Sermons

The Test of Love

Sun, Aug 19, 2018
Teacher: Mark Hull
Duration:27 mins 6 secs

Message text

The Love Test
1Cor. 11:27-31, 2Cor. 13:5


A. I'm not thrilled about taking tests, & I'm glad my years of schooling are behind me. At my age the tests I take now are stress tests & EKGs & hearing & vision tests. And I don't have to study for those.
ILL. A friend of mine is convinced that one of his College professors really enjoyed giving tests. He didn't give just 6-week tests & final exams. He gave his students a test every single week without fail.
On one occasion he gave a very difficult test. You could tell that by the groans of the students. And as one question followed another, the groaning got louder.
Then, after the test was finished, each student was told to grade his own paper. My friend recalls, "He read us the correct answers & to my dismay, I found I had scored just 65 on the test. In other words, I failed the test. And I thought, ‘This will ruin my grade point average for the whole semester!'"
But just then the professor said, "I'm not going to record the grades of this test. I gave you this test for your benefit - not for mine."
B. You know, at times God does the same thing. In fact, all the way through the Bible you'll find God giving that kind of a test.
1. God presented Abraham & Sara with a wonderful gift in their old age, their son Isaac. But later, God tested Abraham. He said, "I want you to take Isaac, & offer him as a sacrifice."
Now, this test was for Abraham's benefit, not God's. God already knew Abraham's heart, & He knew that Abraham loved Him. But God wanted Abraham to know just how far he was willing to go in trusting God - & Abraham passed the test!
2. Perhaps one of the most dramatic tests in the O.T. involved Jonah. God gave Jonah a test & Jonah failed. Instead of going to Ninevah, as God had directed, Jonah fled in the opposite direction.
And it was not until he was caught in the storm & then in the belly of the great fish that Jonah repented & God was able to use him. The test was for Jonah's benefit, not for God's.
3. We read in the N.T. that God tested Philip the day that Jesus fed the multitudes. And that God tested Peter on the seashore after the resurrection, when Jesus asked him, "Do you love me, Simon? Do you really love me?"
APPL. Now how about you? If you were asked, "Do you love God?" how would you answer? I imagine most of us would answer, "Why, yes. I love God."
It's easy to say that we love God, as long as we don't go any deeper than that. But the Bible does go deeper, & it asks more questions than just that one.
PROP. So I've jotted down a couple of scriptures for us to consider this evening. One is 2 Corinthians 13:5, & the other is 1 Corinthians 11:27-31.
I. ARE YOU IN THE FAITH?
A. Look at 2 Corinthians 13:5. Paul is writing to the church at Corinth, to people who claim to love God but who are having a lot of problems getting along with each other. He writes:
"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you ? unless, of course, you fail the test?"
Do you remember ever reading that verse before? Maybe you have read it, but didn't stop to think much about what it says. So it really doesn’t sound familiar.
Now let’s look again at what Paul is saying, "Examine yourself. Give yourself a test: Are you in the faith?” As a Christian, if Jesus Christ lives in you & His Spirit affects the way you think & speak & act, then the answer is “Yes.”
But if the way you speak & act shows that Jesus Christ is not living in you, then no matter how much you may say you love God, the answer is “No,” & you have failed the test.
B. I don’t want to fail that test. I don’t want to come to the end of my life & discover that I’m not “in the faith.”
I certainly don’t want to be one of whom Jesus spoke in Matthew 7:21 when he said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
Now that is bad enough, but listen to vs’s 22-23, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, & in your name drive out demons & perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you...!’”
Folks, that passage really bothers me because Jesus is saying that on Judgment Day there will be people claiming to be Christians who will hear Him say, “I never knew you.” How can that be? Doesn’t God know everybody? Of course He does!
So that’s not what He’s saying. He’s not saying, “I don’t know who you are.” Remember, in the Bible, when the words “know” or “knew” are used regarding a relationship, it means “to be very close, to be intimate.”
So when Jesus says, “I never knew you,” He’s saying, “You never came to me. We were never close.”
C. Now, what must I do – what must we do – to make certain that we are “in the faith,” that we never hear the words, “Depart from me, for I never knew you”?
Well, the Bible is pretty clear about that. In fact, Isaiah 35:8 (KJV) prophesies that God will make the way of holiness, the way of salvation, so plain that even “wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein,” or as the English Standard Version states it, “even if they are fools they shall not go astray.”
For my sake I’m glad God has made the way of salvation simple enough for me to understand & follow - & for you to understand & follow, too. So what does the Bible say about the way of salvation, about becoming a Christian?
1. To begin with, it says that we must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you believe in Him? You do? Then you are in the faith, right?
No, not yet. In talking about faith James 2:19 says, “Even the demons believe that - & shudder.” They are certainly not in the faith – they’re lost, & they know it.
So there is more to faith than simply believing in Jesus. And that is the point that Paul is making when he writes about Jesus living in us & His Spirit affecting the way we think & speak & act.
2. Well, does that mean that I’m in the faith? Wait, there’s more. The Bible teaches that if we believe in Jesus, then the obvious next step would be our decision to make Jesus the Lord of our life.
And that decision is called repentance. It simply means that we turn around & start going in God's direction. We were going our own way & now we turn our lives over to Him & we begin trying to live the way God wants us to live.
We don't hear much about that today, do we? And the result is that there are lots of people who were immoral before they accepted Christ & they're just as immoral afterwards.
There are people who were dishonest before they accepted Christ, & they're just as dishonest afterwards. They were greedy before, & they're still greedy even though they call themselves Christians.
If you can't point to some definite changes that God has made in your life, then you’re failing the test - because faith always brings about definite & sometimes dramatic changes in our lives.
And these changes are occurring because we have repented, we've turned & gone God's way. Our lives will be a testimony that Jesus is our Savior & our Lord.
I confess Him with my lips. I confess Him with my work. I confess Him with my lifestyle. In everything I do, I will be giving a testimony that Jesus Christ is the Lord of my life.
3. The Bible also teaches that if we have a living, dynamic faith that we will be obedient to the commands of the Lord. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15).
The Apostle John wrote, "This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome." (1 John 5:3)
For instance, we will obey Him in baptism. Because He has commanded it, we will be baptized in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit.
Paul writes in Romans 6, "In baptism we die with Him, & are buried with Him, & raised with Him to walk in a new life."
SUM. So have you passed this test? Are you in the faith? Can you say that Jesus Christ is living in you & that He has made a definite & positive change in your life?
II. AM I RECOGNIZING THE BODY OF THE LORD?
A. If so, then I have a second question for you. It is found in the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians. It is in a passage of scripture that we don't hear too often.
The verses preceding it are often read as a Communion meditation, & we often end our meditation with vs. 26 where it says, “For whenever you eat this bread & drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.” That's a good place to end. So we don't often read the rest of the passage.
But vs. 27 goes on to say, “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body & blood of the Lord.” Those are pretty heavy words, aren't they?
Continuing on, in vs's 28-29, “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread & drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats & drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats & drinks judgment on himself.
Have you ever stopped to think about that passage? The Bible says that the church met together regularly in a time of Communion.
Now here is what Paul is saying. "Every time you gather around this table you ought to look deep inside & examine yourself. You ought to give yourself a test. And here is the test question, ‘Am I recognizing the Lord's body?'"
"As I partake of this communion, am I thinking about Jesus hanging on the cross? Do I realize that He is hanging there for my sin – that my sin put Him there, my sin drove the nails?"
Are you recognizing the body, or are you just taking the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary for granted?
B. Paul ends this passage about examining ourselves by saying, "That is why many among you are weak & sick, & a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment." (1Corinthians 11:30-31)
You see, final exam time is coming. And Paul says, "If you have passed the pop quizzes; if you have been answering the questions correctly; then when the final exam day comes, you won't have to worry about the judgment. Because all along you have been examining yourself."
I would like to end with the following true story...
One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, "Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd." I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye.

As I handed him his glasses, I said, "Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives." He looked at me and said, "Hey thanks!" There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before. We talked all the way home, and I carried his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes. We hung all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. And my friends thought the same of him.

Monday morning came, and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again. I stopped him and said, "Damn boy, you are gonna really build some serious muscles with this pile of books everyday! " He just laughed and handed me half the books.

Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship. Kyle was valedictorian of his class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was so glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak. Graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He filled out and actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than me and all the girls loved him! Boy, sometimes I was jealous. Today was one of those days. I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, "Hey, big guy, you'll be great!" He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. "Thanks," he said.

As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. "Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach ... but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story." I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. "Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable." I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. I saw his Mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Not until that moment did I realize it's depth.

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person's life for better or for worse. God puts us all in each other's lives to impact one another in some way. Look for God in others. Each day is a gift from God! Don't forget.

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