Negotiating Submission

No one can negotiate the past. A person may not like the past. They may wish it was different than it was. They may try to forget about it. They may tell another version of the story. They may want to run far away from it. But they can’t do anything about it. What has happened can’t be changed. History is the record of reality before now, and we can’t bargain to modify a different past for ourselves.

Revisionism, rewriting reality gone by, is a show of unbelief. Unbelief also gets pushy as it incites us to negotiate present realities just as unchangeable as the past. Some things are true just because that’s how they are. The dark unbelief doesn’t care.

One of unbelief’s favorite whipping posts is the truth that Christ is Lord. A person may not like that He is Lord. They may wish it was different. They may try to forget about it. They may tell another version of the story. They may want to run far away from His reign. But they can’t do anything about it. Who is Lord can’t be changed. The world exists under His lordship, past, present, future, east, west, north, south, up, down. We can’t negotiate our submission to Him.

What has happened can’t be changed and a man who refuses to believe the facts is a fool. Who is Lord can’t be changed either, and a man who refuses to believe and obey is out of touch with reality.

A Hole in the Boldness Tank

Unbelief as sin justifies God’s judgment because it is an affront to Him. Unbelief goes about as if He weren’t trustworthy, as if His demonstrations were insufficient, and as if His commands were optional. Not only does unbelief deserve God’s wrath, unbelief also damages our witness and worship.

Unbelief torpedos our courage to witness. If I don’t believe that eating fruits and vegetables will help me be healthy, then I won’t eat them and I’m likely to be silent about their benefits in conversation. Worse, if I don’t believe that in Christ is life and that abiding in Him produces fruit, I will not be fruitful or faithful to call others to Christ. Unbelief blows a hole in the boldness tank and we will not acknowledge Him before men (Matthew 10:32-33) if our faith is empty.

Unbelief also bankrupts our convictions for worship. I will not praise what I do not prize, and I will not prize something I’m suspicious about. I will have no confidence to sing if I’m uncertain of His ability to come through or unsure that He is who He says He is. Doubt siphons off our confidence for worship until our faith is belly up.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). We sin when we do not believe, we cannot please Him without faith, and our unbelief cuts off our courage and convictions. Disbelief isn’t something to play with, it’s something to confess as sin.

No Less Wrath Deserving

We usually think about (our) wrath-deserving sin as transgression, as leaping over the fence He forbids us from jumping. Our spiritual death certainly activates transgressions (see Ephesians 2:1), but our spiritual death also animates unbelief. Unbelief is no less a wrath-deserving sin.

Unbelief deserves wrath because, whether we would say it like this or not, unbelief questions God’s honesty, His trustworthiness. God never lies (Titus 1:2) and He never fails to fulfill His promises (Romans 11:29). I don’t appreciate when my kids don’t believe me, but how much more wrong is it to doubt God?

Unbelief also warrants judgment in light of the many evidences God has given. He graciously substantiates His claims, even to us doubting Thomases. “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27). He provides many proofs of His believability and men will be judged according to the revelation they’ve disbelieved.

The sin of unbelief also earns wrath as direct disobedience to the commands to believe. Faith is important because it is necessary for salvation. But faith is also imperative, so it is necessary for obedience. Disbelief is disobedience.

We who call ourselves believers, who profess faith, cannot let our belief slump or slip or wane. God still is trustworthy, He still manifests sign upon sign, and He still commands us to believe.

The Unspoken Option

Children learn far more unspoken theology than we tend to think. Suppose parents have operated with the doctrinal assumption that the kids might or might not turn out, who knows? Why should the children have any confidence about it? Unbelief is the constant, unspoken option. And one day, the option is spoken out loud. But it was always there, hidden away in the hearts of the parents, who always hoped for their childrens’ faith, but never believed for it.

—Doug Wilson, The Pastor’s Kids, Again