Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Folly of Unbelief: Detriment

When faced with the rejection of His hometown folks, Mark records these words of Jesus: “A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” Then Mark adds this commentary: “And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed [them]. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.”

There are two incredible expressions uttered in those verses:
1. “Could there do no mighty work”
2. “He marveled because of their unbelief”

Let’s be clear about the first one. He could do no miracles because he would not. Christ determined to do no miracles, but He was not powerless to do miracles. Omnipotence is not omnipotent if it is bound by anything but its own will. It was not physically impossible, but it would have been morally and spiritually inconsistent for Christ to do many mighty works in that place of unbelief. Where the Kingdom of God is rejected it is inappropriate for the King to share its new life and joy.

Jesus was amazed at their unbelief. There are only two recorded incidents in the Gospels wherein Jesus is said to have “marveled”. Christ was amazed at the faith of the Centurion of Luke 7:1-10, and He was equally amazed by the unbelief of the Nazarenes in Mark 6:1-6. How marvelous it is to amaze Jesus with the extent of your faith, but how terrifying it is to amaze Him with your unbelief. Sinclair Ferguson writes:
The people of Nazareth enjoyed so many advantages. The Son of God had lived among them in childhood. He had preached to them with power. He had carried out some miracles. He had returned to them after an earlier rejection. But they were blind to his identity, deaf to his message, and hardened their hearts against him. Mark does not record any further visits to Nazareth. Perhaps there were none. Even what they had was taken from them (Mark 4:25). Let us learn from their sad example.
What are the characteristics and consequences of unbelief?

  • Unbelief is not neutral. It’s not a “fine if you do and fine if you don’t” category.
  • Unbelief is folly. It blurs the obvious, builds-up the irrelevant, blocks the supernatural, and blinds one from the truth.
  • Unbelief is the oldest of mankind’s sins. It began in the Garden of Eden when Eve failed to believe God when He said “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” Instead of believing God she believed Satan who said, “You shall not surely die.”
  • Unbelief bears the worst consequences of any sin. Unbelief brought death into the world, kept Israel in the Wilderness for 40 years, caused Christ to limit His mighty works in Nazareth, and it will condemn you to an eternity in Hell apart from Christ; an eternity of punishment. According to the Apostle John whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
  • Unbelief is the most common of sins.
Not only are those who are openly hostile or indifferent to the Gospel guilty of unbelief, but there are many who profess to be Christians but in practice they are unbelievers. JC Ryle wrote:
The root of unbelief is never entirely destroyed. We have only to leave off watching and praying and a rank crop of unbelief will soon spring up.
Unbelief robs churches of their power. You may add new programs. You may be as busy as time will allow; busier even, but without a believing expectancy in Christ and His power, nothing will come of it. The writer of Hebrews provides this warning:
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God (Hebrews 3:12).
He also reminds us of this:
Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (11:6).
Do you believe that the God of the Bible exists, and that He rewards those who seek Him? Christ was amazed by faith and unbelief. What about you amazes Christ?

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