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February 28, 2021 12:01 am
Is God obligated to give us whatever we want if we pray with enough faith? Today, R.C. Sproul continues his series in Mark's gospel to draw out the real meaning of a passage that is often misused today.
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Love it when we get on our knees and we cry out to God and we give him the concerns of our heart. First thing we can know for sure he hears it. Second thing we can know for sure is the answers of renewing the mind there is a movement of the church today that says the God is obligated to give us what we want when we pray in faith but is that really what it means to have faith today. Dr. Darcy still takes us back to the gospel of Mark chapter 11 to show us what Jesus meant when he said, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be your source last week. If you recall, we looked at the cursing of the fig tree and Jesus cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem and we considered the parallel between the fig tree, and the temple both in fact on the outside claim to be fruitful and productive but in fact were barren. The fig tree of things. The temple of godliness and immediately after the disciples see that the fig tree had weathered to its roots.
Jesus response to their questions as we read in verse 22 Jesus answered and said to them, have faith in God. This is an imperative. A command from our Lord through his disciples, and by extension towards us with this, and at the outset to put our trust in God is not a religious option that we choose to do in order to be spiritual or to have some kind of personal relationship with Jesus trusting God is the obligation of every creature made in his image. It is a moral and ethical command as well as a spiritual duty because not to trust God is to impugn the integrity of his word. His promises and his character. What possible justification could there be than any creature of an eternal, omnipotent God would have the audacity not to trust the word of their creator.
So Jesus cast this instruction in the form of a command. Have faith that is have trust in exports not so easy. I asked myself as I read this text to self same. Why did Jesus at this point after the cursing of the fig tree in the cleansing of the temple. Give this imperative give this command to his disciples. What's the connection here. Why did he say have faith well may be the answer is found in what follows, when he said, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, be removed and be cast into the sea and does not doubt in his heart but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he said now one possible reason for the connection here is this that the disciples are amazed at the power of Jesus to speak to a fig tree and as a result of that negative admonishment. The fig tree weathers and dies and maybe they're saying to Jesus what kind of power is that maybe Jesus is saying it was the power of faith. If you think that it's something that I can say to a fig tree that no one should ever eat of it again and it weathers and dies.
Let me tell you that if you really have genuine faith you can say to this mountain, be moved and cast into the middle of the sea, and it will happen.
So perhaps what Jesus is trying to instruct his disciples in at this point is the relationship between faith and power now explore that a bit in the moment, but there is another possibility to explain why Jesus gives this command to have faith immediately after the episodes of the tree and the temple that the problem with the fig tree dear friends, and the problem with the temple was a problem of infidelity of faithlessness, the temple, which was supposed to be God's tabernacle where people focus their faith and trust in him, had become a den of thieves and it became a monument dear friends not to fidelity but to on belief and and nature of the fig tree that was to be obedient to its creator to bear figs in season one it had the blossoms in their fullness. It also failed in its faithfulness to its creator. And so it could be the faithlessness of the tree.
The faithlessness of the people in the temple that provoked Jesus to this command. It may be something altogether. I'm thought about but I believe it's one of these two things. I'm not sure which. And we can wait until heaven to get the answer, but either one would have sound biblical application to our lives today. Now what is also problematic about this text is when Jesus said if a person says the mountain be removed and be cast in the sea does not doubt in his heart but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore, I say, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them on the occasion for this obviously was again as Jesus had departed from Jerusalem going back to the Mount of olives and from that viewpoint, one could look out over the landscape and see the Herodian fortress that was built by King Herod the great, and even to this day. The ruins are apparent. There in the landscape and for Herod to build that tremendous fortress, again demonstrating his unprecedented building skills in the ancient world.
He had his sleigh use actually dig out a hill and move the dirt from that hill to become the foundation and support structure for this fortress in literal terms in engineering terms, Herod the great, move the mountain to build his fortress and so the people were aware of that prodigious feats of Herod the great and Jesus takes advantage of adherence as I say to you, you could say that mountain be cast into the sea. If you believe it will happen when he goes on to say if you pray believing whatever you pray for you will have now. You know, dear friends, that there is a whole theology that has permeated the Christian world in our day that is based almost exclusively on this particular text, the word of faith movement in our day and the movement that teaches what we call Mehmet and claimant or some forms of faith healing say all you have to do to change the external world around you is to believe it.
Claimant and it will be so now it's not surprising to me dear friends that this kind of movement has emerged at a time in our culture where the new age movement at the same time has permeated the secular world know one of the primary functions of that movement of the new age is the assumption that we can by using the focus of our imagination imaging properly and projecting our images outwardly can actually change the world around us. Visualize world peace. That's all you have to do is sort of focus all on world peace and working to get world peace. My favorite parody of that is the statement visualize world WHI are LED TVs, PEA S and if you look at that long enough you get SEPs flying around in a psych. What is at the root of new age and in many corresponding Christian religious movements in our time that it been far more influenced by New Age thinking the Christians realize is that bottom magic where abracadabra mind over matter we can change the world around ourselves. And here's the biblical justification. Jesus said if you believe strong enough you can make mountains go into the sea. And whatever you believe. If you believe a truly you will have it now. What's wrong with this picture.
But here's the problem in the New Testament Jesus as well as the apostles, not to mention the Old Testament teaching gives us a wealth of instruction about prayer, about the power of prayer about the importance of when we pray to pray, trusting God who is the one who listens to our prayer and trusting God for the answers to those prayers and so any particular terse aphoristic statement like this has to be understood in the light of all of the teaching of prayer in the New Testament, all of the qualifications that the New Testament gives about what God listens to in our prayers.
We just lift this verse out of this particular context and ignore the rest of the teaching of the New Testament you get into this magical business of name it and claimant another tech similar tours.
If any two of you agree on any one thing, it shall be done for you. How many of us agree would like to see a cure for all kinds of cancer. By tomorrow morning. Bella takes care of that. What else would you like to fix that again. Those statements about any two people agreeing also have to be understood in light of what else the Bible teaches us about prayer that we are to pray according to the will of God with the satiny. That means that we are not to pray for on ethical gain. We were not a few years ago I saw men interviewed on a national talkshow who had built a brothel in the desert in Nevada and he gave his testimony on national television. He said when I started this enterprise. I dedicated it to God and I said God, if you will prosper me in this illicit industry.
I will give you 10% of my earnings and what you think is happening. God has made this a very successful enterprise. Now God is in the prostitution, but the only thing that was stranger than this man's teaching was that he actually seemed to believe it. You don't ask God to prosper you in on ethical endeavors, but this is the problem that we have no what is Jesus saying about the relationship between faith and answer to prayer. Beloved, when we get on our knees and we cry out to God and we give him the concerns of our heart.
First thing we can know for sure he hears it. Second thing we know for sure is he answers it and his answers are always perfect, but we have this idea that if he doesn't do what we ask him to do. Our prayers are not answered know, just like Jesus agonizing perspiring drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane pleaded with the father but that cop may pass from him and the father answered him, the answer was no. The answer was no. What was Jesus answer to the father's answer Jesus answer was yes if you say no to my request.
I say yes to what you wanted to.
That's what the prayer faces the prayer of faith is trusting God is not magic now. We also have to understand that there are many, many promises that are given to us in Scripture that when we pray, with respect to those promises. It is our duty to pray believing that the answer will come.
Let me give you an example.
Many years ago I had a woman visit me when I was working in a church she was driven by unrelieved guilt feelings for us in that she had committed in the past and she says I'm paralyzed by this guilt. What can I do and I said were the only possible cure. I know of her guilt is forgiveness and the only necessary condition.
I know for forgiveness is repentance and what you need to do is it you need to confess this sin to God. Repent of it and asked for his forgiveness as he became instantly irritated. She said I thought you were a theologian I said and she was looking for some technical, academic, sophistic rated answer to her moral dilemma, something that she could not expect to find from people in her prayer group. She says don't you realize that I've asked God 50 times to forgive me for this and I'm still overwhelmed by my guilt. I said well you freight 50 times. It won't hurt you to pray one more time, only this time would like to ask you to pray for something different from what you been praying for. She said what I'd like you to ask God to forgive you for your arrogance. What what what you mean arrogance. I've been the most contrite, penitent person that I know I've come believe the base myself before God. 50 times begging him for my forgiveness as a bolus backup from this for second. What does God say I met or read the text.
If you confess your sin. God is faithful and just to forgive you of that sin and to cleanse you of all on righteousness. God says yes and you have confessed your sin but you don't feel forgiven because you don't believe that God spoke the truth. Maybe everybody else can get rid of their guilt by confession and repentance, but not you. You have to go to the rack 50 times you have to pay for your sin. Nevermind the atonement of your Savior. Don't you see how arrogant that is to think that you require something more than the forgiving grace of God. That's what I'm talking about praying in faith. If God says if you do a and I will do this if you confess your sins, I will forgive your sins.
And you trust God and you confess your sins there's no reason for anybody in this room but going through life paralyzed by unrelieved guilt to trade that killed him for forgiveness sets with the gospel so I mentioned several years ago to this coregulation experience I had 30 years ago from a very prosperous psychiatrist who was very serious when he offered me at that time hundred thousand dollars if I would join his practice. He was serious 30 years ago thousand dollars good salary plus one word you want me to where I was an event psychiatry. He said RC 90% of the patients that come to my practice are people dealing with on resolved guilt that only the psychiatrist they need a priest and you understand forgiveness, you understand guilt. That's why need somebody like you in my practice and that incredible. We are a nation of such guilt ridden people and the usual cure that the preachers tell you is how you're not the only don't worry about it.
That's the kind of thing of the false prophets taught in the Old Testament. Jeremiah said they heal the wounds of the daughter of Zion slightly. That doesn't help when you're guilty denying your guilt will never relief your soul. The only cure is forgiveness and the prayer of faith, trusts, the God of grace to forgive us of our sins when we ask you know I'm a Protestant who knows what is protesting. When Luther at the time the Reformation left the Roman Catholic Church.
He got rid of the sacrament of penance, but he didn't get rid of the confessional know why because he knew that the people needed somebody to say to them in the name of Jesus tapes although your forgiven because our grasp of the grace of forgiveness is so weak trust God is what Jesus said when my favorite all-time illustrations. You've heard it before. If you been around much come from Jim Boyce told the story of the Explorer fell off the side of a cliff. 2000 feet to the bottom of the chasm. As a start of fall.
He reached out and grabbed a slender twig that was coming out of the side of the mountain and he held onto it and the roots were starting to pull free from the earth and in his desperation he screamed to heaven site.
Is there anybody up there who could help me when this voice came from heaven. Yes, I can help you.
Trust me let go of the branch man looked on again of the abyss looked back up to heaven, said anybody else up there.
I love that story because sometimes dear friends, that's what Christian faith is. It makes hanging on by your fingernails. When everything seems to be against us when the only one left the trust is our creator and our Redeemer then quickly 25 when we stand, pray, delimiting is anyone, forgive him your father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.
If you do not forgive your father in heaven will not forgive your trespasses very quickly and I hate to go over this fast, because I was say something that you may find completely outrageous. I don't believe that this tax or any text in the New Testament teaches that it is our moral obligation to forgive people have sinned against us unilaterally without the repentance.
If you look through the whole teaching of Scripture about confronting your brother if they sin against you. The whole structure of church discipline. The whole right and privilege that Christians are given whereby they have the right to seek restitution. As we heard this morning, and the word of God that it doesn't mean that if somebody harms you that you have to say. I forgive you. Nevermind I had we may do that. But the point here is the analogy between our forgiving and God's forgiving us. God doesn't just forgive us unilaterally. God requires repentance. But when we repent, as I've just labor to you. He does forgive and what is in view here in the other times were Jesus teaches where we have been forgiven through the grace of God. When we repent somebody injures us, somebody offends us. They apologize. They confess their sin. We will forgive it withhold the garage withhold against. We want vengeance.
If that's our spirit that's we can expect from God. The point that Jesus makes. If you look at the whole teaching of forgiveness and repentance here is that every Christian is to be standing ready at any moment to forgive fully and finally any offense, real or imagined against us.
If the person who have violated us. Repentance is New Jersey's parole with an in-depth look at Mark chapter 11 verses 20 through 25 Jesus dealt with several important issues in these verses, and it's our privilege to walk through them.
Verse by verse. Doctors parole each Sunday here and Renewing Your Mind were working our way through the entirety of Mark's gospel and or resource offer today is a great help as you study there at home when you give a donation of any about the leader ministries will be happy to provide you with the digital download of Dr. Sproles 400 page commentary on the Gospel of Mark. You can go online to email@example.com again. That's Renewing Your Mind.work.
I hope you've enjoyed the sermon series over the past few months that you can also point friends and family to it by sharing this message on Facebook on twitter or by email. Just look for the share button at the top of the page and Renewing Your Mind.work Renewing Your Mind is the listener supported outreach of leader ministries and I hope you'll join us again next we continue this series from Mark's gospel