The Pastor’s Piece
September 12, 2021
The question is often asked: “Why is unbelief such a big deal? Why would someone’s failure to believe in Jesus Christ lead to eternal damnation?”
It isn’t uncommon to hear something like this: “Sally is a really nice person. She’s faithful to her husband. She is a wonderful mother to her children. She doesn’t use profane language. She’s never committed a crime. She’s a good neighbor. She’s involved in her community. She’s really great to be around. But she’s just not very religious. She doesn’t really care that Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth in human flesh and died on the cross to redeem sinners. But now you tell me that ‘unless she believes’ that Jesus is who He claims to be, she will suffer forever in hell? That seems so disproportionate considering the good person she is. Why should something so seemingly innocuous as unbelief merit eternal damnation?”
Perhaps you’ve heard that question before. We are confronted with this reality in John 8. Jesus says it with unmistakable clarity: “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins,” (John 8:24).
The problem in our world today, and in every age, is that we suffer from a warped sense of perspective. The question of why unbelief is so monumental is fueled by what can only be described as a massively high view of human beings and an even more massively low view of God.
God is infinite in every respect. He is infinite in power, in authority, in goodness, in glory, in beauty, in majesty, in honor. He is infinitely more worthy of praise and gratitude than all of humanity combined. He is immeasurably wonderful, splendid, and fabulous in every conceivable way and in countless ways that we can’t even begin to conceive.
God is the supreme treasure in the universe. He is infinitely more worthy of our belief and trust and honor than anything and everything else that exists.
So, when someone says they don’t believe, they are saying, in effect: “God is of no value to me. God is useless. God is of less worth to me than my car. God is less deserving of my praise than my dog when he sits at my command.”
Unbelief is a human being – a creature – saying that the Creator is tarnished and ugly and undeserving of my acknowledgement.
Unbelief is not some harmless state of mind. Unbelief is treasuring everything else in the universe more than the Creator of everything in the universe. Unbelief is the human being saying to the divine being, “You’re a liar. I don’t believe what you say about yourself. I don’t think you are worthy of my devotion or worship. I don’t regard your immeasurable and limitless glory to be worth my time or energy. I regard my golf game on Sunday morning to be more enjoyable than spending time in church declaring your greatness. I prefer coffee to you. I prefer money to you. I prefer vacations to you. I prefer my friends to you. You are nothing to me.”
And the reason why we act this way is because we have a low view of who God is. We don’t see and savor and rejoice in His unending beauty and knowledge and power. Unbelief is not simply a decision of your will on the same scale as to what you are going to have for lunch today, or what your next vehicle will be, or where you will spend your summer vacation. Unbelief is a denial of who Christ is and what He came to do. Unbelief is the refusal to see your sins for what they are, namely, an affront and insult to the grandest and most glorious Being in all the universe. God is very tiny in our estimation, and the self-imposed authority of our minds and decisions is very high in our estimation.
That is unbelief. And that is why if you remain in unbelief, you will die in your sins. Unbelief is the refusal to see your sins for what they are, namely, an affront and insult to the grandest and most glorious Being in all the universe.
If you are not trusting and treasuring Jesus Christ, then your unbelief is the single most serious sin you could ever possibly commit. It is more egregious, more offensive, more unrighteous, more wicked than all the other sins you’ve ever committed combined because the one you have chosen not to believe is God!
Unbelief is a God-belittling, self-exalting, hell-bent rejection of the only One who is deserving of your unqualified acceptance. And that is why it makes perfect sense for Jesus to declare that if you do not believe in Him you will die in your sin, (John 8:24). And the single most damning of all the sins in which you will die is your unbelief, your repudiation of Jesus, your denial of God, and your prizing and treasuring the creature more than the Creator, (Romans 1).
So, will you believe in Him today?
(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin)