SUNDAY MORNING SERMON NOTES
The Two Kinds of Unbelief and Why One of them Must be Resisted With All Your Might as We Close This Year
Print This Sermon
Sunday, December 26, 2010 - 10:00 a.m.  Sermon #: 1431
Pastor Don Horban

Ephesians 4:32-5:2 - “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. [5:1] Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. [2] And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

I would like to urge everyone in this church to finish 2010 and begin 2011 taking a militant stance against any form of unbelief that would raise its head in your heart. Or, to put it positively, I would like everyone in this church to hold resolutely to the unshakable conviction that anything God commands, He is able to perform in your life.

I want to press into our hearts the unshakable fact that God never throws His commands, like vapid, wasted words, out into space. Everything He commands is an expression of His will. And His will is an Almighty Will. It is an Omnipotent Will. God’s command creates galaxies and hangs stars. I repeat, start this new year convinced that whatever God commands He is able to perform.

“I do believe that, Pastor Don. I believe our God is an Almighty God. He can do all things.” Fair enough. But when I say, “End this year and begin the next convinced that whatever God commands, He is able to perform,” I don’t mean we are to agree with that statement as a point of creed or doctrine. I think we all believe in God’s might and power. We’ve been taught about His attributes since we were children in Sunday School.

What I’m talking about is using this conviction - the conviction that whatever God commands, He is able to perform - as a weapon against unbelief in your own heart.

Let me talk about unbelief for just a minute. What do I mean when I say, “use the conviction that whatever God commands, He is able to perform, as a weapon against unbelief”? What kind of unbelief am I talking about here? There are different kinds of unbelief mentioned in the New Testament:

a) There is the unbelief that rejects Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

John 8:24 - “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins."

We should always remember that Jesus Himself spoke these chilling words. If people reject Him as the Redeemer, God’s Son, the Lamb of God who came to take away our sins, there is no other hope offered. People simply must believe - put their faith in - Jesus Christ to be saved. Obviously, that kind of unbelief can’t abide in the heart of the Christian. You can’t have that kind of unbelief in your heart and be saved at all.

But there’s another kind of unbelief mentioned in the New Testament:

Mark 9:20-24 - “And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. [21] And Jesus asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. [22] And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." [23] And Jesus said to him, "If you can! All things are possible for one who believes." [24] Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!"

Let’s look at another example:

Romans 4:18-21 - “In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, "So shall your offspring be." [19] He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. [20] No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, [21] fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

Clearly, this is a different kind of unbelief from the unbelief of stubborn rejection and refusal of Jesus Christ. This is a kind of unbelief that raises its head specifically in the hearts of believers when God says something that seems to go against what they would find possible to expect.

Perhaps the best way to distinguish it would be to say, it is unbelief by way of reason rather than rejection. It’s unbelief that is more rooted in the mind than the will.

Now, with this understanding, let’s look again quickly at our text. Let’s try to see these verses as a series of commands that God wants us to receive with the belief that He can accomplish those things in our lives:

Ephesians 4:32-5:2 - “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another [command], as God in Christ forgave you [source of power for obeying the command]. [5:1] Therefore be imitators of God [command], as beloved children [source of power for obeying the command]. [2] And walk in love [command], as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God [source of power for obeying the command].”

I’m using this text because it is so clearly directed at the transformation of our character. It is a passage that commands the inner changing of attitude, disposition and even temperament. In other words, in this text, God commands change in the part of our nature we usually feel is set by forces beyond our control.

That’s why the title of this message is “Resisting Fatalism With all Your Might!” Fatalism is nothing more than the new name we have given to the second form of unbelief dealt with in the New Testament. Christians deal in unbelief when they say things like this:

* “I can’t be a loving person, Pastor Don. My father beat me as a child. I’m so full of anger.”

* “I can’t be a forgiving person, Pastor Don. People have taken advantage of me all my life. You don’t know the emotional scarring I’ve experienced.”

* “I can’t be a trusting person, Pastor Don. My wife took off with my next door neighbor, and I can’t trust anyone else again.”

* “I can’t control my temper, Pastor Don. It’s the way my father raised me. He blew up at us all the time, and it’s just the way I respond to stress. Like father, like son.”

* “I can’t help addictive habits, Pastor Don. My parents were both alcoholics. It’s just in my system. I can’t possibly
change.”

Perhaps now we will all see what I meant earlier when I said, “ I want to urge everyone in this church to begin the new year with this conviction - anything God commands, He is able to perform!” Resist unbelief. Take a stand against that kind of unbelief like you would resist a burglar in your family room at night. Never give in to the fatalism of our day.

Now, let me just work through some of the steps of this text, so you will have a pattern for understanding how God produces change in His children. Remember the key point: Whenever God commands a change in my character, behavior, disposition, or temperament, His power to accomplish those changes over-rides all other factors that have made me the way I presently am.

Here are the principles that make this work in actual practice:

1) BECAUSE WE HAVE BEEN ADOPTED INTO A NEW HEAVENLY FAMILY, OUR EARTHLY BACKGROUNDS ARE NO LONGER OUR DESTINIES

Ephesians 5:1 - “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”

The “therefore” at the beginning of this verse links it with the commands of the verses preceding. These are the commands of transformed attitudes and character traits - the command to control anger (4:26), the command to be marked by wholesome words and conduct rather than unwholesome (4:29-30), the command to renounce and reject bitterness as an attitude in your heart (4:31), and the command to be tender-hearted and loving (notice the depth of transformation here - an actual difference in the whole tone of the heart. This means nothing less than a new and Scriptural disposition and temperament - 4:32).

And here’s the point. Paul says all of those commands are obeyable. They’re obeyable because they aren’t just commands left dangling in space. They are backed up - infused - by a new empowering nature.

This teaching is more revolutionary than is usually imagined. You and I are not limited in our potential for growth and transformation in spiritual pursuits by the genetic pool we received from our parents. And, in addition to that truth, we are also not limited to the environment in which we were raised.

Please understand this: The liberating power of God’s Word and Spirit guarantees I am not spiritually limited either by my heredity or my environment. Paul says we can now actually imitate God because we are His children. This transcends our earthly heritage - however precious or tragic it may have been.

We’re not just earthlings trying to copy a good God. That would be a hopeless endeavor. We are now God’s children. John says God’s seed abides in us. That means God Himself is now the most decisive factor in making us what we should be. But that truth must be believed in the heart and relied on in faith before it will become transforming in your own experience.

Your earthly upbringing certainly may have been very tragic. And I’m not, in any way, minimizing all the pain that can bring into a life. But the Gospel has truly good news for people like this. The Gospel says God starts something brand new when He enters a life. Your past is no longer the determining factor in your future.

When Paul describes the faith of Abraham, and outlines just how God works in performing all that He commands, he says God “....gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist”(Romans 4:17).

Church, that is a powerful, powerful Scriptural principle with which to begin this new year. Remember, because we have been adopted into a new family, our earthly backgrounds are no longer our destinies.

The second point simply applies this principle:

2) YOU CAN FORGIVE ANYONE BECAUSE YOU HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN IN CHRIST JESUS

Ephesians 4:32 - “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Again, the command to forgive doesn’t just hang in mid air. The command is backed by the forgiving power I have already received and experienced in my own heart.

This is a wonderfully freeing discovery. The Sprit of God doesn’t say, “Forgive each other if you can...”, or, “Forgive each other if your parents were tender hearted to you...”, or, “Forgive one another if you don’t have an unspeakable horror in your past...”

Your ability to forgive - your ability to be tender-hearted - doesn’t depend on any of those things any longer. Perhaps the lost are all bound up by their past (in fact, that’s exactly what the Bible teaches about the lost), but you are now children of God, who have been empowered to forgive by the grace you received in Jesus! To live in bitterness is to live in unbelief. Resist unbelief like a burglar in your family room!

3) BECAUSE GOD’S WORD IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE, DO NOT START THIS NEW YEAR IN THE BLINDING, DEBILITATING GRIP OF UNBELIEF

Do you remember the principle we stated at the very beginning of ths message? Whatever God commands He is able to perform. God’s power and God’s promise control your destiny - not your past - not your weakness - not your environment.

I’ve often thought this might be one of the reasons Jesus taught His followers not to call anyone on earth their father. Have you ever read that strange verse?

Matthew 23:9 - “And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.”

Certainly the text has primary application to the pronouncement of religious titles, used to give people a certain status and spiritual elevation. But I just wonder if another point of application might not be exactly what we are studying in this message.

As important as earthly fatherhood is - and as surely as instruction in fathering is Scriptural and crucial for the church, there are still countless people who will come to Jesus Christ much later on in life. They may have had everything against them in terms of earthly heritage. And the principle - the liberating Biblical truth - is the Fatherhood of God over-rides all other factors in determining what they can become through faith and obedience to the Lord!

Remember it all year long. Resurrect this idea with every battle you face. Nothing spiritual will progress in your soul without the daily beating down of unbelief. It must be replaced with confidence in the promise and power of God - the confidence that whatever God commands He is able to perform. I say it again - fight unbelief like you confront and fight a thief in your family room. Resist unbelief with all your might!