Tuesday, January 05, 2010
2010 New Year’s Message For Newcastle Baptist Tabernacle
Faith’s Power Matthew 17.
Mat 17:14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him,
15 said, "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.
16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him."
17 And Jesus answered, "O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me."
18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?"
20 He said to them, "Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you."
21 (OMITTED TEXT) And then the Authorized version adds, "Howbeit this kind goeth not out except by prayer and fasting?"
22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men,
23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day." And they were greatly distressed.
24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel tax went up to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the tax?"
25 He said, "Yes." And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?"
26 And when he said, "From others," Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free.
27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself."
Faith can move mountains, that's the essence of it in verse 20. If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, Move from here to yonder place and it shall move and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Now faith moves mountains. Faith accomplishes great things. That's obvious. I think we've heard that many, many times. But I wonder if we really understand what it means. Let me give you just a little background. It was faith in God's power that caused Caleb the Jewish spy to look at the land of Canaan with its giants and say this in Numbers 13:30, "Let us go up at once and possess it for we are well able to overcome it." That was faith in God's power.
It was faith in God's care that enabled Job to say in the midst of personal disaster, "Thou He slay me, yet will I trust Him," Job 13:15. It was faith in God's protection that enabled Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to stand on the edge of the fiery furnace and say, "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king," Daniel 3:17.
It was also faith in God's Word that enabled Daniel to survive the lion's den, as it says in the sixth chapter, "So Daniel was taken up out of the den and no manner of hurt was found upon him because he believed in his God." It was faith that saved the sinful woman who washed Jesus feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head, as it tells us in Luke chapter 7 verse 50.
And as you look at the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, that great chapter of faith, the Bible tells us it was faith that enabled Abel to offer a better sacrifice. It was faith that caused Enoch to be translated to heaven without death. It was faith that allowed Noah to build a great ark and preach righteousness. It was faith that caused Abraham to follow the call of God. It was faith that caused Sarah to have a child. It was faith that caused Isaac to bless his sons, that caused Jacob to bless his sons, that caused Joseph to hope in the future. It was faith that called Moses to reject the pleasures of sin for the reproach of Christ. It was faith that caused Rahab to receive the spies. And it was faith that came in the time of crisis to Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jetha and David and Samuel and the prophets and many, many others. The power of faith.
And so you have throughout holy Scripture, the testimony to the life of faith, to the power of faith. Now in our text, and we can look at our text more closely now, Jesus makes one of the great statements in all of the Bible relative to faith when He says that faith moves mountains and that it makes nothing impossible. The point of the whole passage in many ways is a summary of the whole testimony of the people of God through all of history that God moves powerfully when we believe the power of faith.
1. Faith’s Problem
Peter, James and John had just seen the most fantastic sight of their lives. They had seen Jesus in His glory and majesty flanked by Moses and Elijah. Now after this mountain top vision of God’s power, they descended into the valley to learn the lesson of their own lack of power. Below the mountain, perhaps in Caesarea Philippi or some other nearby village, they met a "multitude," a large crowd of people encircling the other 9 disciples. In a parallel account, Mark 9:14 says, "And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them." It seems the scribes were arguing with the remaining 9. It seems that these 9 had tried to cast a demon out of a boy could not. I imagine the "scribes" taunting them for their inability, calling them charlatans and phonies.
A Possessed Derelict The crowd was probably so engrossed in this heated argument that they didn’t notice Jesus walking up. One man, the father of the demon-possessed son, did see Him. He came to Jesus "kneeling down." Mark 9:15 adds, "Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him." I imagine them saying, "Jesus! You are here! We were just talking about You!" Obviously, this grieved father had some sense of faith and respect for Jesus because he addresses Him as "Lord." He pleads, "Have mercy on my son." First, the father describes his son as "an epileptic." The KJV uses the word "lunatic" which is a good translation. Literally it means "moonstruck." Ancient people believed the cycles of the moon caused madness. The idea is that the boy had what we would describe as epileptic seizures. Second, the father says that his son "suffers severely." This suggests that his condition was unusually serious and perhaps growing worse all the time. Third, the father says his son "often falls into the fire." Open fires were common. In his seizures the boy had "often" been burned and carried hideous scars. Fourth, the father says his boy also "often" falls "into the water." He fell in open wells or cisterns. Because he was in constant danger of being burned or drowning, someone had to stay near him at all times. Fifth, Mark 9:17 adds that the father says the boy had "a mute spirit" so that he could not speak. Another parallel passing in Luke 9:39 adds this graphic description, "And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him."
Not everyone with epilepsy is demon-possessed. However, there was no doubt to anyone present that a demon was causing this boy’s sufferings.
Powerless Disciples Imagine this father’s desperate condition. Like any good parent, he would do anything to help his child. He had no doubt spent much money and time seeking someone who could help his poor son. He hears about Jesus and His disciples. He knows they have power to heal the sick and cast out demons so with great anticipation he brings his son to them. When he finds the disciples, Jesus is not with them. The disciples tell him not to worry they can help him. They probably say, "Jesus isn’t here, but we can certainly handle this problem. We’ve done it before." The desperate father admits to Jesus, "I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him."
In 10:6-8, Jesus commissioned and empowered His disciples. Mark 6:13 says, "And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them." They were experienced. This wasn’t their first case. So with great confidence, the 9 tried to exorcise the demon, but nothing happened. They were probably surprised. Imagine how the taunts of the scribes infuriated them. What was the problem? They had cast out demons before without Jesus’ presence. They were trying to operate in their own power, not the power of Jesus.
We are unable to do anything without Jesus.
Like the disciples, we can believe so strongly in our traditions, our past successes, our present programs that we forget that any changing power comes from Jesus. We can become so divided by petty divisions and strife that we are like a bucket with holes, we can’t hold God’s power for ministry. Look again at this verse. Here was a genuine need that they should have met but "they could not." How many needs have we not met because of our lack of faith, our trusting in our resources rather than Jesus?
Notice those four words in verse 20: ". . . Because of your unbelief . . .
SOME REFUSE TO STEP OUT IN FAITH BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF MONEY.
Our money need is never a barrier to faith, if God has given the vision of what He wants us to do. Our financial need often becomes the focus of our faith. Remember, "Where God guides, He always provides."
SOME HESITATE BECAUSE OF LACK OF TRAINING OR EDUCATION.
While training and education are very important, God's anointing will make up for much that is lacking.
OTHERS ARE STYMIED IN GOD'S WORK BECAUSE OF LACK OF RESOURCES AND/OR FACILITIES.
Nowhere in the Bible does God ever tell us we need buildings or facilities to do His work. The only temple God needs today is the temple of our bodies. When the Lord rules the temple of our bodies, God does His work best. But of course we need a roof over our heads, heat/air conditioning, and chairs or pews to sit on. Lack of facilities is not a barrier to faith it's an opportunity for God to demonstrate what He can do.
2. Faith’s Power
Now Jesus grieved alongside the father. We can hear in His words His own grief at the lack of faith (v.17).
This is a glimpse into the thought life of Jesus. We see the compassion of the Son of God but also the exasperation of the Son of Man. Jesus was grieved, no exasperated, because of that "faithless [unbelieving] and perverse generation." He was grieved by the unbelieving "multitude" representative of national Israel that had no faith to recognize Him as their long-awaited Anointed One, the Messiah. He was exasperated, because these disciples should have learnt to trust in Him, instead they were getting all hung up on their own position and pre-eminence, rather than getting along with the work of God.
I admit I get exasperated sometimes when I hear why we can’t as a church do evangelism. It won’t work! People aren’t interested! How would they know? How will we survive as a church if we don’t reach out?
It will cost too much (we have $xxxxxx in the bank). We don’t want their kind coming to our church (who is their kind? What on earth are we really talking about?)
What grieved Jesus even more was the weak faith of His disciples. Instead of dropping to their knees in fervent prayer when they encountered an obstacle, they became embroiled in a religious debate with the "scribes." We get embroiled in debates over what sort of coffee the coffee machine should have! We get embroiled in debates as to whether or not there is enough work to do when the Southern Baptists want to assist us with a youth worker!
In effect, the Saviour was asking, "What more do you need but to rely on Me?" We love to quote Phil.4:13, I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. but how often do we practice its truth?
But His frustration did not hinder His compassion. He said, "Bring him here to Me." Mark tells us that Jesus said to the father, "If you can believe all things are possible to him who believes." The father responded with an honest prayer that should be on all our lips, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" When you are unsure, admit it! As Jesus "rebuked the demon" the evil spirit made one last assault on his victim. Mark 9:26 records, "Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, ‘He is dead.’" V.18 also says, "the child was cured from that very hour." There would be no more seizures, no more foaming at the mouth, no more falling into fires or wells. Luke 9:43 says of the crowd, "And they were all amazed at the majesty of God." Sufficient faith comes only when we surrender only when we confess our lack of belief and lack of ability. We have to empty ourselves before we become full of Jesus.
3. Faith’s Principles
After this event, "the disciples came to Jesus privately." Mark tells us they were in a house. Perhaps they were enjoying the hospitality of the family of the boy that Jesus healed.
They ask, "Why could we not cast it out?" Again, they asked this question in privacy. No doubt their egos were a bit bruised by their inability. They had already cast out many demons. Certainly that gave them a sense of power and authority. Why had they failed so miserably and Jesus succeeded so easily? I find it interesting that the normally boisterous Peter seems to be silent. He had been on the mountain with Jesus. He had seen the glory.
Jesus answer was short, simple and difficult for them to hear, "Because of your unbelief" or "because of your lack of faith." They had saving faith, sanctifying faith but had not invoked sufficient faith for this problem.
When Jesus stilled the storm He asked, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" (Mat 8:26). Later when Peter began to sink, He asked "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
It seems a little contradictory that Jesus spoke of their "little faith" but then speaks of "faith as a mustard seed." Mustard seed faith represents faith that starts out very small but grows. A mustard seed is a very small seed that grows into a large plant. Jesus means that a growing faith is a powerful faith!
Jesus tells the disciples that if they had "faith as a mustard seed" or a growing faith "you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move." Further He adds, "Nothing will be impossible for you."
We know that Jesus was not literally speaking of moving a literal mountain. "Able to move mountains" was a common figure of speech in that time which meant the ability to overcome great obstacles.
When we face mountain-sized difficulties in life as the disciples had just done with the demonized boy, we are to remember that faith is the key. Instead of worrying, arguing or whining we should drop to our knees and fully surrender to God.
4. Faith’s Partner Prayer and Fasting
Jesus adds that "this kind" of demon "does not go out except by prayer and fasting."
"Fasting" is an important technique, a spiritual discipline that focuses us on prayer. Prayer is the key. When we don’t know what to do, we are to pray, Pray, PRAY!!!
Folks, in many ways we are just like the disciples. We know the traditions. We have programs for every conceivable type of ministry. We understand the need for prayer. What we need is to just do it. We need to surrender ourselves to God and let Him use us.
The purpose of fasting, and it's always combined with prayer, in God's Word has always been humility before God. Fasting is to seek to know God in a deeper experience. Fasting is to show sorrow over sin, and issues itself to confession and repentance. Fasting calls us to dependence on God for strength and renewal. Fasting prepares us to receive God's leadership, His guidance, His message for our day. Fasting, true fasting is a bowing down of the soul, submission to God that leads to moral action. But like anything we do, it is worthless if it does not come from a sincere heart. Fasting is not a way to manipulate God or to fulfill selfish desires. Fasting is not to draw attention to yourself. Fasting is improper while you continue in sin or harbor ungodly attitudes.
Ha. I remember once at another church a deacon wanted to stop us planting a church across the river. We had 4 couples at that place, and it was a 20 minute drive to church. There was no Baptist church in that region. He said “We haven’t prayed about it!” I said “That is your problem of your own lack of godliness! For my part I have prayed about it for 3 years and now is the time to go ahead!”
5. Faith’s Practise 24-27
It was after they had "come to Capernaum" in Galilee that "those who received the temple tax" approached Peter about Jesus’ payment. Perhaps they asked this question as the disciples entered the city.
Why did they come to Peter? First, Peter was a resident of Capernaum. He had lived there and ran his fishing business there before he met the Master. Second, Peter was known as a leader among the disciples. Third, it is probable that Jesus was staying in Peter’s house.
What was the "temple tax" or the "tribute money?" The Greek word is didrachmon, which means "two drachmas" or the equivalent of about two day’s wages.It was a tax levied by the Jews with the permission of Rome for the operation of the temple in Jerusalem. It was a religious payment that had its origins the OT law but had been enlarged by tradition. Turn back to Ex.30:11-16. Originally the "double drachma" or the "half-shekel tribute" was paid for each person on the years they were counted. This was not a tax levied every year. Those who thought themselves pious insisted on paying the tax even during the years when it was unrequired. Slowly the "temple tax" came to be expected of devout Jews even if the law did not require it. No self-respecting Jew would fail to pay the tax. He would also pay it in such a way that others knew he paid it.
(v.25a). Peter quickly answered "Yes." He had no doubt that Jesus paid His taxes for He had always done so.
Sitting inside probably Peter’s house down towards the water of the village of Capernaum, Jesus anticipates Peter’s question: Over and over in the gospels we read that Jesus had the eerie habit speaking to a person’s thoughts. In His omniscience, Jesus knew the conversation with the tax collectors and He spoke to Peter about it before Peter could bring the subject up. Jesus asks, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?"
A man vacationing heard a woman screaming on the beach while she knelt in front of a child. The child had swallowed a coin. He held the boy by the heels, gave him a few shakes, and the coin dropped to the footpath. "Oh, thank you sir!" cried the woman. "You knew just how to get the money out of him. Are you a doctor?" "No, ma'am," replied the man. "I'm with the Taxation Department."
Jesus told Peter to "go to the sea. cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, " Remember that they are in Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. "And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money." How did that money get into the fish’s mouth? Did God cause it accidentally fall into the water and the fish swallowed it and jumped on Peter’s hook? Did God just cause a coin to materialize in the fish’s mouth before he got on the hook? It doesn’t matter how the money got there, it was there at just the right time. Like the widow of Zarephath whose oil and flour were not used up, God provides. "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil.4:19). When Peter opened the fish’s mouth, the "piece of money" that he found was not a didrachmon, the "temple tax" it was a stater, a coin worth two didrachmons, the exact price of the "temple tax" for two, both Jesus and Peter.
What do you think Peter learnt about faith?
Rich man at Kiama… never learnt to trust God for needs. Oh unbelieving and perverse generation! O faithless and twisted generation! How will you be known to God NBT? A people of faith? Or a faithless and twisted generation?