The Test of Shame

by Mike Ratliff

2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:2-6 ESV)

Do you remember the first time that someone ridiculed you for your faith? How did it feel? The Test of Shame is one that comes upon all professing Christians. This test is designed to separate the genuine from the disingenuous. Many may fail this test and still be genuine, but in their hearts they will bear a shame that is worse than the ridicule and persecution they sought to avoid. The beauty of God’s ways is that the path of forgiveness is there for those who repent. Peter’s denial of Christ during Jesus’ trial is a perfect example of this. There are also many during the reign of Queen Mary of England, Bloody Mary, who initially failed this test as they were persecuted or their families were threatened with persecution unless they abjured. However, as the Holy Spirit worked in their hearts they would go public with their faith and endure the fires of martyrdom in the joy of the Lord.

In the passage I placed at the top of this post we have Jesus telling John the Baptist’s disciples what to tell John that they observed in Jesus’ ministry. Curiously, He ended this dialogue with a puzzling statement, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” That does seem strange in this context, but it does reveal much to us. The Greek word translated “offended” means “to throw one unawares into ruin.” It describes a behavior that leads to ruin. Some Bible versions translate this word as “Fall Away.” If we restate v6 in light of this we could render it thus, “And blessed is the one who does not fall away on account of me.” The falling away leads to destruction. Since I believe that all who are in Christ are secure in Him then I also believe that Jesus must be describing those who fall away from Him because they are offended by Him. This failure of the Test of Shame reveals their disingenuousness.

Do you suppose that the Test of Shame is one that is ordained by the Father or by Satan? Job passed this test, and it was Satan carrying it out against him, but God allowed it. Job suffered much, but he did not fall away even though the temptation to do so was more severe than we can probably imagine. Look at Stephen. He was martyred because of the spiritual pride of the religious leaders he was debating. They could not defeat him in debate over theology and who Jesus Christ really is. He was threatened with stoning, but instead of abjuring and saving his life he preached a very powerful sermon which ended with him being stoned to death as a heretic. We look at that as tragic, but do you suppose that God used Stephen’s murder to influence the Heart of Saul who later became Paul the Apostle? Saul was there and stood guard over the outer garments of those stoning Stephen. This guilt was a huge part of the reason Paul considered himself the least of the Apostles. After Paul was saved he endured test after test. The Test of Shame was constantly putting pressure on him to abjure. He was beaten with rods, stoned, threatened constantly, and on the run quite a bit. He was ridiculed. The Jews hated him. He was constantly being subjected to shame because of his faith. There were times that kept him in conditions where his faith was all he had. An unregenerate person could never endure what Paul and the other Apostles went through.

The number one mark of genuineness in Christians is their perseverance in the face of the Test of Shame. Carefully read the following passage of Jesus’ parable of the soils and the sower.

5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard. Then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:5-15 ESV)

Only the seed which fell on the good soil endures and bears fruit. All others fall away and prove that they are not Jesus’ disciples by failing the Test of Shame. On the other hand, the good soil, the genuine believer, holds fast and bears fruit with patience. That is a very interesting thing our Lord shared here. The life of the believer is one that requires patience in order to bear the fruit the Lord produces in their hearts. This is telling us that tests and trials are vital tools in the hands of God that prunes believers so they will be fruitful in the Kingdom. No trials or tests means no fruit. Failure to endure patiently means no fruit. Patiently seeking the Lord in the depths of despair when Joy and Peace are only a memory are the very things the Lord uses to do wonderful works of sanctification in our hearts. The Test of Shame is one that we must take and pass continuously. This struggle is the marker in believer’s lives that God uses to perfect His sheep and is also as a sign to those He is drawing to Himself what a genuine believer is supernaturally capable of.

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7 thoughts on “The Test of Shame

  1. “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name”

    Today we would get a petition going, write our senator, complain on the radio, and other ways of objecting to persecution. Rejoicing? Not in today’s ecclesiaistical genre that believes we are owed homage as Christians. Spurgeon said “They called Him that pesitlent fellow, Beelzebub, and a drunk and do you deserve to be called Reverand, sir?” The servant is not above his master.

    A very timely post, Mike. That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. There is no resurrection without the cross.

  2. I was at work the other day when a Jewish religion woman was talking about her religion and comparing it to Christianity. I found myself getting angry at her because of how she was downing Christianity and Jesus. Then at the end she and the other girl who isn’t sure there is even a God concluded they weren’t sure of anything. That’s when I said that I was sure. They asked me why and I said because the Bible says so. The girl who isn’t sure if there is a God scoffed and said, “Oh so you believe something that book some men wrote tells you?” I get flustered very easily and so I said, “It’s not just any old book it’s from God.” She said, “Well, science hasn’t proven that there isn’t a God so I don’t know.” And then I tried (but stuttered my whole way through because I was so flustered) to recall the verses in Isaiah and Psalms that state scientific theories that we have just discovered in the last 100 years. If the Bible knew it before we did there is proof for you… a person who doesn’t believe in the Bible. I didn’t even say it that well! I get so angry at myself that I can’t talk with people like that with a level head. Why do I get so angry at them? I didn’t show my anger to them but it came out in a way that made me stutter and then I couldn’t tell them the truth because I sounded like an idiot. I don’t care about sounding like an idiot but I do care that I can’t present the Gospel in a good way to hostile people. The persecuted church does it all the time. I sure need to learn how!

  3. Sarah,

    I know what you mean. I guess we just have to avoid being obnoxious. Being Christlike in that sort of trial is tough. We can’t just let them believe they are right without telling them the truth, but we also must tell them the truth in love. Again, yes, it’s tough, but I think we all need to learn how to give an account of our faith.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  4. Sarah – there are many simple answers to that question about the divine nature of Scripture. These are some of the reasons that the Bible proves itself:

    - 40 writers who agree over several thousand years
    - the Jew
    - prophecies
    - dead sea scrolls
    - Paul
    - changed lives

    These can be expounded upon, but when someone refutes the divine nature of Scripture expressly for the intent of rejecting Christ I reiterate some of these facts. At the end I politely inform them that God is a spirit and only His Spirit can speak to a person’s heart, I can only speak to your ears. I also tell them that I will pray that God somehow speaks to their heart in one year’s time through means that would connect with you personally. I say “Jesus is listening to us right now so I am asking Him to speak to your heart as He has spoken to so many heart throughout several thousands of years. Here is my phone number, call me any time you would like to talk. Thank you so much for allowing me to share. God bless you.”

  5. Hi Mike,
    You are so right, I think if we do not feel some sort of pursecution, there is something wrong.

    John 15:20-21 – “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. (NAS)

    The lost hate Jesus and if we truly represent Jesus they will hate us too. If the world loves a christian I would question their walk.

    Peter even said that we would suffer and rejoice in it. It is hard to do at times, I must admit.

    1 Pet 4:12-13 (NIV) Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed

    But we can rest in the fact that God always brings good out of suffering and pursecution.

    Rom 8:28 (NIV) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

    Thankyou for a good post as always. I pray that you and your family have a wonderful New Year. I look forward to reading your posts in the year ahead.

    God Bless,
    Cristina

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