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Unbelief: Big Barrier 2 Healing, Faith & Love

Unbelief: Big Barrier 2 Healing, Faith & Love
Unbelief is not to take God at His word, not to rely on His promises. It is not that you cannot believe but rather you will not believe.

Unbelief is one step away from an unforgivable sin. It is not doubt, which we all have, but a refusal to believe. It has a long history in the Bible, from beginning to end, and is still with us today. It stands in the way of salvation.

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Unbelief: Big Barrier 2 Healing, Faith & Love

“They could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19)

Believing is a big deal in the Bible, especially for Christians.

The most important theology we have is in John 3:16 where Jesus* tells us that whoever believes in Him has eternal life. He also tells us that those who do not believe will be damned in Mark 16:16

*after a name means there is a short bio of this person in my book, Spiritual Lives.

Jesus uses the word to mean trust and expect good. It is a word of power and healing. It is a command: Be not afraid, only believe. Mark 5:16

It is the essential element of faith and activating power that releases the grace that saves us.

Unbelief is its opposite and a great barrier to receiving God’s healing, faith, and love.

We see it in Genesis, first when Adam and Eve took the serpent’s word over God’s, and second when Cain murders his brother. In the first situation, the sinners were tricked into doubting God’s word by the devil, but they recognized their sin and turned from it meekly accepting His punishment.

In the second, Cain too knew God existed and that He was Almighty, but instead of accepting God’s discipline, he complained about its severity.

This is unbelief, the kind of unbelief the devils have. They know and “tremble” but refuse to acknowledge God as Lord and fight his authority.

Belief is when a person takes God at His word. This is the reasonable thing to do, because God cannot lie and will never mislead anyone.
Unbelief is when a person decides not to take God at His word, not to rely on His promises.
It is not that you cannot believe, but rather you will not believe, for this is a decision you have to make for yourself – to be willing to believe. — Bert Cargill

The most striking example of this in the Old Testament is Pharaoh, who lived through the ten plagues the LORD sent upon Egypt. Pharaoh was brought up believing in the gods of Egypt and thought he himself was descended from them. When Moses* and Aaron* told him the LORD commanded him to let His people go, Pharaoh replied:

Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go. – Exodus 5:2

This is understandable from a human standpoint. It is irrational after seeing the power of God and hearing His call. In Pharaoh’s case, the result was death, not just for himself but for his people

Unbelief is contagious.

As Moses* goes on with his narrative, we see unbelief corrupting the hearts of the children of Israel, the very witnesses of His power against Egypt, and the beneficiaries of His deliverance. More wonderfully still, the LORD gave them the Ten Commandments and spoke audibly to them at Mt. Sinai.

So awed and terrified by God’s presence, they begged Moses* to be a mediator between them and the LORD. When he went up the mountain to do this and spoke with the LORD for 40 days, they forgot them both and created a golden calf and credited it for their deliverance.

Moses* smashed the stone tablets God had given him. The LORD was angry with the Israelites and wanted to destroy them and start over with just Moses, but Moses interceded for them, and God forgave them.

He showered them with manna, bread from heaven, and water from the Rock as He brought them near the Promised Land. But when they doubted Him again and listened to the unbelief of the 10 spies who feared the giants of the land, God swore none of them would enter the Promised Land except Joshua* and Caleb,* the 2 who believed.

This is the basis for our Hebrews text: “They could not enter in because of unbelief.”

Unbelief in the Promised Land

When Joshua and Caleb led the children of these unbelievers, the LORD was active on their behalf and established them as a nation. For the next 450 years, the children of Israel struggled with unbelief and faith under the judges God appointed for them.

They prospered when they believed and were oppressed by the heathen nations when they did not. The LORD then chose kings for them and as these kings honored Him, Israel grew into a strong and prosperous nation. But when Solomon fell into unbelief, God wrested the kingdom from him.

The LORD honored David’s* faithfulness by allowing his line to reign over Judah and Benjamin, but the other 10 tribes he gave to Jeroboam* one of Solomon’s protégés renowned for his building. God chose him via the prophet Ahijah, and so he knew of his destiny.

But when God established his kingdom for him he turned from the LORD and built 2 golden calves for the people to worship. For this, he is called the king “who made Israel sin” 9 times. He and his entire family were wiped out, but his sin continued and every one of his 19 successors walked in unbelief until God sent the Assyrians to destroy the kingdom of Israel in 721 BC, 250 years later.

The unbelief in Israel was especially dark because they had abandoned the Temple's sacrificial system and the Levitical priesthood that taught the worship of the Lord. In Judah, these were in place at first forgotten, later abandoned and finally totally corrupted by setting up idols and idol worship in the temple itself. The LORD sent Jeremiah* to warn and plead with them to repent for 40 years to no avail, and the LORD sent Nebuchadnezzar* to destroy Jerusalem, burn the Temple, and carry the Jews to Babylon.

The story of unbelief in the Old Testament is a tragedy. In the New Testament, unbelief continues and opposes the Salvation God sent in His Son.

Unbelief in the Gospels

We find unbelief on the throne in the person of King Herod, king of the Jews. Matthew tells us how he tried to find the newborn Christ and kill Him, but although he could not find Him the whole Jewish establishment was looking for him.

He showed up 30 later during the ministry of John the Baptist* and began to preach: Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 4:17

John* was His forerunner, baptized Him in the Jordan River, and proclaimed Him as “the Lamb of God” come to take away the sins of the world. He also preached repentance and that the kingdom of heaven was about to open.

Thousands came, were baptized, and believed. Luke tells us that everyone who believed in Jesus had been baptized by John and those who did not were not! Luke 7:29

Among those who did not were about 6,000 Pharisees and Sadducees. These were the ruling elite of Jerusalem and controlled the Temple and the synagogues. At first, their unbelief is not hard to understand, as Jesus was not the Messiah they expected. The way, the truth, and the life He presented were not theirs and they opposed Him.

But they witnessed His miracles and heard His teaching as thousands were fed, healed, and blessed. When He raised Lazarus from the dead, they were convinced the whole world would believe in Him and decided He must be destroyed. John 11:53

The Pharisees carefully planned their plot to kill Him. They even recruited one of His 12 disciples to betray him. Judas Iscariot agreed to betray Him for 30 pieces of silver.

This is the most wicked kind of unbelief, akin to the unbelief of the devil. Indeed, John 13:37 says that when Jesus gave him the bread at the Last Supper, “Satan entered into him.”

This unbelief led Judas to suicide and the Pharisees to annihilation by the Romans. Foolishly, they believed their plans to destroy Jesus worked! Wonderfully, He rose from the grave and inaugurated His everlasting kingdom!

Unbelief in Acts

But the contagion of unbelief continued after Jesus ascended into heaven. The same set of Pharisees who had plotted against Him sought to discredit the public healing of the lame man at the Temple. Learning nothing from their failed attempt to destroy Jesus, they now sought to destroy His disciples.

Another king Herod imprisoned the apostles and had John’s brother James executed under the same unbelief that his grandfather murdered the innocents of Bethlehem. God struck him dead publicly, but Luke tells us, “the word of God continued to spread and grow.”

During the first century, the unbelief of the Jews was the Gospel’s first big barrier. Next was the false religion of the Roman Empire. The New Testament gives a picture of this in the great temple of Diana in Ephesus. There, opposition to the Gospel was fierce and violent, but the power of the word of God was greater and Ephesus and 6 other Asia minor cities became homes to the churches of Revelation.

This pattern continued over the centuries and millennia until unbelief was overcome by faith in much of the world so today Christianity is the world’s largest religion. But while faith has overcome unbelief to lead billions to salvation, it is still a great barrier to healing, faith, and love within the church of Christ.

Unbelief after salvation

The New Testament presents salvation as a beginning. Our goal is not simply to be saved from Hell, but to be like Jesus. St. Peter calls this “to be partakers of the divine nature,” using the precious promises God has given us. We begin by building upon our salvation by adding to our faith:

  • virtue;

  • temperance;

  • patience;

  • godliness;

  • brotherly kindness; and

  • charity.

St. Paul *agrees and realizes that this is impossible without the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians, he tells us to be filled with the Spirit so that we come to really know the love of Christ and “be filled with all the fullness of God.” 3:19

This is the deep meaning of Jesus’ invitation to “come unto Me and rest.” When we come and are filled with His Spirit, we see that what was once impossible for us is now possible. We discover what He meant by “My yoke is easy and my burden light.Matthew 11:30

What a wonderful offer we have, and it is ours if we enter in. Only 2 of the 12 spies Moses* sent into the Promised Land made it. The others did not make it because of unbelief. We have a choice today, many times a day. Jesus is interceding for us to make it. I am joining Him in that prayer for everyone reading this. Be not afraid, Only Believe!

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