Sermons

Can We Pass The Test?

Sun, Sep 03, 2017
Teacher: Mark Hull
Passage: John 13:31-38
Duration:25 mins 25 secs

Message text

Can We Pass the Test?
John 13:31-38


THREE TESTS OF FAITHFULNESS
Created by Frank Damazio

One undeniable characteristic of leaders is faithfulness. God is faithful and He demands faithfulness of His followers. Let us be those who fulfill our destiny with faithfulness.

A faithful person is one who is dependable, trustworthy, and loyal, wholly devoted to a person, a cause, or an idea. Words associated with “faithfulness” include loyal, constant, staunch, resolute, and commitment. These words paint the picture of an attitude that is firm or determined, unwavering, and steadfast in purpose.

God chooses leaders on the basis of faithfulness. Scripture is filled with examples of godly men and women chosen because of their faithfulness: Timothy, Tychicus, Epaphras, Onesimus, Silvanus, Paul, and Peter to name a few. These people showed their faithfulness and loyalty to their leader and to the cause of spreading the gospel. They were described with the adjective, “faithful.”

God uses three tests to prove our faithfulness.

1. The test of faithfulness in small things
It is our level of faithfulness in the insignificant things that will indicate how we will manage the larger assignments and responsibilities. How do you handle the assignments that you think no one will notice? Do you disciple those who can do nothing for you? Do you care for each person with equal compassion and attention? God is testing you with small things now in order to prepare you for greater things ahead.

2. The test of faithfulness in another person’s house and goods
A person who is willing to give wholeheartedly of oneself to see another person succeed is a person worth following. Every true leader has proven himself or herself faithful in serving another person’s dream. Moses spent 40 years caring for his father-in-law’s sheep before God entrusted him with the care of His people. Prove your faithfulness by proving that you are willing to serve others to greatness.

3. The test of faithfulness in natural things
There are many natural resources God can use as tools to expose our level of faithfulness. One is money. Are you faithful to return a portion of your income to God? Another area is in obeying the laws of the land – the God-given authority placed over you for your good. Do you honor the law and the lawmakers? Or how about employers – serve your boss with a willing heart.

Faithfulness in natural things must be done “to the Lord” and not to gain the favor of others. Faithfulness will not always be noticed by those we serve, but the faithfulness lived before God will be rewarded.
I wonder how we would score if there were a test available that could reveal just how faithful & devout a Christian we are - that really measured the level of our spirituality?
You see, on the surface it appears that most of the time we feel that things are going well & we’re doing a pretty good job of being a Christian. In fact, I’m convinced that most people if asked, "How are you doing?" would answer, "I’m doing fine."
I’m afraid that we tend to be like the fellow in the old story who showed up for a court hearing concerning an accident in which he had been involved. His arm was in a cast, there were bandages all over him, & the exposed parts of his body were clearly bruised, scratched & cut. He was a real mess.
Looking rather surprised, the judge asked about his injuries. He replied, "Judge, I’m in a terrible condition. I have cuts & stitches all over me, & I’m feeling awful."
The judge said, "I don’t understand this. The accident report filed by the Officer says that at the time of the accident you told him you were just fine."
"Well Judge," the man replied, "let me explain. I was driving my pickup & pulling a trailer. In the back of the pickup was my old dog Shep, & my mule was in the trailer. All of a sudden an 18 wheeler sideswiped me, knocking me off the road."
"My pickup & trailer rolled over & over, & we ended up at the bottom of a big embankment. The next thing I remember, a police officer was picking his way through the wreckage. I saw him stop & examine my mule, then he pulled out his pistol & shot the mule between the eyes."
"Next, he got to where Shep was lying, & after examining him, he shot old Shep, too. Then he walked over to me & asked, "How are you?" And I said, "I’m doing fine."
But even though we generally say, "I’m doing fine," in reality, when it comes to our spiritual lives, things may not be going very well. We may not be growing spiritually. And yet, we consider ourselves "Just fine."
But what if we had a test that could really measure the level of our commitment to Christ, & of our discipleship? Well, maybe we do.
It seems that in John 13:31-38 Jesus provides us with the marks of true discipleship, & a measuring stick to show us how well we are doing spiritually.
Here is the scene. It is His last evening with His apostles before His arrest & crucifixion the next day. And they are all together in the upper room eating the Passover meal.
The evening began with Jesus washing their feet, teaching them humility. Then they began to eat, & while they were eating, Jesus says that one of them that night will betray Him. Well, this immediately causes questioning & turmoil, & in the midst of all that Judas quietly leaves.
So when we begin vs. 31 of John 13, Judas is gone, leaving only Jesus & the other 11 apostles. It is almost as if there is a breath of fresh air in that upper room now with the servant of evil gone. Then Jesus begins to talk about what it means to be His disciple. And he shares with them 3 marks of what it takes to follow Him.
First of all, Jesus tells them that a mark of discipleship is a desire to glorify God. Listen to vs. 31: "After Judas had left, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified & God is glorified in Him.’"
Jesus is saying, "I’m going to be glorified," & it is evident that He is talking about His own crucifixion. But how can any glory come out of that? How can glory come out of the Son of God hanging on an old rugged, bloody cross? How can glory come out of suffering & pain & death?
There is just one way. On the cross Jesus defeated Satan. On the cross He became the sacrifice to redeem us from all the sins that separate us from God. On the cross He built a bridge between man & God so that we could be together again.
"I am going to be glorified," He said. "But there is more. God will also be glorified through Me." What a strange statement! How could God be glorified through Jesus Christ? Well again, the answer is found in the cross.
On the cross Jesus reveals once again what God is really like. On the cross we see the love & mercy of God, the grace & justice of God. On the cross we see the righteousness, the holiness, & the power of God.
It is all displayed there, & Jesus willingly gave Himself upon the cross so that we may see all that.
Jesus is telling us, "Whenever we show the world the love & mercy & grace of God in our lives, then God is being glorified through us."
So how are we doing? Are we busy trying to glorify ourselves, or are we trying to glorify God? That is the first test.
The 2nd mark of discipleship is found in vs. 34. Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
God’s Word says that the world will know we are Christians by our love, not by our Scripture memorization, or the amount of money we have given. Christ wants His followers to be known for their love, by how they minister to one another.
Let’s get back to the place where people can truly say about us, "Behold those Christians, how they love one another!"
So the 1st mark of our discipleship is a desire to glorify God, & the 2nd mark is an unfailing love for one another. The 3rd one is an unswerving loyalty to Jesus.
Look with me at vs’s 36 38: "Simon Peter asked Him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.’ Peter asked, ‘Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!’"
How loyal are we? Do we have an unswerving loyalty that will always be there?

Matthew 16:21-22 tells us, “Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem & suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests & teachers of the law, & that He must be killed & on the third day be raised to life.
“Peter took Him aside & began to rebuke Him, ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned & said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’”
It seems as if Peter was always being tempted by Satan, & Jesus was always praying for Peter to be able to resist those temptations.
Why? What was the matter with Peter? It was Peter who wanted to walk on water. "Need somebody to walk on water, Lord? I’ll do it." Jesus said, “All right,” & he did.
It was Peter who wanted to build 3 tabernacles on the Mt. of Transfiguration. It was Peter who was always speaking, always charging ahead, always demonstrating his loyalty, at least with his words.
But there is a great difference between proclaiming your loyalty & practicing it. Peter was always proclaiming his loyalty, but not always willing to practice it. And I think we’re very much like he was. "You’re going to die, Lord?" he asks. "Well, if you die, I’ll die with you."
It is easy to say, "I would die for the Lord." But when they are getting out the nails to drive through your hands & feet, it’s a whole different situation.
"Are you really willing to die for Me, Peter? Let me show you how loyal you really are. Before morning comes, you will deny Me not once, but 3 different times."
"Going to be loyal to Me?" the Lord asks. "Okay, Peter, watch & pray with Me,” as they’re entering the Garden of Gethsemane. “I’m going to go a little further into the Garden to pray. Watch & pray." But Peter, along with the rest of the apostles, quickly fell fast asleep.
"Going to be loyal to Me, Peter? Then how close will you follow Me?" Luke tells us that when the soldiers arrested Jesus & took Him out of the Garden of Gethsemane that Peter followed at a distance.
Well, I’m not surprised. I have a feeling that if I had been there I would have been exactly like Peter. And maybe you, too.
He followed at a distance. And when you follow Jesus at a distance you usually end up in the wrong crowd. That is exactly what happened to Peter. He ended up that night in the High Priest’s courtyard just outside where Jesus was being put on trial.
Now, the Apostle John was in the courtroom with Jesus, but Peter was out in the courtyard with all those who had a part in arresting Jesus. One of them asked him, "You’re one of the Nazarene’s followers, aren’t you?" "Not me," Peter said.
Three times he was asked. And three times he denied even knowing Jesus. Peter found out that it was a lot easier to proclaim his loyalty than to practice it!
A mother wrote, “My 3-yr-old was on my heels everywhere I went. And whenever I stopped to do something & then turned back around, I’d trip over him. Time & again I patiently suggested fun activities to keep him occupied. But he simply smiled an innocent smile & said, ‘Oh that’s all right, Mommy. I’d rather be in here with you.’ Then he continued to bounce happily along behind me.
“After stepping on his toes for the fifth time, I began to lose patience. When I asked him why he was acting this way, he looked up with sweet green eyes & said, ‘Well, Mommy, my Sunday school teacher told me to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. But I can’t see Him, so I’m walking in yours.’"
This morning, are you walking in the footsteps of Jesus?
Is your life ... is my life... one that brings glory to God?
Is your life one that is filled with love for the family of God, for His people? Is your life one of unswerving loyalty to Jesus?
It doesn’t make any difference how many crosses we may wear, how many bumper stickers we have on our car. What really matters is our commitment to follow Jesus. Yet, like Peter, all too often we fall short in this.
Do you remember what happened that night? After the third time that Peter denied Jesus the rooster crowed, just as Jesus said it would. I suppose when that rooster crowed suddenly Peter realized exactly what he had done. He had so boldly proclaimed, “I’ll die with you.”
But when he was confronted with danger he denied Jesus again & again. Then he ran out of the courtyard & wept.
Sometimes I’m afraid that’s the way we react, too. We have fallen short. We’ve not always been what we ought to be - & we realize it. We’ve been so bold & so open in some ways. Then suddenly we see ourselves as we really are.
In fact, the Bible says, “All have sinned & fallen short of the glory of God.” There are none perfect, no, not one – except our Savior.... Jesus.
But you see, we know a lot more about Peter than just that, don’t we? We know that he became a leader of the church as it began in Jerusalem & spread throughout the world. We hear a great deal more about Peter & his life - & about Paul, too.
Paul? Yes, the great persecutor of Christians who became one of the greatest Christians of all time. Why? Well, because Jesus has said, "I really do want you as My disciple. So I’m giving you another chance.”
And now what He said to Peter & what He said to Paul He is saying to us, “Just because you fell short doesn’t mean that I have stopped loving you. That’s the whole idea behind the cross. You can start all over & begin anew.”
“Maybe you can follow closer this time. Maybe you can be more humble. Maybe you can love a little more. Maybe you can be more unselfish & allow My glory to shine through your life. Are you willing to start again? I’m willing if you are."
That is what Jesus is saying. "I’m willing if you are." You see, God doesn’t force His way into our life. Time & time again He puts “stop” signs on the road of life to warn us & to guide us to Him. But it’s our decision.
So He invites & He waits. "Do you want to be My disciple? Here are the marks of discipleship. Are you willing to display them so that the world can know that you are My disciple?" I pray this morning that you will decide for Jesus. Will you come as we stand & as we sing?

Contributing Sermon
by Melvin Newland

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