Jun 16, 2013
Mark 11:22-26

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Scene of Activity

On Sunday Jesus arrived into Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Passover.

After an exchange with the religious leaders, prophesying and weeping over Israel’s destruction, and a stop in the temple, Jesus returns to Bethany for the evening.

On Monday, as Jesus makes His way to drive the money changers out of the temple, He does something a bit unusual.... He curses a fruitless fig tree.

Remember: What upset Jesus most was not the fact the tree was fruitless, but the fact the tree appeared to possess something it didn’t have! False Advertising! 

Following the violent exchange that occurs in the temple, Jesus spends the rest of the afternoon teaching the people from Isaiah 56 before He returns to Bethany.

As Tuesday morning rolls around, Jesus and the 12 are making their way back to Jerusalem when Peter observes the same fig tree Jesus had cursed the previous day had “dried up from the roots.... and withered away.”

In order to understand Jesus’ response, you need to keep in mind that in cursing the fig tree Jesus was condemning 2 flawed institutions: Nation of Israel and Religion.  

[Mark 11:22] “So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God.” 

Since neither Israel nor a works based religious structure had produced real fruit, this four word reply to Peter’s inquiry carries with it powerful implications.

“Jesus answered” and said the power for the fruit of salvation in a person’s life rests (not in being a Hebrew or by man’s best attempts to cover his sin), but by “faith in God.”

He’s commanding them.... “You have faith in God!”

Note: The Bible makes it clear that I am powerless to save myself or produce Godly fruit. 

Isaiah 64:4, “We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rages.”

Psalms 14:1-3, “The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, No, not one.”

Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Radical Implication: The power to produce spiritual fruit (for salvation and Godliness) rests not in my strength or ability, but in my faith in His sufficiency!

Ephesians 2:4-9, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.... For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

2 Corinthians 3:5, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

Jesus condemned Israel as fruitless and cursed religion as worthless before immediately exhorting His followers to “have faith in God.” 

It is this reality that provides the context by which we can understand the rest of what He has to say in the next few complicated verses.

[Mark 11:23] “For assuredly, 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 says.” 

Note: Before we explain what Jesus is saying, we should point out that this verse is used as the basis for the “Word of Faith” movement which was started in the early 1900s by E.W. Kenyon, and popularized in the 60s by Kenneth E. Hagin. 

Kenneth Copeland, Charles Capps, Benny Hinn, A.A. Allen, Creflo Dollar, Oral Roberts, Robert Tilton, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Frederick K.C. Price, David Cho (world’s largest church in S. Korea), Paul and Jan Crouch, John and Joel Osteen.

Word of Faith theology teaches that if one believes the Word of God and confesses its promises verbally then the believer shall receive whatever they confess. 

Hank Hanegraaff, “In many ways WOF was spawned by the unholy marriage of the 19th-century New Thought metaphysics and the flamboyance of post-WW2 revivalism.”

E.W. Kenyon, "What I confess, I possess."

Hagin, "Every man who has been born again is an Incarnation and Christianity is a miracle. The believer is as much an Incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth."

Copeland, “Jesus is the end product of generations of positive confession.”

John Osteen, “I look at the great truths of Almighty God and with the sixth sense in my spirit man, I believe I have a consciousness that they are mine. I see and believe salvation is mine. Healing is mine. Prosperity is mine. All of God’s blessings are mine. On the basis of this information from the sixth sense of faith, I can confidently say, ‘I am healed! I am blessed! I am redeemed! I am prosperous!’”

Healing: Word of Faith teaches that complete healing (spirit, soul, and body) is included in Christ's atonement and is therefore available now to all who believe. 

“Healing is not an act of denying pain, sickness, or disease, but of denying its right to supersede the receiving of the gift mentioned in Isaiah 53:5 ("by his stripes we are healed"). Sickness is therefore an attempt by Satan to rob believers of their divine right to total health. Word of Faith teaches that believers should accept the reality of a healing that has already been provided by Jesus.”

Prosperity: Word of Faith teaches that God empowers His people to achieve the promises (including monetary blessings) that are contained in the Bible for Israel. Because of this, suffering and poverty does not come from God, but rather, from Satan. 

Copeland, “The idea that God uses suffering for our benefit is considered to be a deception of Satan and absolutely against the Word of God. If someone is not experiencing prosperity, it is because they have given Satan authority over their lives.”

Capps, “God created the universe simply by speaking it into existence, and humans have been endowed with the same power to speak things into existence. Thus, making a positive confession and believing that which God says, generates power which enables those things to come into fruition.”

Joel Osteen, “You can cancel out God’s plan by speaking negative words. God works by laws.... You’ve got to speak it out. Your words have creative power. One of the primary ways we release our faith is through our words. There is a divine connection between you declaring God’s favor and seeing God’s favor manifested in your life.... Some of you are doing your best to please the Lord. You are living a holy consecrated life, but you’re not really experiencing God’s supernatural favor.... because you’re not declaring it. You’ve got to give life to your faith by speaking it out.”

Ironically: In 1998, at the age of 77, John Osteen started suffering from liver failure. On January 19, 1999 Lakewood Church encouraged its members to pray for their pastor using this positive confessions: “God has promised him that he will be preaching into his early 90’s.... God gave him a vision for “Seven Years of Harvest”, and we are just beginning our 6th year of this special thrust for world evangelism. God has promised our staff that He will bring our pastor’s kidneys on a platter of praise. The God who began this universe as a mighty Creator is creating what our Pastor needs in his body.” 

Two weeks later on January 25, 1999 John Osteen died of a heart attack.

Here’s the problem with this perspective: Jesus exhorted us to “faith in God.” 

“Faith in God” not “faith in myself” - “faith in faith” - or “faith in positive confession.” 

Real faith will seek God’s will in my life, not my will accomplished in heaven. 

In Luke 22:42 Jesus prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not my will, but Your be done.”

“Faith in God” enables me to place my present situations and circumstances into the hands of my heavenly Father - then trust that whatever it is I’m presently facing has been allowed by God for my betterment, growth, and Christlikeness - and His glory! 

Concerning the “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12) Paul says that he “pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. But Jesus said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

With that in mind, let’s break this verse down systematically:

1. “Whoever says to this mountain, be removed and cast into the sea.” 

“Mountain” is the subject - it describes something immovable.

William Barclay, “The phrase about removing mountains was a common Jewish phrase. It was a regular, vivid phrase for removing difficulties.”

David Guzik, “Jesus is saying we believe God can overcome any obstacle.”

Jesus is saying - if “faith in God” brings with it power for salvation, then there is no human obstacle, present difficulty, or “mountain” that same “faith in God” is not equally able to overcome. 

2. “And does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.” 

“Doubt” - Greek verb “diakrinô” - “to withdraw from one, to desert.”

What are we being warned not to doubt or withdraw from? 

In the face of “mountains” (obstacles and difficulties we view as immovable), Jesus is exhorting us not to desert our faith in God’s power to overcome, but instead “believe” or entrust that God has your best intention in mind.

The power of God is not only able to save, but it’s able to make us victorious in living the life Jesus has called us too. 

Romans 8:37, “Yet in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Exhortation: What kind of mountains exist in your life? He is able!

With this in mind, Jesus continues this train of thought....

[Mark 11:24] “Therefore (a clear indicator Jesus in building upon the previous idea) I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”

If you read this and conclude that Jesus is offering a “blank check” for the believer through the mechanism of prayer, you are correct in your assessment; however, don’t forget Jesus has already established the context for our prayer: Prayer is based in your “faith in God.” 

Understand: Praying with “faith in God” means that I am more concerned with what God desires verses the things I might fancy! It means I am more interested in His eternal glory being demonstrated through my life than I am about my present comfort! 

Example of this type of prayer: Matthew 6, "Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

“Believe that you receive them” - active tense - “Believe that you are receiving them.”

When I pray with “faith in God” I can rest assured (hold fast, believe) that, in spite of these mountains, I am presently receiving exactly what God desires for me and my life.

Praying in faith enables my heart to remain steadfast knowing that whatever mountains I face God is in control and in His power I can overcome.

James 5:10-11, “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord - that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”

Romans 8:28, “For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purposes.”

At this point we’ve seen Jesus communicating 3 important realities:

1. Where religion fails - “faith in God” proves able!

2. It is this same “faith in God” that also provides adequate power to overcome whatever “mountains” I might be facing in this life. 

3. Prayer enables my heart to remain steadfast knowing that God is in total control no matter what life throws my way. He knows what I need more than I do!

Transitioning: Jesus now explains that faith and prayer face a dangerous foe.

[Mark 11:25-26] “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

Note: What Jesus is saying here should not be sugar coated. 

The great theologian Sandy Adams once said that pastors make a huge mistake when “we’re quick to pull teeth from a passage that God intended to bite!” 

The essence of what Jesus is saying (the act of God forgiving you being directly tied to how you forgive others) should be as shocking as it reads.... 

Note: This is not the first time Jesus has issued this warning. 

Matthew 6:14-15, Sermon on the Mount: “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Luke 6:37, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Matthew 18:34-35, Parable of the Unforgiving Servant: “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."

Your Reaction: If I’m unwilling to forgive someone who’s harmed me - or if I’m harboring bitterness towards another, I need to forgive that person immediately!

Though Jesus is being provocative in order to make this point, I also believe the essence of what He’s saying fits logically within the flow of the text.

It is an inescapable reality concerning our relationship with God and our interactions with one another that everything flows downhill.... our entire Christian experience is in many ways reactionary!

God gave His life for you - in turn you give your life to Him. 

God came into the world to reach you - in turn you go into the world to reach others.

God blesses you in abundance - in turn you’re to be an abundant blessing to others.

God loves you - in turn you’ve been called to love even your enemies.

In context, Jesus is appealing to the natural reaction experiencing the saving forgiveness of God should have in your life.... you should forgive others.

Reality: If you are unwilling to forgive (even those who’ve harmed you) there are three consequences you’d be wise to consider:

1. Unwilling to forgive - You’re not being Christ-like.

1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteousness.”

Luke 20:23, “Father, forgive them, for they no not what they do.”

Alexander Pope in “An Essay on Criticism” - “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” 

C.S. Lewis in “The Weight of Glory” - “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” 

Truth: Forgiveness is the evidence of the power of God in my life.

Mother Teresa, “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.... For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

Samuel Langhorne Clemens better known as Mark Twain, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” 

2. Unwilling to forgive? You’re limiting the work Jesus can do in your life.

Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness, “to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt.”

If repentance is the mechanism by which the offender finds healing, then forgiveness is the mechanism by which the offended finds healing. 

Forgiveness is important because it lessens the grip of bitterness and can take away the power the offending party continues to wield in your life.

Mayo Clinic describes the effects of holding a grudge: “If you're unforgiving, you might pay the price repeatedly by bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. Your life might become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can't enjoy the present. You might become depressed or anxious. You might feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you're at odds with your spiritual beliefs. You might lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others.”

Abraham Lincoln, “Mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.” 

Note: Forgiving the offending party does not automatically guarantee reconciliation with the offending party!

Reconciliation is only possible when forgiveness is married with repentance.

C.S. Lewis in “The Problem of Pain” - “Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal.” 

3. Unwilling to forgive? You might not have a real “faith in God.”