The Antidote for Unbelief

Posted: July 31, 2011 in Christian

As I look deeply into what the Gospel reading is saying today from Matthew chapter 11:16-19, 25-30, I see Jesus introduced to the Jews by John the Baptist. First, they did not like John…they said he was an ascetic, he did not eat nor drink, so therefore, he must have a demon! The Good News, the Gospel, was being preached and taught to crowds of people in and around Galilee. The Kingdom of God was breaking through the hardness of humanity, and those who, like St. John Chrysostom said become violent and take the Kingdom by force, meaning those who have such an earnest desire for Christ and His kingdom allow nothing to stand between themselves and faith in Him. Therefore, like in Luke 7:28, because of the prophet John the Baptist people were repenting of their sins and were baptized by him, looking for the presentation of the Kingdom of God through Jesus the Messiah.

Second, I see the people hearing and seeing what Jesus was doing as the rule and reign of our God poured all over humanity; Jesus says, “anyone who has ears should listen.” “Listen to what?” The self-righteous ones say, “Look, Jesus is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” This is NOT the king we are looking for! Jesus tells them that their unrepentant and unbelieving hearts will lead them to intolerable judgment, far worse than how God judged Sodom.

These people were offended with John the Baptist and Jesus. The Greek word used here is “skandalidzo” which means to entrap, trip up, stumble, entice to sin, apostasy, or displeasure, and to make offend. It is the root for our word “scandal.”  John the Baptist and Jesus were a scandalous to the Jews.  Jesus said they are like “a reed swaying in the wind” which is someone who lacks conviction and is easily swayed by public opinion. He mentions them as “those who wear soft clothes” which are people who allow themselves to be bought off by another to gain favor.

I see our present generation likened to the generation Jesus looked upon, as an unresponsive generation. Today, I want to warn you about unbelief. Today, I want to share with you the antidote to unbelief.

What is unbelief?

Unbelief comes from three sources, our propensity to sin, disobedience, and the devil.  Unfortunately, we are born with a life apart from God. We have natural abilities and emotions.  We are able to love and hate.  We are capable of compassion, and on the other hand, we are capable of ruthlessness.  Yet, the spirit is dead.  There is a void in our lives.  For a Christian, a person regenerated by the Holy Spirit, as a new creation in Christ Jesus, has the Spirit of God living within them.  God is in the Christian to empower him to live a Christ-like life and to be a witness to the joy that is within him.  When a Christian does not live out his faith, he is disobedient.  The devil has a stronghold on those without Christ.  The opposite of that is that the devil attempts to obtain a stronghold on those in Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us what happens to a Christian or a non-believer without faith, “whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”  The point is that people choose not to believe the Gospel.  When people do not believe, the devil blinds their minds to the light of the Gospel.

Therefore, all Christians have the gift of faith.  The issue for Christian’s is whether they are building upon that faith or not.  Let me illustrate. If you have a car, and want to use it, but refuse to put gas in it, it will not run.  Unbelievably, Christian’s unfortunately can become blinded.  How?  By disobedience, not believing God and taking Him at His Word. What is unbelief? The nature of unbelief is disobedience.  Hebrews 3:12 exclaims, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.”  Within us, for whatever reason or circumstance, our heart can become unbelieving.  There is an example of this possibility in the Gospel of Mark 9:23-24.  It begins with a man’s child being healed by our Lord Jesus Christ of demon possession.  The father actually saw Jesus rebuke and cast the demon from the child.  Even by seeing the miracle, he needed more validation to that miracle.  That is an unbelieving heart!  The Word testifies, “Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”  Therefore, you can be a Christian and still be plagued by unbelief.  Is unbelief wrong?  Yes, God considers it sin.

Christians can struggle with doubt, which I believe, can lead to unbelief.  Yet, if you have doubt, it does not mean that you are sinful.  Let me explain.  What happens is that Christians fail to recognize that doubt is not from God or that its origin may be from another source and not from our regenerated spirit.  Doubt comes in many forms.  Doubt comes from sinning, from the devil, or another outside source.  Whatever the reason may be, Hebrews 11:6 warns, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”  “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” Corinthians 16:13.  God wants us to gather our strength from Him and not give up!  We must sincerely believe God!

How Can I Detect Unbelief In My Life?

Stop.  Take an inventory of your thoughts. Recognize those thoughts that come to mind which are not from God.  You know God does not make you think evil of someone. God does not make you think lustful thoughts.  God does not encourage doubt.  He gives faith, hope, and love.  2 Corinthians 10:5 encourages us to, “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”  Saint Paul, in his Epistle to the Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

Listen.  Proverbs 30:5 states, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.”  Listen to God speak to you in your spirit when you pray, read the Word of God, or hear the Word of God preached or taught.  What is God saying to you today?  Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Listen to God’s guidance and He will lead you through the darkest of times.  Listening to the direction of God’s Word will keep you from stumbling.

What is the Outcome of Continued Unbelief?

The Gospel of John 3:36 promises that, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  The original Greek word translated as “does not believe” in the Greek is “disbelieves” which means to “refuse” or “withhold belief”.  It speaks of those who reject the Gospel.  It is contrasted to those “who believe” at the beginning of the verse.  Unbelief means to reject the Son or to disobey Him.  God wants us to be obedient in our faith.  The Gospel comes to us as a gift, but once we accept that gift, it does not leave us to be free to do as we please.  It requires obedience in that we enter into the way of salvation and the righteousness God has planned for us.  God soberly reminds us of the consequences of continued unbelief in the Holy Scriptures.

Galatians 5:4 exhorts, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”  Saint Paul admonishes the Hebrews in 12:15, “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”  In the Church, unbelief can spread like a wild fire!  Do not be an arsonist of unbelief!

How Do I Eliminate Unbelief?

First, follow Jesus as the Leader and Perfecter of Faith.  Hebrews 12:2 teaches, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  It must be noted that in the original Greek text the word “our” is not there, but implied.  Because of the word existing in some translations, the true meaning of this verse has eluded us.  The correct rendering of this part of the verse should read “the leader and perfecter of faith.”  The word “finisher” comes from the Greek word “teleiotes”, which means in the context of this teaching that Jesus Christ in His own person elevated faith to its perfection and has set before us the highest example of faith.  This verse tells us that Jesus was the originator of how to use faith.  He perfected the use of faith.  Jesus had faith!  He is the Leader or Originator of faith.  He was truly man, and yet truly God.  It was Jesus the true man that used His faith.  It was Jesus, who in the pre-eminence of His faith far surpassed the examples of faith commemorated in Hebrews chapter eleven.  Hold on securely to the faith of Jesus (i.e., the Jesus kind of faith); the kind of faith that can move mountains!  You too, have mountain moving faith!  Let us be exhorted by the words of Revelation 14:12 which says, “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”

Secondly, determine to follow Jesus in the obedience of faith.  1 Samuel 15:22 reads, “…to obey is better than sacrifice.” (NIV)  Our Lord told the apostles before He ascended into heaven that they should go and preach the Gospel to every nation, make disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey all that He taught.  Why?  The process of discipleship is wrought in the believer through the teaching of faith.  Allow me to illustrate this by saying that we are taught from infancy that fire will burn and hurt us.  However, for some reason, we do not take our parents word to heart, we put our finger into the flame, and “ouch!” we believe our parents after that!  Now, God is our Heavenly Parent.  When He tells us something from His Word, we should believe it!  If He says to us that we are His sons, daughters, and heirs to His eternal inheritance, then we are!  We have access to all the provision, power, and authority that God has in Jesus Christ.  Just as He said as Creator, “Let there be light.”  It was so!  There is more to faith than a roll of a dice – it is not chance or luck, it is our trust in, and reliance upon God Almighty.  Faith is a gift from God.  Even if you feel your faith is the smallest, like the size of a mustard seed, you still have enough faith to move a mountain.  Obey God by using your faith.

Saint Paul’s epistle to the Romans 1:5 proclaims, “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.”  Romans 16:26 confirms, “But now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith.”  God rewards those who place their trust in Him.  Belief in God is obeying God.

Third, do you know our Lord Jesus Christ? Does our Lord know you? Do you know who you are in Jesus Christ?  My point is, know your Christian identity.  Most of us know who we are.  We know our family history through our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. We know where we were born.  We know what we do on our jobs.  Search God’s Word. Now, ask yourself two questions. First, do I know who I am in Christ?  Second, do I know who I am in the Kingdom of God?

Fourth, understand the challenge of faith.  1 Timothy 6:12 states “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”   Hebrews 12:1 gives affirmation, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  Our life can sometimes be a struggle.  People of faith never quit when the clouds of darkness descend upon them.  People of faith should be up for the challenges of life when contesting for the faith.  The ultimate “prize” people of faith to contend for is eternal life.  People of faith run a lifelong race contesting the faith.  The challenge of faith should be run with endurance and perseverance.  People of faith have a part in their personal holiness by throwing off anything that may hinder them, and any sinful behavior that would keep them from winning the prize.  The challenge of faith is clearly marked like an airport’s runway lights shining brightly at night.  The contest is a race; therefore, take the baton of faith and run the race to win.  We are all winners in Jesus Christ!

Jesus issues an invitation, an invitation to rest from dead religious works. Jesus wants to give us rest. Work makes us weary and it is burdensome. Listen to John 6:28-29, Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God that you believe in Him Whom He has sent.” To believe is our labor, our work.

Jesus tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. This is where weariness becomes easy and that heavy burden becomes light. Jesus says that by taking up His yoke, we can come to a full knowledge of God through Jesus Christ Who is gentle and humble in heart. Why is it so important, to learn from Christ Jesus? The Law was a tireless taskmaster. The religious legalism imposed by the scribes and Pharisees with its list of proscriptions had become a crushing burden to the Jews.

Most importantly herein lays our rest. We rest in Christ because His yoke is the wisdom we attain by the power of God Who works in us. This yoke of discipleship is not heavy, but rather brings rest through a committed faith. Yes, the Christian life may seem burdensome, but the reward of faithfulness on our part, is infinitely greater than any effort we put forth.

In closing, even though Jesus was both truly God and truly man He always prayed, believing.  He always spoke God’s Word, believing.  He believed, knew and understood the purpose and will of God for His life.

Therefore, let us follow closely the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose committed obedience and faith are to be the encouragement and strength to walk the path that has been set before us.

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