikely to obey it diligently. Even when they do, they often do so without understanding, which makes it challenging to remain consistent. Consequently, what should bring prosperity and success becomes unprofitable to them. If this describes your Christian experience, could it be that you’re not spending enough time meditating on God’s word and allowing its life-applicable truths to govern your choices?
When God created Adam and Eve and placed them over all He had made, He gave Adam just one instruction [Genesis 2:16-17]. All that is wrong in your life, and the world at large, can be traced back to the fact that they disobeyed that instruction. As God confronted Adam over their disobedience, He asked him three questions [Genesis 3:9, 11]. First, He asked: “where are you?” God knew perfectly well where Adam was, so this question had nothing to do with geography. This question highlights that something was wrong with Adam’s relationship with God. Then God asked: “Who told you that you were naked?” This question highlights that Adam had subscribed to information that hadn’t come from God. Lastly, God asks: “Have you eaten from the tree which I commanded you not to it”? This question highlights Adam’s self-determination as he wilfully decides to make his own choices apart from God.
This week, as you read this, I’d like to invite you to take some time to reflect on these questions, which are also the first questions God asks in Scripture. Mediate on them as though He asked you these questions directly. How would you answer these questions? How is your relationship with God? Is He pre-eminent in your life? Are your paradigms based on information from God or other sources? Who told you the things you currently believe? What dictates your choices? Is it God’s word or something else [Matthew 4:4]? How we answer these three questions will be life-defining for each of us.