The Awful Danger of Unbelief

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When a non-Christian doesn’t believe in God or doesn’t believe in the Word of God, it’s not a great tragedy. Unbelievers don’t believe; it’s what they do best. Their minds are carnal; they are firmly rooted in this world and in the things of this world and have they have no relationship with the spiritual world. Of the carnal mind, the Bible says this:

…the mind of the flesh with its carnal thoughts and purposes is hostile to God, for it does not submit itself to God’s Law; indeed it cannot. (Romans 8:7 AMP)

That’s right. The carnal – worldly – mind is hostile to God. Now, you may wonder: how can your unsaved aunt, who is so kindly and benevolent, be considered hostile to God? It’s because she cannot submit to God’s law – His Word. It’s not just that she doesn’t want to, it’s that it is spiritually impossible for her to do so. That unbelief is actually hostility directed at God. Your unsaved aunt’s carnal mind is toxic to God. She doesn’t believe and, in fact, she cannot believe.

And until she submits her will to the drawing of the Holy Spirit to the point where she commits her life to Christ, she’s lost, without hope, and an enemy to God. She may want the things of God; she may associate with Christians; she may even go to church, but if her mind remains in its state of utter carnality, she has no chance, because she is God’s enemy. She may hear the Gospel and like it. She may sing the hymns and be touched by them. But until her heart is right with God, everything remains wrong.

But if you think converting to Christ ends all problems with a carnal, worldly mind, you’d be wrong. The battle against worldliness never ends. The Devil is always going to try to win you back, and it always starts in your mind. And it always with starts with unbelief; unbelief toward towards God’s Word. It’s a spiritual battle that cannot be won using the things of this world, like simply reasoning or counseling. A spiritual battle is fought and won in the spiritual world, using the weapons of the Holy Spirit.

There is a well-known story in the Old Testament that illustrates how dangerous the carnal mind is and why unbelief in the Christian isn’t just bad form, it can be deadly.

Unbelief measures difficulties by human standards

Nobody has it easy in this life. Nobody. If anybody tells you otherwise, they’re lying about other things, too. We all face problems. Sometimes we may be be facing a huge problem, and at other times we may be assaulted by many small, unrelenting, irritating problems that never seem quit. If you are a Christian, but your mind has stopped functioning in the spiritual realm and reverted back to it’s original carnal state, then you’ll be filled with unbelief. God’s Word will have lost its power and meaning. And whatever those problems may be that you are facing, they will be blown all out of proportion.

The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” (Numbers 13:1, 2 TNIV)

You know the story well. Moses and Israel had left the Egypt and the Lord had led them right to the border of the Promised Land, the land God had given to them. All they had to do was go in and take it. The mission here was a simple one. Moses was to send in a band of men to check it out. It was supposed to be simple. Unbelief made it impossible.

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”

“We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:31, 33 TNIV)

Here we see the terrible power unbelief has and what it can do. If all you know about this story is the record in Numbers, you’ve been missing an important piece of information. It was NEVER God’s idea for Moses to send in the spies. It may sound like it, but it wasn’t.

Then I said to you, “You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us. See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Then all of you came to me and said, “Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.” (Deuteronomy 1:20 – 22 TNIV)

That’s not God talking, it’s Moses. It was never God’s idea to send in the spies. God simply responded to what the people wanted. Sending in the spies showed weakness on their part and was the result of unbelief in the Word of God. They were afraid they wouldn’t be able to take the land, even though God told them He had given it to them! The fact that they felt like they needed to “do things themselves” showed unbelief and a distinct lack of faith. They didn’t believe, they took it upon themselves to do the job in the flesh, and the result was unbridled fear.

When the spies, operating in the flesh, saw the “giants,” they concluded they couldn’t win. The KJV put it this way:

We be not able… (Numbers 13:31 KJV)

That’s the carnal mind talking. The redeemed mind says something very different:

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13 TNIV)

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and do not doubt in your heart but believe that what you say will happen, it will be done for you.” (Mark 11:22, 23 TNIV)

Unbelief contradicts the Word of God

Here’s what the spies said to the all the people of Israel:

And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size.” (Numbers 13:32 TNIV)

But here’s what God said:

So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. (Exodus 3:8 TNIV)

So who are you going to believe? The spies who spoke of a devouring land filled with giants? Or God, who described the land as being “a good and spacious land…flowing with milk and honey?” Well, if you have a carnal mind, then you’ll believe other carnal minds.

It boils down to this: The carnal, worldly mind, always contradicts the Word of God. The carnal mind says things like this: “Of course I believe in the Bible, but…” Yes, “buts” fill the carnal mind. The carnal mind says things like:

“Of course I believe in prayer, but…”

“I know God can heal, but…”

“I know I should go to church, but…”

“I know the Bible says it’s a sin, but…”

“Buts” fill the worldly mind and nullify the Word of God. That’s why entertaining fleeting doubts can lead to permanent unbelief. That’s not only a sin, it’s dangerous.

Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. (1 John 5:10 TNIV)

Do you want to call God a liar? I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes! Not believing His Word is essentially calling Him a liar. That puts you in a precarious position, indeed.

Unbelief hates the gifts of God

In the case of Israel, God had a plan for them. It all started with getting them out of Egypt, where they were enslaved, and into a free land made just for them. Canaan, the Promised Land, was God’s gift to His people. Here’s what they thought of it:

Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe his promise. (Psalm 106:24 TNIV)

When you don’t believe God’s Word, you begin to “despise” His gifts to you. You take His blessings for granted. You complain about them. Unbelief is what kept the people out of the Promised Land more effectively than any enemy ever could.

So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19 TNIV)

Unbelief can literally turn off the spigot of God’s blessings. But there’s more at work here. Canaan Land in the Old Testament is a picture of the “second rest” provided for God’s people. It’s the ultimate, final destination for believers. Unbelief will keep you out!

So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it… (Numbers 14:36 TNIV)

Yes, that’s how you come to regard God’s best for you when you harbor unbelief in your heart.

Unbelief is a source of sin and sorrow

Nothing will make a weak believer miserable quicker than unbelief. When your redeemed mind begins to fall back into its default position of unbelief, you’ll face grief, sadness, unhappiness, and misery in general.

All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt? ” (Numbers 14:2, 3 TNIV)

Unbelief is pessimistic. It’s negative. It sees only the downside. It never sees the possibility of success. Every bad thing in your life – real or imagined – will be blown way out of proportion when you get stuck in the rut of unbelief. Your spouse will never be good enough. Going to work will always be a chore. Even going to church becomes a burden when you lose faith in God’s Word.

This isn’t a kind of positive thinking exercise here. For the Christian, God’s Word is more than a collection of stories. It’s powerful. It changes lives.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 TNIV)

God’s Word cannot be taken lightly. To do so is inviting trouble. It’s an absolute offense to God. The Bible is not a dusty old book. It’s a supernatural book that demands a response from people because God doesn’t tolerate indifference or disobedience.

It’s actually alive. It’s active. That is, it’s effective and it’s powerful. No human being can escape the living, active Word of God. God’s Word brought the universe into being. And Jesus, the living Word is able to recreate a man who is otherwise dead in his sins.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 19 TNIV)

God’s Word is able to cut deep into your heart and soul. It reveals things to yourself about yourself. It separates the lies of your life from the God’s truth in your heart. Nothing in your life remains untouched by the power of God’s Word.

God’s Word is the discenerner of your thoughts and intentions.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. (Psalm 139:1 – 3 TNIV)

At the same time, for one who endeavoring to live a sanctified, righteous life, God’s Word protects and saves. There may be times when God’s Word is the only thing between you and spiritual death.

Unbelief is dangerous. It will hurt you. It may kill you.

“As for those who hear my words but do not keep them, I do not judge them. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for those who reject me and do not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.” (John 12:47, 48 TNIV)

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