The Sin of Unbelief
Evangel Tabernacle | On 18, Jan 2017
By: Sis. Michelle Lao
Preached at Evangel Tabernacle
Jan. 15, 2017
KEY TEXT: EXODUS 4:24-26
Exodus 4:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)
24 On the way to Egypt, at a place where Moses and his family had stopped for the night, the LORD confronted him and was about to kill him.
25 But Moses’ wife, Zipporah, took a flint knife and circumcised her son. She touched his feet[a] with the foreskin and said, “Now you are a bridegroom of blood to me.”
26 (When she said “a bridegroom of blood,” she was referring to the circumcision.) After that, the LORD left him alone.
I am here today because I am redirecting my attention AWAY from MYSELF and towards GOD. I am trying to learn as much as I can from the man whom we know as Moses, the greatest prophet in the Scriptures.
Honestly, I can finish a whole lot of time by focusing on myself and citing to you all my human failings- same as what Moses had done when he was commissioned by God.
I find that many of us seek to avoid acting on the commands of God, with various EXCUSES as – we believe we are NOT READY nor WORTHY or we need M-O-R-E TIME to THINK AND PRAY about it. Months stretched to years of indecision yet nothing happens. We are still the same from where we took off.
We remain in the same place spiritually because we refuse to obey what God told us years ago. We have a saying in Filipino, “Pag AYAW may dahilan, pag GUSTO may paraan.”
Can you recall why Jesus was angry with the Fig Tree in Mark 11:14? Because the tree looks so promising but it offered no fruit. Jesus was showing his ANGER here at religious life without substance.
Are we FRUITFUL in our EXTERNAL appearance only but essentially UNFRUITFUL on the INSIDE?
Do we claim to have FAITH but we DON’T PUT IT TO WORK or we DON’T PUT IT TO WORK because we DON’T HAVE FAITH?
Our key text this morning church talks about UNBELIEF. After God spoke to Moses through a burning bush in Exodus 3, Moses sets out with his family to return to Egypt to free his people from slavery. Sometime later on their way to Egypt, God tried to kill Moses and only the circumcising of his son by his wife Zipporah spared his life.
As I was digging into the word of God last November I kept coming back to verses 24-26 of Exodus 4 which is our key text. For many days I can’t depart from these verses. It sounded so strange and bizarre to my ears that God would want to kill Moses after He just commissioned him to go back to Egypt. I refused to let go until the Holy Spirit led me to the answer.
How can God first call Moses for a special task then later want to KILL him?
The standard interpretation of the passage is that God wanted to kill Moses for neglecting the rite of circumcision. Circumcision refers to the sign of God’s special covenant with His people. Submitting to this rite was required for all Jewish males. Yet Moses did not obey God’s basic law for he failed to circumcise his son.
Paul goes on to explain in Romans that a real Jew or one who pleases God is someone whose HEART is RIGHT with God and who obeys Him. Clearly, Moses’ failed to unite his HEART with God here.
After studying our key text, I was able to see that it was NOT Moses’ overt verbal protests that God was angry of but what was HIDDEN in his heart.
This morning, I would like to share with you a topic so familiar to me which is Unbelief. I will entitle my Sermon -The Sin of Unbelief.
Under this topic, I will elaborate on Moses Reluctance and then I’ll go deep down into our Key Text. I need to cite Moses reluctance in comparison with our Key Text in order to bring out my point.
THE SIN OF UNBELIEF DEFINED:
Most people understand ‘sin’ to mean wrong things that we do against God -like we steal, we tell lies… But our sins are not just our wrong actions. Sin also includes wrong and evil attitudes in our hearts.When Moses led God’s people through the desert, their worst sin was the wrong attitude of their hearts (Hebrews 3:8).
This particular sin is called UNBELIEF.
What is the difference between Unbelief and Doubt?
Doubts can be intellectual ex. we doubt if the Bible is really inspired by God – or emotional ex. when a person has experienced great sorrow as the death of a loved one she might doubt the goodness and love of her heavenly Father towards her.
Doubt is when people have a BARRIER- intellectual or emotional – to a more solid faith in a biblical teaching or to God. They want to believe, but they just need some help to believe.
Mark 9:14-27 shows this when the father of a demonic possessed son looks to Jesus to cure him and says to Jesus “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” The father acknowledges that though he has faith, he struggles with some doubts. Jesus still honored this man’s faith and heals his son.
The Israelites, on the other hand, chose not to believe though they knew about God and had seen the many miracles God had done for them. Their problem was not DOUBT but UNBELIEF. Their problem was the decisions that they chose to make about God. They simply refused to accept God’s authority over their lives.
Unbelief vs. Lack of Faith
On the contrary, unbelief and lack of faith are mutually dependent. Faith means ACTIVE belief and trust in God’s words. It is impossible to have faith unless we first hear God’s word (Hebrews 3:7). But if we then refuse to trust and to obey God’s words after hearing them, that is unbelief.
The results of unbelief are very serious. By faith the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea but by UNBELIEF the generality of them perished in the wilderness (Heb 11:29). God did not allow them to enter the land, but made them wander in the desert until the disobedient generation had all died out.
We all know that Moses did not jump with joy when God commissioned him to be the Deliverer of Israel but instead he gave out Reluctance Speeches over and over again. He was bent to prove that he was not the man for the job.
(1) WHO AM I?
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” -Exodus 3:11
The questions, “Who am I?” and “What if they don’t believe me?” are both self-oriented, rather than God-oriented.
The issue here is not who Moses is, but WHOSE HE IS.
We need to focus then our attention on the ONE WHOM WE SERVE, rather than on ourselves.
Moses’ authority is based upon his divine call and since this is clearly God ordained the divine presence will be with him as he goes (Exod. 3:12).
We need to realize that if God calls us to do anything on His behalf, He will also anoint us with His supernatural power to get the job done.
It is not the greatness of Moses which is the key to his success but, the GREATNESS OF THE ONE WHO CALLED HIM and the CHARACTER OF THE GOD who uses fallible men to do His will.
(2) WHO ARE YOU?
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you, ’and they ask me, ’What is his name? ’Then what shall I tell them?”
Moses was more interested in academics than he was with action.
Moses wanted to know more about God, and thus his question regarding the name of the God who sent him. Oftentimes, many people would rather study about ministry than to do it and often makes it as an excuse not to serve Him.
Study is important, but it is not a substitute for service, especially when God calls us to serve.
(3) WHAT IF THEY DO NOT BELIEVE ME OR LISTEN TO ME?
Moses is asking the same question to God for the third time.
In the past, Moses doubted his calling; now he is doubting the Word of God, for the Lord has just told him, “The elders of Israel will listen to you” (Exod. 3:18).
We know that Moses was not only told that the leaders of Israel will accept his leadership, but that it will all work out, just as God has said. And it did as cited in the last verse of Chapter 4.
However, God still graciously deals with the weakness of Moses here. In response to his question, God grants Moses the ability to perform 3 signs.
(4) BUT I AM NOT ELOQUENT!
Moses is SO hung up about his INABILITY.
Rather than acting on the basis of who is the God who commissioned him, Moses is now retreating on the pretext that he is not a gifted communicator.
Moses was more concerned with his method than with the message he was given.
The method of presentation (while important) was not as significant as the message. God promised to provide Moses with both ( Exodus 4:12).
Moses’ problem was not the method, but his motives—he did not want to go. Moses is looking too far down the path when his immediate task is to just get going.
(5) PLEASE SEND SOMEBODY ELSE!
Moses does not want to go.
It is not that he lacks the assurance or the authority; he simply lacks the courage to act.
Moses is out of excuses. And so Moses pleads with God for someone else to go.
Moses’ problem was not so much a fear of failure as it was a failure of faith.
God is longsuffering and patient, but now He is burning with anger (Exodus 4:14-17).
So these are Moses reluctances as found in Exodus Chapters 3 and 4. Now, let us contrast it with our Key Text.
The question that came to my mind while meditating on these was, how come when Moses protested with WORDS as discussed in his Reluctance earlier on – God was angry but God did not want to kill Moses.
But what made God want to kill Moses as cited by our key text?
To my mind, this action on God’s part seems so unusual and a bit harsh.
This is the kind of incident which Moses would not wish to become public, let alone become a part of the Bible.
What then does this mean and what are we to learn from it?
UNBELIEF was THE ROOT OF MOSES PROBLEM
In my research, I actually learned that some Bible Scholars believed that this mysterious event is the key to the entire chapter. Our Key Text identifies the underlying problem with Moses’ fears – UNBELIEF.
It explains Moses’ deeply rooted resistance to obey the call of God to return to Egypt to rescue the Israelites.
Moses’ fears about ISRAEL’S UNBELIEF are rooted in no other than his own PERSONAL UNBELIEF.
Moses was not ready to return to Egypt because he did not have sufficient faith in the covenant which God had made with his fathers.
And since he did not believe in God’s covenant, he did not expect the Israelites to have it either.
The evidence of Moses’ lack of faith is here – in his failure to circumcise his son as an evidence of his trust in God’s covenant.
Circumcision is a symbol of the conviction that happens in the heart of those who believe.
And clearly, Moses did not believe in his heart.
God was about to kill Moses because Moses did not circumcise his son.
If God takes the “hardness of Pharaoh’s heart” so seriously as to kill his firstborn son (Exod. 4:21-23), then he must likewise deal with the sin of Moses who by not circumcising his son has endangered himself greatly. God does not look lightly on any sin. The holiness of God is clearly manifested in the near fatal illness of Moses.
It is significant to cite at this point, that there are two separate threads pertaining to Moses which are intertwined.
Personal Walk with God vs. Public Work for God
The first is his personal walk with God. The second is his public work for God.
Moses’ RELUCTANCE all deal with God’s call and commission with reference to his PUBLIC WORK.
Moses‘ PERSONAL WALK was exposed in EXODUS 4:24-26 – him having UNBELIEF as the ROOT of his PROBLEM.
We find that Moses’ problems with regard to his PUBLIC work (returning to Egypt to rescue Israel) are all rooted in his PRIVATE walk.
He cannot challenge men and women to step out in obedience, based upon their faith in God’s covenant when he has not yet even circumcised his son as an evidence of his faith.
The circumcision of his son is supposed to be an OUTWARD sign that should demonstrate his INWARD belief and trust in God.
God became ANGRY with Moses regarding his RELUCTANCE toward his PUBLIC WORK. The result of this anger was to be stuck with Aaron as an assistant.
But when God became ANGRY with Moses relative to his UNBELIEF toward his PRIVATE WALK, it nearly costs Moses his life.
Moses’ problem is an example of what happens when one’s personal walk is defective hence, we should hold our personal walk as our highest priority.
Submission to God should be from INSIDE OUT
God required all male Israelites to be circumcised, but He wanted them to go beyond performing the surgery to understanding its MEANING. God’s main concern is our ATTITUDE before our ACT. We have to submit our HEARTS first before our HANDS.
In our walk with God, we need our mouths, hands and feet which are EXTERNAL PARTS, they are located OUTSIDE our bodies and PEOPLE can SEE them as you can see me now. I can open my mouth, raise my hands and step forward with my feet.
But the HEART is different, it is INSIDE our bodies –INTERNALLY kept, HIDDEN from people and only GOD can see.
The greatest tragedy for me is serving God with our SEEN body parts – mouth, hands, and feet but our heart which is the UNSEEN part
has departed from believing in His promises,
has departed from the joy of seeking Him,
has departed from the joy of doing what God wants, and has departed from the joy of serving HIM and others.
The posture of our heart is God’s basic requirement- He wants a WILLING and a BELIEVING HEART.
A Testimony of a Believer’s Heart Paralyzed in Unbelief:
I remember feeling tormented in my soul as I struggled with my own unbelief in relation to the Word of God. I would listen to lots of great teaching and study the Bible with other strong believers. Yet the truth would make little impact upon me. Every revelation was encountering resistance in my mind and heart. I noticed it most when I chose to make spiritual commitments to obey God. There was NO POWER within my life to release faith. I believed with my mind only but not with my heart. I want to please the Lord and fully believe in all His promises, but something in me resists. I find that I “cannot” believe even though I want to. The spirit of unbelief made me feel like I was living in a fog.
Does this sound familiar? Church if we have Unbelief in our hearts today let us not be ashamed. The more important question to ask now is what to do with it.
How to OVERCOME UNBELIEF?
1.WORD OF GOD
So how do we do it? How do we believe God and live by faith?
Romans 10:17 tells us how: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
The key here is the Word of God. We need to love the Word of God and go after it like we go after food when we’re really hungry. When we’re hungry, we’ll usually do what we need to do to get food.
God’s Word is medicine for our souls and the food we need to keep our spirit strong. It has inherent power to change our lives when it is mixed with faith. Study the Word and speak the Word. We need to talk about the good things God has done and not the problems.
If there is a BIBLE PASSAGE about BELIEF AND DOUBT that has impacted me I would have to say Mark 9:24 -where 24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”
This is an honest recognition of the fact that we need God’s help even for FAITH itself. Being honest w God about it and to ask for His help is the right response.
2. FASTING AND PRAYER
We need to get our eyes on Jesus thru fasting and prayer. The flesh can get in the way of spiritual revelation but fasting humbles us before God so that we can hear and see spiritually. David said in Ps. 35:13, “I humbled myself with fasting.”
Effective prayer on the other hand needs both the attitude of complete dependence and the action of asking. Prayer demonstrates our reliance on God as we humbly invite Him to fill us with faith and power. There is no substitute for prayer especially in circumstances that seem impossible.
3. BE SPIRIT FILLED
To overcome unbelief we need to get filled with the Spirit of God, who is also the Spirit of Faith. Faith is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, as well as a gift . It is as we allow the Spirit of God to penetrate our lives and thinking that we can be delivered from unbelief.
To live in a spirit of faith -is to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh. And to do that means death to the flesh life on a daily basis.
Illustration: I went thru several testings before today and I can see that the enemy was behind them all. The latest one was my having mumps last Jan.1 and I’m scheduled to deliver a message today- Jan. 15. What a perfect timing! My no. 1 concern of course was my swollen appearance but little did I know that I will have difficulty hearing and speaking too. Last Jan. 4, I requested for a postponement of my schedule since even the doctor can’t give me a definite answer on when the swelling would disappear. However, right after arrangements were made with Pastor Carlos and Bro.Winston, I felt in my spirit God’s reproach. God does not want me to HESITATE and clearly He does not want that I’ll allow my mumps to hinder me from fulfilling His will.
At my ugliest form and worst condition – just 3 days after acquiring mumps, I CLAIMED BY FAITH that God will make me well and will empower me to stand here today. God said in Matthew 9:29, “According to your faith let it be to you.” And praise God for he restored me.
Often God provides no solution to our problems until we trust Him and move ahead with what we know we should do. In obedience to God, let us find the courage to take T-H-A-T FIRST STEP.
4. COMMAND the SPIRIT OF UNBELIEF TO GET OUT
We should speak to the spirit of unbelief in our lives and command it to get out. The way you fight the devil is by opening your mouth and saying what God says. Repeatedly DECLARE God’s words when the devil is trying to flood your mind with doubts. God has a destiny of freedom in store for us. Deliverance from this particular spirit will set our faith free to experience the wonders and blessings of God.
Illustration: When I went through a health crisis last July 2016 I declared God’s words into my cysts and true enough the cysts suspected of Cancer turned out benign.
My Personal Testimony: My Struggle with Unbelief
NOT TO BELIEVE was much easier for me to do than TO BELIEVE. Perhaps because as a child I have to contend with unfulfilled promises that I became very self sufficient.
There came a time when I was so capable on my own that I can’t put my hope on others – God included. For me, to ask for help and to be dependent is for the weak people.
I also became a pessimist – I don’t want to hope and believe for good stuff to come. From the pessimist’s point of view I lose nothing if I don’t hope. Now I realized how much I missed out on all the good stuff for failing to believe.
I was the one primarily responsible in locking myself OUT from God’s storehouse of blessings due to my wrong thoughts and beliefs. And I come here before you today – a work in progress.
One thing that stood out from among other things is that the attitude of trust and confidence that the Bible calls belief or faith is NOT something we can obtain without help. Faith eliminates the pride of human effort because Faith is not a deed that we do, we cannot manufacture it on our own.
FAITH is a gift from God and no matter how much faith we have, we can never reach the point of being SELF SUFFICIENT.
Lastly, the discovery of our unbelief does not mean that we should doubt the reality of our ‘tiny’ faith. Nor should we beat ourselves up for being hypocrites because we are not perfect believers.
The main thing here is the progressive character of our faith. Growing in faith is a constant process of renewing daily our trust in Jesus. We cannot live on yesterday’s faith. Our growth hinges on what we do NOW. We simply need to keep going and growing each day.
I do not know with you but I desperately desire the gift of faith. Where everything is completely out of my control but under God’s complete control.
A Christian life that is WITHOUT CHANGE and WITHOUT FRUIT CONTRADICTS itself.
God commissioned us to do one thing TO GO FORTH AND BRING FRUIT. A FRUIT is a CHANGED LIFE, a CHRIST CENTERED LIFE, a life where we have DIED TO OURSELVES so that Christ will live through us (Gal 2:19-20). A life that seeks to satisfy GOD rather than self or people. A life whose CENTRAL THEME, FOCUS AND PRIORITY is GOD.
Based on today’s discussion, I came up with a Paradigm for FRUITFULNESS:
• MOSES’ RELUCTANCE affects our Public Work which is our Service, our Ministry utilizing external parts of our body as our Mouth, Hand and Feet. In order to become fruitful Christians our right response is to focus on what GOD CAN DO not on what we cannot do.
• MOSES’ UNBELIEF however, affects our Personal Walk which is the condition of our Hearts before God. Our heart which is internal is who we are with God. In order to become fruitful Christians our right response is to have faith and believe.
The paradigm suggests that we should eliminate RELUCTANCE and UNBELIEF in order to become FRUITFUL CHRISTIANS.
Hard to admit, I believe that many of our problems as Christians are rooted in unbelief. There are BELIEVERS who are UNBELIEVERS.
There are many who have committed their lives to Christ, but who are not believing some very important promises of Jesus Christ.
The spirit of unbelief binds the minds of Christians many times, that is why we can not have a BREAKTHROUGH.
The reason we are so lax in witnessing is because we do not really believe the gospel as we should.
We don’t believe our friends and relatives are facing a Christless eternity, in continual torment.
We don’t really believe that the things of this life are momentary, and that eternity will expose what is both lasting and enjoyable.
We don’t really believe that apart from faith in Christ men are hopelessly lost.
Are we inside this church today but our relationship with God is miles apart? I ask you do you want to remain just on the sideline and wake up each day DEFEATED , JOYLESS AND POWERLESS – BELIEVING IN CHRIST BUT UNBELIEVING IN OUR HEARTS?
It’s time to UNLIMIT God and BELIEVE in God’s best for us. Reach a new place spiritually with God today by defeating doubt and unbelief. Make a decision from the heart to trust God and His Word.