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Why we don’t truly believe

Practice / Faith
A true believer is not merely someone who calls Jesus ‘Lord’ or believes that He is the Son of God. Even demons believe Jesus is God and tremble. Jesus said that His true believers will perform greater miracles than Him. Would Jesus be pleased with the state of our belief today?


James 2:19 ESV  You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

John 14:12 ESV  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Types of unbelief

Christians have suffered from unbelief since the very beginning. Even the apostles were rebuked by Jesus for not believing that He had risen from the dead. Although we now have the Bible, we still offend Jesus through various forms of unbelief.

Mark 16:14 ESV  Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.

1. Outright unbelief 

The most common understanding of unbelief is the outright rejection of Jesus as the Saviour of the world. Unbelief however, is not limited to just this explicit form.

Psalm 14:1 ESV  … The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good.

2. Subtle unbelief

Many Christians don’t reject Jesus as Saviour of the world. They do however, struggle with believing that they can trust God. In other words, they lack faith.

Subtle forms of unbelief can be just as devastating. It will make statements such as:

  • Doubt: “Jesus is the Saviour, but maybe He isn’t everything He says He is.”
  • Mistrust: “Jesus is the Saviour, but maybe He won’t save me.”
  • Lack of confidence“Jesus is the Saviour, but maybe He won’t save me in the best way.”

Hebrews 11:6 ESV  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

3. Intellectual belief

Intellectual belief is another form of unbelief.

True belief involves our entire heart and will result in a radical change in the way we live. Intellectual belief results in the right words, but not the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Such unbelief is the foundation of religiosity, not true faith and belief in God.

Romans 10:9 ESV  Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

2 Timothy 3:5 NLT  They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

4. Partial belief

Partial belief picks which parts of the Bible to believe and which parts are “no longer relevant”. It will reject the supernatural aspects of God, and put faith only in what is visible and human-based.

Luke16:17 ESV  But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

It will make statements such as “the miracles that Jesus did won’t happen today” – even though Jesus is the same yesterday and today, and His Spirit continues to work through His believers. Such statements only reduce Jesus to a dead magician and smear the name of the Son of God.

Hebrews 13:8 ESV Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Philippians 2:13 ESV   for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

5. Interpretation-based belief

Another form of unbelief is the type that dismisses the authority of God’s Word. It looks at the Bible through rose-tinted glasses. Jesus warned us that His teachings and truth (His sword) are not always easy to follow. There are hard truths we need to accept and believe before it is too late.

Matthew 10:34 ESV  “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Interpretation-based belief will make statements such as “the Bible is open to interpretation” and imply that God’s Law is not final. Interpretation-based belief preaches that there are grey areas in God’s Word that can be exploited.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Sources of unbelief

Many Christians do not realise that they struggle with unbelief because they have not repented or turned away from false beliefs. When we place our faith in various ideas and worldly teachings, their conflicting and opposing messages in our hearts make it hard to see the truth from the lies. We become confused and closed to believing in God’s truth wholeheartedly.

Ephesians 4:17-18 NLT  With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him.

Here is a brief description of some of them.

1. Faith in the visible world

For many of us, “seeing is believing”. This is in direct opposition to believing in God, whom we cannot see with our eyes, but whom we can know deep in our souls. Faith in the visible world leads us to disillusionment, as we look for God in the wrong places.

2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV   So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2. Faith in the human intellect

In today’s “knowledge” society, we have been taught from young to rely on our human intelligence. God warns us that this is foolish. We can’t even accurately predict how this year will turn out or how people will behave.

Our Heavenly Father is the One who controls this entire universe and all that happens in it. Ultimately, everything will be and has been decided by our Creator. True wisdom comes from the Holy Spirit. He will protect us and direct all our steps.

1 Corinthians 1:19 NLT  As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” 

3. Faith in philosophy

Philosophical ideas and ideologies are another mind trap. Many philosophy teachings, such as idealism, existentialism, pragmatism and realism deny the existence of a perfect Father in Heaven who loves us. Philosophy only draws us away from God.

Colossians 2:8 NLT  Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:20 NLT  So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.

4. Faith in scientific theories

In spite of all the scientific advances man can boast about, we have only uncovered a mere 4% of the matter that exists in this universe. This is all that God has allowed man to see of His heavens. Even though we know so little, many Christians place more faith in science, than the Creator of every known science.

Genesis 1:1 ESV  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Many fall for scientific theories that are unproven and unfounded, such as the evolution of men from apes, because this is what they learnt in school or from the media. In reality, some are more myth than fact. Numerous scientific theories sow a lot of confusion in people’s minds as a result.

5. Faith in myths and idols

Other false beliefs develop from Hebrew, Chinese, Celtic, Egyptian, Greek or other forms of mythology. Our hearts are taken by all sorts of deities, fairies, wizards, gods, superheroes and other legendary creatures. These are presented as supernatural, cute, motherly or friendly, and compete with our pure devotion to our Heavenly Father.

Ezekiel 14:3 ESV  “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them?

6. Faith in religion

Without proper guidance, many people see Christianity as nothing more than a religion, a system of spiritual guidelines that leads us greater blessings from God. Our relationship with the Almighty is reduced to a transactional process of “give and take”, rather than one based love, worship and awe for our Heavenly Father.

John 6:63-64 NLT  The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But some of you do not believe me.”…

7. Faith in false teachings

There are many false teaching in the church today that confuse the true image of God. We have come to think of Him as a life coach, a vending machine, a magician or a butler – not as the fearsome but compassionate Judge that does not tolerate sin and who has given us a second chance by painfully sacrificing His own Son for us.

Luke 8:13 ESV  And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

Such alternative faiths compete for our wholesome belief in the gospel. The Bible is simple, straightforward and life-changing.

Warning to those whose belief is neither hot or cold

God has a severe warning for Christians that partially believe and partially disbelieve. He describes them as neither hot nor cold (lukewarm) and says He will spit out of His mouth.

Revelation 3:16 ESV  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

King Solomon had no problem with believing wholeheartedly in God. He had spoken directly with the Almighty and was extravagantly blessed with great wisdom and riches from God.

2 Chronicles 1:11-12 ESV  God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.”

But his heart became divided between many other faiths and idols over time. The king eventually lost favour with God and his kingdom faded away. If the great King Solomon could have made such a grave mistake, in spite of all the supernatural wisdom that God had given him, then we certainly must be on guard!

1 Kings 11:4 ESV  For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.

Hebrews 3:12 ESV  Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.

Stepping up into our identity as true believers

The Bible describes Jesus as performing many great works and miracles wherever He went, until He came to the village of Nazareth. Here, the unbelief of the people prevented them from witnessing His wonderful good deeds and healing in their lives. Their unbelief even amazed God.

Mark 6:1,5-6 ESV He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief…

Similarly, our unbelief will dismay God and cripple our lives. It will be impossible for us to experience the power of the Holy Spirit directly through our lives.

There is hope for those who have initially struggled with unbelief and repent. Right after Jesus rebuked the disciples for not believing that He had risen from the dead, He gave them the Great Commission to proclaim His good news to the whole world after they repented. Jesu gave them a final reminder that “whoever does not believe will be condemned“. As we all know, the disciples proved themselves to be true followers of Jesus by holding on to their faith in the Lord right until the very end of their lives.

Mark 16:14-18 ESV  And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Therefore let us check our hearts often, so we can repent of false beliefs and humbly turn our hearts fully to our Heavenly Father. Only then will we be able to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit. We are meant to live lives filled with power, love and self-control like the apostles did, not suffocated with ungodly doubts and unbelief.

2 Timothy 1:7 ESV  for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.


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