The Passion of Christ – Part Three – Mark 11:1-33

 

In Mark 10 we saw the underlying theme of using God’s Law to reach the lost and that this was the highest form of service we are called to as Christians. Now in Mark 11 we see Jesus drawing ever closer to His destination of the cross as He makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The sequence of events and circumstances found in this chapter reveal to us Jesus’ passion for building faith in those around them. Jesus does this by giving the disciples an assignment that requires they trust Him. Then Jesus uses a barren fig tree as an object lesson in faith. He points out the nature of faith and that faith is practical in life. Then lastly He challenges those who refuse to believe in Him. Jesus had a passion to bring people to faith in Him, we should too.

 

Jesus’ Passion for Building Faith Through Experience

 

Mark 11:1-11 – “Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples;2 and He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it.3 “And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.”4 So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it.5 But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?”6 And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go.7 Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it.8 And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road.9 Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:  “Hosanna!  ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ 10 Blessed is the kingdom of our father David  That comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!” 11 And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve.” [1]

The Mount of Olives is one half mile east of the Jerusalem City walls and to pass from the City to the Mount of Olives you descend down a slope crossing over the Kidron Valley and then ascend up the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is where Jesus ascended to heaven and where He will return at His Second Coming (Acts 1:9-12). “Bethpage,” literally means, “house of figs.” Perhaps this town was known at some point for its fig production.

Here we see Jesus give some very particular and well organized instructions to his disciples. Keep in mind that Jerusalem at this time was bursting with upwards of 2 million people who had come to the City to celebrate the Passover (see Matthew 26:2; Mark 14:1; Exodus 12). This was the time of year when the most people would be assembled together in this City at any one time. Jesus’ directions to the disciples demonstrate a planned strategy to enter the City. He arranged to enter the City on, “a donkey.” This was a fulfillment of prophecy (Zechariah 9:9) as was the day in which Jesus was making His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (see this authors teaching on Matthew 21 and the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27).  

On a more basic level, Jesus is creating a situation where the disciples’ faith in Him can be established and strengthened. How is faith built and strengthened? Faith is built and strengthened through opportunities to obey the Lord. Jesus gives the disciples some basic instructions to follow which they might view as being a bit peculiar (11:2-3). Indeed Jesus’ instructions may well have raised questions in their minds, but the important thing is that they did “what Jesus commanded” (11:6). They had a choice to make. Either they were going to disregard the instructions of Jesus or they were going to obey Him. They obeyed Him and found that things worked out exactly as Jesus said they would. There faith was strengthened.

Obedience builds faith. When we trust Jesus enough to obey Him, it opens the door to find that He is always faithful to His word and that realization helps us to learn that we can trust Jesus. This cycle of trusting in obeying builds our faith so that each successive time we are in a place where we need to trust and obey, we do so more confidently and assuredly.

An example of this is found in the life of Abraham. Abraham was called by God to leave his land and go to Canaan. Abraham obeyed. Once in the land Abraham continued to obey God, (though there were a few deviations that led him to Egypt and actions with a maid named Hagar). But for the most part Abraham walked faithfully with God and that walk prepared him to trust the Lord when the Lord really put his faith to the test in asking him to sacrifice his long awaited and only heir. Abraham strength had become so strong by this time that he was able to obey God even in this difficult situation. There is a cumulative strengthening effect on our faith when we practice a life of obedience before God. Abraham is an example of this (Genesis 12-25; Romans 4; James 2:21-24).

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus put His disciples in situations where their faith could grow by learning to trust and obey Him. We need to trust and obey Jesus even when we don’t understand all that He is doing so that through obedience our faith can grow.

The Testing of Faith

Life is a series of circumstances that prove to be tests and opportunities for our faith to be built. This is not to say that God is trying to trick us or trip us up so He can come down hard on us. Far from it! God knows that the only way our faith can be built and become strong is for it to be tested.

When there is a commercial on TV for pick up trucks we see the trucks blast through walls, plow up steep hills, take on humongous payloads, and pull tons of weight. All of this is to show us that the pick up in question has been tested and found to be tough, reliable, and faithful to its master. Peter said much the same thing when he wrote  in his first epistle to those who were being persecuted for their faith. Peter was inspired to write:

  • 1 Peter 1:3-7 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,”  [2]

Look at verse seven again. It says, “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. . . ” Tested by fire,” refers to faith that is tested by trials in life. The result of faith that tests true? “Praise, honor and glory” at the return or “revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Adam and Eve’s faith was tested, and they failed (Genesis 3). Cain’s faith was tested and he failed (Genesis 4). Abraham’s faith was tested and he proved faithful (Hebrews 11:17-19). Look in Hebrews 11 to see the myriad of the children of God whose faith was tested true. God tests our faith to prepare us for His use. Our faith must be tempered and tested strong before we are fit for His use.

It can be one gigantic trial that God uses to test your faith. It doesn’t have to be one gigantic trial that God allows in your life to test you; it can be a bunch of small trials or tests that test you with their cumulative effect. Or it can be more than one gigantic trial God uses to work His will in and through you (see Joseph in Genesis 37-50).

Examples of Faith Tested True

When we look at the people in the Bible whose faith was tested and for what purpose, what do we find? A few examples come to mind and they are referred to in Hebrews 11.

Abel’s faith was tested as to whether or not he would offer up a proper sacrifice to God. Cain failed that test and later murdered Abel in a jealous rage. How about you, are you passing the test as to the proper offering to give to God? (Hebrews 11:4; Matthew 23:23).

Enoch’s faith was tested true in a world that was rapidly deteriorating in sin. Would he be faithful and pleasing to God even when surrounded by sin? Yes he would and the testimony of Enoch is that he “pleased God.” Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:5-6).

Noah’s faith was tested to see if he would pay attention to God’s warning of impending judgment and whether or not he would obey God’s instructions to build an ark even though one had never been built before (there were no oceans before the flood). Noah obeyed God even through he was ridiculed by unbelievers and his faith proved strong and his family and he were saved (Hebrews 11:7).

Notice something in all of these cases; a good result never comes from compromising or neglecting God in trials, but only through proving faithful in every way in the midst of trials. It’s easy to follow God in the good times, but it is in the hard times that our true colors show and our faith is exposed as either strong or weak, or even nonexistent!

Abraham’s faith was tested as to whether he would follow God’s call even though he didn’t have all the answers or know exactly where he was going (Hebrews 11:8-10). Sarah and Abraham by faith received strength to conceive and bear a child when she was far past child bearing age (Hebrews 11:1-12). By faith Abraham offered to God his most precious son Isaac and showed His faith was one that gave priority and preeminence to God in all things and that his faith trusted God to do the impossible, such as raise the dead  (Hebrews 11:13-19).

Isaac’s faith was tested as to whether or not he would break with tradition as in blessing the older before the younger child (Hebrews 11:20). Are you willing to break with tradition and follow God’s word?

Jacob’s faith was tested to trust God to care and use his children after he died. Are you willing to have faith in God to care for your children after you are gone? (Hebrews 11:21).

Joseph’s faith was tested to see the future and God’s deliverance come to pass. Do you trust God with your future? (Hebrews 11:22).

Joseph’s faith was also tested to save His family. He proved faithful an devoted to God throughout his experience of injustice and trial and God used him to save his family (Genesis 50:20; Genesis 37-50).

Moses’ parent’s faith was tested to stand up to the laws of Pharoah and protect their child (Hebrews 11:23). How about you, are you willing to take a stand against a godless school system?

Moses’ faith was tested and showed he would not compromise with the world, that he would not cave in to the temptations of the passing pleasures of sin. Moses forsook the best this world could offer in order to follow the call of God on his life. By faith he was used by God to paint of picture of Christ in the Passover. By faith he was used by God to save God’s people miraculously. How about you, are you willing to heed God’s call on your life and turn away from the philosophy of this world? Are you willing to adopt God’s priorities even if they are contradicted by what the world says is valuable? (Hebrews 11:24-29).

Joshua’s faith was tested and the result was God used him to bring down the impregnable walls of Jericho. How about you, are you willing to be used by God to bring down the impregnable walls of the world’s bastions of sin? (Hebrews 11:30).

Rahab’s faith was tested so that she rose above her sinful lifestyle to be sued by God to protect His soldiers. How about you, are you willing to turn from your sinful lifestyle and be sued by God? (Hebrews 11:31).

After cataloging these examples of faith that was tested strong and used by God we are given a summation of others who exemplified how faith tested proved true and useful to God. The passage reads:

  • Hebrews 11:32-40 – “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.35 Women received their dead raised to life again. And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”  [3]

The faith of those mentioned in this passage and chapter is truly remarkable. But we would be gravely mistaken if we thought these were the exceptions. Far from it! In fact the beginning verses of the following chapter in Hebrews tell us to follow on in their path of faith tested true. In Hebrews 12 it goes on to state:

  • Hebrews 12:1-15 – “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:  “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,  Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens,  And scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees,13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;”  [4]

Here we are told:

    1. Look to Jesus and follow His example (Hebrews 12:1-3).
    2. Don’t feel sorry for yourself but understand and accept the discipline or teaching of your faith by God in the circumstances of life (Hebrews 12:4-5).
    3. Know God disciplines and teaches those He loves (Hebrews 12:6-10).
    4. The lessons may be painful, but they will be worth it all in the end (Hebrews 12:11).
    5. Therefore stand strong in your faith, don’t give up, seek God’s peace (Philippians 4:6-7), depend on His grace and don’t be bitter, God has a plan and it is will bless you in the end (Hebrews 12:12-15).

Jesus wants to strengthen our faith through various tests in life. Be willing to take that test and become strong in your faith through obedience to your Lord.

Following in the Footsteps of Faith Tested Fellowship

Hebrews 11 is a catalogue of those whose faith has been tested true through obedience. When we talk about obedience and the part it plays in building faith there is a danger of putting ourselves in the frustrating situation of relying on our own strength and wherewithal. That would be a big mistake. The power and ability to obey and strengthen our faith comes from the Lord. We need to remember a few things in this regard before we proceed in our study of Jesus’ passion for building faith.

First, building faith through obedience is rooted in a dependence on the faithfulness of God. A critically important portion of scripture for every believer is found in 1 Corinthians where it states:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

If you look at the context of 1 Corinthians 10 you see that Paul is discussing the waywardness of believers Old Testament past in order to call believers of the New Testament and beyond to learn from their predecessor’s sinful choices and the consequences thereof (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). Then we are introduced to the critical statement by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

This verse tells us that “temptation” (which can also be translated “trial” or “test” -  Strong’s # 3986 -  πειρασμός pĕirasmŏs, pi-ras-mos´; . . .  a putting to proof )  is common or to be expected in life. That was true of past believers lives, to those Paul wrote to at Corinth and up until the present day and beyond. The important thing is to see where Paul puts the weight of our reliance. He says, “But God is faithful.”  To obey and build our faith strong we need to look to and rely on God’s faithfulness (Psalm 125:3;Isaiah 27:3,8; Revelation 3:10). God does not leave us alone to fend for ourselves, He is there to hold our hand and lift us up and direct our paths out of harm’s way.

This verse tells us God is faithful to not allow us to be tempted or tested beyond what we are able. In this phrase we see the personal nature of God’s relationship with us in that He knows the limits of each individual and won’t allow anyone to be tempted or tested beyond their capacity to resist and obey. The important thing to remember is that God always has in mind what is best for us; He knows what is best and can and will bring good out of every situation no matter how bleak it may seem (Romans 8:28; Jeremiah 29:11f.; 2 Peter 2:9).

How will God stem the tide and help us to the path of obedience? Paul is inspired to write, “but with the temptation [or trial] will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  God promises to always show us the way to be able to stand up or not be beaten and broken, defeated in any given circumstance of hardship or temptation that tests our faith (“bear it” – Strong’s # 5297 -  ποφέρω hupŏphĕrō, hoop-of-er´-o;. . . to bear from underneath, . . . to undergo hardship . . .  bear, endure.)  God will always show us an escape route that leads to obediently responding to our tempting situation or trial. He will always give us grace to bear whatever we encounter in life (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).This is a promise of God that we need to trust in and rely on if our faith is to be tested and proven strong through obedience. God always provides a way out, a way to obey and build our faith.

Second, building faith through obedience is reliant upon the work of God in us. Some might say, “Well its fine and good that God promises to provide a way of escape, but I’m just too weak to walk that path.” God has provided for that scenario as well. There are a number of scripture verses which tell us that God provides the power and equipping necessary to obey and grow strong in faith. Paul wrote as much in his letter to the Philippians where he states:

  • Philippians 2:12-13 – “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

God is the one working in the believer to help them adhere to His revealed will. Because God is the one working in the believer earlier in the epistle Paul was able to state that he was confident that what God started in the Philippians He would complete (Philippians 1:6).

In another epistle of Paul’s he was inspired by God to explain that the Holy Spirit would help the believer to overcome their weaknesses. Paul wrote:

  • Romans 8:26a – “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.”

The Holy Spirit in us empowers us to obey the Lord and His word. We need to cultivate and grow in our relationship with the Spirit in order to have the power to obey and grow in our faith (see Acts 1:8; Romans 8).

Third, building faith through obedience relies on the love of Christ. Jesus said those who love Him should obey Him (John 14:15,21,23; 13:34). The love of Christ in us is not something we can buy or go to school to get, it is bestowed on us by the Holy Spirit at our conversion through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:5) and then the believer grows in that love (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13; 4:9-10). Such love, such wondrous love is the fruit or the Holy Spirit in us (Galatians 5:22-25). It is that love of Christ that is the compelling force in our lives of obedience that builds our faith in God (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). That love that compels to obey first looks to Jesus and all He has done for us and then results in obedient action rooted in a   loving appreciation of Jesus.

Fourth, building faith through obedience relies on God’s grace.  All that we do is attached to the grace of God that provides us with the necessary resources to obey Him. Paul was inspired to write of this when he said:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:10 – “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

God’s grace, His undeserved favor is always sufficient for our lives (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). All in all the obedience that leads to strong faith is a work of God in us that we need only invite to manifest itself in us through the Holy Spirit. Will you avail yourself of such an awesome work of God in you? Or will you foolishly go the way of wayward predecessors? The choice is up to you.

The Joy of Testing

Have you ever had a cavity? Most people have (although nowadays with fluoride treatments, flossing, advanced toothpastes etc., cavities are becoming more and more rare). I don’t know about you but I HATE the dentist. This all stems from when as a boy my dentist told me, “Now if it hurts, just raise your hand and I’ll stop.” Well, you guessed it, it hurt, I raised my hand, BUT HE KEPT ON DRILLING. The tears and trauma of that experience have led to my putting off going to the dentist for years (decades!) at a time. Fortunately I have good teeth and take good care of them. But I know eventually I will have to go to the dentist.

A number of years ago my wisdom teeth started to come in horizontally instead of vertically. My fear of the dentist led me to hold off going until I got to the point where I could barely open my mouth. When I did finally go I needed oral surgery. When the pain and discomfort outweighed my fears I went to the dentist. But you know what, it wasn’t so bad! He put me to sleep and I didn’t even feel like raising my hand. After it was all done and recovered I was back better than ever. The freedom to eat and chew and talk freely again was a source of joy to me.

Why am I telling you all this dental stuff? Well, there is a verse that speaks of the joy of trials and testing. In the first chapter of James it states:

·         James 1:2-4,12 – “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. . . 12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

You might fear trials and tests to your faith like I feared the dentist, but you know what, God is a GREAT Dentist. He knows when enough is enough for you. He will stretch your faith but not so much that you will be destroyed. He knows how to get you through your cavity threatening situations, through times of testing and temptation to sin. He wants to show us how to prevent cavities so to speak, how to avoid and be victorious over sin. The bottom line is for your faith to become complete, lacking nothing,  it must be tested; that is the path to blessing, loving God and the crown of life according to the above verses.

So what can we do to work our faith and get it strong when trials or tests come? For the answer we need to look at the fruitless fig tree.

Jesus’ Passion to Teach About Faith – The Fruit of a Fig Tree

Mark 11:12-14 – “Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry.13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.14 In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.” [5]

What’s going on here? Jesus was a master of object lessons that communicated deeper spiritual truths. You see fig trees were common in Israel in Jesus day. A fig tree is unique in that the fig fruit grows on the branches of the tree before the leaves sprout. Therefore, when Jesus saw a fig tree with leaves he thought He’d get some breakfast. But when He went to the tree, there was no fruit. The tree was not what it appeared to be. And so Jesus cursed the fig tree and it withered. Mark tells us that it shriveled right down to the roots (Mark 11:20). Now Jesus was not throwing environmental caution to the wind, He shriveled the fig tree for a reason.

What spiritual lessons can be gleaned from this story? The fig tree in Scripture is a symbol of Israel (Jeremiah 24:1-10; Hosea 9:10). Just as the fig tree had lots of leaves and was fruitless, so too Israel appeared to be very religious, but there was no real spiritual fruit. And so, like the fig tree, Israel was cursed in the sense that in 70 A.D. Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans with a great slaughter of the people.

Personal spiritual lessons from the fig tree

There are some personal spiritual lessons to be applied here as well. By looking at this fig tree as a type of fruit bearing entity, we can draw a parallel to that of disciples who are supposed to bear fruit (John 15:1-17; Galatians 5:22-23).

First, isolation leads to fruitlessness. Notice, this was “a fig tree,” it was a single solitary fig tree set aside all by itself. In the same way, when we isolate ourselves from fellowship, we become fruitless. The Bible tells us:

  • Hebrews 10:24-25 – “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”  [6]

In the same way we need to guard against isolating ourselves from the body of believers. Instead, we need to come together and stir one another up to do good works for the glory of God.

Second, Jesus hungers for fruit in our lives. Jesus is looking for the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23); for the fruit of thanksgiving (Hebrews 13:15); for the fruit of sharing the gospel (Colossians 1:6); and for the fruit of righteousness and right living (James 3:18). When Jesus comes to you morning by morning looking to see your fruit, what does He see? Does He see the leaves of hypocrisy or the Fruit of the Spirit?

Third, a fruitless person can’t satisfy anyone. In Mark this same account tells us that Jesus cursed the tree with the words, Let no one eat fruit from you ever again” (Mark 11:13-14). If we aren’t satisfying Jesus in our relationship with Him, we’ll not satisfy anyone else in ministry.

Fourth, can a fruitless tree become fruitful? There is a way for a fruitless tree to become fruitful alluded to in a parable of Jesus found in Luke’s gospel where it states:

  • Luke 13:6-9 – “He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.7 “Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’8 “But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it.9 ‘And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’ ”    [7]

There is a chance for a fruitless tree to be given the chance to bear fruit. There are two steps to making the unfruitful tree fruitful. The first step is to, “dig around it.” If you want to become fruitful, you have to dig to the root of the problem. We can get to the root of our fruitless problem only by way of God’s word. In Hebrews it states:

  • Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  [8]

God’s word pierces, it gets to the root of the problem. Surrender and expose yourself to God through His word. Let Him assess your heart and life to see where the dryness and deadness has crept in. That’s the first step.

The second step in making a fruitless tree fruitful is to “fertilize it.” Fertilizer (Greek KOPRIA – Strong’s #2804) is dung of one kind or another; it is refuse or that which is cast out. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he describes this fertilizing process by saying:

  • Philippians 3:4-7 – “though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.”  [9]

When we expose ourselves to the Lord through His word, we then need to throw out on the dunghill anything that we might be tempted to trust in rather than in Christ. We can’t let anything get in the way of our pursuit of Jesus or His work in us. Once we dig and dung our tree, God will make it fruitful.  

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus wants our faith to be fruitful. Is your faith fruitful? Are you playing a game of pretend or is your faith real and fruitful? Our faith needs to be fertilized and become fruitful.

Jesus’ Passion for Pruning the Faithless

Mark 11:15-19 – “So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.17 Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching.19 When evening had come, He went out of the city.” [10]

These verses show us Jesus was a scriptural man. He enters the Temple quoting the word of God (in Mark 11:17 He quotes Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11). Being the Word made flesh, or the living embodiment of the word of God (John 1:1-2 and 14), Jesus applies the word of God to the house of God, the Temple, cleansing it of those who contradict God’s Biblically prescribed purpose for the Temple.

Furthermore, in Matthew's account of the Triumphal Entry when people and the children address Him passionately with the words, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (which is a clear Messianic title), the chief priests are indignant and try to rebuke Jesus (Matthew 21:14-15). How does Jesus respond to their rebuke? Jesus points out their deficiency by pointing them to God’s word saying, “Have you never read . . . ?” (Matthew21:16). Similarly in Mark Jesus says,Is it not written . . . ?” (Mark 11:17) This is significant.

It’s as though Jesus is pruning the faithless from His Father’s House. These moneychangers were equivalent to the charlatans and fleecers of the flocks of God today. Jesus spoke of pruning His vine of those who were fruitless and not abiding in Him (John 15). That is what we are seeing here.

This passage also depicts the degenerative state that God’s people had sunken to. In order to generate income for the Temple and its priests their was a separate Temple currency used when buying sacrificial animals. Some people sought to bring their own animals to sacrifice. But when this happened the temple priests would scrutinize and look over the animals in order to find a blemish or fault with the animal. Once the blemish was found the animal was therefore disqualified. What was the pilgrim who had traveled miles to sacrifice at the Temple to do without a sacrifice? Not to worry, an animal approved by the Temple priests could be bought in the Temple courts. It wasn’t cheap, but at least they could sacrifice to the Lord. But as the pilgrim reached into their pocket to pay, the moneychanger stepped in to inform them that only Temple currency was acceptable and they would have to exchange their secular money that had what they said was Caesar’s idolatrous face on it for the “holy” Temple money. Of course there would be a steep rate of exchange, but what was a pilgrim to do? In this arrangement pilgrims were being extorted and Jesus immediately sought to cleanse His Father’s House of these thieves (Mark 11:15-16 Matthew 21:12-13). 

Personal cleansing

There is a personal spiritual application for us here. The Bible asserts that believers are a Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Since Jesus cleansed the stone Temple more than once (compare John 2:13-15 and in Matthew 21), we too need to be repeatedly cleansed by Him. Just as Jesus thoroughly cleared out the moneychangers and thieves, so to we need to be thoroughly cleansed by Him (Mark 11:16; Matthew 21:12; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Philippians 1:6; 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). The goal of Jesus’ cleansing is to make us people of prayer   (Matthew 21:13; Philippians 4:6-7). He wants us to be people of compassion who minister in His love (Matthew 21:14; 22:34-40).  Jesus wants us to be people who minister in His power and do “wonderful” things just as He did (Matthew 21:15; Romans 12:1-2).   And lastly, the cleansing that Jesus works in us should make us people of praise (Matthew 21:15-17; 1 Peter 2:9).

“Have you never read . . . ? Is it not written, . . .?”

The point to be grasped in these verses is found in Jesus’ words in Matthew, “Have you never read . . . ?” (Matthew 21:16) and in Mark “Is it not written . . .?” The reason the religious Pharisees hadn’t recognized Jesus as their Messiah, is because they didn’t know the Scriptures and if they did, they were closed to the truth of them. Friend, when God brings a Scripture to your attention, pay attention to it! Never disregard God’s word or presume you are the exception to it.  

God’s word is the tool the Spirit uses to save souls. The importance of God’s word in our conversion and life in Christ cannot be emphasized too much. Read what the word says about itself:

  • Psalm 119:9-11,93 – “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!93 I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have given me life.”  [11]
  • Romans 10:17 – “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  [12]
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:13 – “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”  [13]
  • 1 Peter 1:22-25 – “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away,25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”  [14]

These verses speak clear and true about the importance of God’s word in the life of people. If you do not seize the Scripture, you may be hardened to the truth of God much the same as the Jewish religious leaders were. And the result is that you will miss out on God’s best for you and even possibly eternal life!

Rather than reject God’s word we need to receive it like a hungry baby who craves his or her mother’s milk. Jesus quoted that it was out of the mouths of babes that praise was perfected (Matthew 21:16 quoting Psalm 8:2). We need to hunger for God’s word. Did you ever try to appease a hungry baby with anything other than the formula or mother’s milk they craved? It just can’t be done. That’s the way we need to be, we need to insist that those leading our churches are teaching the word and feeding the babes hungering for the milk of God’s word. As Peter was inspired to write:

  • 1 Peter 2:2-3 – “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”  [15]

MARK THAT ACTION: Is your spiritual house clean? Jesus has a passion to clean you up so your faith can grow. We need to be cleansed before the Lord and allow Him to build our faith.

Jesus’ Passion for Building the Fruit of Faith

Mark 11:20-24 – “Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.”22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God.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.24 “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” [16]

Here we revisit the fig tree Jesus had cursed. The barren and now dried up fig tree is an object lesson used by Jesus to communicate more about the need for fruitfulness. The particular fruit Jesus points out here is the fruit of faith.

What is “faith”? “Faith” (Strong’s #4102 - πίστις pistis, pis´-tis) is being persuaded, having a conviction regarding truth and particularly the truthfulness of God. Faith is assurance, fidelity, constancy and consistency in relying upon something or some truth as in relying on Jesus for salvation. [17] In Hebrews faith is defined in the following way:

  • Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”   [18]

What do these verses tell us about the fruit of faith?

First, the fruit of faith Jesus speaks of here is “faith in God.” (11:22). That may seem obvious to some, but in the world we see a generic reference to “faith” as though people have faith in faith. Any faith is okay with the world in order to present the appearance of spirituality.

The object of your faith is more important than the faith itself. You may have faith in yourself so that you believe, really believe you can fly. But jump off a roof and see how fast you will be introduced to the consequences of breaking the law of gravity! You may believe you know better than God and His word, but break His law or contradict His word in your life and you are in sin and the consequence of sin will find you and deal harshly with you (Jeremiah 2:19).

Your faith is only as powerful as the object you put it in. If you put your faith in yourself or another mere human, your faith will only accomplish what that object or person is capable of doing. If you put your faith in Almighty God for whom nothing is impossible (except going against His own word), then nothing will be impossible for you. That is the point Jesus makes here.

Second, the fruit of faith that Jesus speaks of here is a faith that is in God and is in line with God’s will and word (11:22). When we talk about using faith to get something accomplished, we are not talking about a carnal carte blanche. The faith that moves mountains is a faith that is in God. Mountains will be moved by faith if God wants them moved. Jesus is not talking about a faith that can be used to get whatever we want. The context limits faith to that which is in line with God. God would not give faith to disobey Himself or His word. John in his first epistle spells this out when he is inspired to write:

  • 1 John 5:14-15 – “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”  [19]

The faith that if fruitful is faith that is in God and aligned with His word and will.

Third, the fruit of faith Jesus speaks of here is a sure thing (11:23a). Jesus used the word “assuredly” (Strong’s # 281 - μήν amēn, am-ane´) which is an expression of a firm, trustworthy, certain and sure thing.” [20] It is an expression of confidence. Jesus is saying “certainly this is true.” If Jesus says something is certain, you can count on it, it’s a sure thing. If God wants a mountain moved in your life, you can place your faith in Him that He will certainly do it.

In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians he exhorts them to live a holy life. He says:

  • 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 – “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” [21]

Later Paul reiterates his exhortation to be entirely sanctified or pure in heart through and through and calls them to have faith that God will certainly do it in them. He says:

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 – “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” [22]

Now you may be struggling with sexual sin or some other sin in your life that you know is against God’s will for you, God has promised to help you. Look to God who has promised to be faithful to show you a way to victory. As we mentioned earlier in this study, Paul points to God’s faithfulness to help us overcome our temptations or trials:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  [23]

Notice here the emphasis and focus in on God’s faithfulness. God is faithful always and that is the sure thing of our faith that will prove fruitful.

Fourth, the fruit of faith that Jesus is speaking of here is active (11:23b). Jesus points out that at some points out that at some point for the faith to prove powerful it must take a stand or act. At some point you must exert your faith and say, Be removed and cast into the sea.”

Faith that is not acted upon is vain and still-birth. For faith to be fruitful it must be accompanied by action of some sort. The action may be verbal, or may be an action of another sort, but it will be action nonetheless. This is the point made by James when he is inspired to write:

  • James 2:14-20 – “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”   [24]

God’s word tells us that our new life of salvation in Christ carries with it a purpose of leading us into good works of faith (Ephesians 2:10). For faith to be fruitful it must take effect in our lives, it must lead to some sort of action.

Fifth, the fruit of faith Jesus is speaking of here squashes doubt (11:23). Jesus said the faith that is fruitful “does not doubt.” The word “doubt” (Strong’s #1252 - διακρίνω diakrinō, dee-ak-ree´-no) means  literally, “to separate thoroughly, . . . to withdraw from, . . . oppose; . . . to discriminate . . .  hesitate . .  contend, . . . make (to) differ (-ence), discern, doubt, judge, be partial, stagger, waver.” [25] The idea here is rather than act on one’s faith, a person procrastinates and contemplates to such an extent as to talk oneself out of what they once had faith in. It’s as though the Lord directs you and instead of acting in faith on what He wants you to do; you pause and argue yourself out of what He wants you to do. The faith that is fruitful does not procrastinate in order to hide in doubt, but acts decisively on God’s revealed will and word.

Sixth, the fruit of faith Jesus is speaking about here is rooted in the heart (11:23). We may reason to the point of doubt in our minds, but the faith Jesus is speaking of here is rooted in the heart which is the seat of the will. The word “heart” (Strong’s #2588 - καρδία kardia, kar-dee´-ah) refers to the innermost part of the person, the center of will and feelings, the place of decision and commitment. [26] If the mind is the place of reason, the heart is the place of determination and decision. We are saved by believing in our heart (Romans 10:8-10). When a person steps out in faith, they do so with all their heart trusting in God.

This does not mean we are to act irrationally. God has given us a mind to keep our heart in check and you really cannot separate mind and heart. But the heart is the place where decisions are made.

Seventh, the fruit of faith Jesus is speaking of here is necessarily connected to prayer (11:24). Jesus stresses that our asking is done through or in the context of prayer. Jesus is not talking about thoughtless impulsiveness. The word “pray” (Strong’s # 4336 - προσεύχομαι prŏsĕuchŏmai, pros-yoo´-khom-ahee) means, “to pray to God, i.e. supplicate, worship. . .  pray . . . earnestly, for, make prayer.” [27]  To pray implies you are seeking God’s will not your will done (Matthew 6:10). Prayer, fervent sincere heartfelt prayer is where God instills faith to act that will be fruitful. To pray is to declare your dependence on God and not rely on yourself or other mere human resources. The faith that is fruitful is connected to prayer.

Eight, the fruit of faith Jesus is speaking of here depends on God’s grace(11:24). Jesus says, “believe that you receive them,” in reference to faith requests made in prayer. The faith that is fruitful knows the answers come from God and are the result of His grace not our merit. Grace is God’s favor, God’s undeserved provision and empowerment. The faith that is fruitful does not arrogantly demand from God, it humbly receives what God’s will and way graciously provides.

The apostle Paul was a man of faith who challenged believers to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). But he also was well aware of the need to rely on God and God’s grace. He expressed this when he was inspired to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:10 – “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”  [28]

The faith that is fruitful always understands that whatever it works is received by God’s grace.

Now there is a very practical aspect of faith that people often overlook and it has to do with how we relate to other sin faith. Jesus in the words that follow link faith to forgiving others.

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus exhorted His followers to have faith in God. Do you have faith in God and is your faith characteristic of what was explained above? Our faith needs to be in God and take action.

Jesus’ Passion for a Faith that is Forgiving

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.26 “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”  [29]

Here we see Jesus’ passion for a faith that gets to the root of division, hatred, and all that contradicts the love of God. Our relationships with others affect our relationship with God. G. Campbell Morgan once stated:

God seeks and values the gifts we bring Him--gifts of praise, thanksgiving, service, and material offerings. In all such giving at the altar we enter into the highest experiences of fellowship. But the gift is acceptable to God in the measure to which the one who offers it is in fellowship with Him in character and conduct; and the test of this is in our relationships with our fellow men. We are thus charged to postpone giving to God until right relationships are established with others. Could the neglect of this be the explanation of the barrenness of our worship? (Matt 5:24) 

Outstanding resentments or unforgiveness held in one’s heart when approaching God is like a cancer that eats away at the heart and our faith. That is why Jesus goes on to say, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father I heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”  (11:25). Prayer serves as an incentive to be reconciled with people before God. Get rid of resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness. The disciple should be open to reconciliation with others and seeing the truth in love established. 

Corrie ten Boom, a World War II concentration camp survivor, told of not being able to forget a wrong that had been done to her. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn't sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest. "His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor," Corrie wrote, "to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks." "Up in the church tower," he said, nodding out the window, "is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton let’s go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there's a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we've been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn't be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They're just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down." "And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force -- which was my willingness in the matter -- had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts." [30]

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus instructs us that our faith needs to be forgiving. We need to forgive those who have offended us if we are to go on in faith unimpeded in our walk with God.

Jesus’ Passion to Expose the Folly of Unbelief

Mark 11:27-33 – “Then they came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to Him.28 And they said to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?”29 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things:30 “The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men? Answer Me.”31 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’32 “But if we say, ‘From men’ ”—they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed.33 So they answered and said to Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” [31]

The religious leaders come and challenge Jesus’ authority. Jesus responds by putting these unbelievers in a predicament that exposes the folly of their unbelief. The religious interrogators know exactly what Jesus was driving at. They question before them was, “Why then did you not believe him?” (i.e. John the Baptist and his preparatory message pointing to the Messiah – see Matthew 3 and John 3).

 

The account of this encounter shows Jesus’ passion to expose those who willfully reject the truth and grace of God. And this is a position of utmost import because eternal souls hand in the balance. The souls of the unbelievers themselves are in the balance as well as the souls of those the unbelievers will influence to follow them in their unbelief.

 

Why is unbelief such a big deal? When we look at scripture we see that unbelief opposes the word of God (Genesis 3:1-6; 2  Peter 3:4-5). Unbelief questions god’s power and ability (Psalm 78:19-20). Unbelief resists the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51-52). Unbelief leads to persecution of Gods’ people and messengers (Acts 7:54, 57). Unbelief opposes the Gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). And ultimately unbelief rejects Jesus (John 12:48; 16:9).

 

There are six important truths to consider about unbelief.

 

First, unbelief is sin. Jesus said:

 

  • John 16:8-9 - “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:9 “of sin, because they do not believe in Me;”   [32]

Unbelief is sin; it rejects God’s love and grace and denies the truth of God.

 

Second, unbelief is authored by Satan. Jesus taught Satan was the father of lies and unbelief when He said:

 

  • John 8:43-47 - “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.44 “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.45 “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.46 “Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?47 “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”  [33]

People who persist in unbelief toward Jesus are in the grip of Satan. That is a scary place to be. Where would you rather be on Satan’s side or Jesus’ side, there is no middle ground.

Third, unbelief flows from an evil heart. Unbelief is the result of a rotting heart. In Hebrews it states:

  • Hebrews 3:12 – “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;”  [34]

Here we see that unbelief flows form a heart that is spiritually rotten. Now we are not equating the genuine questions of the sincere seeker of truth with unbelief. Unbelief here is that willful rejection of God’s truth and His word. That is what flows form a rotten heart.

Fourth, unbelief is the product of honoring people more than God. Jesus said:

  • John 5:44 - “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?”  [35]

This verse tells us a sad truth, that people are often unbelieving not because they disagree with the truth presented, but because they care more about the opinion of their unbelieving friends and being accepted by them. If you care more about what people think of you than what God thinks of you or of what God has done for you, you are in a very dangerous place.

Fifth, unbelief characterizes those not belonging to Jesus. Jesus said:

  • John 10:26 - “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” [36]

There are those in the church amongst the flock of God who are unbelievers and their unbelief exposes their true unbelieving identity. Claiming to be a Christian is not enough, you must have faith as one who follows Jesus.

Sixth, unbelief, if persisted in, can become permanent. This is the greatest and gravest danger. John said in his Gospel account:

  • John 12:37-40 – “But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him,38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.”  [37]

There is a point at which it can be said of a person that they “could not believe.” At what point does that irreversible condition occur? Only God knows. We must always act as though there is hope for the unbeliever. But God’s word tells us that there is a point of no return where through constant and persistent rejection of the truth of God in unbelief, that God renders His final decision. We should pray for the unbelievers around us that they never reach that point.

The following story conveys the folly of unbelief:

A college student was in a philosophy class which had a discussion about God’s .  The professor presented the following logic:  “Has anyone in this class heard God?”  Nobody spoke.  “Has anyone in this class touched God?”  Again, nobody spoke.  “Has anyone in this class seen God?”  When nobody spoke for the third time, he simply stated, “Then there is no God.”

 

One student thought for a second, and then asked for permission to reply.  Curious to hear this bold student’s response, the professor granted it, and the student stood up and asked the following questions of his classmates:

“Has anyone in this class heard our professor’s brain?”  Silence.  “Has anyone in this class touched our professor’s brain?”  Absolute silence.  “Has anyone in this class seen our professor’s brain?”  When nobody in the class dared to speak, the student concluded, “Then, according to our professor’s logic, it must be true that our professor has no brain!”

 

(By the way ...the student received an “A” in the class.)

Someone has said, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Another has said, “There are no deathbed atheists.” You can probably find someone fool enough to press his atheism to such an extent but it can be eternally dangerous to persist in unbelief. Another story makes this point:

An atheist was taking a walk through the woods, admiring all that "evolution" had created.  "what majestic trees, what powerful rivers, what beautiful rivers!" he said to himself.  As he walked along the river he heard a rustling in the bushes.  He turned just in time to see a 7ft grizzly bear charging him.  He ran up the path as fast as he could.  He looked back and saw that the bear was closing in.  He ran faster and faster, so scared that tears were coming to his eyes.  He looked back and realized he was losing ground fast.  Heart pumping frantically, he tried to speed up, but he tripped and fell.  He felt the bear on top of him raising his paw to kill him, and he cried, "Oh my God!" and time stopped!! 

The bear froze, the forest was silent and the river even stopped. A bright light shone about him, and a loud voice from above said, "you deny my existence, say it was a

cosmic accident, and now you expect me to bail you out of this predicament you're in? Are you now a believer?"  The atheist, ever proud, looked to the light and said, "it would be hypocritical to ask to be a Christian after all these years, but could you just make the bear a Christian?  "Very well," said the voice.  As the light went out, the river ran and the sounds of the forest continued, the bear put his paws together, bowed his head, and said,

"Oh Lord, thank You for this food which I am about to receive."

Don’s be too proud to believe in Jesus. Come humbly to Him before this world and God’s just judgment eats you for lunch.

MARK THAT ACTION: Jesus exposed unbelief and its folly. Are you an unbeliever? If so you need to understand the precarious position you are in and turn from your sins and trust Jesus as your Savior.

Conclusion

Jesus has a passion to build our faith. He teaches us faith through life circumstances and experiences. An example of one such faith building situations if found it he following story:

 

A small congregation in the foothills of the Great Smokies built a new sanctuary on a piece of land willed to them by a church member. Ten days before the new church was to open, the local building inspector informed the pastor that the parking lot was inadequate for the size of the building.  Until the church doubled the size of the parking lot, they would not be able to use the new sanctuary. Unfortunately, the church with its undersized lot had used every inch of their land except for the mountain against which it had been built. In order to build more parking spaces, they would have to move the mountain out of the back yard.

 

 

Undaunted, the pastor announced the next Sunday morning that he would meet that evening with all members who had “mountain moving faith."  They would hold a prayer session asking God to remove the mountain from the back yard and to somehow provide enough money to have it paved and painted before the scheduled opening dedication service the following week.

 

At the appointed time, 24 of the congregation's 300 members assembled for prayer.  They prayed for nearly three hours.  At ten o'clock the pastor said the final  "Amen."  "We'll open next Sunday as scheduled," he assured everyone.  "God has never let us down before, and I believe He will be faithful this time too." 

 

The next morning as he was working in his study there came a loud knock at his door.  When he called "come in," a rough looking construction foreman appeared, removing his hard hat as he entered.

 

 

"Excuse me, Reverend. I'm from Acme Construction Company over in the next

county.  We're building huge new shopping mall over there and we need some

filler dirt.  Would you be willing to sell us a chunk of that mountain behind the church?  We'll pay you for the dirt we remove and pave all the exposed area free of charge, if we can have it right away. We can't do anything else until we get the dirt in and allow it to settle properly.

 

The little church was dedicated the next Sunday as originally planned and there were far more members with "mountain moving faith" on opening Sunday than there had been the previous week!  Would you have shown up for that prayer meeting? 

 

Jesus has a passion to build your faith, will you let Him?

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[26]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[27]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.) . Thomas Nelson: Nashville

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30] http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/f/forgiveness.htm

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.