Your Most Prized Possession

Children of the Kingdom:

Peace, mercy and grace in abundance to you, from God, the Creator of the universe, and from Jesus-Christ, whom He sent to save the world. I pray that by His grace and mercy, I may write unto you regarding your most prized possession, the one you must cherish and guard even with your own life: The Words that we have all received from our Lord Jesus-Christ.

Matthew 4:4Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

This passage – certainly familiar to many – speaks in no uncertain terms about the necessity of the Words that God has given us. One does not need to agree with, believe in, or even love the fact that one must eat to stay alive, to make it true. It is simply true because our Creator, God made it true. You must eat to sustain yourself, or else you will die.

By the same token, in Matthew 4:4, Jesus declares that we all must feed on every word that God has pronounced or we will die. The Words that God has pronounced give to our Spiritual self, life, just like natural food gives life to our natural self. It is not a matter of preference or choice my friends. It is a matter of truth and principle. It is what it is.

YOU MUST UNDERSTAND THAT THE WORDS OF JESUS ARE THE MOST PRECIOUS THINGS YOU HAVE

The Words that God has given you are your most prized possession. You must protect those words, you must protect what your Spiritual life depends on, at all cost. For rest assured, that it is the One thing the devil seeks to steal – and is often successful at doing – so that you will starve and die.

John 10:10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Jesus came to give us the Words whereby we should live, and the thief (i.e. Satan) has no other purpose than to steal those words and attempt to kill and destroy whatever those words have started to produce in us.

When Jesus gave what is known as the parable of the Sower, he later explained that the Sower [Himself] sows the seed [the Word of God], and that in 3 of the 4 possible outcomes, the Word is either stolen by Satan, forgotten or neglected by the recipient, rendering the Seed completely unfruitful [Mark 4:14-19].

THE FIGHT OF THE APOSTLES FOR THE PEOPLE WAS ABOUT PROTECTING THOSE WORDS THEY HAD RECEIVED

One of the ways we can – in this context – summarize the charge Jesus gave to His Apostles was…“give my sheep these Words and charge them not to lose them at any cost, for it is their livelihood”.

JUDE saw how Satan has now gone full force to steal the Words we have received

Jude 3Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

PETER saw it necessary to do everything possible even until His death to make sure that the people will not forget, but fearlessly protect the Words they were given

2 Peter 1:13-15I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

JOHN is very direct…the one who does not keep those words can’t be in God.

1 john 2: 4,5Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.

And just as direct, PAUL says that keeping those Words is directly linked to our Salvation

1 Corinthians 15:1,2Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

My friends. Do not be ignorant or passive about your lifeline…the Words that Jesus received from God and gave to us. There is someone, by means of countless of agents actively seeking to steal as much as those Words as possible from you.

You must be active. You must be vigilant to guard what you have been given. It is your lifeline. And you must feed, and continually feed on those Words you have been given.

It is not a matter of whether you agree (although I hope you do) with it or not. It is not a matter of fairness or injustice either. It is a matter of life and death. Protect, cherish and eat and you will live. Do not be fools.

Today, the Lord can still be found.

In His name, may you receive these words.

AMEN

Are You Plugged?

Plugged-InYou have heard of the parable of the sower before. It is recorded in Mark 4 and in Matthew 13. We will not copy it here because of its length. But essentially, you have a sower who went out to sow (Mark 4:3). Some seeds fall by the way side (verse 4) and the fowls of the air devour them. Some fall on stony ground (verse 5), then grow immediately because there is no much dirt. However, when the sun comes up, they die quickly. Others fall among thorns (verse 7), but they are chocked by them when those thorns grow up. And some fall on good ground (verse 8), and end up yielding fruits in abundance and even superabundance. We shall call them “way side”, “stony ground”, “among thorns” and “good ground”.

Our Lord Jesus explains this parable in Mark 4:14-20. In all four cases, the ground refers to people, the seed is the Word of God, and all four types of people “hear” the Word (verses 15, 16, 18 and 20). However, only two of the four types (“stony ground” and “good ground”) actually “receive” the Word.

This said, a little study of the two verbs “to hear” and “to receive” (or “to accept” depending on the version of your bible) reveals that much of the real meaning of this parable has been lost in most English translations.

It’s about HOW you Hear!

Mark 4: 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

When looking at how the verb “to hear” is conjugated in each of the four cases, we find that only in the case of the good ground (verse 20) is this verb in the “Present Indicative Active”. In other words, this is the only group of people that hear and keep hearing continuously the Word of God! These people are plugged to Christ!

In stark contrast, the same verb is in the “Aorist” tense in all of the first three groups (“way side”, “stony ground” and “among thorns”). This tense means that this action of hearing is not continuous or habitual. The reason for them not producing fruit is because they do not keep on hearing the Word of Christ.

So what about the stony ground? The only other group mentioned as receiving the Word?

Mark 4:16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;

Not only did they “receive” it, but our Lord says that they receive it “immediately” and “with gladness”. But then our Lord says that they “immediately” stumble when tribulation comes because they have no root (verse 17). Ouch! What went wrong?

It’s about HOW you Receive!

Are you plugged2See, we already established that the first problem with all the groups except good ground is that they do not make it a habit to hear the Word. In the worst case, they hear it one time and that is it. But now focusing on the verb “to receive”, we see that in the case of stony ground (verse 16), the greek verb is lambano, while in the case of good ground it is the greek verb para-dechomai. In a nutshell, these two verbs focus on two “very” different aspects of the reception process.

Lambano emphasizes the manifestation of what has been received while para-dechomai emphasizes the strong and loving acceptance of what has been received. An example of lambano is found in Acts 19, where Paul ends up laying His hand on some people so they may receive (lambano) the Holy Spirit.

Acts 19:2,6  He said unto them, Have ye received (lambano) the Holy Ghost since ye believed?… 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

There was a clear manifestation/evidence of the reception: They spoke with tongues and prophesied. In the case of the stony ground, the manifestation is that they immediately start to speak or preach what they have just been taught. How do we know? Verse 17 says that it is for “the Word’s sake that they face tribulations”. They do not just get tribulations for any reason. They are attacked specifically on their faith. But that faith is weak because they do not continue to hear! They are batteries and they run out, they are not plugs!

Para-dechomai is actually a stronger form of the verb “decomai” and it is used only 6 times in the New Testament. One of the other five is this great record in Hebrews.

Hebrews 12:6 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 (para-dechomai).

Can you sense the intense love God has for us? How He receives us? And by the way, this is also in the present tense, meaning, the Lord continually receives us! Wow!! Want to talk about being accepted by Him? Here you have it!

So what’s the deal here? “Good ground” hears and keeps on hearing the Word. As a result, he starts to accept and receive this Word, becoming one with it, loving it, making it his very own. He cannot get enough of it! So he never forgets that he needs to stay plugged, and as a result, he produces fruits in the most natural of ways, and even in great abundance. Stony ground hears it once, gets extremely excited. Heck, it seems to be the most excited of all! But then he takes the little he received and runs with it. What a pity! Why do you leave? You are battery on your own, and soon after, you are out of juice!

What is the takeaway? Stay plugged! Keep on hearing! Let’s not focus on what we can do, like stony ground did. The Word calls that our works. Instead, let’s focus on being close to Him, simply listening to Him, day in and day out (2 Timothy 1:9). Bearing fruits is not about exerting effort of our own, but about letting His Word dwell in us richly! He who drinks from Him (i.e. He who hears Him) will never thirst and out of him will flow rivers of living waters (John 7: 37, 38 – you want to talk about producing fruits?!).  

Really, a faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain? That’s what Matthew 17:20 seems to say! (Part 7 of 7)

Peak-Of-The-Matterhorn-MountainWe have an invitation from God

The truth probably is…your faith is larger than a mustard seed, Thank Goodness! No matter where, your diligence to follow God has not been in vain…but God is also inviting you to continue in your growth!

Matthew 17:20 (NIV) – He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

In this series we argue that the answer to the question in the title of this article is NO! You may click here to read Part 6.

This series provided some arguments as to why Matthew 17:20 makes reference to the magnificent faith the mustard seed has, rather than to its smallish size. To move a mountain, one must have a strong faith, and God says it plainly. That kind of faith is completely devoid of doubt. The words small, or size (depending on the Bible translation) were added in the NIV and NASB versions of the Bible respectively. And it was argued in this series that these additions cause Jesus-Christ to contradict Himself right there in this verse, as well as elsewhere in His other teachings. The teachings from the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians confirms that moving mountains requires the greatest of faith, not the smallest. Many examples in the Bible – among whom Abraham’s belief for a son – clearly speak of people who had strong faith. These examples certainly sound like that the faith these men and women displayed were larger than a mustard seed. It was then argued that the implication of this erroneous teaching could be devastating.

The fact is that God does invite us to build a faith that is whole, complete, a completely free of doubt! The very fact that some can pray and believe today without a doubt for some situations is proof that those individuals have at least some faith. Also, today some are able to believe without a doubt for bigger things than the they did in the previous year. This is indication that their faith has grown! Our faith grows after each victory, and our faith grows when we spend time with God, because by doing such we get acquainted to His will and His abilities.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 – We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

God is encouraging us to continue building our faith, by telling us what kind of miraculous feat we can achieve with it! Let’s strive to believe what God says, and nothing but what He says. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, so let’s ask God to tell us where we can hear His Word. He will answer us!

Your faith is larger than a mustard seed. But believe God to bring your faith to much greater heights, so that you can remove mountains!

Really, a faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain? That’s what Matthew 17:20 seems to say! (Part 6 of 7)

mountain_peak_at_sunset-wideMatthew 17:20 (NIV) – He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

In this series we argue that the answer to the question in the title of this article is NO! You may click here to read the fifth argument.

The takeaway:  Jesus-Christ’s statement in Matthew 17:20 is about how powerful we can be, not how weak we are!

Adding either of the two words, small or size to Jesus-Christ’s statement in Matthew 17:20, completely falsifies the Word of God. It does so by shifting our attention away from the kind of faith the mustard seed possesses, and placing it instead on the size of the mustard seed. By shifting our attention to the size of the mustard seed, Jesus-Christ is made to say that all we need in life to overcome even the biggest of challenges is nothing but the smallest of faith.  What a LIE! How many lives has this lie destroyed? Every day, many people face challenges they are unable to overcome. Yet they pray, and continue to pray! They give and continue to give. They attend church and speak to their pastors. But what they are being told instead is that they do not even have the smallest of faith, because if they did, the challenge would have already vanished away. How discouraging must it be to live with the thought that despite your best effort to please God, in His eyes, you are still faithless! Is that the God we know and love?

The TRUTH is that Jesus-Christ is teaching us about what we can achieve when we do not pay attention to the circumstances, and when we do not pay attention to our “apparent” shortcomings. The mustard seed may be small, but the mustard seed does not let its size dictate what it will achieve. The mustard seed has learned to believe without doubting, and as a result is able to achieve the unimaginable. Only with such kind of faith can the mustard seed develop into something as a great as a mustard tree. Jesus-Christ is telling us “Look, learn to trust in me. Do not let your “apparent” weaknesses fool you. With me, you can achieve the greatest of things, but you have to believe!” Look at Abraham:

Romans 4: 19-21 – And being not weak in faith, he [Abraham] considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

How can one describe a faith that is a small as mustard seed strong? That kind of faith is weak! Abraham was not weak in faith. Abraham had to be strong in faith, fully persuaded. Abraham was not worried even though he was already an hundred years old. Abraham had learned to trust God. That is the kind of faith Abraham had to build to see the promise come to pass in his life.

God is not here to condemn us, telling us that our faith is even smaller than a mustard seed. No, He is here to encourage us, telling us how far we can go. Now, that is motivation to grow our faith!

Really, a faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain? That’s what Matthew 17:20 seems to say! (Part 5 of 7)

500px-HIGHROCKMatthew 17:20 (NIV) – He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

In this series we argue that the answer to the question in the title of this article is NO! You may click here to read the fourth argument.

Argument 5: The faith which removes mountains is described as “all faith by the Apostle Paul

Another argument can be made from one of the teachings of the Apostle Paul, where he describes the kind of faith that is required to remove mountains:

1 Corinthians 13:2 – And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

The Apostle Paul describes this kind of faith as all faith, or faith in its whole, complete form. Bringing together Jesus-Christ’s statement in Mark, and Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians, we see that the kind of faith required to move mountains, is devoid of doubt and is complete! This is quite different from a faith that is as small as a grain of mustard seed which – in contrast – would be riddled with doubt, and would certainly be incomplete!

Let’s face it. The reality is that moving a mountain is great, challenging feat. And rightfully so, it requires a sizeable amount of faith. It simply goes again logic to believe that the tiniest of faith (which, frankly is probably not too hard to have) is sufficient to overcome the biggest of challenges. To represent such faith as small as the size of a mustard seed is to twist the truth, and we believe, grossly misleading!

There truly is a great message Christ is giving us here, but it is certainly not the one that some of the bible translations such as the NIV and NASB are implying.  All that was needed to change the meaning of Matthew 17:20 was adding a little, seemingly innocent – and dare we say…appealing – word (small or size). As will be argued in the concluding parts of this series, this is a case of private interpretation gone seriously wrong.  


Really, a faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain? That’s what Matthew 17:20 seems to say! (Part 4 of 7)

Peak-Of-The-Matterhorn-MountainMatthew 17:20 (NIV) – He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

In this series we argue that the answer to the question in the title of this article is NO! You may click here to read the third argument.

Argument 4: This is what Jesus-Christ taught: the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, but has the greatest of faith!

There are three other places where Jesus-Christ uses the mustard seed to illustrate a point. There, He uses it to describe the kingdom of heaven. Those references give us a clear understanding as to why the mustard seed is such a great example of the power of faith.

Matthew 13: 31, 32 (KJV) – Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

Mark 4: 30-32 (KJV) – And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.

Luke 13: 18-20 (KJV) – Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it…

These three records shed lights on what Jesus-Christ is bringing our attention to whenever He speaks of the mustard seed: The mustard seed, despite being the smallest of all seeds turns into the greatest of herbs, even to the point of becoming a tree. When these passages are taken together with Matthew 17: 20, Mark 11: 22-24 and Luke 17: 6 discussed in the previous articles on this series, it is clear that it is the faith of that seed, not the size of that seed which enables it to accomplish such a great feat. The mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, has the greatest faith among all seeds.

Matthew 17:20 is not about a faith the size of a mustard seed (which is “very” small), but a faith like the one of the mustard seed (which is “very” great).

Really, a faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain? That’s what Matthew 17:20 seems to say! (Part 3 of 7)

mountain_peak_at_sunset-wideArgument 3: Adding the words “small” or “size” to Matthew 17:20 causes Jesus-Christ to contradict himself in his teachings elsewhere.

Mark 11:22-24 – And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

Matthew 17:20 (NIV) – He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

In this series we argue that the answer to the question in the title of this article is NO! You may click here to read the second argument.

In Mark 11, Jesus-Christ describes again the power of faith as the power to move mountains. However, here we find an additional important peace of information: The person shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass. In other words, the faith required to move mountain is the one in which the man does not doubt. How is this kind of faith, one that is completely devoid of doubt, be the size of a grain of mustard seed? If indeed that faith is only as big as a grain of mustard seed, what kind of things would we be able to do with say, a faith the size of a watermelon? May be fly? Move the sun 50 degrees to the right in the morning and 23.5 degrees to the left in the afternoon? Breathe like a fish and stay under water for months at a time? To move a mountain certainly sounds like the biggest challenge one can ever have, so why would anyone ever wants to strive for a larger faith?

Jesus-Christ cannot be contradicting Himself. When He said…faith as a grain of mustard seed to move a mountain, that is what He meant. And when He said that one should not doubt in order to move a mountain, that is what He meant. The faith of a mustard seed is one that does not doubt.

Really, a faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain? That’s what Matthew 17:20 seems to say! (Part 2 of 7)

500px-HIGHROCKMatthew 17:20 (NIV) – He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

In this series we argue that the answer to the question in the title of this article is NO! You may click here to read the first argument.

Argument 2:  Adding the words “small” or “size” to Matthew 17:20 causes Jesus-Christ to contradict himself right here in this very verse

The KJV, NIV and NASB all agree with the Greek texts when it comes to how Jesus-Christ describes whom He is speaking to: He saw them as people of little faith. The Greek word translated unbelief (KJV), little faith (NIV) or littleness of your faith (NASB) is the word oligópistos, formed from olígos, meaning “little in number or low in quantity” and pístis, meaning “faith”.

Jesus-Christ is describing these people as people of little faith, not people of no faith. Furthermore, Matthew 17: 16, 19 tell us that these were disciples of Jesus-Christ.

Matthew 17: 16 and 19 – “…I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”…Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

As disciples, followers of His teachings, these people must have had some faith. This is also evident by the fact that they were surprised that they were not able to cast the demon out (Matthew 17:19). They must have had some faith if they thought they could cast a demon! May be because they had done it before…?

Therefore, if Jesus-Christ acknowledges that his disciples had some faith (although little), how can He at the same time imply they had no faith (their faith is not even the size of a mustard seed, which is sufficient to move even mountains)? This certainly appears like the kind of contradictory statement that would leave anyone scratching his or her head!

We believe that Jesus-Christ implied just that – that their faith was insufficient. But He certainly did not mean to say that their faith was smaller than even the tiniest of seeds…which would mean non-existent.

Really, a faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain? That’s what Matthew 17:20 seems to say! (Part 1 of 7)

mountain_peak_at_sunset-wideMatthew 17:20 – He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” [New International Version (NIV)]

It can be argued that this statement made by Jesus-Christ is one of, if not, the greatest statement ever made about faith. With it, we can move mountains! That is certainly some power that God has placed at our disposal. The issue at hand however is on the kind of faith that can help us move mountains. Is it really a faith as small as a mustard seed? The short answer to this question is NO! The next few articles will be dedicated to this topic.

Argument 1: It is a matter of Bible translations, and here…it really matters!

Here is the same verse in two other popular Bible translations: The King James Version (KJV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Matthew 17:20 (KJV) – And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

Matthew 17:20 (NASB) – And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.

It is clear that while the NIV and NASB make explicit reference to the size of the mustard seed, which is very, very small, the KJV does not. However, what is very interesting is that in the Greek texts, neither the word size nor the word small appears in this verse. In other words, the NIV and NASB added these words, while the KJV left this verse intact. Another example is in Luke 17:6, where Jesus-Christ gives another teaching that is very similar to the one in Matthew.

Luke 17:6 (KJV) – And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

Again, in this verse, the NIV added the word small (“…If you have faith as small as a mustard seed…”). However – and interestingly – the NASB did not add the word size as it did in Matthew (“…If you had faith like a mustard seed…”). Why such inconsistency in the NASB, especially since the teachings of Jesus-Christ in Matthew 17 and here in Luke 17 are essentially the same?

The important question is therefore whether the three versions (KJV, NIV, and NASB) are essentially saying the same thing. The short is answer is NO! As will be argued, adding either size or small changes entirely the message of Jesus-Christ.

It is a good idea to have several Bible versions and compare them as often as possible to detect any potential error in translation.