Summary: Three tests to determine whether our spiritual journey is pleasing to God.
I have yet to meet anyone who actually likes to take tests. In fact some people have a phobia about taking tests, they freeze up as soon as the test is passed out, suddenly the light seems brighter, the room seems smaller. Recently I ran across some impossible test questions that are sure to strike fear into the heart of any test taker.
For the final exam of a history class: Describe the history of the papacy from its origins to present day, concentrating on its social, political, economic, religious and philosophical impact on Europe, Asia, America and Africa. Be brief, concise, and specific.
Or how about the final for a medical student: You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a bottle of Scotch. Remove your appendix. Do not suture until your work has been inspected by the professor. You have fifteen minutes.
Here’s one for an engineering student: The disassembled parts of a high powered rifle have been placed in a box on your desk. You will find an instruction manual printed in Swahili. In ten minutes, a hungry Bengal tiger will be admitted into the test room. Take whatever action you feel appropriate, and be prepared to justify your decision.
Or how about this question: Define the universe; give three examples.
Even when we come across test questions that seem simple on the surface, we find that they’re often not as simple as we first thought. For instance, the answer to the question, "How long did the Hundred Years War last?’ seems obvious, but the answer is 116 years. When a test asks, "Which country manufactures Panama hats?" the correct answer is Equador. Here’s another: From what animal do we get cat gut? From sheep and horses of course. In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution? November. What was King George IV’s first name? Well, everyone knows it was Albert. Ah yes...many test takers are glad to be out of school...far away from trick questions like that thought up in some teacher’s lounge.
But as far as we try to get from the rigors of the academic life, we find our lives are filled with other kinds of tests. We take driver’s tests, drug tests, polygraph tests, sobriety tests, eye tests, entrance exams. People in law enforcement have to qualify on the shooting range at least four times a year, many of you have to take a test for your chosen profession. Like it or not, tests are a part of life.
But is there a test to determine whether a person is on the right track spiritually? Two weeks ago we started a new series through the New Tesatment book of 1 John called A ROADMAP FOR THE JOURNEY. We’ve been treating the apostle John’s little letter to the Christians living in Asia Minor as a kind of Rand McNally map for the spiritual journey. We started by looking at our need to have the right foundation, the right companions, the right source, and the right goal in the spiritual journey. Then last week we looked at God’s calling to authenticity with each other as we walk this spiritual journey together.
But today we’re going to look at three tests we can use to determine whether our spiritual walk is pleasing to God. These three tests are reliable indicators we can use in our lives to gauge our spiritual journey. As much as we don’t like taking tests, we must admit that they’re helpful and good sometimes, that a test can help us evaluate where we are. So approach these three tests as ways of doing some self-assessment this morning, as we seek to make sure our spiritual journey is a walk that’s pleasing to God.
1. Test One: Loving Obedience (1 John 2:3-6)
As we’ve talked about in the previous weeks, the churches in ancient Asia Minor the apostle John was writing to were being torn apart of internal strife and division. God’s Church--a place meant to be a refuge, a family, a safe place to grow spiritually--had become a bitter battleground. Many of the church members who’d once been viewed as spiritual leaders had dropped out of the church and were now pursuing their own private spiritual life apart from the rest of the church community. Maybe some of you can identify with the pain and confusion John’s friends were experiencing, maybe someone you know once had what appeared to be a strong walk with God, but that person’s turned away from his or her faith in Jesus Christ now. Now when you look at that person’s life you don’t see any evidence of God’s work, and you struggle because they once seemed so close to God. That’s what John’s friends were struggling with. Many false ideas about Jesus were being taught, and this was causing confusion about what was really true about Jesus Christ.