Friday, January 2, 2009

Sabbath Sermon: Unbelieving Believers

Scripture Reading

Jesus said to him,” If you can believe all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24, NKJV)

Call for Worship

Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light” (SDA Hymnal 875; Matthew 11: 28-30, Jerusalem)


Hymn 1: “Trust and Obey” (SDA Hymnal 590)
Hymn 2: “All to Jesus I Surrender” (SDA Hymnal 309)
Hymn 3: “All the Way My Saviour Leads Me” (SDA Hymnal 516)


I believe that in one way or another, we all believe so the main question this morning is not whether we are believers or not. The question is not whether we believe in one God or not. Actually, in the book of James 2:19, the Bible says that even the “devils believe and tremble.” Yes, they do believe but as far as the Bible is concerned they are not saved – they are actually on the losing side and they want us to join them! So is it possible that we can also believe and not be saved? Many times we have been told to ‘just believe, just believe’ and even though many of us have tried and tried to believe, our faith have waned and waned! So what is the problem and what is its Biblical solution?

Our scripture reading this morning suggest that believing is more than ‘just believing’! It actually suggests that we can indeed be ‘Unbelieving Believers’! Yes we can indeed be ‘Losing Believers’! But this is not what God want us to be. I believe He wants each and one of us to be ‘Believing Believers.’ And, yes, we can indeed be ‘Winning Believers.’ So the main challenge for you and me this morning is to ask ourselves if we are ‘Unbelieving Believers’ or ‘Trusting Believers.’ In other words, the main question this morning is not ‘what’ do we believe but ‘how’ do we believe. This question is not meant to discourage us but rather it is meant to encourage us to take the basics of salvation seriously for, as Jesus said in Matthew 22:14, “many are called but few are chosen.”

So where do start? Let's start at the book of the beginnings as we examine the tale of three couples and see how God works to change ‘Unbelieving Believers’ so that they may become ‘Trusting Believers.’

The Tale of Three Couples

1. Adam and Eve – Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-13; 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:22

In the first few chapters of Genesis we read the story of the first couple - the story of the first believers. We are told that everything that God created was good and since Adam and Eve were the masterpiece of God’s creation, they were more than good! God trusted them and He expected them to trust Him too. But trust, just like love, is not forced but rather it is won. And as someone has said, “trust awakens trust.” So, God did not even attempt force them. He actually loved and entrusted the first couple with everything but He gave them a choice to accept or not to accept His love and trustworthiness. In other words, He gave them a chance to either choose to be ‘Trusting Believers’ or ‘Unbelieving Believers.’ And so He gave a test of belief and we read it in: -

Genesis 2:16-17: “And the LORD God commanded the man/woman, saying ‘of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

The Bible does not say how long it took Adam and his wife to keep this test of belief in God. I am pretty sure they trusted and obeyed God for sometime. But sad to say at a certain point in time they changed from being Trusting Believers to Unbelieving Believers. And so we often read that sad story of the fall in Genesis 3:1-6.

What happened to them as soon as they both ate the forbidden fruit? They suddenly lost their trustworthiness and felt worthless – they realized they were naked and fearful. And just like many other Unbelieving Believers, they decided to look for their own human solution instead of a divine solution – “they sawed fig leaves together and made themselves apron” (Genesis 3:7). They made something that could not cover their shame properly for as someone said, the fig apron was not just a tiny piece of clothing but it also had a lot of holes! And just like many of us today, they also “hid themselves from the presence of God” (Genesis 3:8) – the very loving God who wanted to help them out!

That’s how bad it is when we become ‘Untrusting and Unbelieving Believers’! That’s the bad news but the trustworthy God had some good news for Adam and Eve. We read that news in Genesis 3:21: “Unto Adam also and unto his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” God had to sacrifice an innocent animal to provide a sure cover for them and this was the first sacrifice which was pointing to Jesus, the Lamb of God, who was to sacrifice His life as a covering for our sinful lives.

In other words God was saying ‘My beloved couple you cannot trust and believe in yourselves because if you do so you won’t be able to resist sin. You cannot rely on yourselves because your “righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). My dear friends trust and obey me for I know what is good for you. Believe and rely on me because I can clothe and beautify you “with salvation” (Psalms 132:6; 149:4). Stop being Unbelieving Believers and be Trusting Believers’!

That was the story of our first parents. Now let’s move to the second couple – Abraham and Sarah.

2. Abraham and Sarah – Hebrews 11:8-19; Genesis 15-22; John 8:30-39

Even though they also had their moments of unbelief as it was in case of Ishmael when they tried to run ahead of God’s promise concerning Isaac, they are one of the best examples of what it means to be trusting believers. So let’s just read and learn from their tribute in the chapter of faith – Hebrews 11.

Hebrews 11: 8: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”

Can we leave our home sweet home just like that? He really trusted in God and His providential wisdom!

Hebrews 11:11:“By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.”

Can we laugh at scientific facts just like that? She really believed in God and His amazing miracles!

Hebrews 11:17: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called,' concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”

Can we give our very own just like that? No wonder Abraham is called the father of faith! Now let’s look at the final couple –Christ and His church!

3. Christ and the Church – Revelation 21:2, 9, 27; Ephesians 5:25-27

The Bible refers to the church as the bride of Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). But what is the church? It is you and me! We are the church and according to the Bible we are being prepared for the marriage supper of the Lamb! We can only make it if we allow the Holy Spirit to help us trust in Jesus and allow Him not only to be the author of our faith but also to be the “finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). We have to allow Him to help us stop being Unbelieving Believers! We have to let go of our self-sufficiency and allow Jesus to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Let’s read from the book of Ephesians and see what Jesus is ready to do for us as individuals and as a church if we allow Him to do so:

Ephesians 5: 25-27: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”


The bad news is that we all tend to sin because we are born with a tendency to do the unbelief works of the first couple. But the good news is that we can all share the blessings of the third couple because of the faith of the second couple. All we need is to allow Jesus to do His work of headship of this third couple. We need to allow God to help us trust and obey Him no matter what. We need to allow God to lead us to surrender all including our selves to Him for He knows what is good for us. We need to allow Jesus to lead us all the way.

Yes, it is hard to admit that we are helpless and we like to try harder and harder even if we are failing over and over again. But as one writer says, it is only Christ who can do the work and our part is to consent. We need to consent and agree with Jesus 100% when He says in John 15: 5 that without Him “we can do nothing.” Yes we can’t do anything at all -we can’t even believe or surrender without Him.

It’s not much about what we can do or what we know but it is more about WHO we know and HOW we believe HIM. It’s about JESUS who is able to help us out no matter how helpless and worthless we feel. It’s about EMMANUEL who wants us to allow Him to live with us. May the cry in our scripture reading this morning be our prayer –“Lord I believe, Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24)!


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