Janet L. Smith ©gardenministries.org July 5, 2016 (updated 11-11-22)
Unbelief is when a human actively chooses to stray from the Truth by believing lies. God is continually reaching out to humanity through His written and spoken word(s) and with believable actions that effectively back up what He says in His Word. Our gracious and loving God is not willing that any human being should perish but that all human beings come to the saving knowledge of God’s gracious provision for salvation through Jesus Christ.
But all humanity must choose whether or not they will respond to what God has said and done on their behalf. Refusing to respond may appear to be neutral but it is not. The choice to ignore the Truth is the choice to reject God’s loving provisions for forgiveness, salvation, and transformation. Ignoring God is unbelief in God. This applies to Christians and non-Christians alike. Christians and non-Christians can choose to stop or never start responding to God.
Ephesians 4:17-25 CSB Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their thoughts. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. 19 They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more. 20 But that is not how you came to know Christ, 21 assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, 23 to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth. 25 Therefore, putting away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another.
As the “god of this world,” Satan and his dark workings capitalize upon humanity’s refusal to respond to God’s truth and blinds the minds of those who do not believe (2 Cor. 4:4). This blinding occurs to Christians and non-Christians alike. A Christian who remains in their unbelief and refuses to respond to God’s great invitations for transformation is one who holds to a “form of godliness” but denys the Holy Spirit’s push to be transformed into the image of God through faith and active loving obedience. A fake Christian replaces a real relationship with God that requires humility with a counterfeit version that dismisses their need to repent. They may pretend to believe but the fruit of their life says otherwise.
2 Corinthians 2:3-4, 16-17 CSB I wrote this very thing so that when I came I wouldn’t have pain from those who ought to give me joy, because I am confident about all of you that my joy will also be yours. 4 For I wrote to you with many tears out of an extremely troubled and anguished heart – not to cause you pain, but that you should know the abundant love I have for you. … 16 To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life. Who is adequate for these things? 17 For we do not market the word of God for profit like so many. On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God.
2 Timothy 3:1-17 CSB But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, 4 traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people. 6 For among them are those who worm their way into households and deceive gullible women overwhelmed by sins and led astray by a variety of passions, 7 always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth. They are men who are corrupt in mind and worthless in regard to the faith. 9 But they will not make further progress, for their foolishness will be clear to all, as was the foolishness of Jannes and Jambres. 10 But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, 11 along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured – and yet the Lord rescued me from them all. 12 In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 Evil people and impostors will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, 15 and you know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
So what are we choosing when we refuse to respond to God’s Truth fully revealed in Jesus Christ and His Word? We are choosing to believe lies which often come as half-truths. Lies are when the truth is twisted to accommodate our unbelief in an effort to comfort and assuage our guilty, sinful consciences. Ironically, when we choose to believe lies, there are perceived “pro’s and con’s” that our state of unbelief provides. Unbelief excuses us from taking responsibility to respond openly, honestly, and continually, until we break through to greater peace and intimacy with Jesus Christ. Unbelief “lets us off the hook” to respond to His loving discipline and the Holy Spirit’s comforting conviction. If I don’t want to believe that I am loved or if I mistrust the motives of those who extend love toward me, I can reject or respond on my terms and conditions and thus, control what I give and get from people based on my needs more than anyone else’s. Romans 12 directly confronts this type of self-protective, self-centered approach to relationship(s).
Romans 12:9-11 (ISV), Your love must be without hypocrisy (i.e., say one thing do another). Abhor what is evil (hypocrisy is evil); cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to each other with mutual affection. Excel at showing respect for each other. 11Never be lazy in showing such devotion. Be on fire with the Spirit.
When we choose to believe God’s love and truth and respond to His directives and commands, we are choosing to let the transformative love of God in so we can extend His sacrificially loving nature to others. Our lives become an extension of God’s life. Without believing and obeying God’s word and humbling ourselves to learn from Jesus, we have substituted a form for the real and are really just relying on ourselves as the final say about how we live our lives. But choosing to believe and obey God and turn away from relying on our own intellectual understanding, we are engaging in an intimately transformative interchange with almighty God. His blessings pour into faith-filled hearts and empower us to continue on the path toward Christ’s fullness. Because God’s sacrificial nature is unchangeable and His love unconditional, every human being is without excuse for not responding to God’s gracious provision through faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
Once we do respond and say yes to God’s dealings with our misaligned souls, His blessings and benefits come to strengthen us in our faith, hope, and loving obedience. Responding to God will grow us up into maturity. His eternal intent for all who love Him is to take us step by step, from glory to glory, into His transformative Presence until we are fully changed to be like Him. Thank God for His great gift of love! As we yield, bow, and turn our hearts and minds to Him, over and over again, the veil of unbelief will be peeled off of us, our spiritual eyes will open, our heart’s awakened, and the Spirit of Liberty will find a resting place in us—His very temple and treasured possession. It all comes down to Who do we love?
John 14:21-24 CSB The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it you’re going to reveal yourself to us and not to the world? ” 23 Jesus answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 “The one who doesn’t love me will not keep my words. The word that you hear is not mine but is from the Father who sent me.
To “keep” God’s word means that not only do we say that we believe what God says in His word about Himself is true, we also take responsibility to continually apply action steps that our prove our faith in God is real. Action steps as simple as turning to Christ Jesus as our First Love and forgiving others as He loves and forgives us and as difficult as choosing to Jesus and love others even in the face of deeply painful persecution and accusation.
The bottom line is this: Do we love Jesus Christ with our whole heart, soul, and mind or not? Our actions will always speak louder than our words. We are only fooling ourselves when we let ourselves off the hook from acting on what we believe. Most everyone else can see our hypocrisy—even other hypocrites!
All this talk about unbelief is to get us to understand by it is so dangerous. Unbelief is the very state of mind targeted by the spirit of antichrist—the god of this world—that makes Christians and non-Christians alike vulnerable to the great deception and falling away described in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 CSB Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him: We ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to be easily upset or troubled, either by a prophecy or by a message or by a letter supposedly from us, alleging that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.
Whether or not a person confesses to be of the Christian faith or not, anyone who refuses to walk out what they believe is a hypocrite to that belief system and is actively engaged in a state of unbelief. If a Christian says they believe in Jesus Christ but refuses to respond to the Holy Spirit’s leadership is walking in the darkness of unbelief and is prone to falling away because they don’t love the truth enough to seek it’s painfully transformative process. If I will not surrender the mental process of my mind to the Holy Spirit’s leadership and purifying process, I am just putting on a Christian front and my spiritual house is being built on a sandy foundation. It will crumble and fall at the first sign of trouble.
Intellectualism is the worship of the mind. People who rely on their fallen human intellect above their simple faith in God, are prone to think they know better than anyone who may think differently than them. To deal with the pain of disparity, they intellectualize their feelings through logic and reason and shut down the Holy Spirit’s ability to convict their heart. Human intellectualism is highly competitive and prideful, seeking its value and approval from those perceived as smarter and looks down the nose at those deemed as less advanced. The game is to always know better and better than everyone else so that one day, the intellect can stand on the top of the heap and wag their all-knowing tongue at everyone else and self-righteously declare, “I told you so.” That is the spirit of antichrist.
2 Thessalonians 2:4 CSB He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s temple, proclaiming that he himself is God.
The problem with depending upon intellectualism as superior to First Love for Jesus, is that human intellect was corrupted in the fall and no amount of self-serving will ever keep the human intellect from being deceived. This is where deception takes its greatest advantage of humanity. The fallen human mind is already prone to deception and without the revelation of the Holy Spirit, the fallen human mind is not capable of distinguishing and discerning all of what is actually evil. The fallen, unsanctified human intellect is already deceived and only Jesus can bring us into our Creator’s truth and keep us from being deceived.
Intellectualism as a form of worship is a perceived “safe harbor” in which “addicts” obsessively try to “figure out” how to prevent or escape pain. Bright-minded souls seeks a safe haven through the gateway of an overly active, open mind and a mistrusting, closed heart. These folks are especially prone to the deceptive nature and words of the spirit of antichrist because they are trusting in the mind’s ability to discern what is true and right instead of humbly relying on the Holy Spirit to lead them into all Truth.
The worship of the intellects seeks to resolve matters injustice by demanding that God explains to them why He did what He did or is doing before they will give God their heart. We may never understand God’s justice but we can always trust His character and nature and resolve all matters of injustice just by bridging the gap with simple trust in God. He is God. We are not. His ways and thoughts are above ours. We have to trust Him.
1 Corinthians 2:13-16 ISV We don’t speak about these things with words taught us by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, as we explain spiritual things to spiritual people. 14A person who isn’t spiritual doesn’t accept the things of God’s Spirit, for they are nonsense to him. He can’t understand them because they are spiritually evaluated. 15The spiritual person evaluates everything but is subject to no one else’s evaluation. 16For “Who has known the mind of the Lord so that he can advise him?”
However, we have the mind of the Messiah–Jesus Christ.
To the degree that Jesus is LORD in my life is to the degree that I will, by His Spirit, be able to test and discern the spirit in another person as to whether Jesus is LORD in their heart. If Jesus is not Savior and LORD in my heart, I cannot accurately discern spiritual matters or whether Jesus is LORD in someone else’s heart. It is the Spirit of the LORD Jesus within me that is “greater than he that is of the world,” not my intellectual prowess.
A Biblical example of logic-and-reason-based unbelief is revealed in Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. Stunned by an unexpected supernatural visitation from the angel of the Lord named Gabriel, Zechariah’s knee-jerk reaction to all the supernatural-ness is to dial everything down to what his state of unbelief can logically comprehend in the moment.
While Zechariah’s unbelief did not cost him the promise of a son, he did not get to fully celebrate the joy of this miraculous event during the conception and gestation of his son John. Zechariah’s unbelief cost him 9+ months of silence lest he speak words laced with unbelief over his miraculous son growing in Elizabeth’s womb!
Luke 1:11-20 ISV An angel of the Lord appeared to him [Zechariah], standing at the right side of the incense altar. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled, and fear overwhelmed him. 13But the angel told him, “Stop being afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to name him John. 14You will have great joy, and many people will rejoice at his birth, 15because he will be great in the Lord’s presence. He will never drink wine or any strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16He will bring many of Israel’s descendants back to the Lord their God. 17He is the one who will go before the Lord with the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, and to prepare the people to be ready for the Lord.” 18Then Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this, since I am an old man, and my wife is getting older?” 19The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. I have been sent to speak to you and to announce this good news to you. 20But because you did not believe my announcement, which will be fulfilled at its proper time, you will become silent and unable to speak until the day this happens.”
Here is a short list of heart-and-mind attitude’s that make us vulnerable to antichrist’s deceptive doctrines: Unbelief. Empty words. No response. Hypocrisy. Logic-and-reason-based decision-making. Rejection of and refusing to let both sides of God’s corrective and comforting love apply to our life. Listening to people’s meaningless words that stimulate the intellect but kill the humility Spirit through the pride of doubt and unbelief.
Attention all smart people: the smartest thing a person could ever choose is to love and obey the One Who created them. Creator God desires those He made to be a part of His eternal family. It doesn’t get any better than that. God doesn’t change Who He is to get along with us. He changes us to be like Him. God’s family will learn to think like Jesus and be conformed into His holy and divine nature. This happens as we value His love in all of its forms: the comfort of receiving a truth-in-love rebuke, the discipline of learning obedience and follow-through with consistency, the strength that comes from enduring hardship and persevering in faith through painful circumstances.
Ephesians 5:6 ISV Do not let anyone deceive you with meaningless words, for it is because of these things that God becomes angry with those who disobey.
The Spirit of Jesus Christ is first and foremost Love and its gates requires humble faith-in-action to enter. We must respond when God speaks to us. We cannot expect to grow if we shut down and harden our hearts every time we hear something difficult that disrupts our intellectual understanding.
Each time we refuse to respond to the Holy Spirit’s promptings, we are telling God that we are in charge—not Him. We are making the road to real relationship with Him all the more difficult. This unbelief also increases our vulnerability to the deceptions of the spirit of antichrist because intellectualism is the road that the spirit of antichrist most successfully travels. The mysteries hidden in Christ Jesus are hidden from worldly-wise intellectuals. This was true in Jesus’ time. This is still true today. Just like essential oils and aromatherapy can’t do anything for your spirit man, your human intellectual prowess and mental understanding cannot save you or set you free.
Luke 10:21-22 ISV At that moment, the Holy Spirit made Jesus extremely joyful, so Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from wise and intelligent people and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, because this is what was pleasing to you. 22All things have been entrusted to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and the person to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
1 Corinthians 1:6-9 ISV However, when we are among mature people, we do speak a message of wisdom, but not the wisdom of this world or of the rulers of this world, who are passing off the scene. 7Instead, we speak about God’s wisdom in a hidden secret, which God destined before the world began for our glory. 8None of the rulers of this world understood it, because if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9But as it is written, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”
1 Corinthians 1:20-25 ISV Where is the wise person? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? God has turned the wisdom of the world into nonsense, hasn’t he? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe through the nonsense of our preaching. 22Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach the Messiah crucified. He is a stumbling block to Jews and nonsense to gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, the Messiah is God’s power and God’s wisdom. 25For God’s nonsense is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ISV Brothers, think about your own calling. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose what is nonsense in the world to make the wise feel ashamed. God chose what is weak in the world to make the strong feel ashamed. 28And God chose what is insignificant in the world, what is despised, what is nothing, in order to destroy what is something, 29so that no one may boast in God’s presence. 30It is because of God that you are in union with the Messiah Jesus, who for us has become wisdom from God, as well as our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. 31There- fore, as it is written, “The person who boasts must boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 4:7 ISV For who makes you superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not receive it?