If I do not believe, am I to blame?
J. Wallace Hamilton once published a sermon entitled, “If a man does not believe, is he to blame?” I’ve always thought that was a good question. Can a person deliberately believe? Isn’t it just a matter of evaluating the evidence and then instinctively responding one way or the other? Who could blame the Jews for not believing Jesus? He didn’t fulfill their preconceived ideas of what the Messiah would be, after all.
But, God doesn’t ask us to commit “intellectual suicide” to be Christian. Faith is a matter of evaluating the evidence and making a logical choice. If a person is plagued by doubt, there are several intentional steps that can produce faith.
Acknowledge your own inadequacy
I’m convinced the biggest barrier to faith is not the lack of credible evidence but human pride. Many of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were so proud of their status that they rejected Jesus simply because he posed a threat to their power. They refused to believe regardless of his undeniable miracles and impressive teaching.
Some people today are so proud of their intellect and self-sufficiency that they find it difficult to believe. A person’s greatest asset — a brilliant mind — can become a spiritual barrier simply because of pride.
To believe in Christ is to admit, “I don’t have all the answers. Since I can’t explain everything, maybe I can learn from One who is greater than I.” That’s humbling. But, Jesus said, “Unless you humble yourself and become like a little child you can’t enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mark 10:15)
Objectively examine the evidence
Some of the Jews rejected Jesus because he was from Galilee. “The Messiah is supposed to be from Bethlehem,” they said. (John 7:42) But, if they had examined the facts, they would have discovered that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem.
One of the reasons people don’t believe is that they never really examine the evidence. They’ve known some Christians and read books or heard sermons about Jesus, but they have never studied the Scripture themselves.
Be willing to repent of barriers to belief
Most doubt is not intellectual; it is moral. When Jesus began preaching, his first sermon was, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)
People often choose not to believe because Christ demands a change of lifestyle. It’s much easier to say, “I’m not sure I believe” than it is to honestly admit, “I don’t want to give up my sin.”
Develop faith by acting on faith
Jesus talked about degrees of faith-great faith and little faith and faith the size of a mustard seed. We usually must deal not with total faith or complete rejection but a mixture of faith and doubt.
A tiny mustard seed has to be planted before it will grow. Likewise, faith has to be put into action before it will deepen. Do you believe the Bible a little bit? Then read it. Do you respect God to a degree? Then worship him. Do you believe in the church at all? Then find a place to serve. Do you believe in Jesus a little? Then obey his Word and discover that faith acted upon leads to increased faith.
There’s a banner that reads, “Faith is going to the edge of all the light you have and then taking one more step.” Whether you take the step of faith is a choice your choice.
Paul Leavens is the Minister Lindsay Christian Church. Visit the church website at www.lindsaychristianchurch.org.