As Christians, Jesus Christ is the essence of who we are. He is the “why” to what we hold true. Our world is framed by Him; our foundation is in Him; we are formed through Him and His resurrection is the underpinning of our relationship with God, our hope for eternal life and our confidence in every promise made. We are Christians, not because of our own work or merit, but because of a decision to believe like Abraham (Genesis 15:6). Thus, we believe in our heart—not with our head—on the Lord Jesus Christ and we are saved (Romans 10:9-10).
The same principle of how we believe holds true with all of the exceedingly great and precious promises made by God to His own. And, this is where we as Christians must examine our individual hearts, because regardless of how much we say that we believe, our actions reflect or reveal the true state of our heart. For instance, if I believe someone has broken into my home and I continue laying on the couch watching television, then my actions are not commensurate to what I have believed; however, if I act on the idea that someone has broken in, then my response, or behavior is what communicates the state of my heart.
And, the reality is, we may not always know the position of our heart until we are presented with an opportunity to believe or trust God. So, Paul tells the believer in advance,
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” — Hebrews 3:12-13
Herein is an admonishment to Christians to be cautious and alert to the insidious nature of “unbelief.” It is a warning for us to learn from Israel as they allowed their feelings to respond to God with an “evil heart.” And, as a result, Psalm 78:33 says, they lived a life of futility and their years were consumed in fear. Thus, we learn from that generation what “unbelief” towards God looks like. We also learn that unbelief is what hindered the people from being healed in Mark 6:5-6. We learn from the disciples that their shock in Jesus multiplying the loaves and fish was because of a hardened heart (Mark 6:52). Together, we learn from the exchange between the father and Jesus, that “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). We learn from these stories and examples of what unbelief and a hardened heart looks and sounds like so that we can examine our own hearts for the sake of change and ready ourselves with a heart to believe God, regardless.
And, I believe that is why we all need the warning because in life we can easily find ourselves responding with realism and skepticism, facts and feelings, reason and rationale, rather than on the character and nature of God alone. For this reason, as Christians, we need the warning lest we unknowingly repeat a cycle of unbelief that questions His love for us and discounts His presence and power in our lives. We need the warning so that we can consider our current ways and repent.
With repentance we acknowledge the personal struggle in our mind but we also determine a new response to life, from our heart. So, rather than complain like Israel, we offer continual worship, regardless of facts. Rather than second-guess the Father’s love when we are overwhelmed, we surrender to God’s leading with demonstrated trust. Rather than doubt His promise(s), we choose thanksgiving and gratitude. Rather than reason ourselves towards a disregard of the written Word, we just do it. We willfully learn from Israel’s failings and mistakes by doing the opposite of how we feel, or reason or intellectually process. We choose to live by faith. That is, we demonstrate confidence and we set an expectation based upon who He is and what He said. In other words, we live everyday like God is alive!
That is the life of faith, and that is the life of a believer: A life that pleases God and is qualified to exhort and encourage others towards the same.
Father, I draw near with a true heart to declare, I believe. I believe in You and Your Son, Jesus Christ. And, today, I repent for every place in my life where I have doubted and discounted You; where I have demonstrated an evil heart of unbelief rather than a heart that believes. Give me to know You in greater measure that I may please You. Open my eyes of understanding by Your Spirit that I may see You in Your glory and great power in my life, my family, my community, this nation and the world. You are able to do all things and I declare today, “I choose to believe,” In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Ministry Fellow at Princeton University
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