When I was growing up there were a number of Biblical passages that made no sense to me, but as I have grown in the faith the Holy Spirit, the great teacher has opened my spiritual eyes so that I can see Gods truth. But I suspect that many believers do not graduate beyond their Sunday School understanding. These followers of Christ are still being feeding on spiritual milk when they should have moved onto the meat of God's word, as described by Paul in one of his letters.
One such verse that baffled me is found in all the synoptic gospels. I have chosen to quote from Mark as this gospel is simple and direct to the point. The particular quote was uttered by Jesus who said:-
"I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.
Matthew and Luke make it very plain that Jesus is speaking about one's faith. To my child like mind I could not picture how one could move a mountain; maybe with mechanical diggers it could be accomplished, but the verse suggests an instant removal.
Eminent Christians over the centuries have wrestled with their apparent lack of faith. To man's mind the obvious answer is to obtain more faith. In many ways this verse helped to establish the monastic movement in the Roman church, with their vows of obedience, poverty and chastity. It was reasoned that it one separated themselves from the world their faith and holiness would increase, for such would bring them closer to God.
Such thinking ended up with individuals sitting atop tall poles for weeks on end, or living in a cave by themselves, or extreme flagellation.
We may scoff at such nonsense but today there are many who believe the more devoted they are in service to God the stronger their faith will be. Such people are recognized as the stalwarts of a local church.
Or to quote a popular saying by people who should know better – 'If I cannot move the mountain I will go to the mountain.'
In all these instances the belief is 'if I do something related to my understanding of holiness I will have stronger faith.' Human effort cannot increase ones faith. Striving to be holy does not give a stronger faith.
Or we can say that Jesus was using hyperbole to illustrate a point. Or we can allegoristthis saying; in both cases we feel smugness for we have understood the scriptures and many will wax on along these lines.
This is how I see our faith working. When we are born again in a supernatural moment our life is no longer ours for in that instance the faith of Christ is made our righteousness. Along with his love, humility and character. We do not belong to ourselves for we have been purchased through the blood of the new covenant. His life has become our life.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Col 3:3
Hence the New Testament teachers this amazing truth; our faith is not ours for we have inherited Christ faith, a gift from God. I do not believe that many mull this over in their minds – we have Christ's faith given to us. Being born again is to be born with the Holy Spirit stamped into our hearts; we are sealed with the Spirit – can you seize the power and freedom this truth brings to our minds? O what unsearchable riches we have in Christ Jesus expressed in the kindness of God's grace.
My friends we have this treasure of power packed into our spirits ready to be released for the glory of God. Our spirits are full of Gods dynamite, which can move mountains. But it is all of Him and nothing of us.
It is not striving to build up faith, but the surrendering of self to release Christ's faith. We must let go of all that we hold dear and surrender our bodies as living sacrifices; we must let go and let God. We have died to sin and have been made alive in him to walk in newness of life – meaning we are to walk as Christ walked.
The only faith that is pleasing to God is his Sons faith – my friends we have this faith available to us. For it is not longer I that lives, but I live by the faith of the Son of God who lives in me. Can we grasp this truth? Or has the enemy robbed us of this power that raised Christ from the grave?
To release this power in our lives for his glory is to bring or will into line with the word of God. The 'will' is an essential element in God's creation of man, but sin has distorted this with a disposition that favours self.
continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,13for it is God who works in youto will and to act according to his good purpose. Phil 2 12-13
We have to arouse our will and bring it into line by choosing to believe Gods word. This means that when we face a wall in our live we have to repeat to ourselves – I choose to believe that God will do this or that according to his word. Hence we could say I choose to believe that God has healed me for by his wounds I am healed,
Yes we can move mountains but only through the faith of Christ that has been poured into our hearts.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,who has blessed us in the heavenly realmswith every spiritual blessing in Christ. Eph 1
I pray that out of his glorious richeshe may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,17so that Christ may dwell in your heartsthrough faith. And I pray that you, being rootedand established in love,18may have power, together with all the saints,to grasp how wide and long and high and deepis the love of Christ,19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filledto the measure of all the fullness of God. Eph 3
"...we feel smugness..."
Ahhh yes. The old smugness. Doing certain things is instantly gratifying to our pride. When I think about smugness, I think about the Pharisees and how Jesus warned them their smug public displays of holiness were their own reward. It is even possible, I think, to be smug about not being smug and the fellow on the pole is probably an exaggerated example of something we can easily fall into doing! You are totally spot on: "Striving to be holy does not give a stronger faith."
There is profound truth in this blog, John, which could be difficult to grasp ... so I'm glad you found a way to explain it for us in clear and simple terms like this: "It is not striving to build up faith, but the surrendering of self to release Christ's faith." - thank you very much
Excellent teaching brother John. This is one of the areas Christians misunderstand and in their misunderstanding bring a lot of misery and regret into their lives. Thank you for sharing.
Yours in Christ,
"But I suspect that many believers do not graduate beyond their Sunday School understanding. These followers of Christ are still being feeding on spiritual milk when they should have moved onto the meat of God's word, as described by Paul in one of his letters."
Yes, you're right! This is at the heart of the lack of faith in far too many.
"My friends we have this treasure of power packed into our spirits ready to be released for the glory of God. Our spirits are full of Gods dynamite, which can move mountains. But it is all of Him and nothing of us.
It is not striving to build up faith, but the surrendering of self to release Christ's faith. We must let go of all that we hold dear and surrender our bodies as living sacrifices; we must let go and let God. We have died to sin and have been made alive in him to walk in newness of life meaning we are to walk as Christ walked."
Thank you, wmj, for simplifying this for us in such an inspirational manner. I have so enjoyed this blog!
My belief is that if God desires me or anyone else to move a mountain He will provide whatever is needed at the time to do so. My faith is believing that He can do it. If it is by His miraculous power or with dynamite and dump trucks. God will always supply whatever is necessary to do what He calls us to do. Whether we see how it will be accomplished or not. God bless, Phil
I have often heard people say, "I don't have enough faith." My response has always been, "How much faith is enough faith?" The reality is, faith is what causes us to cry out to God in the first place. If we did not have faith that He would hear our prayer and intervene in some way... we wouldn't do it. It is not about faith, it is about surrender.
You know, it takes faith to surrender to God and trust Him no matter what. When God revealed to me that I was going to have to go through cancer treatment and there was no promise as to whether I would live or die, I had to trust Him that whatever the outcome would be, He would be with me. I had to actually lay down my will and surrender myself to His. Truthfully, that is what sustained me during those long and painful months, knowing that whatever happened, God was directing my path and therefore all was well...no matter what.
It is simply amazing how God uses the weak to confound the strong. Foolish versus wise. Like scripture teaches.
I am a simple man. I believe if God wills such a faith, He will provide such an one. Jesus asked the question, upon His coming, will He find faith? Revealing question. This is one more confirmation of the last day signs He gave us. I believe that the question gives us the answer He gave, hence the sign. Yes, that does reveal much about us.
I read about a convert in one of the poor, uneducated countries (compared to us in more civilized cultures), who simply believed the word that said anoint with oil, and lay hands on the sick. So, he did. One of the more civilized visitors to his country told him that the Lord didn't literally mean that. He replied that he would continue to.
I live very close to the hill people (mountain) people who also still live in a less civilized culture than the majority here in the US. They 'take up serpents', even drink poison. No, I do not participate. But many still do. It is sooo much easier for me to believe that they just got it wrong. Judge them. Condemn. It is done all the time. And, they will do the same towards me.
Faith is entirely in, through, for, about Jesus Christ. Me just totally selling out to Him. Believing. Obeying. Abiding in Him. That will keep me focused. And you. And everyone else. I just simply believe if He said faith can do that, it will. Perhaps not literally, but same results in that realm. And who am I, or anyone else, to say it can't happen, literally? If it does, then nothing will change what happened.
But, I also don't think He is gonna find such faith, when He comes. Our fault. Not His. Maranatha brother