This sermon is number 1 in a series of 4
Mountain-Moving Faith - Part 1
"Faith In God"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2014 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
I've been asked to speak on 'Revolutionised By Faith' - that was a wee while ago, and I didn't know whether I would do it or whether I wouldn't - but I felt the Lord wanted me to do that, although I am taking a different title: 'Mountain-Moving Faith'. So that's my title, you can take the official one if you want, it doesn't really matter - it's all the same stuff anyway! But I want you to turn with me this morning to Hebrews 10, we will be in Hebrews 10 again probably in the fourth session on Thursday, and then we're going to spend a wee bit of time in Mark 11 - where there is that famous passage were Jesus speaks about mountain-moving faith, and about asking in faith, and believing that we have the things we have asked for. It's hard to know when you're preaching - you know if you're in a pulpit ministry - you take big chunks and spend years going through them, but when you've only got four sessions and you're covering a subject like faith - I mean that's really what the Bible is all about - you want to home in on those aspects that are intrinsic to what true faith really is. So there's a lot that I will leave out, I hope you will understand that, and a lot of verses that are maybe springing to your mind right now that I will not touch on - but you understand that I'm given an opportunity, and I want to hit what I feel, before God, are the most important aspects of 'faith that makes a difference', that's really what we're talking about: faith that moves mountains, faith that revolutionises our Christian lives!
So let's read together verse 38, and then we're just finishing at verse 6 of chapter 11, so Hebrews 10 verse 38: "'Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him'. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, 'and was not found, because God had taken him'; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him".
'Mountain-Moving Faith' - so what is this faith that moves mountains? Well, it's the faith that we are to live by. We read here in verse 38 of chapter 10 'the just shall live by faith', and if you have a good marginal reference version you will see that that is a quotation of an Old Testament text, Habakkuk chapter 2 and verse 4. It actually appears quoted three times in the New Testament, and each is very significant, and each emphasises a different aspect of faith. So you've got it here in Hebrews 10, you've got it in Romans 1, and you've got in Galatians 3 - so Hebrews, Romans, and Galatians. Now you understand a bit of the context about each of those books, you understand the emphasis of the author, and the Holy Spirit through the author. For instance, take Romans, most people are agreed that Romans has within it an explanation of the Gospel, it actually is a missionary epistle I believe, as a justification of why the Gospel should be taken all over the globe and not just reserved to the Jews. But in the midst of that he gives a treatise of how we are made right before God, how we become righteous before God - so the emphasis is 'the just' in that verse in Romans chapter 1 verse 17, 'the just' shall live by faith. If you want to be just, it's through faith, we are justified by faith, so that Paul's emphasis there.
Then we come to Galatians, and of course there's the whole controversy of the Judaisers coming in and saying: 'No, no, it's Christ plus, you've got to have Christ plus the law, Christ plus circumcision, Christ plus the rites and rituals of Judaism. You've basically got to become Jews as well'. The emphasis there is 'living', the just shall 'live' by faith - that we don't live by law, we live by faith. That's why Paul emphasised in that epistle that you began in the Spirit, and you're not made perfect by the law then, you've got to continue in the Spirit. So the just 'lives' by faith. Of course Hebrews chapter 11, preceded by verse 38 of chapter 10, is that great purple passage on faith, the great hall of faith and fame - these wonderful characters who were heroes of the faith. The emphasis here is 'faith', the just shall live by 'faith'. Now any text from the Old Testament that's repeated three times has got to be important. We know that it is by grace we are saved through faith, and this Christian life is from faith to faith - that's what the book of Romans says - which basically, I think one translation puts it, it's 'a faith exercise from beginning to end', it's all about faith. I was reading this morning: 'I am crucified with Christ. It is not I that live, but the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me'.
So you could say about any subject we preach on that there is no more important subject, but relatively speaking this is one of the big ones! If we don't learn what true faith actually is - and so many of us as 'evangelicals' stop at saving faith, and that's as far as it goes, and we go on with that saving faith, faith to die and go to heaven, but that is just the start, that's just the threshold experience, that's just the beginning. Let me try and explain that by using an illustration for you. Many years ago I read a book by Ronald Dunn, I don't know whether any of you are familiar with his books, but he's an excellent writer and I would recommend him to you. One of his books on faith has a story in it under a chapter entitled 'The House That Grace Built'. He talks about how this life of ours is like a dual carriageway, and along the side of the dual carriageway is the House of Salvation. He talks about how people just go along in their merry business day by day, going around doing their errands, putting in their 24/7, and basically ignoring the House of Salvation. They have these burdens on their backs, but he talks about how one day he stopped and he stood at the door with this burden on his back - a bit like Bunyan's Progress - standing there with his burden outside the House of Salvation, and he said that written over the threshold of the door were these words: 'Whosoever will may enter in'. So he tried the doorknob and it was locked, and he thought: 'Why would there be an invitation over this door, 'Whosoever will may enter in', but the door is locked?'. Right away there was a gentleman behind him tapped him on the shoulder and hand him a key, and on the key were written the letters 'F-A-I-T-H', 'Faith'. He took the key, put it in the lock, turned it, and the door opened. He said that through faith he entered into this house that grace built, which is the House of Salvation.
He said that he went into this foyer and he noticed many other doors, corridors and doors around the house. So after a while, perusing the place, he decided to go over to some of these doors. Some of the doors read 'Answered Prayer', 'Daily Victory', 'Every Need Supplied', you know, various things that we would like to experience in the Christian life - but when he went up to those doors and tried to turn the knob, they were locked as well. He noticed that in the foyer there was a multitude of people who were gathered, and he realised that a lot of these people had went in through the door into the House of Salvation, they were loitering around in the foyer, and they hadn't generally gone any further than that front door. He said: 'I have no desire to spend my life standing in a foyer. This is my Father's house, I was His child, and all He possessed was mine'. He said that he had acquired quite a number of keys in his pocket from having entered that house. He decided to try some of those, and he lifted them out of his pocket. One was called 'Doing Your Best', another was 'Religious Activity', another was 'Sincerity', and he said he even tried the one that said 'Tithing' on it - he said he was getting really desperate! He was beginning to understand why the foyer was so crowded, because none of these keys worked. Just about to despair, he heard a voice, and it was the Builder of the house behind him who said: 'Use the key that I gave you to get into the house'. He remembered that key with 'Faith' written on it, and he went up to those doors again - 'Answered Prayer', 'Every Need Supplied', 'Daily Victory' - and he tried that key, and every door opened, every single door opened. He realised, again I quote him: 'The Key of Faith is the Master Key that unlocks every door in the house'. This is his comment: 'That was the greatest discovery of my life: Faith is the master key of the Christian life. From start to finish salvation is by grace through faith. Everything we get in the Christian life, we get by grace through faith. Grace makes it available, faith accepts it. Grace is God's hand giving it to us, faith is man's hand receiving it. Faith possesses what grace provides. Grace is God's part, faith is man's part - it is our positive response to God's gracious offer. Everything that God demands of man can be summed up in one word: faith'.
I think that's a tremendous illustration of how faith really is the key in this whole Christian experience. If we don't understand what true mountain-moving faith is, we're going to be loitering about in the foyer. Let's face it: how many Christians, modern day 21st-century Christians in the West, does that describe their average experience? 'Loitering about in the foyer', not moving on any further than the threshold of the door of salvation. So in these four sessions I'm going to be breaking up key aspects, I believe, to mountain-moving faith. Today we're going to look at how true mountain-moving faith is 'Faith In God'. No gasps there? Is that too elementary for you folk? 'Faith In God'. Well, it sounds very profound, and it actually is as we will see. What a lot of us do: immediately we realise, 'Faith is the key, the master key for everything in this Christian life, I better get it, and it better be big and strong' - and we then start to focus on faith, when actually that will never work. We need not to focus on faith, but to focus on God. It's like your kid, if you have them, bringing home the watercress seed from nursery - remember that? It sits on the windowsill, and if you've got a very inquisitive child they might get a spoon every day and dig up the seed, and say: 'Nothing is happening here'. Every day they are digging up the seed, and if you dig up your faith every day and analyse your faith, it will never grow because your focus is on the seed rather than God who gives the power and the increase. Just leave faith alone, alright?
So we're emphasising faith this week, but we're really saying: don't focus on faith, leave your faith alone. If you focus on God, your faith will look after itself - got it? So this is really my emphasis in the message just now, it's: focus on God if you want your faith to increase. You remember the disciples came to Jesus and said: 'Increase our faith!'. We're very mechanical as Christians, aren't we? 'Look, this is what I need, give us it! Show me how this can be done!' - but you know, there's nothing, as I said last evening, everything happens in the presence of God, everything. Technique is not of so much importance as atmosphere, alright? What we really need is the right climate for faith to grow, and the climate that faith grows in is the presence of God, where we become totally encapsulated by God's character, by God's person, by God's presence - and this faith is a byproduct of that. There is no virtue in faith per se, on its own faith is pretty useless - it's who your faith is in.
Yet there is a danger as we come to a subject like this that we could actually be saying: 'Oh, I need more faith, and stronger faith, and mountain-moving faith' - and we begin to focus on the faith, and our faith is in our faith. Are you with me? For some people their faith is in their prayer life. Now, I believe you should pray, I bet you're glad I said that! We ought to pray, but for some people faith is in prayer and their prayer life - you know, 'Have I done my hours for today? Have I gone down the list today? Because if I don't go down the list, God might not bless me. If I don't put in the time, God might not bless me'. Your faith is in your prayer life - I'm not saying prayer is wrong. Or your faith can be in your personal holiness. There's a great danger here - do we believe in holiness? Yes, we do - but be careful that your faith is not in your own sanctification, and how well you're doing, what you do do that God commands, or what you don't do that He forbids. Your faith can be in that, and do you know what happens then: when you make a blunder, which we all do, you crash because your faith was in how well you were doing, a performance-based relationship with God - it's not by grace at all. We're not discouraging people from holiness, but we've got to be on the right footing, and it's always God. Maybe this could be misunderstood - and I will explain it later on - but our faith is not in the Bible alone. I love that old hymn - it's good when you're saying controversial stuff to quote old hymns, you may have noticed that!
'Beyond the sacred page,
I seek Thee, Lord'.
The Bible is the revelation of God, the Bible is the conduit to get us to God, but if we stop at the Bible that is bibliolatry, where we worship the book and not our God. Do you understand? Faith in the Bible is intrinsic, and I'm going to spend a whole session on 'Faith in the Promises of God' - we're not bypassing those, but we've got to understand that the promises of God and the word of God is only the revelation of the character and the personality of God. We've got to get to Him. Are you with me? So it's not faith in prayer, it's not faith in faith, it's not faith in holiness, it's not faith in the Bible alone - but it is faith in God.
Do you remember encountering people who are in love with being in love? Did you ever have anybody like that? They're not actually in love with the person, but they are in love with the state of being in love. Are you with me? So they go through maybe a number of relationships, and every one is to die for, and then when it breaks up it's just total crisis - because it's not the person, it's the concept of being loved and loving another. Sometimes we can be like up with faith, and even the Christian life - we are in love with the process, and we are losing God in the midst of it. I'm convinced of this, utterly convinced that evangelicalism is jam-packed with people who are in love with the process, and they really don't know God and they're not getting to know God!
So really what I'm saying, before I digress down that one, is: don't measure your faith, measure your God. Did you get that? Don't measure your faith, measure your God, and your faith will look after itself. So here's the question that comes after that: how big is your God? That will fix your faith if you have any problem there: how big is your God? Now that might seem, again, another elementary question: 'Oh, we're all Bible-believing Christians, and we know what the Bible says about God'. I'm not talking about what the Bible says, I'm talking about what you believe and what you experientially walk day by day in your conception of the God that you worship and you serve. How big is your God? How real is your God to you every day? J.B. Phillips did a contemporary translation of the New Testament years ago, and out of doing that - obviously the Greek language is much richer than English, and I think that's why we need so many English translations. The Amplified Version tries to give us every aspect of the Greek, but doesn't do it perfectly. He was so overwhelmed at the depths of the Greek language, and the revelation of God that there was in it, that he wrote a book entitled 'Your God Is Too Small'. Have you heard of that one? Basically what he was trying to say was: even from our limited translations of the Bible, we don't get a full-orbed view of the grandeur and the greatness, and the splendour and majesty, and the strength and the bigness of our God.
I want to ask you here: is your God too small? Your faith problem here today, if you have one - and I think we all, if we're honest, have to say 'Well, I could do with a wee bit more' - if that's you: is your God too small? Have you limited your God? Have you got your God in a box? I have to be careful where I go here, because I could stray very very easily - but sometimes I hear people say this: 'Oh, God would never do that, God would never be involved in that'. I'm not telling you what 'that' is, by the way, it could be anything, for a lot of people it is different things - but just think of this for a moment: wee David Legge in Donegal, in Rossnowlagh, where is that? Who am I? And I'm saying what God can and cannot do? God! Do you remember who He is? He's God! And I'm saying what God can and cannot do? It just is incredible! Our God is so big, His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts - as high as the heavens are above the earth, so much greater are His ways and His thoughts above us. I mean some of the stuff that God did in the Bible, it's weird, let's be honest! Some of it is really weird, some of it is very very strange. Some of the things He asks His servants to do are really strange. Me and a friend have been joking lately about what God asked Isaiah to do - He asked Isaiah to walk about naked for a couple of years, did you know that? This is in the Bible! Have you never read that? Have you ever read that? Come on now - this morning, did you? There you are! Proof! It's in the Bible! Now, don't worry, God has not been saying anything like that to me for this week - but this is the Bible, this is our Bible that we read, there's some very strange stuff! Ezekiel was told: 'Right Ezekiel, this is God speaking, Ezekiel, this is God now - don't be mistaken, this is God - I want you to cook a meal with your own excrement. Cook it over the fuel of your own excrement' - has anybody read that one? But God asking somebody to do that - I mean, if God asked somebody to do that today, what would you say? 'God would never do that. Do you not know the laws? Do you not know cleanliness and all the rest?'. Ezekiel knew it, and Ezekiel protested, and God said: 'That's OK, right okay, don't use that, use cow dung instead', because that was a wee bit more acceptable, so he did it.
But you know there are times that God asks us to do things, and God does things that don't fit in with our psyche - and especially when we've got our religious heads on. God is not restricted to our ways! We need to start, especially those of us in Christian ministry - we're all meant to be in Christian ministry, but in this full-time capacity of serving the Lord 24/7 the way you do in CEF - we need to start forgetting about a lot of the trash that we have learnt from religious tradition, and from the environments that we have been in and conditioned to, and start letting God be God, and start listening to what He is saying - and even doing some of the hare-brained stuff that doesn't seem to make sense, but as long as He is telling us to do it we need to do it! How did I get on to that? I'm not sure! Yes, God being too small - read the Bible and find out who your God really is.
Verse 6 of chapter 11, let's get back to the script! 'Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him'. Now if you don't believe that God is - I mean atheists don't come to God, sure they don't? They don't believe that He is, except when they're in a bit of a fix, and then they go: 'Oh God, help!' - but that's another subject. You've got to believe in Him if you're going to come to Him, but I don't think that's the full weight of that statement. I think when it says, 'Believe that He is', it has a sense of that we've got to believe that He is active. So those who come to God to be rewarded, as the end of the verse shows is the outcome, if you're going to come to God for something you've got to believe that He is active, that He's doing something - otherwise what's the point in going to Him and asking Him for something? We need to believe that He is at work even - and this is the essence of true faith - even when it appears with the naked eye that He isn't, that's He's not doing anything. You come to Him because you believe that He is active.
Now, my question to you is: do you believe and perceive God as active? Do you perceive God as active? I'm going to talk later on in the seminar about the power of the Holy Spirit in ministry, and I don't want to steal my own thunder with that - but you've got to believe in the miraculous if you believe that God is active. There are problems today, I believe, in evangelicalism where there are certain theologies - and really I am not out to offend you, so please don't think that I'm going to go on a rant all week - but I just cannot any more talk about God or the power of God if He is not miraculous God, I just can't do it. I mean that is God - your Christianity and your faith is either supernatural or it is superficial. If you've got God limited to what He can and cannot do in the 21st-century, I'm going to say to you: honestly, you'd be better doing something else! Is that too strong? If you're going to limit God, what He can and cannot do - I don't know how I could wake up in the day when I had a semblance of a theology like that. I was open to God within reason, but it was on my terms, and it was with me saying: 'O God, You wouldn't do that, and You wouldn't do that, and how can they claim that'. Look: God is the God of the miraculous and the supernatural - period, that's it.
We will talk about that later, but there is a danger even when you believe in that, that you can only perceive God as active in the miraculous or the supernatural, and that can sap our faith. Now let me explain what I'm saying. We generally in the West have divided everything into the natural and the supernatural. The natural is what we can explain, and the supernatural is what we can't explain. So even in our education, our Western education - not all the world is educated the way we are - but we are educated to see, for instance if you see a tree, and you see an acorn planted. You watch, and our Western mentality, even those of us who believe in God, we see that tree as growing from natural laws. Our concept is: 'Well, God created everything in the beginning, but everything works on a natural level. God has set everything in motion, if you like, and everything comes out of these laws that He has created' - but that is not correct. We need to actually see God working in everything, so that even the blade of grass - God is pulling and shaping that leaf and that blade of grass. In everyday practice we need to start seeing God as active - not just in the miraculous, not just in creation when He started the ball rolling, but in every facet of life. That's what we need: we need to start seeing God - that's what faith is - start perceiving Him in everything, doing stuff around us.
John White, whose writings I highly recommend, said this: 'The God of the Bible runs everything. He created nature and super-nature, which are actually all of a piece with no division between them. Nothing in nature works by itself. God 'works' it. He intervenes unceasingly. Every musical note we hear, every sunrise and sunset we see, every birth we rejoice in, every exploding supernova we marvel at - all are expressions of His love' - now that's amazing! Are you walking about seeing God everywhere? There's a lot of pessimism - I've been talking about this with some of you over the tea table - there's a lot of pessimism in evangelicalism, particularly the wing that I have been in in the past. You know: 'Jesus is coming soon, the world is going to hell in a hand cart, everything is going down the tube, there's apostasy in the church - and well, let's just batten down the hatches, hold the fort and be as faithful as we can, because it's nearly over!'. Is that a good summary? That's pretty much it, isn't it? We're not looking for God, we're looking for Antichrist, we're looking for a New World Order, we're looking for the scarlet woman - and we're not looking for the Kingdom of God coming among us, we're not looking for what God is actually doing in our midst which He promised. There is such a pessimism, rather than starting to see God - 'Look at the sunrise, look at the beautiful beach, look at the sea, God, look at what You're doing in creation. But, Lord, look at my ministry, look at the church, look at that broken person that You have called me to invest in' - and start looking for God! We have been tuned and trained to look for the devil, we have been tuned and trained to look for error, we have been tuned and trained to look for mixture and contamination, rather than influence - that our God is bigger, His grace is larger, and His light is brighter, and it shines brighter in the darkness. We need to start looking for God again! You know, God turns up in the most unusual places!
Do you practice such perception? Looking for God? My wee girl had a CD - any of you with children will understand this - they get a CD that they really like, and they play it ad nausea. Every time you're in the car: 'Daddy, put that on!', and you listen to these songs until you could say them backwards in your sleep. But there is one wee song based on one of those Bible series 'The Beginning', you know those cartoon children's Bibles, and there's a song in it: 'I Believe In Miracles'. There's a line in it that really captured my imagination, and it says: 'Heaven and earth are not that far apart'. Do you believe that? I could talk to you, not with much authority, but a wee bit about - scientists and physicists and astrophysicists are now talking about different dimensions, parallel universes and all sorts of things where there can be different realities that exist at the one and the same time. I think that's probably nearer to 'Pie in the Sky Way out There', you know 'Somewhere in Outer Space' - sorry about that, but you know what I mean. Just like that we could be in another dimension, there is a spiritual reality that is mixed up in our reality. We could talk about that, but heaven and earth are not so far apart. The ancient Christian Celts talked about a thin space between heaven and earth. In fact their monasteries, the ancient monastic system, the concept was that they would be a colony of heaven on earth, that people would be able to come and taste a bit of what the Kingdom of God is like - whether it was a sojourner resting, whether it was a person injured, whatever, that they could minister something of the Kingdom of God here because they believed that God was around, that God was real. We need to practice such perception.
Turn with me to Ephesians 1 - I'm not even halfway through here, this is bad - Ephesians chapter 1 verse 17. Paul is praying for these believers: 'That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him' - now just pause. Were these Christians? Yes! So they still needed more of their eyes to be opened: 'the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places' - but let me just emphasise this: he's talking about the eyes of our heart. Do you know you've got eyes in your heart? Did you know that? Did you know you've got eyes in your heart? Did you know you've got ears in your heart? Western evangelicalism has been sold a pup, and it is an intellectual concept of Christianity, and it's very strong - particularly in conservative evangelicalism - and that is: that God speaks to your brain, and everything comes through your brain, and if it ever bypasses your brain it's of the devil. You remember that now - well, that is unscriptural, unscriptural, because in 1 Corinthians 12:13-14 you've got explanations of spiritual gifts, and some of them bypass the brain, and Paul says that. Some of them go straight to the spirit, and the mind doesn't understand - OK? This is a spiritual thing, you've got eyes in your heart - so you can study until you've got PhDs coming out your ears, and not know one iota more of God experientially. There are eyes in our heart that need to be opened. Sometimes there is a reason why they are not opened, sometimes there's damage, sometimes there's sin, sometimes the enemy has got us bound in certain areas and we're not seeing the unseen. But this is what we're talking about: if you want your faith to move mountains, if you want to have revolutionary faith that makes a difference and transforms your life, your family's life, your community's life, your ministry's life, you're going to have to start seeing the unseen. You're going to have to pray this prayer of Paul's - no greater thing could you do - 'Open the eyes of my heart, let me see things the way You see, the way they actually are - not the way materialism has conditioned me to think only of reality as what I can touch, what I can feel, what I can smell, what I can taste'. Those are physical senses, but there are spiritual senses of seeing in the spirit, of hearing in the spirit.
I'm going to tease that out a little bit more. We need to see the unseen, 2 Corinthians 4:18, the New Living Translation says: 'So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever'. So we need to fill our spiritual senses with eternal realities, our inner ears, our inner eyes, our inner mind, our inner will, our inner emotions. 'He that comes to God must believe that He is' - so how is He? 'He that comes to God' - this is the essence of faith - 'He that comes to God must believe that He is', so how is He? How is He? Now, to be honest, for a lot of Bible-believing Christians He's asleep, He's gone to sleep, He's gone into hibernation. In the Acts of the Apostles He was doing some stuff, really, you read it yourself, it's all there and we believe it - we believe it! But He's gone to sleep! Do you see in the end times, oh there's all sorts of stuff is going to happen then, weird and wonderful stuff - if we started to go into it, trumpets and bowls being poured out, and these big scorpion things crawling out of pits, and signs in the sky, and the false prophet doing all sorts of miracles, and two prophets of God and they're performing miracles - wow! But at the moment He's gone to sleep!
So He's the same yesterday and He's the same tomorrow, but today He's not the same? Now, that really doesn't help your faith, does it? Let's be honest - but, you see, how is He? If I understand the Bible correctly, His name is the great 'I Am' - and that means 'The One Who Was, The One Who Is, And The One Who Ever Shall Be'. If I'm asking the question: 'How is He today?', the answer, biblically, is 'He is the same as He always has been and always will be' - that's how He is! If I want my faith to increase, I need to believe that He is - Amen? Do you believe that He is the way He always was? I'm not asking what you experience, because this is often what happens, people say: 'See the folk that believe in God's supernatural power today, they argue from experience'. Au contraire, the ones who don't believe in argue from experience - the lack thereof: 'I've never seen that happen, I've never seen that happen, I've never seen a miracle'. So what we do is: we devise a theology that accommodates our lack of experience and actually contradicts the Bible - and then what do we expect? What do we expect?
Now, I'm not trying to turn you all into raving charismatics or anything like that, but this is fundamental to faith. If you want your faith to increase you've got to understand what your God is like, and what your God can do. There's a Psalm, you can turn to it - if you had the NIV you could turn to it, because it's a wee bit different in the NIV than other versions, but I like its translation. It's Psalm 68 verse 28, and enshrined there is the principle of the precedence of the power of God - if you like alliteration, there's one for you - principle of the precedence of the power of God. This is the way the NIV renders it: 'Summon Your power, O God; show us Your strength, our God, as You have done before'. 'Summon Your power, O God; show us Your strength, our God, as You have done before'. Now you know what a precedent is in common-law, it's a principle or a rule in a legal case that has been binding or persuasive for a court or tribunal in previous cases with similar issues and facts - we might say it's an established practice or custom, a precedent. To simplify it: it's a principle that once was that still applies today. This is the precedence of the power of God: that God's power is the same today as it always has been. The psalmist obviously believed that, or he wouldn't have prayed for it.
Now there may have been, experientially, an absence of God's power, otherwise why would he have prayed for it? But what did he do? Did he say: 'This isn't working, we better get a theology that says God doesn't do this type of stuff now, because this is embarrassing'? Is that what he did? Or did he say: 'No, Lord, we believe You're the same as You always have been! Summon Your power, O God; show us Your strength as You have done before'. In fact we know that all the great patriarchs, and all the prophets believed in the power of God - you only have to read Hebrews 11 that we're in. We know about Abraham, the father of faith, we're going to look at him in a bit more detail - but contrary to hope, he believed against all hope, a hundred years of age, I mean it's laughable! His body is dead, Sarah's womb is dead, but against all hope he believes God - He better be miraculous if He's going to give a 100-year-old man a baby! Paul, he believed and was persuaded that the scriptures were true - is that what it says? No, he believed and was persuaded that God was able to keep that which he had committed unto Him against that day.
Faith is faith in God - do you get what I'm saying now? It's not faith in faith, it's not even faith in the Bible per se, it's faith in the God that the Bible portrays and reveals. Do we have such faith? Faith that says: 'He has done it before, He can do it again'. There are plenty of Scripture to testify to this. Malachi 3:6: 'I am the LORD, I do not change'. Jeremiah 32:27: 'I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?'. Hebrews 13:8: 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever'. God's power hasn't changed! Is God still God Almighty? Is He still El Shaddai? Is He still the omnipotent One? Can Jesus Christ, the Son of God still say: 'All power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth, go therefore and make disciples of all peoples'? Is the promise of Pentecost still being outpoured in the church: 'You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be My witnesses'? I mean, is this all the same? Or am I in the wrong place today? So what has changed? Something has changed - what has changed? Surely it's our faith, our faith in this God as He really is.
In a lot of our biblical confessions, and a lot of our songs, a lot of our writings, there is a shortfall between our confession and the atmosphere of our churches and our gatherings; the impact of our witness and, let's be honest, our own personal experiences of God. There is a shocking absence of power. A.W. Tozer said many years ago: 'Imagine an angel visiting Moses, Paul, St Augustine, David Brainerd, and then he visits us' - poor angel! He is sitting in our Bible studies on Wednesday night, or whenever you have them, he's hearing what we claim to be our possessions in prayer and from the pulpit, and then he goes home with us and he observes the poverty of our own experience. Tozer says: 'Is there not a contradiction between what we think we are and what we really are? Well might the angel conclude that we trifle with words while our souls starve. He might well conclude that we are all spiritual liars, claiming possessions but never experiencing them'.
Turn with me to a passage as I close, 2 Kings 6. This, if you like, is an illustration of Ephesians 1, what we read about the eyes of our heart being opened. I want you to pray that that will happen this week, that the eyes of your heart will be opened. This is quite funny this story, in ways. The prophet of God is being told what the King is saying in his own bedroom - what about that? It's driving the King mad, and he's had enough of it, and so he sends armies after the prophet of God. Verse 13: 'So he said, 'Go and see where he is, that I may send and get him'. And it was told him, saying, 'Surely he is in Dothan'. Therefore he sent horses and chariots' - this is the King of Syria - 'and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city' - why? Because the prophet of God - I mean, imagine if we were so powerful in politics, not through politics but in politics, in shaping our society, in impacting our communities, that the Prime Minister and HRH had to sit up and take note! Imagine that, that would be something else! So they send armies to get this troubler.
Verse 15: 'And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, 'Alas, my master! What shall we do?''. Now, what would you do? You're teaching children that many times, and I know what it's like too, preaching these stories - they become second nature to us. Imagine you walk up this morning here, and the whole of the Irish Army is around the complex with their guns, and a few tanks rolling up, what would you do? The prophet of God answers in verse 16: 'Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them'. So if that happened, say that happened - I know it's comical - but imagine that happened, and David Jackson stands up and says: 'Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them'. What did you say? 'Alright, David, will you go and sort them out then? We're away, see you!' - honestly! 'And Elisha', verse 17, 'prayed, and said, 'LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see'. Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha'.
Now, you may think I've lost it - a lot of people do - but if God was to open your inner eyes right now, what do you think you would see? What do you think you would see? You would definitely see angels, definitely. There are angels in this room, there are. There are angels with you wherever you go. I'm reading through Isaiah at the moment in my daily readings, and the phrase 'The Lord of Hosts' is repeated over and over again and again - and in the version I'm doing this year's readings in its 'The Lord of Heaven's Armies', that's who is with us! I get a wee tingle saying that! Is that not incredible? But we walk about with natural eyes, we wonder why our faith is famished and emaciated, why we are discouraged, why we are broken, why we are run down and burnt out - because we're seeing with the natural eye as natural men and women, we're not seeing the realities of God. When you start talking like this, Christians think you've lost your marbles - 'Oh, he's seeing angels now!'. Well, does the Bible not talk about angels? We need to start realising - real-eyesing - what God says is real. We need to start seeing what the world and the devil teaches us is real as the lie, what our own flesh tells us is real to discourage us and to drag us down, we need to see that as the lie.
So mountain-moving faith is faith in God, the God who is, who always was, and who will ever be the same. Let's pray. Now I've exceeded my time - get used to it! But let's spend just a moment, because what is equally important - maybe more - is that after we receive what God has said, we just spend a moment before God in His presence and allow Him to do what He wants to do. So you ask yourselves the questions - whether it's in your ministry or your own personal life, mountains - that's insurmountable, nigh eternal obstacles getting in the road - and I'm asking myself is: do I see these with the natural eye? Do I see them as bigger than God? Even when there aren't those obstacles, am I seeing the unseen around me that God tells me is true and real? What am I seeing as real? What eyes am I using? What eyes am I using? Do I even know how to use the eyes of my heart? We have a problem here in the West, because we emphasise the eyes of the head and the mind of the head, we have actually divorced ourselves from the mind of the heart and the eyes of the heart - which the Scripture has more to say about. The natural man does not perceive the things of God, they are foolishness to him - that's why a lot of what I'm talking about is utter foolishness to a lot of pulpits in our land, it's the natural man.
What are you going to operate on? You just come to the Lord now with your own thoughts, with your own heart, confess to Him if you have been in the natural, if you have been ministering in the natural - as we all do. If you just can't see beyond the natural, ask Him, whatever you don't have here, just ask Him for it - say: 'Lord, please, what is it that is blinding me to these things? Why is it that I am not hearing Your voice? Why is it that these things aren't real to me? When David talks about angels being in the room, I can't get that - I want to believe it, but it's not real to me. Lord, would You show me where the blockage is here'. Just ask Him to do this, we've got grounds from Paul in Ephesians 1 and grounds from Elisha with his servant - just ask God to open the eyes of your heart, just like the words of that song: 'I want to see You, I want to see You high and lifted up'. God bless you.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at the Child Evangelism Fellowship Worker's Conference in Donegal, Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the first recording in his 'Mountain-Moving Faith' series, entitled "Faith In God" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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