Pastor Chuck DeVane
Special to The Sentinel-Record
While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him.
-- John 12:36-37, ESV
John's Gospel is full of light, but shadows linger. For every disciple, there are more Pharisees. For every miracle, there are multitudes who remain unmoved. For every offer of free grace, there is an unyielding majority who remain steadfastly in slavery to sin. It is sad but true; the most common response to the gospel of belief, is unbelief.
Unbelief is the world's worst sin. The kingdom of God is full of adulterers, murderers, liars, and thieves who repented and believed. But there will not be one unbelieving person found in Heaven. Unbelief is so dangerous and damning that it needs to be identified, understood, and avoided at all costs.
The theological term for ordinary unbelief is total depravity. This does not mean we are all bad all the time, for we also bear the image of God and have the capacity for love, kindness, honesty, even sacrifice. But none of those attributes will be a substitute for belief (ref. Hebrews 11:6).
"They did not believe" because they could not believe. The only remedy for ordinary unbelief is the great miracle of saving grace, which produces the gift of faith, which comes through the light of the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Unbelief has yet another sordid side, a face that masks belief but in reality, is every bit as unbelieving as the ordinary. This is cowardly unbelief. It is a mind convinced that the facts of the gospel of Jesus Christ are true. It is a heart conflicted over the presence of pride and the desperate need for grace. But, it lacks the will to take a stand for the Lord Jesus Christ and truly follow Him.
How many of us in our youth, wanting to profess faith in God, have been too fearful of missing out on sex or popularity or otherwise seeking glory for ourselves, so we failed to give glory to God by forsaking all to follow Jesus Christ? How many of us in our adulthood, wanting to make God a priority in our lives, did so, only He became the last priority behind career and money and the pursuit of pleasure? How many of us throughout life have been faced with the choice to trust and obey the Lord Jesus Christ, only to believe in ourselves instead, in whatever makes us happy, glibly choosing self over the Savior? This is not belief, but cowardly unbelief, and again there is no remedy, except God's grace.
You are guilty of godly unbelief if you believe in God, but do not trust and obey the Lord Jesus Christ. The Pharisees and their followers were guilty of godly unbelief. Yet in reality, it is not godly, it is only unbelief.
Jesus makes the argument once again that He and the Heavenly Father are one, and you cannot have one without the other. Any so-called faith without Christ at the center, without allegiance to the commandments of Christ, without affection for the church of Christ, without total faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is no faith at all. It is not godly at all. It is only unbelief.
Ordinary, cowardly, and even ungodly unbelievers can beg for grace and cry out for mercy. God is sovereign; but, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (ref. Romans 10:13).
There are many ills in our present world. COVID-19 plagues the planet. Crime rates are have hit record levels in many American cities. We cannot even seem to pull off an uncontroversial election. But there is a much bigger problem in the world, with much more serious and lasting effects. It is the worst sin in the world, unbelief. It is everywhere and comes in various the styles of the ordinary, cowardly, even godly. No vaccine can cure it, no policeman can stop it, no politician can promise it away. The only cure is grace, alone, through faith, alone, in the Lord Jesus Christ, alone.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. Reach him at 501-525-8339 or [email protected]