Tag Archives: test

THE FIERY ORDEAL

THE FIERY ORDEAL

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1 Peter 4: 12-14)

What was the fiery ordeal of which Peter spoke? In his day it was the persecution of believers at the hands of Nero. There were no lengths to which Nero would not go to rid the empire of the followers of Jesus. Their lives were forfeit at the hands of gladiators, ferocious and half-starved wild beasts kept especially for the purpose, and fire; Christians were covered with pitch and set alight to amuse the emperor and entertain his guests at his lavish garden parties.

Don’t be surprised, said Peter, when this happens. Was this the way Jesus’s followers were normally treated? Peter was merely echoing Jesus’s many warnings that following Him would be no walk in the park. The world then, as now, was polarised into two camps. Jesus said it would be so. He did not come to bring peace but a sword.

‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. (Matt. 10: 34-36)

But Jesus, I thought you came to bring peace? Is that not the promise the angel brought when he announced your birth to the shepherds outside Bethlehem? “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests.” The disciples were convinced that Jesus’s mission was to conquer the occupying Roman forces and restore their land to them as it was in David’s day. However hard He tried, Jesus could not convince them otherwise.

Yes, Jesus did come to bring peace, but not the kind of peace they anticipated. His peace was the peace between His Father and His estranged children, reconciliation through His blood which would bring them restoration to their place in God’s household as His sons and daughters.

Of necessity, this new relationship with God would produce a chasm between believers and unbelievers. Everyone who sided with the devil would be in the opposite camp to those who followed Jesus. It would have to be because of the irreconcilable rift between the devil and God. So deep was the hatred in the hearts of unbelievers that they would do anything to get rid of the scourge of those who constantly irritated their conscience by their godly lives.

Peter said, ‘Don’t be surprised.’ The moment they stepped over, through faith, into the camp of those who followed Jesus because they were convinced that it was He, not Caesar, who was the true Son of God, they became marked people. On the contrary, as Peter echoed the words of His Master:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5: 11, 12)

Instead of complaining or even retaliating, they were to rejoice in the midst of their suffering because it was for His sake that they were facing their fiery ordeal – and they were in good company. The prophets faced and endured the same treatment at the hands of God’s own people. Persecution would be transient and a part of their experience in this life only, but their reward would be eternal.

Jesus even told His disciples not to be afraid of those who could only kill the body and, after that could do no more to them. The body was destined to perish anyway, to make way for a resurrection body that would be eternal and imperishable like the body of their resurrected Lord. They were to live in reverent fear of the one who had the power to destroy them forever in hell.

On top of their temporary suffering which would give way to eternal glory, the very suffering they had to endure to experience forever the glory of God would bring them the overshadowing power of God’s Spirit to endure it in a way the echoed the suffering of Jesus. Far from being a raw ordeal, like Stephen who, in the midst of his ordeal, saw Jesus awaiting his arrival in glory, they would also have God’s Spirit resting on them.

Have you ever wondered how the people in Peter’s day, and even those at the present time who are being tortured and beheaded for their faith, were able to endure? We tremble at the very thought, but God’s promise still stands:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12: 9)

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – IT WAS ALL LIES!

IT WAS ALL LIES!

“For the second test he led Him up and spread out all the kingdoms of the earth on display at once. Then the devil said, ‘They’re yours in all their splendour to serve your pleasure. I’m in charge of them all and can turn them over to whomever I wish. Worship me and they’re yours, the whole works.’

“Jesus refused, again backing His refusal with Deuteronomy:

”’Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God. Serve Him with absolute single heartedness.'” Luke 4:5-8.

Really! Did the devil really expect Jesus to swallow this one?

Luke reversed Matthew’s order, putting this temptation ahead of the devil’s attempt to lure Jesus into a suicide jump. It seems that, as a third attempt to get Jesus to fall in line with his suggestion, the devil finally played open cards with Him. Was he that desperate to lure Jesus off course that he thought he could actually induce Him into falling down and worshipping him?

What was the prize if He did that? All the kingdoms of the world? But wait a minute – before we think that it was worth a little homage in secret, let’s examine the devil’s claim. Did he really own all the kingdoms of the world?

Firstly the devil only spoke lie-language. Jesus categorically stated that he was a liar and that the only language he could speak was lies. “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44b (NIV).

Lie number one: he does not own all the kingdoms of the world. If he doesn’t, who does?

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” Psalm 24:1 (NIV). The earth is the possession of the one who created it. It is His right to assign it to whomever He wills.

Lie number two: the devil does not have the right to give away what does not belong to him. “The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth He has given to mankind.” Psalm 115:16 (NIV).

For what purpose? Not to abuse and destroy as we are doing now, but to manage for Him. “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in His own image…” Genesis 1:26, 27a (NIV).

Where does the devil fit into the scheme of things? His power lies, not in possession but in deception. Had Jesus capitulated to him, would He have become the proud owner of all the kingdoms of the world? Of course not. The devil would have become His slave-driver.

How was He to gain possession of everything the devil has stolen through deceit? “I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have become your Father. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” Psalm 2:7-8 (NIV).

Jesus had already gained the prize through obedience. By His submission to the Father’s will, He would confirm what was already true from before the beginning of time. He was the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world,” Revelation 13:8 (NIV).

He would worship the Lord – pledge His allegiance to the Father alone. Sorry, devil, you lost that round too!

The Fiery Ordeal

THE FIERY ORDEAL

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1 Peter 4: 12-14)

What was the fiery ordeal of which Peter spoke? In his day it was the persecution of believers at the hands of Nero. There were no lengths to which he would not go to rid the empire of the followers of Jesus. Their lives were forfeit at the hands of gladiators, ferocious and half-starved wild beasts kept especially for the purpose, and fire – people were covered with pitch and set alight to amuse the emperor and entertain his guests at his lavish garden parties.

Don’t be surprised, said Peter, when this happens. Was this the way Jesus’s followers were normally treated? Peter was merely echoing Jesus’s many warnings that following Him would be no walk in the park. The world then, as now, was polarised into two camps. Jesus said it would be so. He did not come to bring peace but a sword.

‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ (Matt. 10: 34-36)

But Jesus, I thought you came to bring peace? Is that not the promise the angel brought when he announced your birth to the shepherds outside Bethlehem? Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests. The disciples were convinced that Jesus’s mission was to conquer the occupying Roman forces and restore their land to them as it was in David’s day. However hard He tried, Jesus could not convince them otherwise.

Yes, Jesus did come to bring peace, but not the kind of peace they anticipated. His peace was the peace between His Father and His estranged children – reconciliation through His blood which would bring them restoration to their place in God’s household as His sons and daughters.

Of necessity this would produce a chasm between believers and unbelievers. Everyone who sided with the devil would be in the opposite camp to those who followed Jesus. It would have to be because of the irreconcilable rift between the devil and God. So deep was the hatred in the hearts of unbelievers that they would do anything to get rid of the scourge of those who constantly irritated their conscience by their godly lives.

Peter said, ‘Don’t be surprised.’ The moment they stepped over, through faith, into the camp of those who followed Jesus because they were convinced that it was He, not Caesar, who was the true Son of God, they became marked people. On the contrary, as Peter echoed the words of His Master:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5: 11, 12)

Instead of complaining or even retaliating, they were to rejoice in the midst of their suffering because it was for His sake that they were facing their fiery ordeal – and they were in good company. The prophets faced and endured the same treatment at the hands of God’s own people. Persecution would be transient and a part of their experience in this life only, but their reward would be eternal.

Jesus even told His disciples not to be afraid of those who could only kill the body and, after that could do no more to them. The body was destined to perish anyway, to make way for a resurrection body that would be eternal and imperishable like the body of their resurrected Lord. They were to live in reverent fear of the one who had the power to destroy them forever in hell.

On top of their temporary suffering which would give way to eternal glory, the very suffering they had to endure to experience forever the glory of God would bring them the overshadowing power of God’s Spirit to endure it in a way the echoed the suffering of Jesus. Far from being a raw ordeal, like Stephen who, in the midst of his ordeal, saw Jesus awaiting his arrival in glory, they would also have God’s Spirit resting on them.

Have you ever wondered how the people in Peter’s day, and even those at the present time who are being tortured and beheaded for their faith, were able to endure? We tremble at the very thought. God’s promise still stands

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12: 9)

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

As Now So Then

AS NOW, SO THEN

“Jesus went on to make these comments,
‘If you’re honest in small things, you’ll be honest in big things;
If you’re a crook in small things, you’ll be a crook in big things;
If you’re not honest in small jobs, who will put you in charge of the store?
No worker can serve two bosses.
He’ll either hate the first and love the second,
or adore the first and despise the second.
You can’t serve God and the Bank.'” Luke 16:10-12 (The Message)

Women love to pride themselves on being able to multi-task! A fallacy except in the area of hands and mouth! However, Jesus insisted that there is no such thing as multi-tasking when it comes to loyalties. It’s either or, not both and…

Although His comments were aimed primarily at the hypocritical religious leaders who prided themselves on their loyalty to the law, but in fact were hiding their greedy hearts behind their play-acting masks, Jesus was stating a universal and unchangeable principle. ‘You can’t fool God,’ He said, ‘because, if your loyalty is to your bank account, it automatically excludes God.’

That may be absolutely true on the surface but it actually hides a far deeper and more sobering truth than just applying to this life. Our attitude to our money and possessions in this life is the preparation for our level of responsibility in the God’s eternal kingdom. The measure of our faithfulness now is the measure of what we will be entrusted with in the life to come. The NIV translation makes it even clearer, “‘So, if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches. And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?‘” Luke 16:11,12.

The implication of Jesus’ statement is that what we have now is a trust from God, on loan as a test of our stewardship. The many parables He told about money and possessions all point to this same truth. In this life God entrusts us with His property in order to train us to use it wisely and to prepare us for our role in His eternal kingdom.

Why does God use something as ‘worldly’ as money to test the level of our spirituality? Why not love, or any of the other fruits of the Spirit? Why not the number people we have won to Jesus, the number of people we have discipled or even the spiritual gifts we have used faithfully and increased?

God is smart! He knows that our attitude to our money and possessions is the most accurate test of our love for Him. Nothing ensnares our hearts as much as the love of money. Where our treasure is, there our hearts will be. In this life only, we have opportunity to safeguard our treasure by investing it in the kingdom of God. Once we leave here, our apprenticeship is over.

Take Abraham, for example. God gave him a son after twenty five years of waiting – probably even longer – and how he must have treasured that boy! And then, of all things, God said, ‘Kill him!’ Abraham could have refused. ‘God, are you crazy? Why give me a son and then demand him back in such a cruel way?’ But Abraham never flinched, never questioned, never hesitated; He did what he was told. What was his core attitude? Trust!

Isn’t that also the heart of our attitude to our money? After all, money represents our security. When we have money, we feel safe in spite of all the evidence to the contrary. When we let go of our trust in our bank account and place it in the security of God’s faithfulness, we are set free to use our money instead of our money using us. It is a good servant but a bad master.

We cannot change the truth. As now, so then. If we want to enjoy the place in God’s kingdom reserved for us, we must decide now who we will serve and who will master us. Beyond the grave is too late.