Summary: What is the real test of our faith?
Concordia Lutheran Church
Pentecost 16, September 20 2009
“A Test of our Hearts and Minds”
† IN THE NAME OF JESUS †
May you be full of joy, my brothers, when you undergo tests of every sort; 3 Because you have the knowledge that the testing of your faith gives you the power of going on in hope; 4 But let this power have its full effect, so that you may be made complete, needing nothing. Jas 1:2 (BBE - adapted)
Is God’s test regarding the children?
Is God’s test the quarrels, fights, and passion?
I want you for a moment, to close your eyes and to picture yourself back in your freshman year of high school, standing outside the classroom door, about ready to walk into your mid-term in World History. Some around you have their books out, trying to remember was it the Phoenicians of the Philistines that sailed the Mediterranean? Was it Saladin or Sanhedrin that sacked Jerusalem? Was it the Incas, the Mayans or the Aztecs that sacrificed virgins on the tops of their temples? Just as you think you’re ready, the door opens…everyone slowly gets seated and the test begins.
It is Concordia’s time for a test, the test seen in one of our readings.
It is not the test results seen in James epistle, where it talks of quarrels and fights, and passions at war. It isn’t the test in the Gospel of hearing and understanding how we shall receive those children God sends to us.
The test is seen in the words of Jeremiah, in the actions Jeremiah credits God with in verse 20,
But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously, who tests the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause. Jer 11:20 (ESV)
If God is testing the heart and mind of Concordia, it is not in the meeting to follow. It is in meeting Him here, now. It is in recognizing the one who truly is the gently lamb, led to the slaughter, and seeing the vengeance of God poured out. There is the test. There is our test. And the decision regarding the school, and the way that we go about discussing and making that decision, all stem from passing the test.
Is the test whether we have will sin?
Perhaps it is because of the years we spend in school, perhaps it is because of things like driver’s tests, entrance examinations, performance standards and the like. You either do good, or you do bad. You either succeed, or you fail. You are either perfect and holy or you are evil. Either your heart and mind pass God’s test, or it flunks. Applying this to the churches in the book of Revelation, either the collective heart or mind of a church passes, or it fails.
Basically, if our heart and mind was tested by Jeremiah’s standards, how would we stand? Which of us could stand to see all of our deeds shown? Which of us hasn’t at one time or another, avoided that which God was telling us through His word, or dismissed those that He placed in our lives? What about the standards found in James epistle – how many of us look for good quarrels, or want our desires met first? Which of us is willing to humble ourselves and serve?
I don’t think the final test of our heart and mind is about restraining from sinning – that is impossible for us – we were born into sin, and we shall struggle with it, all the days of our lives. I think instead the test is how we deal with our sin, and the sin of those who sin against us – how we deal with the vengeance of God that is poured out on that sin.
Let me see your vengeance..we have..
Jeremiah, in a situation where he is being betrayed, where both the world, and those who were supposed to be following God are trying to “cut him off from the land of the living”- who are trying to so completely brutalize him, that he is never again remembered. He feels like the friendly gentle lamb led to slaughter, dumb and innocent.
Realizing this, he cries out – “let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause.” How many of you have wanted that, once or twice in life? Where the very wrath of God would be poured out on those who oppose you, because don’t they realize, you work for God? Heck, I will admit I have had a day or two like that in my life!
In the Old Testament, often times a prophet’s life is a picture of what Christ will be like. In Isaiah, when he talks about the lamb led to the slaughter, it is obviously a picture of Jesus – we get the Agnus Dei from there, and from John’s identifying Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And working from that, many modern commentators think this is a similar parallel.