February 28, 2016
Text: Isaiah 55:1-9
I Corinthians 10:1-13
A New Way of Thinking
God spoke through the prophet Isaiah saying: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways- for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
In an attempt to try to try and understand the magnitude of that truth with our finite minds, we could begin by comparing it to us trying to teach ants astrophysics. It would be impossible. Learning the depth of God’s thoughts then would seem impossible. How can we know God’s thoughts then? By first experiencing his love for us by what he does and says.
As we experience His faithfulness more and more by knowing Jesus and reading God’s word- our thoughts will begin to be transformed to become more and more like His- and as we do, we begin to think differently. We begin to see the impact of our choices we make- but more importantly, we realize our salvation is God’s doing- and not ours. We only have been called to trust and obey by grace through faith. Pray.
I have shared with you a cartoon before but I believe it warrants repeating. It is a picture of a grade school student handing in his test paper to his teacher and saying: “I still have more questions than answers.”
Memories of taking tests in school are sure to make your blood pressure rise. So when we read the word: “test” in the bible, I think there is a tendency for a lot of us to feel uncomfortable.
But tests are meant for our good and serve a purpose. It is the purpose that is often misunderstood. Tests can be looked at either as a tool to measure what we know- or as an opportunity to teach us what we don’t know. In the secular life, tests are often seen as a “necessary evil” we have to pass so that we can move on to the next level and graduate and go to college or get a good job.
In the gospel lesson this morning begins with Jesus being told of a tragic event. While some Galileans were offering sacrifices in worship to God, Pilot’s soldiers had slaughtered them, causing their blood to mingle with the blood of the sacrifices. Knowing their thoughts- Jesus asked them- do you think that because they suffered that way, they were worse sinners than others? (And that we should conclude then, that anyone that was not killed must have been somehow better? -More spiritual perhaps?) –my words.
Before they could answer, Jesus answered his own question with an emphatic “no!”- and then used the teaching opportunity to call them to repentance.
It is a natural tendency for us as humans to compare ourselves with others. But if we compare ourselves with others, we may come to the wrong conclusion of thinking that we aren’t all that bad- perhaps even better than someone- and for that reason, maybe that’s why we do it. After all, we rank crimes in order of what society considers from acceptable to the worst and unacceptable. We conclude that murderers are worse than say- shoplifting and think that both are certainly worse than greed or pride or things like that.
But to see the truth of our hearts, we have to compare ourselves to God and His perfect holiness. And when we do that, we see ourselves a sinner in need of a savior- hands down.
Our salvation is not determined by how well we do on the tests we experience through in life- but we can learn from them to gain a better understanding of God as we grow closer to Him. Ironically, most of the times, it is not our successes, but our failures that bring us closer to God and we learn that in our weaknesses, God is strong.
In the second lesson today- Paul reminds the Corinthian church that even their ancestors who experienced God’s deliverance from Pharaoh and His provision in the desert, some still chose to wander from God- and they suffered the consequences for their sins. There is a warning in this Paul writes. If you think you are standing- watch out that you do not fall.
Tests come in many forms- but I believe most of life’s tests are those countless choices we are faced to make each day. Consider Adam and Eve. God had placed them in the Garden of Eden where they were to live and enjoy. They could do anything they wanted- have anything they wanted- except one thing-they were forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil- was it a test? It certainly was a choice- and eventually, they chose the wrong thing. They certainly learned from it-but I don’t believe it was God’s will for them to disobey so that they could learn from it.
God’s desire is that we would always choose the right thing because we love God. The reason God gave us a free will to choose was so that our love and obedience would come from a personal response to God’s love and goodness.
“Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” That is a heads up from Peter. Sometimes-choosing the right thing has consequences of being thrown in jail and beaten and even killed. Right now, all over the world, there are people being forced to choose between confessing their faith to God and losing everything including their life as a result, or to deny him and go free.
Jesus said: “in the world you have tribulation- but be of good cheer- I have overcome the world.”
There is a beautiful song of confession written and sung by Mercy Me that is called: “Let it Rain”. The first verse says: “I can count a million times- people asking me how I can praise You with all I’ve gone through.” He goes on and says- “The question just amazes me- could circumstances possibly change who I forever am in You? It’s never really crossed my mind.”
“I am yours regardless of the clouds that may loom above because you are much greater than my pain. You only are my shelter from the storm-how can I turn my back on you? Instead I draw closer through these times. Let it rain.”
James wrote: “Count it all joy my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
I have shared with you many times- that my understanding of the bible teaches us that God does not cause sickness or tragedies. But rather He came to rescue, heal, and to save. In those times of trials- we learn to trust God because we know Him to be a faithful God.
When we are faced with tests in life- do we know the answers to all the questions? I’ll speak for all of us- No. But we can- and need to know with all assurance- the answers to the basic questions of life. We know that we can know the assurance of our salvation- not because of what we have done- but by grace through faith- trusting God to save. Come to the foot of the cross-where the holiness of God and the love of God meet in Christ Jesus. And there- we can have no doubt of God’s love for us. How can we not trust Him?
Whatever trials you may be facing that test your faith- remember-God is bigger than any trial or test. The same Jesus who was tested in the wilderness but did not sin, the same Jesus who conquered sin, death, and the power of the devil is with us- before us, beside us, behind us- above us and below us.
I want to leave you with this one last thought from the apostle Paul: “no testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”
Let it rain. Amen.