GREAT FAITH! Little Faith

GREAT FAITH!  Little Faith

God Meets Us Where We Are

Let’s take a brief look at the Roman Centurion and the woman from Canaan whom Mark called a Syrophenician.

Matthew 8:10 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!

 Matthew 15:28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

 The stories of the Roman Centurion and the Syrophenician woman are told in Matthew chapters 8:5-13 and 15:21-28, respectively.  You may want to open a Bible and read those stories before you read on.  These are the only two people mentioned in the New Testament to whom Jesus ascribed great faith.  There has been much said about the reason Jesus said this.  Our purpose is not to examine their cases in detail.  There are, however, two similarities which are useful to this writing.

First, they were both gentiles.  This is part of the reason the Centurion declared himself unworthy to have Jesus enter his home.  This may also have been in the mind of the Syrophenician woman.  Jesus’ reference to dogs, when talking to her, was a reminder that in the minds of Hebrews, gentiles were as but dogs.  She had the added burden of being a woman in a culture that made it a taboo for a woman to bother a Hebrew teacher.  Jesus did not really think of her according to these Jewish morés.  He was her Creator and thought of her in much higher esteem than convention allowed Jewish men to convey.  But as we read elsewhere in the narratives of Jesus’ ministry, He cared little about social laws.  He broke them all the time.  He was after something of value here; the drawing forth of the great faith He sensed in her.  In addition He was demonstrating God’s great love for her and her daughter and their value to Him.

The second similarity between these two stories is that in both cases the healing and deliverance occurred over distance, only requiring Jesus to speak in the authority given to Him by His Father in Heaven.  The Centurion said, “But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.”  This statement prompted Jesus to declare, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”

 Jesus did not meet needs based on the measure of faith

Compare that to instances found in Matthew chapter nine.  A spoken word was not enough.  The ruler who besought Jesus to heal his daughter needed Jesus to come to his home and fretted while the woman who touched the hem of His garment delayed their journey.  That woman was healed by touching His garment.  The ruler’s daughter was raised from the dead as Jesus took her by the hand.  In verse 29 of chapter nine two blind men received their sight as Jesus touched their eyes.  All these had faith and received what they asked for because Jesus did not meet needs based on the measure of faith.

In Matthew 8:26 He rebuked the wind and the waves despite their “little faith.”  In Mark 9:19 He cast out a demon and healed a young boy after lamenting, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you?”  I surmise that “faithless” means “no faith.”

In John 5 Jesus healed the man by the Pool of Bethesda who did not know who He was.  Nor did he exhibit any faith except in what he saw with his eyes as he witnessed that the first one entering the water was healed after the water was troubled by an angel.

The two points we need to see are that it is always God’s will to heal and He meets us where we are.  He either stirred up the faith He sensed in those who came, or He ministered out of His own faith.

Did anyone believe in Him as the Messiah as He died before them all on the cruel cross?  Possibly His mother.  But basically He loved us enough to die for us and rise from the dead by His own faith in His Father on the throne.  He believed that in His sinless death and triumphant resurrection He would deliver all who would believe thereafter into eternal life with Himself and His Father in Heaven.

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; 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 for me.”

 For salvation to occur, if we will believe His word (Romans 10:17), a germ of faith as small as a mustard seed is enough to move a mountain of unbelief and deliver us into the kingdom of God.

Matthew 17:20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

 If you consider the incident of the boy in Matthew 17, the problem was not the demon.  It was their unbelief.  God loves to move mountains of unbelief.  So He whispers to us words of faith.  When the wind of many storms is blowing and thunder is crashing, listen for the still small voice of God.  The smallest measure of faith is being offered to you.  Paul learned and so taught that when he was at his weakest; God was more than strong enough.  His grace truly is sufficient.

2 Corinthians 12:9And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

 GOD WANTS MORE FOR US

God always wants more for us than we think we can handle.  Yet He knows better than we do when we are ready for it.  Sometimes He delays for our good.  Other times He challenges us to belief when we are hesitant.

Clearly Jesus was grieved and disappointed at the lack of faith around Him.  At other times He marveled at a sudden discovery of great faith.  But He was always ready to work in the lives of anyone who came to Him, and in some who He approached at the prompting of Father God.  He wants the best for us, but He meets us where He finds us.  This is true not only in regard to faith, but in many issues of the heart and/or conscience.

 

  • Revelation
  • Love
  • Freedom
  • Law

We’ll touch on the first three briefly, so you can enter deeper understanding of the 4th – Law.

 Revelation

Revelation of truth that sets us free increases or decreases depending on whom or what we focus on.  Peter got downloads directly from Father God (Matthew 16:17) while he followed Jesus and beheld His face.

2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

 Peter came to know that Jesus is the Son of God.

The Scribes and Pharisees were looking to Old Covenant Law, the temple and the High Priest.  All they could see was that Jesus was a good (or evil) teacher.

Matthew 12:38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”

 Matthew 22:16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.”

 If they would have come to Jesus, as Nicodemus did, their eyes could have been opened.

John 3:1-3 

1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

 Then there are those who said they were believers and joined into fellowship through the witness of others; but then focused on Greek teachings of spirit, soul and body.  They then taught that Jesus could only have come as a spirit or that He was a mere apparition because they believed that all life in the flesh made one a sinner.  They asserted that Jesus could not have come in the flesh.

The Spirit of God moved the Apostle John to write the first chapter of his first epistle (letter) to them.

1 John 1:1-2

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—

 God does not want anyone to remain in the darkness and deception foisted upon them by the devil.

Paul did not believe in Jesus as Messiah at all until God arrested him in his tracks on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-6).

All God needs is a heart open to Him just a little to start us on a lifelong journey of discovery of greater and greater revelations of Himself.  He loves doing that in us, because He loves us.

Love

Love can be discussed in various ways.  It’s good to study the Greek words for love.  But to stay on track in this study, we will look at our ability to love others as spoken of by Jesus.

Jesus, as the Word of God, gave the Ten Commandments to Moses.  Six of the ten related to how we treat others and can be summed up in the second great commandment which Jesus declared to be, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39

In reading Matthew 22 verses 34-40, you may notice that Jesus did not initiate this discussion.  He was answering a question designed to tempt Him (verse 35).  No one has ever been able to keep the Ten Commandments – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

So it seems more daunting to learn that on the night Jesus was betrayed He commanded a new higher order of love for us to render to others.  The fact that He spoke it twice adds emphasis.

John 13:34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

 John 15:12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

 As I have written elsewhere, I have observed the way some people love themselves.  I would not want anyone to love me like that.  But if you can love me with the love Jesus loves you with, I will wait in line for that.

Jesus was constantly raising the bar when religious people questioned Him.  Just read through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7).  Under the law, they were permitted to hate their enemies.

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”

 But Jesus was looking forward to the New Covenant and raised the bar in verse 44, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,”

Loving your neighbor as yourself is really the minimal requirement for someone seeking to obey God.  Loving your enemy is a significant step up.  Loving one another as Christ loved us and gave His life for us is the highest measure of love.

John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

 If no one has been able to obey the Ten Commandments, how does Jesus expect us to obey the highest level of loving one another?

Actually He doesn’t.  He offers us His love and His power to give love – grace!  When we receive Christ as Savior He gives us new hearts, new spirits and the Holy Spirit joined to our spirits making us one with Himself (Ezekiel 36:26, 27; 1 Corinthians 6:17).  We become new creations with new natures (2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 1:4).  Joined to Him, we can let His love flow through us to those who need love.

Notice I said we can.  Whether a new Christian grows into this or not is a matter of perspective.  If our perspective is learning how to love like Jesus loves, we will never attain to that level of love.  Why?  We have made love a requirement, a law.  No one has been able to love God according to the standard of the commandments, because the power of sin is the law (1 Corinthians 15:56).  Sin is missing the mark.  No one, by trying, can hit it.

But if our perspective is receiving the love God so lavishly pours into the open heart of a believer, then His love flows in and what is impossible with man is easy for God.  When He is our source of love, loving is natural because we were created for love.

Paul’s perspective, his focus, was, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” (Philippians 3:10).

Paul was not trying to conform himself to the death of Christ.  Paul strove to know Christ, His power and His love.  His focus was relationship not rules.  Knowing Jesus in power and love was the transforming element making Paul willing to die for his brothers and sisters.  Paul said the love of God was poured into his heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).  That happened when he accepted Jesus as Savior.  Then as Paul focused his heart on knowing God, the love that was in his new heart was released as the central element of the River of Life flowing out of his belly (John 7:38, 39).  For the Holy Spirit is love.

As we focus on rules, regulations and fear of punishment we cap off the river of love flowing into us.  Let’s say, “No!” to this scheme of Satan.  Say, “Yes!” to God.  Focus on God the Father, on Jesus and the Holy Spirit and be transformed into God’s image.

2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

 Love will become a natural expression of your new identity as a child of God.  His DNA is love and so is yours.

1 John 4:15-19 

15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.

 Freedom

Paul wrote about freedom in Christ across many arenas of life.  And he gave considerable leeway for believers because he knew that people can only walk according to the light that they have.  So he would say, “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” (Romans 14.5).  And Paul was always ready to help a believer step into greater light, and therefore greater freedom.

In the cities he traveled to animals would be sacrificed and the meat offered to false gods; idols.  He recommended that those he wrote to not eat such meat in the presence of unbelievers, nor in the presence of believers who thought of it as sin.  However, when you were alone or with believers who were free, “knowing that an idol is nothing,” then eat any meat you desired.

1 Corinthians 10:23-33

23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake; 26 for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.” 27 If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake. 28 But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.” 29 “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? 30 But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? 31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

 He also recognized that some believers still thought God required them to worship according to the Jewish calendar of sabbaths and holy days, as though one day was more holy than another.  He declared that all days are alike; we can worship God anywhere and anytime because the bodies of believers are temples of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy of Holies has now moved to our human spirits.

Colossians 2:16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths.

 Romans 14:5, 6

5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

 Paul also taught that there was no more separation between Jew and Gentile, so Jews and Gentiles could eat together.

Galatians 2:11, 12

11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 There was no more master and slave, so Philomen could set Onesimus free and forgive all his debts, if he so chose.

Philemon 15-18

15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. 17 If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. 18 But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account.

 And there was no more male or female. The Corinthians suggested to Paul that they observe the Greek law forbidding women to speak in meetings. Women had never been allowed to be taught before and did not know how to act in that setting, yet.  The Corinthians wanted to prevent women from interrupting their teachers.  Paul rebutted that suggestion with sharp questions.

1 Corinthians 14:36 (Amplified Bible) What?Did the word of God originate with you [Corinthians], or has it reached only you?

 Paul’s only recommendation that women should be silent was to those in Ephesus who still had the influence of the false goddess Artemis and other cults which taught that women were created first and therefore should rule over men.  Paul instructed Timothy how to handle that situation.

1 Timothy 2:12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.

 As important as these corrections were, Paul was most adamant about silencing those teachers who taught that we still needed to observe the Old Covenant rituals, holy days, festivals and even circumcision to be accepted by God.  This so angered Paul that he said things like, “If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9).

Talk about strong language.  Paul expressed amazement at the Galatians, O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you . . .  2 Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:1, 2).

He equated going back to the Law and its rituals with all efforts of the flesh to earn righteousness before God, which never worked (Acts 15:15).  He likened it to Abraham’s son Ishmael born of Hagar the bondwoman.  Ishmael could not be heir to Abraham, and represented the flesh which remained in bondage to sin.  Isaac was born of the promise to Sarah, the free woman.  Isaac represented freedom in Christ – grace.  Paul declared to the Galatians, So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.” (Galatians 4:31)

 Galatians 5:1-3

1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.

 To go back to circumcision or any other tenet of the Law and all its required rituals negates the finished work of Christ and obligates you to keep all the law – and to do so perfectly.  That is not good news.

THE BRIGHTEST LIGHT

The highest degree of light to live by regarding law is that God has given us new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26) and placed the law within those new hearts so we can speak and live in peace, truth, love and freedom.  Having no law is lawlessness and leads to anarchy.  God has placed His essential elements of law within our new hearts, so they naturally come forth from within us.  “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:340)

 The highest light is not the Ten Commandments.  It is the New Commandments of a New Covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ.

1 John 3:23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.

 John 13:34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

 Trust and love (Galatians 5:6) come forth naturally from new hearts filled with God’s DNA – love (Galatians 5:22, 23).

The Ten Commandments were written on stone and considered to be the ministry of death because every one failed and received the sentence of death which is eternal separation from God (Romans 3:23 & 6:23).

The Royal Law – “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (James 2:8) is a good, holy commandment as are all God’s laws.  But it was and remains an external law exerting pressure upon us with the result of sin from failure and condemnation.  The fear of punishment is not removed.

But a believer, not knowing he has a new heart, is still able to love his neighbor as he loves himself and discover that newborn ability within, until he gets focused on it as a law.  Once that occurs, any perceived failure produces guilt and condemnation.  He judges himself and tries to rectify his failure.  He ends up using the same judgment on others and love gets usurped by the law as he relates to them.

Jesus paid for these failures at the same time He paid the price for all sin.  He cancels all condemnation for those who trust Him.  As we forsake trusting our ability to obey even one commandment, and trust that Jesus fulfilled all the law and the prophets in our place – the grace of God is released in us.  Grace is God’s ability working in us to do what we cannot do in our own strength.

Again, Jesus meets us where we are.  He met Paul on the road to Damascus.  Paul loved his brothers and hated his enemies until he met Jesus.  Once he knew Jesus, he knew real love and wrote 1 Corinthians 13.

1 Corinthians 13:1 (Amplified Bible) If I can speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

 Once he had the Spirit of God within him he wrote to the Galatians.

Galatians 5:22, 23  

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

 If our focus is on the Ten Commandments, though we have Jesus and His love in our hearts, we will relate to Father God out of the Law of Moses.  Every failure will produce fear of punishment.  I know; I lived that way for 20 years after receiving Christ as Savior.

But then Jesus introduced me to Father God, whom I now call Dad, and everything changed.  I no longer read verses like John 14:15 out of a legal mind set.  I read them from a heart knowing the unconditional love of God the Father, the powerful grace of His Son Jesus and loving communion of the Holy Spirit.  I now know that the fact I can obey Jesus at all, is because I do so out of the unconditional love that flows first from Him to me, and then freely back to Him and to others without condition.  Even as I limit access to me and my family to a lawless person, as the Apostles likewise did, I can still pray God’s love upon that person; expecting the truth of Christ to one day lead them into the freedom of God’s love.

It’s interesting that both Paul and James referred to Matthew 22:39 as the highest expression of love to a brother.  Only John, who laid his head on the bosom of Jesus, quoted the words of Jesus in John 13:34 and 15:12.  Once I understood that, I was able to connect the last phrase of 1 John 3:23 with John 13:34.

1 John 3:23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.

 John 13:34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

 

  1. AnnMari’s avatar

    I wanted to write a brief comment but it is impossible. It never stops astonishing me, no matter which one of your teachings I choose to study, it speaks to my present situation. Have been meditating on this teaching since yesterday. There is life to me in it.

    Reply

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