Saturday, October 15, 2011

Doubt, skepticism (a.k.a. unbelief)

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 22:15-33

TO CHEW ON: "Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk .... But Jesus perceived their wickedness and said, 'Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?'" Matthew 22:15,18

What "wickedness" was Jesus referring to here? What was the root of the Pharisees' sin in their plot against Jesus?

On the surface, their henchmen were pleasant enough—deferential and flattering. "Teacher, we know that You are true and teach the way of God in truth," they fawned.

Of course if they and their sponsors knew such a thing, they certainly hoped their knowing would be proved wrong by how Jesus would trip Himself up with His own words, perhaps even say something that would incite the Romans to arrest Him. So one sin they were guilty of was what Jesus named, hypocrisy.

However, I believe their hypocrisy grow out of a more serious sin—unbelief (little or no trust, skepticism).

The Bible is full of unbelievers:
  • Abraham was one when he doubted God's promise of a son - Genesis 17:17.
  • Moses was one when he doubted God could feed the people the meat He had promised - Numbers 11:21.
  • The disciples proved themselves unbelievers when they couldn't exorcise a particularly difficult demon - Matthew 17:19-20.
  • Israel's religious leaders  (the chief priests, elders, scribes, and Pharisees) showed themselves unbelievers on many occasions - Matthew 21:32, Luke 22:67, John 3:11, John 12:37.

The consequence of unbelief was serious:
  • It kept Moses and Aaron from entering Canaan with the people - Numbers 20:12.
  • It silenced Zacharias throughout Elizabeth's pregnancy - Luke 1:20.
  • It hindered Jesus from doing more miracles - Matthew 13:58.
  • It was the root of Judas' betrayal - John 6:64.

However, unbelief is not a sin only Bible characters committed. Jesus' warnings against unbelief echo down the years to us today. Because unbelief is the sin that will finally condemn us to an eternity without God:

"He who believes in the Son has ever lasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" - John 3:36 (see also John 3:18, 8:24, 16:8-9).

I ask you, have you made that initial decision to believe in Jesus? (Jesus called it being "born again." Check here for a longer explanation of what that means.)

I ask myself, do I as a believer in Jesus live a life characterized by belief or unbelief? What about you?

PRAYER: Dear God, unbelief is serious. Please grow my faith in You deeper and stronger. I say with the man who came to Jesus: "Lord I believe, help my unbelief." Amen.

MORE: Unbelief—"the A1 sin"
"Is it not a sin for a creature to doubt the word of its Maker? Is it not a crime and an insult to the Divinity, for me, an atom, a particle of dust, to dare to deny his words? Is it not the very summit of arrogance and extremity of pride for a son of Adam to say, even in his heart, "God I doubt thy grace; God I doubt thy love; God I doubt thy power?" Oh! sirs believe me, could ye roll all sins into one mass,--could you take murder, and blasphemy, and lust, adultery, and fornication, and everything that is vile and unite them all into one vast globe of black corruption, they would not equal even then the sin of unbelief. This is the monarch sin, the quintessence of guilt; the mixture of the venom of all crimes; the dregs of the wine of Gomorrah; it is the A1 sin, the master-piece of Satan, the chief work of the devil."
~Charles Spurgeon~

(From this post on The Old Guys blog that features a daily quote by now-dead saints.)

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