February, 2014

10 Questions to Examine Heart Motivation

John Flavel (1628-1691) was an English Puritan. His writings were widely read and had a profound impact on such theologians as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Robert M. M’Cheyne, and Andrew Bonar. Archibald Alexander, the first professor at Princeton Seminary commented, “To John Flavel I certainly owe more than to any uninspired author.”

In his work, “Rules to be Observed in the Trials of Grace” he shares some questions that the Christian should use to evaluate his own heart. These questions probe into the motivation of actions to determine whether we are guilty of a hidden hypocrisy. (note: I have tried to retain Flavel’s language but have edited some for clarity’s sake)

Question 1: Do I make the approval of God or the applause of men the every end and main design of my religious performances (according to 1 Thess 2:4, Col 3:23)? Am I satisfied with the acceptance of my duties with man whether or not God accepts my duties and person?

Question 2: Is it the reproach and shame that attends sin at present, and the danger and misery that will follow it hereafter, that restrains me from the commission of it? Or is it the fear of God in my soul, and the hatred I bear to it as it is sin? (Ps 19:12, 119:113)

Question 3: Can I truly and heartily rejoice to see God’s work carried on in the world, and his glory promoted by other hands, though I have no share in the credit and honor of it, as Paul did? (Phil 1:18)

Question 4: Am I willing to do the most difficult and menial tasks to follow God’s will even if it means denying myself? And do I receive all of God’s holy and good will as acceptable to me even if I am not excited and motivated by all aspects of doing it? (Ps 119:6)

Question 5: Am I sincerely resolved to follow Christ and holiness at all seasons, regardless of the current attitudes toward the faith? Or do I carry myself so warily and covertly as to shun all hazards for religion; having a secret reserve in my heart to launch out no farther than I may return with safety; contrary to the practice and resolution of upright souls? (Ps 106:3; 44:18, 19; Rev 22:11)

Question 6: Is my conscience tender to committing secret sins or neglecting secret duties? Or am I conscientious both in the one and the other, according to the rules and patters of integrity? (Matt 6:5,6; Ps 19:12)

Question 7: Do I engage my heart toward God in the course of my duties? Or do I go through my regular duties taking no heed of my heart in them?

Question 8: Am I swayed in my practice of religion by self-interest, carnal desires, some worldly gain, or the getting of a name and reputation of godliness?

Question 9: Have I any secret reserve in my heart, that is, some place that I have restricted from Christ? Is there some sin I cannot part with or some suffering for Christ which I resolve I will not do?

Question 10: How does my conscience respond to secret sins? Do I mourn vanity in my heart? Wandering thoughts? Spiritual deadness? And do I conscientiously abstain form the practice of secret sins, when there is no danger of discovery, no fear of forfeiting my reputation by it? Is it God’s eye, or man’s, that awes me from the commission of sin? (Ps 119:113; 12:12)

A few such questions propounded to our own hearts, in a calm and serious hour would examine them and discover much of their sincerity towards the Lord.

Flavel, John. The Works of John Flavel. vol. V. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997. 598-600.