THE TESTING OF YOUR FAITH
It is a tribute to the Serpent's cunning that this vital part of salvation is so often ignored by modern Bible teachers. And yet, from Genesis through Revelation, the Bible teaches that God tests His people in order to determine their faithfulness. In the book of Genesis, we see that God tested Adam and Eve.
"And the Lord God COMMANDED the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, HOU SHALT NOT EAT OF IT: for in the day that thou eatest thereof THOU SHALT SURELY DIE." (Genesis 2:15)
Through the experience of Adam and Eve we can gain understanding on the subject of testing. From that model we see that God tests His people by commanding certain things and then warns them of the consequences for disobedience. If the people believe God and obey Him, they pass the test. If they refuse to obey, they fail the test and will be shut off from the tree of life for eternity.
This same pattern of testing is repeated throughout the history of God's people. The 22nd chapter of Genesis begins with these words: "After these things God tested Abraham..."
God commanded Abraham to take his only son and sacrifice him upon an altar. As Abraham raised the knife over Isaac, the angel of the Lord told him to stop and said:
"For now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." (Gen 22:12)
God tested Abraham's faith by commanding him to sacrifice that which was most precious to him. Abraham passed the test and received God's blessing. Modern Christianity teaches that Abraham was blessed because of his faith. Nevertheless, the fact is that Abraham was not blessed for his faith, but rather for the obedience which his faith produced. The proof of that is seen in Genesis 22:18 when the angel of the Lord said to Abraham:
"...BECAUSE YOU HAVE DONE THIS, and have not withheld your son ... I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven...and by your descendants shall all the nations bless themselves, **BECAUSE** YOU HAVE OBEYED MY VOICE."
That is why James used the example of Abraham when he insisted that faith without obedience is a dead faith, he said:
"But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is DEAD?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works WHEN he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?" (James 2:20f)
James was careful to emphasize that Abraham was justified WHEN he had offered Isaac. Yes, it is true that we are justified by our faith, but as James points out, that faith must be tested in order to receive eternal life. He wrote:
"Blessed is the man who ENDURES trial, for when he has stood the TEST he will receive the CROWN OF LIFE which God has promised to those who LOVE HIM." James l:12
That one sentence contains the three facts necessary to understand the process of testing:
1. Christians must ENDURE TESTING.
2. Those who STAND THE TEST receive the CROWN OF LIFE.
3. The crown of life is promised to those who LOVE GOD.
The apostle John defines how to LOVE God:
"For this is the love of God, that we KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS." (1 John 5:3)
So, there it is, God's plan of testing for all who will accept the testimony of scripture...
THE CROWN OF LIFE IS PROMISED TO THOSE WHO KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD.
As we continue to look through the scriptures we will often see this concept of testing through obedience. For example, in the book of Exodus we find that God chose the Israelites and called them out of Egypt. After they had crossed the Red Sea, God gave them commandments in order to test them. All those over the age of twenty failed the test and died in the wilderness - except Joshua and Caleb - who through their faith were obedient.
After forty years in the wilderness, as they were about to enter the land of Canaan, Moses said to the new generation of Israelites:
"And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, TESTING YOU to know what was in your heart, whether you would KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS, or not." (Deuteronomy 8:2)
Repeatedly, we see God testing His people in order to know what is in their hearts, and that test is whether we will keep His commandments or not.
JESUS WAS TESTED!
In the New Testament we find this same principle of testing. For example...
"Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." (Matt 4:1)
In that lonely desert, Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if He would only bow down and worship him. While most of us will never be offered kingdoms for our disobedience, Satan does offer us worldly pleasures and rewards if we will follow him
and commit sin by disobeying the commandments of God.
Just as God allowed Satan to test Jesus and Job, God also allows Satan to test us in this world. One can easily understand this concept if one sees the world system with all its pleasures and rewards as the means by which we are tested.
The scriptures say that "...the whole world is in the power of the evil one." (1 John 5:19) and that Satan is "...the god of this world." (2 Cor 4:4). As we go through our time on earth, the world system under the power of Satan is like an obstacle course for the
Christian. Satan uses all his power over the pleasures of this world in order to draw us into disobedience.
The good news is that even though we may be tempted to the limit of our strength, God does not permit Satan to test us beyond our ability to resist. Paul wrote:
"God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Since we cannot be tested beyond our God-given ability to obey, if we disobey, our choice proves what is in our hearts. If we love God "with all our heart, all our mind and all our strength" we will choose to keep His commandments. If we love the world more than God we will choose to break God's commandments. It is just that simple.
THE RICH YOUNG RULER'S CHOICE
Did Jesus teach that we must keep the Ten Commandments in order to receive eternal life? Nothing could be clearer than His words to the Rich Young Ruler who asked Jesus "What good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" Jesus answered him by saying:
"If you would enter life, keep the commandments...You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness etc." (Matt 19:17f)
Jesus was not tricking that man, our Lord meant just what He said! When Jesus commanded the man to "sell all and give to the poor", He exposed the covetousness in the Rich Young Ruler's heart. The young man chose not to obey and failed the test.
OVERCOMERS RECEIVE ETERNAL LIFE
In His letters to the seven churches, Jesus refers to the testing of our faith several times. The constant theme is that the one who conquers or overcomes (Greek nikao) is the one who receives the reward. In some letters the reward promised has to do with eternal
life, for example:
EPHESUS (Rev 2:7) "...To him who CONQUERS (nikao) I will grant to eat of the tree of LIFE, which is in the paradise of God."
SMYRNA (Rev 2:10) "...Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of LIFE...He who CONQUERS (nikao) shall not be hurt by the second death."
Remember that in James 1:12, the "crown of life" was the reward promised to those who love God. (i.e. keep His commandments.)
SARDIS (Rev 3:5) "He who CONQUERS (nikao) shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of LIFE."
The reader might well ask: "Does the word "conquer" have anything to do with the believer overcoming the world system controlled by Satan and his angels? The answer to that question is found in the 1st Epistle of John. In the fifth chapter, John uses the
same Greek word "nikao" (to conquer or overcome) three times in describing the victory of the believer over the world. Not only did he use the same word "nikao" - he tied it directly to keeping the commandments of God...
"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments...for whatsoever is born of God OVERCOMETH (nikao) the world: and this is the victory that OVERCOMETH (nikao) the world, even our faith. Who is he that OVERCOMETH (nikao) the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God." (1 John 5:3-5)
God allows Satan and his world system to test our faith. Those who pass the test by keeping the commandments of God are those who "conquer" the world, and according to Jesus, those who conquer will be granted "to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God". With those verses in mind, it is easy to understand what Jesus meant when He told the Sadducees that only those who are "accounted worthy" will be the sons of God. Jesus said:
"The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are ACCOUNTED WORTHY to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they CANNOT DIE any more, because they are equal to angels and are SONS OF GOD, being sons of the resurrection." Luke 20:34
Only those who are "accounted worthy" will become the sons of God and receive eternal life. That simple truth is far different than what is being taught in the churches of today, who say that those who just "believe" will have eternal life. Listen to these sobering
words of Jesus as he promises life and sonship to those who conquer sin - and death in the lake of fire to those who do not...
"...To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of LIFE without payment. He who CONQUERS (nikao) shall have this heritage and I will be his God and he shall be MY SON.
BUT as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolators, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second DEATH." Rev 21:6-8)
I pray that those words of Jesus will strike fear and dread into the hearts of readers who have been told that they are sons of God simply because they have "believed". Only those believers whose faith has been tested by the "fiery trials" will inherit eternal life. Peter had much to say about these trials, he wrote:
"...though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the GENUINENESS OF YOUR FAITH, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ...As the outcome of your faith you obtain the SALVATION OF YOUR SOULS." (1 Peter 1:6-9)
Only "genuine" faith, tested by fire, will result in the salvation of our souls. The authentic faith that saves is a faith that suffers with Christ by ceasing from sin. Peter wrote:
"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh HAS CEASED FROM SIN," (1 Peter 4:1)
Ceasing from sin causes the fiery trials which test our faith. As we struggle against Satan we share in the sufferings of Christ who overcame the Devil so that we might also be able to overcome. This battle against sin is the common heritage of all who follow Christ. Peter said:
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you TO PROVE YOU, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4:12-13)
If we want to be glorified with Christ then we must suffer with Him. That is why Paul said that we were:
"...heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, PROVIDED WE SUFFER with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him." (Rom 8:17)
Did you see the phrase "provided we suffer"? Suffering with Christ is the condition for becoming heirs of God! Perhaps many of you have read that verse in Romans without really understanding that to suffer with Christ means ceasing from sin. Thus, if you
have not ceased from sin, you have not suffered with Christ, and if you have not suffered with Christ, you will not be glorified with Him.
As you can see, is not just those who "believe" who will be saved, but rather, those who believe enough to suffer by putting to death the deeds of the body through obedience to God's law. That is why Paul warned the Roman believers that:
"... if you live according to the flesh YOU WILL DIE, But, IF by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, YOU WILL LIVE."
"For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; IT DOES NOT SUBMIT TO GOD'S LAW, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Rom 8:7)
If anyone finds himself unable to submit to God's law he may be certain that he does not possess the Holy Spirit of God. For it is only "...by the Spirit" that we are able to obey. Those who believe they have the Holy Spirit but cannot "put to death the deeds of the
body" have been horribly deceived. Their end will be destruction in the lake of fire.
THE FINAL WORD
For those who still doubt what I am saying, please spend a few minutes in prayerful study of the very last blessing promised by Jesus as He ended the book of Revelation...
"Blessed are they that DO HIS COMMANDMENTS, That they may have right to the tree of LIFE, And may enter in through the gates into the city.
For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie" Rev 22:14 KJV
From the fall of Adam in the garden of Eden till the time when New Jerusalem, the holy city descends from God, the scriptures declare that only those who keep the Commandments of God will eat of the tree of life.
"Here is the endurance of the saints, those who KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD **AND** the faith of Jesus." Rev 14:12
Harold and Donna Kupp
"And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, WHICH KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD, AND HAVE THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST." Rev 12:17 (KJV)