The Heart of Unbelief

John 7:1-9
Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor
Michael Gunn on February 4th, 2007

“Although America is a “Christian” nation and there are many sincere Christians in America, the majority of the people there have no faith. There, where it is easy to have religion, where religion is offered on every side and no one is persecuted for their beliefs, life should be peaceful. Instead, there is a mad rush and hustle and bustle after money and comfort and pleasure. In India, many Christians suffer bitter persecution but continue to find happiness in their new faith. Because it is so easy to have faith in America, people do not appreciate what a comfort there is in faith.”
Excerpted from “Wisdom of the Sadhu” by Sadhu Sundar Singh

How easy is it to travel with Jesus, and lack the faith that gives us a peace beyond understanding? This is Jesus’ reality because “Not even His brother’s were believing in him” (see too Mark 3:21; 32-35). It’s hard to fathom how they could not believe, and how this had to hurt Christ. Salvation does not come in proximity, but in revelation. Our faith is a gift, and it reveals the truth of God in our hearts (Acts 16:14-15; Ephesians 2:8,9). Real faith begets a comfort that comes from trust; like a little child in his/her Father’s arms. It’s a simple trust that her dad will not drop her/him, and that he/she is safe in his midst.

John gives us a picture of unbelief, and how simple it is to be fooled by our disbelief. Here are 3 aspects of disbelief that affect us all as followers of Christ.

From the Head…
1. Unbelief Can Cause God to Pull Back for the Sake of the Kingdom (John 7:1-2)
Jesus pulls back not out of cowardice, but out of timing. It just wasn’t His time (see John 7:6, 8, 30 cf. John 17:1). God’s timing is precise, and timely, whether we can see this or not. His “Lack” of timing in our eyes is not a sign of apathy or a lack of caring, it is a sign of His sovereignty, and care for the whole plan, and not just the parts.

The feast of “Tabernacles” (See John 1:14, which used the same word for Christ dwelling with us; see also Numbers 29; Deuteronomy 16) was a 7 day festival celebrating the Jews “Tabernacling” in the desert, and it involved sacrifices for sins, but also a rejoicing to God for all He had done for them (Deuteronomy 16:14-15). This was a time to remember Tabernacling with God, and relying on God for the manna and their safety. Now we have God Tabernacling with us to provide the manna, which is from heaven; the bread of life, which is Jesus. This was a festive “Party” time! This time was seen by Zechariah to be the festive celebration of gladness that symbolized the “Future” of God’s people (see Zechariah 14).

2. Unbelief is often a Result of Self-Interest (John 7:3-5)
It appears on the surface to be innocent. All they wanted is Christ to be known. He needed to market Himself; after all, He just made one of those publicity faux pas that wiped out His entire congregation. Maybe all He needs is a little positive publicity, because after all, the gospel is about slick engineering. “Come on, show off your miracles again, people like that!” It appeared innocent, but according to verse 5 it was a sign of unbelief. Our desire to make Christ great, without seeing Him as great is a subtle sign that He isn’t great enough in our eyes.

3. Unbelief Destroys Significance and Purpose (John 7:6-9)
Jesus not only tells His brothers that His timing is not right, but that theirs is right at anytime. Again, this may appear harmless, but when coupled with the Jewish understanding of time being ordered by God (Ecclesiastes 3), and Jesus statements in verse 7, is akin to Jesus saying that God does not purpose their time because of their unbelief. They are not controlled by God’s revealed will. They are only looking to their own agendas. They can move when they want, not under the compulsion and will of the Father, which is how Jesus rolls!

…to the Heart
Significance, identity and purpose are found in Christ and nowhere else. Our subtle unbelief leave us rudderless and struggling for identity in a confusing world. It is easy to fall into unbelief even when we are close in proximity to the truth of God and His word. That’s why the gospel compels us to be more than hearers of the word (James 1:22-25). Our theology doesn’t save if it doesn’t bear fruit in our lives. One clear fruit that the gospel bears is the fruit of humble submission to God and His word over and above our own will and intellect.

This affects us greatly when we deny our maker in this subtle way, because it causes us to rely on that which doesn’t save or comfort, and the results are disastrous for us and our relationships. Faith is a huge and true comfort, and it produces the joy and happiness that often alludes us because of our unbelief

5 comments so far

  1. Aaron Youngren on

    “We should not see God’s inconvenient timing as divine apathy, but as a sign of divine sovereignty.”

    That’s money.

  2. Aaron Youngren on

    Our desire to make Christ great, without seeing Him as great is a subtle sign that He isn’t great enough in our eyes.


  3. sermonrant on

    Yeah I would say that both of these statements reflect the problem we have with God. We don’t like His timing, and we don’t see Him as the prize.

  4. Nate Cejka on

    It’s ironic that the Jews were celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles (God with us), but many of them did not recognize that God had literally been walking around with them in Jerusalem and Judea.

  5. sermonrant on

    Yeah, that’s the irony, they had God with them, right in front of them, but they were still looking for something else. That’s what man does well!

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