36. Unbelief

Short Meditations in John 6:  36. Unbelief

Jn 6:36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 

I believe the challenge of unbelief to be the greatest challenge that the modern church faces. It is not a case of ‘total unbelief’ but certainly of ‘partial unbelief’. It is exhibited, I believe, in two primary ways. The first is theological but that doesn’t mean to say it is confined to theologians. Many of us work of the basis of “I believe what I understand or what I feel comfortable with”, and thus if we come across verses of Scripture that are challenging, we find ways of writing them off. I simply ask, do you believe every word of the New Testament’s teaching? If you have problems with such verses, for example, as Jn 14:12 or 1 Cor 14:5 and make excuses why they don’t apply to you, you are in ‘partial unbelief’. The second way unbelief is exhibited is in the ‘social church’ mentality. This portrays church as a nice place to go where we follow set, comfortable-formula services that leave us happy and contented – and unchallenged!

Earlier Jesus has said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent,” (v.29) and he had already chided them, “you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” (v.26) In other words, you saw the miracle that I performed but instead of praising God for the wonder of it, you are simply self-concerned, thinking how you can get more bread from me. You are entirely materialistic in your thinking and you miss the spiritual wonders going on under your noses!

Moreover, that ‘sign’ should have made them focus on Jesus and, instead of wanting to make him king so that he could keep on providing for them, it should have set them thinking about who he actually was, the one from heaven with the authority of God to bring in the kingdom or rule of God. That is a rule to bring about God’s will, not their will. The ironic thing is that the outworkings of His will and their will is basically the same – their blessing, but God knows it is bigger than simply providing a regular meal for them. That is only a tiny part of the package!

To receive this blessing that we have just referred to relies on them coming to belief in Jesus as the Son of God who has come to inaugurate the kingdom of God on earth through his eventual substitutionary death on the Cross. But that understanding is only going to come in slow stages, the first of which is simply coming to a realisation that he is the Son of God. That they are struggling with and that is what so many struggle with, remaining self-concerned and blind to the wonders seen in the Gospels. May it not be us!

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