1. Text: 1 Cor. 4:4.
  2. “Know Thyself” was the inscription on the temple to Apollo at ancient Delphi.
  3. Nowhere is knowledge of ourselves more important than in relation to the gospel of Christ.
  4. The gospel requires repentance (Lk. 13:3; 2 Cor. 7:10) — and repentance requires conscience.
  5. Conscience involves self-knowledge — “con-science” is related to “con-scious”, which means “to know with (ourselves).”
  6. So let’s think about the need for honesty in knowing ourselves.

I. The Advantage We Have in Knowing Ourselves

  1. In one sense, we each know ourselves best.
  2. Others are limited in knowing us — they know our thoughts, motives, values only as we reveal them — 1 Cor. 2:11.
  3. One lifetime is just too short to reveal ourselves entirely to anyone else.
  4. Hence, the information upon which others judge us is at best incomplete — and often it is inaccurate.

II. The Disadvantage We Have in Knowing Ourselves

  1. Despite our self-knowledge, we are sometimes the very poorest judges of ourselves. 
    1. We may have all the “raw materials” out of which we could make an accurate self-evaluation.
    2. But rarely are we sufficiently candid and objective about our own situation.
  2. This is why, for example, doctors don’t diagnose their own ailments — they understand the need to consult another doctor who will look at the facts more straightforwardly.
  3. In the spiritual realm, there is an even greater need for us to be helped in understanding ourselves. 
    1. “Oh, wad some power the giftie gie us / To see oursels as others see us! / It wad frae mony a blunder free us / And foolish notion” (Robert Burns, “To a Louse”).
    2. We tend to make exceptions of ourselves and “euphemize” the nature of our own conduct.
    3. When it comes to seeing our own faults, most of us have blind spots — what is as plain as day to others can be invisible to us.
  4. Ultimately what we need to do is see ourselves as God sees us.
    1. But God’s way of helping us is often to send friends to show us that what we are pleased to call our “mistakes” are just as much sins as if someone else had committed them.
    2. Consider David’s adultery and murder (2 Sam. 12:5–9) and Peter’s hypocrisy (Gal. 2:11–13).

III. Love of the Truth and Knowing Ourselves

  1. Our salvation depends on our response to truth — 2 Thess. 2:9–12. Cf. Lk. 8:15; Jn. 8:32.
  2. But the truth which must be loved is not merely doctrinal truth — it involves the whole truth, including the truth about ourselves, the truth about the sins that we need to repent of, etc. Cf. 1 Jn. 1:8,9.
    1. Life never makes a greater demand on our courage than when we are faced with accepting some despicable fact about what we have really done — e.g. Cain (Gen. 4:3–7).
    2. There is a great contrast between the attitudes reflected in Ac. 2:36–41 and those in Ac. 7:54–60.
  3. In order to be honest with ourselves we must want to know the truth more than we want anything else.
    1. The person who loves his preferred self-image more than the truth is not fit for the kingdom of God — Mt. 3:7,8.
    2. Jesus’ story of the Pharisee praying in the temple shows how out of touch with reality we can be when it comes to ourselves — Lk. 18:9–14.

IV. A Test of Our Honesty and Love of the Truth

  1. Here are some questions that can help us judge how honest we’re willing to be about ourselves: 
    1. Do we pray for help in seeing ourselves as God sees us? Cf. Psa. 19:12.
    2. Do we pray for friends who love our souls more than they love our friendship, friends who will not let us excuse or ignore our sins? Cf. Gal. 4:16.
    3. Do we pray to be set in the midst of circumstances that will make us see our true character?
    4. Do we pray for faults which we have hidden from ourselves to be brought out into the open light of truth? Cf. Jn. 3:19–21.
  2. Questions like these tend to make us uncomfortable — but truth very often has that effect!


  1. God knows us perfectly — Heb. 4:12,13. Do we love all of the truth that He knows about us?
  2. Do we love God’s truth enough to seek the help of others in seeing the sins we need to repent of? 
    1. Our friends?
    2. Our fellow Christians?
    3. Our elders? Cf. Heb. 13:17.
  3. May we never “turn away” from the truth about ourselves — 2 Tim. 4:3,4.
  4. May God give us people who will help us “come to our senses” about what is going on in our lives — 2 Tim. 2:24–26.
  5. May we be truly honest with ourselves — and therefore truly honest with God — before it is too late.

Gary Henry — +

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