These are some of the guidelines I've given to others. Perhaps you'll find them helpful:
- Give some significant time to these letters. Get alone. Keep a little journal to record your responses to the various questions. Read slowly, and talk to God about all that you are reading.
- Read humbly. I mean simply that you put no hope in a great man's letters. You are so needy that only the voice of God in your soul can bring life. But He is able and willing; so, read with this request: show me myself and then show me yourself.
- Consider the main points of the letter carefully. The key to coming to Christ is belief. But it is a belief of the truthfulness of what He says about you, as well as what He says about Himself. You must feel the effects of the disease before you will stop what you are doing and go to the doctor. And, as he says in the letter, you have a lot of the world's lies to unravel (having been its idea of 'good').
- consider HOW you have used your body for self-service.
- consider HOW you have used your mind for selfishness, against God and others.
- consider the years you have heard the gospel and put Christ off until later: what are the roots of this? Pride (I have my rights!); Unbelief (I'm not sure He's telling the only 'truth')?
- consider the great difference between the measure of all your sins—and the measure of your conviction over them. How long have they lasted... how long have you even felt convicted? How hard is sin to shake off... how easily you forget your guilt before God?
- consider how your conviction flows more out of love to self than love to God. What is it about your sin, which God has been showing you, that bothers you so much lately: that it is against God? or that it is against your happiness, against your good reputation, against your high opinion of yourself?
- consider how you have, in not surrendering to Christ, tried other ways to be good. Can you see these, not as failed attempts, but primarily as substitutes for loving Christ who has loved you with an everlasting love?
- consider how Paul came to Christ, thinking of Phil. 3:7-9 (all of chapter 3 is good, if you think of it as 3 hurdles to seeking Christ: self-righteousness, false finish line, and self-indulgence). Use vv. 7-9 as your pattern too.
Now, I know that these things are unpleasant. But I also know how easy it is for me to see some little tip of my sin, and then ask God to help me, but not realize how really deep it goes. If you, where you are at right now, accept a shallow look at your sin, you may never come to Christ truly. Nothing will be a help to you without the thorough use of this letter and its theme. I will pray that God will bless your efforts greatly, and bring you to Himself forever, to His great glory.