(Image courtesy of http://3.bp.blogspot.com.)
The phrase "God's providence" is often unheard of today in many Christian circles, although it was once commonplace in the days of the Puritans.  William Bradford wrote of God's providential hand in his History of Plymouth Plantation, recounting the Pilgrim's peril-filled journey to the New World: "Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean...."  Bradford and the other Puritans of his day were keenly aware of the sovereign will of God in their daily lives.

"Self-examination" is another concept that is often unheard of today in many Christian circles.  By very definition, the word means to closely examine and analyze one's behaviors and motivations.  Each of us will greatly benefit from practicing the discipline of self-examination.

The work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit is a remarkable, miraculous grace given to us by Jesus Christ, according to the will of God the Father.  When the Spirit of God awakens one's heart and mind to the knowledge of their sins and their deserved damnation as a result of their sins, the believer responds by repenting and believing in Christ.  The Holy Spirit then supernaturally gives us a new heart and a new mind - a heart that no longer hates God and His Law, but now embraces Him and loves His ways; and a mind that no longer justifies sin and celebrates the flesh, but a mind that seeks to know God and embrace His ways as right and true.  In short, at regeneration, the Spirit gives us a new mindset, accompanied with new affections, desires, and passions.  This is what was spoken of by the Prophet Ezekiel:
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statues and be careful to obey my rules.
Upon regeneration, the believer is not free from sin's struggle; indeed, the struggle against sin only begins.  No longer mastered by the sinful passions of the human nature, the believer makes war against his flesh with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Yet, the believer must still beware of false teachings, heresies, and deceptive sins.  It is in the life of the believer that self-examination must be practiced.

King David writes of examining his own heart when he writes: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10).  David would have never asked God to clean his heart had he not first examined himself to find it needing cleaning.  "The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16).  His Spirit convicts the believer's spirit of error and desires renewal according to the truth of God.

The Apostle Paul, likewise, speaks of self-examination, both for the believer and the unbeliever.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves.  Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
Examining your heart and mind is often a painful discipline to endure, but it will produce righteousness and restoration.  "Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fail.  For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:10-11).

(For further study, Jonathan Edwards created a list of 76 self-examination questions.  Click here to view them.)

"All men should be much concerned to know whether they do not live in some way of sin" (Jonathan Edwards, Christian Cautions or The Necessity of Self-Examination).