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 that make you feel? What you were enduring is called The Test of Shame. It comes upon all professing Christians. This test is designed to separate the genuine from the disingenuous. Many may fail this test, but are still 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 then they endured 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.
Soli Deo Gloria!