23 I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.24 I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.— Mark 11:23, 24 NLT
These are two well-known and often quoted verses from the Bible. Of course, we know the basic principle of God answering prayer is true. But, can we just randomly pick a mountain, ask God to cast it into the sea and watch it immediately happen? Of course not. We might not like the mountain where it is but there might be a million other people who love it and perhaps even God Himself might like the mountain where it is. If God has told us to pray that prayer about a specific problem, then that mountain will be moved. But the important thing for us to notice and remember with these two verses is the fact that they are the meat between two slices of bread. We can’t just have the meat, we have to eat the whole sandwich. Look at the principle in verse 22:
22 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God.” There is a requirement that God has laid out for us before we ask Him to move the mountain. And then verse 25 gives us another requirement that we must fulfill before we ask God for anything:
25 But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. And there are some veggies that need to be eaten as well, Have we determined that what we are asking for aligns with all the Scriptures, not just our favorite ones? If we have met the requirements for God to answer our prayer — believing (being completely convinced that it will happen), forgiveness and alignment with His will, then the mountain will move.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
8 God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith.
The believers of the sect of the Pharisees wanted to require that all of the new believers who had not been circumcised must do so. Peter stated that that was a requirement under the law and the law had been too heavy a burden for the Jews to bear. So, he asked, knowing this, why would you lay this same unbearable burden on the new believers? Throughout the history of the church, there have always been those who wanted to add requirements to God’s simple plan of salvation. God says that “we are saved by grace through faith” There is nothing else that is acceptable in His sight. Nothing less and nothing more. That’s it. When the thief on the cross asked Jesus to remember him, Jesus assured him that they would be together in paradise. Nothing less, nothing more. That is the key that unlocks the gates to heaven. Once that step is taken, there are things that need to be done to enjoy the abundant life that Jesus said He brought to us. Those things do not add to the salvation plan, they just make for a more purposeful, abundant lifestyle here on earth and more rewards when you get to heaven.
6 Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. 7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?—1 Cor. 4:6-7 NASB
”Do not go beyond what is written” is an excellent admonition for us today as well. God is omnipotent and doesn’t need anyone to add anything to His written word. In fact, He warns us against doing just that. 18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book;–Rev. 22:18 NASB
God also warns us against adding any other requirement for receiving salvation. 10 Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”—Acts 15:10, 11 NASB
These instructions are so all of us will be preaching and teaching the same message. The message is that when Jesus died for our sins and said “it is finished”, there wasn’t and still isn’t anything else needed. We are all the same in that we were all born in sin and need a Savior. We received salvation by grace through faith, not by anything we did or could do. Since all we did was receive a gift, what reason could we possibly have for boasting?
17 I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near—a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the borderlands of Moab,
and the territory of all the Shethites. Numbers 24:17 (NRSV)
This would have been a strange prophecy for the Israelites to hear. This was a conformation of the prophecy in Gen 49:10 that the scepter would never depart from between Judah’s feet. All priests were to be of the tribe of Levi and Jacob was of the tribe of Judah. How could a priest rise out of the tribe of Judah? But God had a plan that would not violate the laws that He had handed down. When the scepter rose out of Israel, there would be a change in the way people were to worship God. This is explained further in Hebrews. 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13 Now the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 It is even more obvious when another priest arises, resembling Melchizedek, 16 one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life.–Hebrews 7:12-15 (NRSV)
So, we see that while the priesthood of the Levites was established by the law, the priesthood of Jesus was established through the power of an indestructible life that could only be from the Creator. It was decided before the earth was formed. Jesus would be the final and perfect blood sacrifice for all the sin of the world. He was not, can not, and will not be destroyed or defeated. What Adam gave up in Eden, Jesus took back with His death and resurrection.
Now, we celebrate His birth, but that truly was just the beginning.