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Faithlife

Passing the Test

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Passing the Test

Intro - [after thanks] segue from last week…sorta part 2....
…maybe allude to the Princess Bride? When things go wrong you have to go back to the beginning[talk about that in our lives, our faith, our relationships…it is important to start again sometimes]…that is why it is so important that we talk about love…setup text with relaxed walk through of the text…Before the walk through talk about Star Wars----It’s a Trap!!
Matt 22:34-
Matthew 22:34–40 NIV
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
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pray
[test pic]
Tests. We hate them, don’t we?
I remember when I was teaching, albeit very briefly, that when I gave out a test, I was sure to remind everyone that it wasn’t a big deal - it wasn’t live or die; it wasn’t life changing.
But they can feel that way, can’t they?
Whether it is a driving test, a math test, a history test, an English test (my personal least favorite), or even our parents or spouses testing us; we hate tests.
And then there is God. The God that tests our faith. The God that seems to put us in positions in order to somehow quantify our faith, or to measure our ability. What about those tests?
Well to understand those tests, and any other test really, we need to understand our
You see them throughout the Bible, right? People who are put in a position to do the Godly, or the right, thing. And usually they fail, don’t they? They fail these tests that seem to us, and probably to them, to be this epic and massive and overwhelming task! Something that takes a superhuman amount of wisdom and will power to overcome. And it is almost as if the story of us going through those trials will resound throughout history sometimes!
To be honest, when I think of tests like that, I think of The Lord of the Rings - it’s a 3 movie day now…I have been holding back, so watch out - there is this scene where this great queen is tempted to take this ring of power. Now if she took it she would be great! She would be all powerful! And since she is on the good side, it would be a great thing right?
Well, probably not. So in this great speech she talks about all the good she could do and then starts becoming sort of drunk with power, like we all would get, and realizes that she has to turn it down. And as she whimpers away, she mumbles, “I passed the test...”
That is how I view God’s tests, sometimes. I think that is how we all view them! These seemingly impossible situations that would take every ounce of our self control and strength to be able to pass! And even when we feel like we pass those tests, it always seems like it comes at great personal cost.
[what if I told you pic]
What if I told you I, you, we, were wrong? [4 movie day!…and explain that is what a meme looks like]
You see, tests COULD be that, but they are not necessarily that! In fact, those tests are likely the least important tests we could be presented!
Think about it this way. What if I had a 1000 pound hammer up here and told you that only someone strong could pick it up? It is a true TEST of strength! Only the strong could do it!
Well of course I might be right, but the test isn’t important.
I say that because the world is full of strong people that could never even budge it! So failure of that test is, in many ways, meaningless! I would even go as far to say that the task itself offered nothing for us to even learn from!
So it isn’t a test as much as a task - and a pointless one at that.
And that isn’t the way God works, church! He doesn’t hand out meaningless tasks! No, if He were going to test us, there would be some purpose for that test! It wouldn’t just be pick up that heavy thing, or do that difficult thing.
It would always teach us more than test us.
Matthew 22:35 NIV
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
Matthew 22:
[pic of pharisees testing Jesus]
Our text really drives that home. You see these questions given to Jesus are just like questions on our tests, or in our lives. They are moments when it isn’t our actions that are being gauged, but rather, our hearts.
Our text really drives that home. You see these questions given to Jesus are just like questions on our tests, or in our lives. They are moments when it isn’t our actions that are being gauged, but rather, our hearts.
These men were trying to test Jesus, trying to trap Him with words, but Jesus responds by addressing the condition of their heart!
“Who do you give your money to? Caesar or God?” “Who’s wife is this woman in this Resurrection that we don’t even believe in?” “Which of God’s words or commands is the best?” Their questions, their tests, were rife with malicious intentions.
And if we are honest, ours are too sometimes.
And because theirs, and ours, are, we tend to project that onto our opinion of God’s tests. And when we do that, we lose sight of the real way that we pass the test, because we know for a fact that we can’t pick up that hammer!
We can’t do what we need to do.
[tests]
Well let me be clear, church. Tests have nothing to do with what you know or how well you do, and everything to do with how much you are willing to do and how hard you are willing to try.
God doesn’t work on pass/fail. God works with effort.
If you want to pass the test, then you have to put in the effort. You see, effort leads to results! But results don’t lead to effort! And church, God wants our effort and our energy, not just the results!
We are tested not to see how good we are, but to see how much we love God.
We are tested to see how much we are willing to give up to live for Him. And those tests, they shouldn’t remind us of our failures, but rather, they should help us rejoice in our little victories!
[kids]
talk about tests....reframe tests correctly…not about seeing what you know or how well you do, but rather how much you care, and how hard you are willing to try....effort leads to results, whereas results hardly ever lead to effort…So we are tested not to see how good we are, or how much we know, or how well we can live out the Christian life, but to see how much we are willing to give, and how hard we are willing to try to do what God says…even more than that, perhaps, how much we are willing to give up to live like Him.
[picof children]
Remember when you, or your kids, did something right? Maybe you were better than me and got used to it, but when I did something right I would parade around the house acting like I was king of the world!
And when my kids do something right, even if there is something wrong in there, I praise them!
I praise them, because if I keep on praising them for doing the right thing, even if they did it with the wrong attitude, or the wrong way, I am helping put the right building blocks in place so that they can pass the real test in this life!
The test of living like Jesus.
And we all need to do that for each other too. In fact, this world would be amazing if we would only focus on the little victories, those moments when we get the basics right. Because those basics are truly what matters church.
[shema]
That is what Jesus is getting at in this moment.
Sure those guys were trying to trap Him, but there was something to be learned here. There was a lesson in all the badness of this situation.
And in this moment, Jesus gives them, and us, all that we need to pass the test.
You know I love paraphrasing - and I think it is really helpful here. These men, essentially, went up to Jesus and said, “What is the one thing, the ONE thing, we should do to show God our obedience?”
[point to screen]
You see, that prayer, they said it twice a day. It is one of the first things they teach their children to pray! It is, in some ways, the very cornerstone of their faith lives! But like us, as they got older, they muddied the waters with all this other stuff; all these other obligations and loop holes, and rules - things that took their eyes off of the basics that God needed from them and needs from us!
Do that! Do that thing that you say twice a day. And I don’t mean say it - DO IT!
Go back to the beginning! Back to when you loved God more than anything! Back to when you didn’t allow doubts and worries to cloud your mind! Back to when you understood that you didn’t understand, and that was OK! Back to when the world had no trouble because you knew WITHOUT DOUBT that there was a God above who loved you immeasurably!
Above all, stop looking at all the presumed obligations of adulthood, and life, and faith!
Just like those Pharisees, we add so much to our faith! We junk it up with all these ideas, some Biblical, some not - but all of them take away from the most important aspect of our faith, and the one thing that we are told by Jesus to do above all others!
Just. Love. God.
[lovepic]
And just like with our spouses, or children, or families and friends - we can’t ever truly love God, or anyone for that matter, when we value ourselves more than them.
If I want to love Kate, I can’t love her AFTER I have fulfilled my own desires for love. No, I show her love by sacrificing what I want for what she wants. By putting her needs above my own. By wanting her plans to come to fruition. By seeking her council. By trying to be a part of her life constantly, and not just choosing to hang out whenever I have time!
Let me say that again - just in case you weren’t listening. And let me beat around the bush:
If I want to love God, I can’t love God AFTER I have fulfilled my own desires for love. No, I show Him love by sacrificing what I want for what God wants. By putting His needs above my own. By wanting HIS plans to come to fruition. By seeking HIS council. By trying to be a part of HIS life constantly, and not just choosing to hang out whenever I have time!
You can’t live like that. And really, God doesn’t even want you to!
God wants to show you love, just as He wants to be shown love! But the trick for us, church, is that when we show Him love, we then in turn feel even more love from Him!
And when we feel that love, we are filled and are then able to go out and love our Neighbors too! But church, God can’t fill you, He can’t become all that you need and all that you are when you are full of yourself! So if you want to pass the test, then you need to go back to the basics! Just love God! Love Him before you do anything else! Love Him, not for all those good moments that you got what you wanted, that shallow love won’t last when times are hard! NO LOVE HIM FOR LIFE! LOVE HIM FOR MERCY! LOVE HIM FOR HOPE! LOVE HIM FOR GRACE! LOVE HIM FOR HIS DEATH! LOVE HIM FOR FIRST LOVING YOU! LOVE HIM WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH!
[things to use - “God can’t fill you, He can’t become all that you need and all that you are when you are full of yourself!”
need a movie…had one…have lost it. maybe it’s a trap?
That is what will help you pass the tests of this life, church. Not what church you go to, or how much you know about the Bible. No, to pass the test you just need to love Him.
[picofsomething]
How easy it is to forget that, though.
It is easy to forget, because honestly, we have learned to adapt to live without love. In fact, I would even say that we have replaced love in our society with acceptance. Where once we would have demanded that a person should love other people, and therefore, keep their best interests at heart, now we just care that we are accepted. After all, it demands less of us.
But even so, we adapt. We treat acceptance as love, even though it doesn’t really fit. We get used to living without love, and we make allowances. We self-soothe with technology, or jobs, or entertainment, or social groups.
But that isn’t the calling of God.
No we are called to love, because it is only THROUGH love that we will ever feel and know our true value!
Listen I can give my wife and daughters everything they could ever want or need, and they would still yearn for love! And really, they would never be what they had the potential of being without love!
Likewise, you can never be what God calls you to be if you don’t love Him! Because when you love Him, you feel His love! When you spend time with Him, you feel His presence! And when you do that, church those tests that come along in life are a breeze! When you master loving God, there is nothing in this life that could ever cause more than a fleeting worry. Because the more you love Him, the more you are filled with the love that you need to live for Him.
[picofKarlBarth]
We have to go back to the basics. We have to come to Christ as children, not as adults with all of our hangups and habits. We have to learn to value the most basic fundamentals of our faith.
Karl Barth knew that well. He was a supremely influencial Theologian in the last century. He has far too many quotes and profound thoughts to list briefly here. But the most profound thought ties in directly to our text and this sermon.
You see, in 1962, while visiting America, he was asked to summarize all his writings, and thoughts, about God. I can imagine him sitting there, in the middle of that test, and thinking to himself, “how do I summarize millions of words and years worth of thinking about God in just one sentence?”
Just like Jesus, but from the human point of view, Karl passed the test. He replied, “Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so.”
Matthew 22:40 NIV
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Everything depends on it, church. Everything.
You might think you have faith, you might believe you are obedient, but if you don’t love God with all that you are, the rest won’t work.
Everything we do depends on love. Everything here. Everything at home. Everything at school or at work. Everything hangs on how we love, just like everything that love is, was, or ever will be, hung on that cross.
So whatever you are facing - sin, life, maybe you feel hurt or lonely, regrets or missed opportunities - all those tests in life that we so often get; you can pass them all today, if you would just love God with all that you are, and love your neighbor as you are loved yourself.
That is why Christ died. And that is why you live. To love and be loved.
Invitation [reference the song…someone will be up there…]
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