Preaching Reason

jesus-with-children-1211I have heard it said, “I don’t like baths, who wants to sit in a tub in dirty water.”  This is one of those statements that sounds right and makes the speaker seem witty.  I think a comedian may have popularized it.  In fact, this statement is inaccurate.  Have you ever rinsed a bowl or plate only to observe that the food waste was too sticky to be rinsed off, so you left it in the sink to soak?  In the same way a bath
soaks into your skin pores to provide a deeper cleansing. Moreover, the more complete warmth relaxes your muscles and provides a longer therapeutic result.  So, what seems witty and true is not and fails the test of true wisdom.  Unfortunately, this type of reasoning is used by some preachers.

In “Walking in the Light”, by Neil Anderson, he writes a chapter on The Life of Faith.  It contains many key scriptures on faith, the words of Yeshua, exhorting us to believe, ask, and expect God to respond to faith.  One example is, “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11: 22-24).  This was Yeshua’s response to the disciples after the fig tree withered at His curse upon it for having no figs.  In this chapter Dr. Anderson follows this with his definition of a miracle.  “A supernatural intervention in the fixed order of the universe for the sole purpose of establishing His kingdom.”  This description would be a miracle, but Yeshua wasn’t telling us to pray for miracles, rather to pray believing.  This chapter was like the bath statement above, full of reasonable cautions, limits, rationalization and presumptive clarification.

Of course God is not our personal wish grantor and the enemy does masquerade in order to deceive, but these are supported by other scriptures. (James 4:3, 1 John 4:1).  Anderson even says moving a mountain would not be a miracle because with enough earth moving equipment this could be accomplished by men.  This may be true today, but it misses the essence of this scripture.  Anderson goes on to say, “Genuine faith is born out of a knowledge of the will of God and exists only to fulfill that will.”  If our faith is based on knowledge how could Yeshua present little children as examples of those who would inherit the Kingdom of God? (Luke 18:16).  We don’t advance in faith by reason and mental exercise.  Knowledge of the Bible is good and should increase our faith, but look at the Pharisees who studied the scripture and knew the scriptures, but did not recognize their Messiah.  “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek Him. ” (Heb. 11:6).  Yeshua replied to the Pharisees, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5: 39-40).

Faith does not need rationalization.  In the story of the fig tree, referenced in Mark 11 above, Yeshua used the fig tree to illustrate faith.  It was not a lesson on food gathering.  I have heard all sorts of explanations and rationalizations to support why Yeshua sought figs from a fig tree in the off-season.  Some preachers feel compelled to explain things with their reason and rationalization.  In this way some have explained away significant portions of Scripture to fit what they reason to be contrary to that which makes sense in their limited rational understanding.  These are false teachers.  However, they may yet be Christian believers, as I am not their judge and we all are very weak, fallible and flawed.  We should test what they say, as my friend liked to say, “Eat the meat and spit out the bones.”

If I were to speculate as to why Yeshua sought figs in the off-season, it would be to illustrate that God is Sovereign.  He demands perfection from a fallible creature, yet who are we to accuse God of being unjust; can the pot say to the Potter, “What have you made?” (Rom. 9: 15-24).  God is the creator and owner of all trees, He can do as He wills. It might also illustrate what the Bible says about the return of Yeshua and the end time harvest. “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” (Matt. 24: 43-44). If we were Jews like the disciples, we might recall that God made Aaron’s staff bud and bear fruit, a miraculous sign. (Numbers 17: 8-10).  He could cause figs to be there.  Perhaps, this was Yeshua’s fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy saying, “I will take away their harvest, declares the Lord.  There will be no grapes on the vine.  There will be no figs on the tree, and their leaves will wither. What I have given them will be taken from them. ” (Jeremiah  8:13).

Hebrews 11 is mentioned very briefly, but it is one of the most encouraging scriptures I know. It lists people great and small who had faith in God, some were triumphant while others were poor and despised, but they all lived lives of faith.  I hear no cautions or limitations or conditions in Yeshua’s exhortations to believe in faith.  May the Lord God Almighty be exalted in our hearts, minds, and souls.

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