- Sermon Notes
Faith that Moves Mountains
At this point in our study through Matthew, Jesus is about six months before going to Jerusalem, suffering many things from the elders and chief priests, being killed, but also being raised up on the third day.
He has been preparing His disciples by telling them these things in advance as He will continue to do, even as we’ll see in these verses we are studying today.
But as we saw last week, God was also preparing Jesus for these events. In fact, last week we read about the amazing events that took place on a high mountain where Jesus took Peter, James and John and where Jesus was transfigured before them so that His face shone like the sun and His clothes were as white as light. The three disciples were also amazed when Elijah and Moses appeared with Him, talking about the events about to unfold in Jerusalem. It was an opportunity for us to understand the transformation of glory that God intends for those who are believers in Jesus Christ as well.
The events we’re going to study today stand in direct contrast; because when they came down from that mountain, they encountered the problems, the oppression, and the challenges of life in a broken world.
Mountaintop experiences are wonderful spiritually and who wouldn't want to just stay there forever. In fact, wasn't that behind what Peter said when he asked Jesus if He wanted them to make three tabernacles there on that mountain?
This is significant for us to understand because it seems that after every spiritual mountaintop experience you may have, you'll experience a spiritual attack by the enemy.
It's like he's wanting to come and rob you of that which God has given. We need to be spiritually prepared so that when we come down from the mountain top experience we’re ready for spiritual warfare when we get back to a broken world.
When they came down from the mountain they saw a large crowd around the other disciples arguing with them, and then out of the crowd a man came with his son.
The father said that the boy was a lunatic; he understood there was something terribly wrong in his mind and soul. That word "lunatic" refers to the fact that in that culture it was thought that people with troubled minds were struck by the moon. It is sort of interesting that during a full moon it does seem to bring out the loonies, if you know what I mean.
The boy was greatly troubled by a demon that was often trying to destroy the boy by causing him to fall into the fire or into the water. One of the themes of the scriptures is that God’s heart is for children. We're going to see this in chapter 18 as well, because one of the intentions of the enemy in spiritual warfare is to affect children when they are young which will trouble them all their lives.
A proverb of scripture says, "Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." Well the enemy knows it works the other way as well.
But this story is not just about the child, for God will surely help him in Christ, but it's also about faith and the importance of having faith for spiritual victory and maturity in our lives.
Last week we were talking about God's desire to transform us into the image of His Son, but this week we see that one of the key aspects of that transformation is that God wants us to strengthen our faith because that is an absolutely essential key for our transformation into the image of God's Son.
I. Unbelief Brings Many Wrong Turns
- This father brought his son to Jesus for help and said that His disciples could not cure him.
- Jesus’ first response was to address the lack of faith in that generation by saying, "O unbelieving and perverted generation…"
- What that means literally is, "Unbelief will cause a person to get off the path God intended."
- The words translated "perverted" actually means turned in the wrong direction.
- Jesus rebukes their unbelief because God intends so much more for their lives.
A. Faith is not believing in one’s self
- After verse 17, we understand from the book of Mark that the father said, "If You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!"
- Jesus responded, "If you can? All things are possible to him who believes."
- That is an amazing statement by Jesus. There are two parts of that last sentence and we should take them one at a time. First, what did Jesus mean, "to him who believes"?
- "To him who believes" in what? In himself?
Illus - I heard a teaching recently about when Jesus was walking on the sea and Peter said, "If it is You, allow me to come out to you on the water," but he became frightened and began to sink. Jesus rebuked him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" The pastor then said, "Peter was rebuked for not having faith in himself.” This is absolutely wrong.
- Faith is not relying on oneself, it is not simply hoping that everything will turn out all right in the end, faith is not optimism, and faith is not the power of positive thinking.
- The foundation of positive thinking is that there is power in having positive or optimistic thoughts; and it is certainly true that positive thoughts are much more effective than negative, defeated thoughts, but this has nothing to do with faith at all.
- The faith that Jesus speaks about is also more than just believing that God exists.
Illus – Even the demons believe that much, but it does them no good.
James 2:19, You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
B. Apart from Christ we can do nothing
- Jesus said, "All things are possible to him who believes." We need to understand what things are possible in Him, but one thing is certain, apart from Christ we can do nothing of spiritual victory.
- This father gave an insightful answer to Jesus, "I do believe; help me in my unbelief."
- I think many people can relate to that answer; many people have faith, but they know they need much more and are asking for more.
- But faith is not a thing unto itself; it is not faith in faith itself either, it is trusting in the One who is faithful.
John 15:1-5 Jesus is the true vine and we are the branches.
Illus – Hudson Taylor, famous missionary to China, wrote of a great spiritual revelation which he later called his spiritual secret…
- Paul wrote some powerful spiritual truths that are very similar.
Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
II. God Desires Stronger Faith in Us
- After Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.
- The disciples then came to Jesus privately and asked, "Why could we not cast it out?"
- Jesus then gave an answer to them which has become famous because of the insight we receive about faith. These truths are for us to understand as well because of their personal application.
A. Faith is believing that God is able
- Jesus said that the reason they were not able to cast out the demon was because of the littleness of their faith. It wasn't because of their unbelief; it was because of the "littleness" of their faith.
- The disciples saw the power that this demon had over the boy in a dramatic way and if you were to see something like that, it would challenge your faith as well.
Illus - Whenever we give conferences in Africa, this is a common topic they want to discuss because they see the spiritual battle every day. They need the strength of faith that comes from abiding in God's Word.
John 8:31-32, “If you abide in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
- The Word of God strengthens faith because it shows us again and again that our God is able.
Matthew 9:28-29, Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to Him, "Yes, Lord." Then He touched their eyes, saying, "It shall be done to you according to your faith."
Daniel 3:16-18 Our God is able to deliver us…
B. Only God can move mountains
- Many people have misunderstood the words of Jesus in verse 20 because they want such power for themselves.
- But it's important to remember that it is only those who are under authority that are given authority.
- There was an interesting case in the book of Acts where a man saw the power of God moving and wanted this power for himself.
Acts 8:18-22 Simon wanted the authority of God and wanted to pay for it.
James 4:2-3, You do not have because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
1 John 5:14, This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
- In other words, unless God wants that mountain moved, it's not going anywhere.
Matthew 28:18, 20, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
C. Strength comes by prayer and fasting
- Jesus said in verse 21 that this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting. The interesting thing is that Jesus did not pray here, so he's not referring to immediately entering into a time of prayer and fasting.
- Instead, he is referring to the life of prayer and fasting that a person has in his life in preparation for spiritual victory.
- Jesus taught that prayer and fasting is not something that people should do in order to be noticed by others.
- Rather, it's something that you do before God. Prayer is drawing near to God and fasting is coming away from the world.
Illus – If God has moved in power in our lives is because his power has moved through us. In the same way that a glove has no power until there is a hand inside it.
It's like a conduit for God's power to move. But is the heart condition of the person asking important?
- Answer; absolutely. We can't ask for God's power to move through us but have our hearts clogged up with so many worldly things.
- Is the spiritual condition of the person asking important?
James 5:16, The effective prayer of the righteous man can accomplish much.
Matthew 17:14-27 NASB
14 When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, 15 "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him." 17 And Jesus answered and said, "You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me." 18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.