Colonoscopies and Spiritoscopies

July 27, 2017

This week I had a colonoscopy. Colon cancer kills about 50,000 persons a year in the US. More widespread screening has decreased those deaths significantly in recent years.

During my colonoscopy, I was put under a general anesthetic while the doctor inserted a scope into my colon, looking for any abnormalities. Polyps are growths on the walls of the colon that can become cancerous. The doctor found one small one in me, and cut it out. He then sent the tissue to be analyzed for malignancies.

The colonoscopy itself is painless. The prep – controlling one’s diet for several days, then being on a liquid diet the previous dayand drinking a substance to empty the colon the night before – is bothersome, and recovering fully from the anesthesia takes several hours. But all this certainly makes sense given the potential benefits.

Do we need something similar for our spiritual health? A “spiritoscopy,” perhaps? That is, a procedure that would delve into our spirits to pick out normally unnoticeable issues that, if left alone, will grow into deadly problems in the years ahead. A mechanism that will cut out a “root of bitterness” or anger or resentment or lust or pride when it’s still small, before it springs up, causing trouble and defiling many (Hebrews 12:15).

Guess what? God gives us such a “scope.”

What is it?

The Word of God.

The author of Hebrews tells us:

The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

When we sit under the Word of God, submitting ourselves to it – whether in personal reading, in preaching, or in teaching – that living and active Word cuts into us, laying our thoughts bare, exposing us and convicting us. In this way I have a “spiritoscopy” every day – going to the Word, praying for God to show me “any grievous way in me” (Psalm 139:24), desiring that piercing work.

Praise God that the Word itself will have this effect even when we encounter it alone. But God frequently uses “physicians” to wield His “scope” – and those “physicians” are in the church body around you.

That same author tells us:

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13)

Notice that the command is plural, to all of us. All of us are to take care that there is no polyp (“an evil unbelieving heart”) growing in any one of us. We are to help each other to see what we can’t see for ourselves, and we are to help cut out those “polyps” when they arise. At the same time, we are to exhort, to encourage, to comfort, and to stand alongside one another, thereby helping each one to delight in Christ and to grow in faith. In this way, sin won’t deceive us and harden our hearts against God and against one another.

Such “spiritoscopies” happen on Sunday mornings, in small groups, in meeting one-on-one, in families, and in the normal course of daily life and ministry.

So when was your last “spiritoscopy”? Don’t neglect such screening. Make sure you are putting yourself in situations where they take place. It’s not always pleasant. It can seem bothersome. But “spiritoscopies” can prevent diseases much worse than colon cancer.

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