3. Unbelief with Respect to the Promises of Christ
You may not be guilty of some daring, idolatrous attachment to sin. Perhaps you already have forsaken many sins, for your own good and for the sake of respectability before others. Yet there is one subtle form of sin which you have never even considered. Maybe you do not think it is very important, and certainly not very disgraceful. Perhaps you are one who does not believe Christ’s promises.
But you say, “Unbelief? What kind of sin is that? And why would God hold me responsible for not believing something?” My friend, consider for a few minutes how unbelief can be one of the greatest obstacles to coming to Christ, and thereby keep you from entering heaven.
Can there be any question that the promises of Jesus Christ are clear, certain, and all-embracing? Read this sampling of His promises. Look them up in the Bible to see for yourself how absolutely free of conditions and qualifications they are.
Matthew 11:28 – “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Romans 10:12 – “The Lord is rich to all who call upon Him.”
Romans 10:13 – “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
John 5:24 – “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
John 6:37 – “The one who comes to Me I will by no means”—under no conditions whatsoever, under no circumstances—”cast out.”
God likens His work of salvation to a wedding feast and says, “All things are ready. Come to the wedding” (Matt. 22:4). God has made all the preparations, and God has done all that needs to be done. We do not need to bring anything; we only need to come.
In the light of such marvelous, unqualified promises of forgiveness and acceptance, do you see how inexcusable is the sin of unbelief? The gospel feast has been spread and God has sent His servants to say, “Come, for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17). But you linger outside the banquet hall, lost and condemned in your unbelieving refusal to embrace the promised mercy of God. You may not be ignorant of your desperate need or impenitent for your sins, but you are unwilling to believe God’s testimony concerning the sufficiency of His Son as a redeemer for sinful men—the God who spoke audibly from heaven, “This is My beloved Son; hear Him” (Mark 9:7).
There will be many surprising kinds of sinners in heaven. There will be notorious sinners like the immoral woman of Luke 7 whose reputation was known by all. There will be desperate sinners like the thief whose crimes warranted crucifixion. There will be murderers and blasphemers in heaven like Saul of Tarsus, and even some people whose hands put to death the Son of God (Acts 2:23). But there will be one type of sinner who will be conspicuously absent: there will be no unbelievers. There will be no persons in heaven who in this life were not joined by faith to Jesus Christ.
The Book of the Revelation paints many pictures of God’s final judgment of mankind. Many of these images are puzzling and mysterious, but look at one very clear picture of those standing outside the gates of heaven. Revelation 21:8 says, “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Those whose lives were respectable and even upright, but marked by the chronic sin of unbelief, shall take their eternal place with those whose lives were characterized by murder, lying and other grosser forms of sin.
We are tempted to view unbelief as a defect, or a sort of “vitamin deficiency” that leaves us spiritually anemic but really not so bad overall. God views unbelief in its true light. When Jesus describes the Holy Spirit’s purpose in coming to convict the world of sin, here is the principal sin which He highlights: “Because they do not believe in Me” (John 16:9).
If until now you have been unbelieving, will you turn from this sin and cling by faith to Christ? Will you believe His abundant promises of salvation, pardon and rest?
4. Unwarranted Expectation of Additional Revelation from Christ
Perhaps we have not yet identified your reason for waiting to come to Christ. You feel your need and you are ready to leave your sins. You are seeking to put your faith in Jesus at the right time, but you want some additional word from Him.
Your exposure to the Bible, whether through personal reading, family training, or church attendance, has taught you an important truth. You know that unless you are one of God’s elect, one of God’s special chosen ones, you cannot come to Christ. God must awaken a sinner to his need, God must draw him to Himself, and God must give him the gift of faith. And so, you reason, “Until I know that I am one of God’s elect, it would be presumptuous for me to come to Christ.”
With this conviction firmly in hand, then, you have determined that you cannot act until some additional revelation comes from Christ. You would not demand a vision or a voice in the night, of course, but you are waiting either for some special text which fixes itself on your mind, or some overwhelming sense of God’s convicting presence, or some evidence of the marks of regeneration in your life. And so, you will not come to Christ because you are waiting for a message from God.
Why is it unwarranted to expect such additional revelation? The passage in John 5 gives us a compelling answer to that question. Jesus asserted that, to the Jews, the Old Testament Scriptures should be the final, convincing proof of His claims. He said in verse 39, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” In verse 46 he says, “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “What the Scriptures say about Me, from the earliest writings of Moses through the closing words of the last prophets, is all the warrant you need to come to Me. You should not wait for something else; these words are sufficient.”
The dialogue with the rich man in hell further reinforces Jesus’ teaching on the sufficiency and finality of the scriptural witness. To the rich man’s plea that someone warn his brothers about the torments of hell, Abraham responds, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). The rich man, though, has a better scheme: “No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent” (v. 30). We hear the voice of Christ speaking in the final answer of Abraham: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.”
Are you waiting for some spectacular revelation from God before you will come to Christ? Are you ignoring the message of “Moses and the prophets” which you have in your Bible? Do you see that such waiting is inexcusable? Do not think that your attitude is humble submission before God. Your reluctance is actually a proud and arrogant demand upon God, telling Him how He ought to act. In effect you are saying with the rich man, “God, I have a better plan of salvation than your ordinary methods. I have a special way for you to call me, and I’m waiting for this special revelation.” The truth is, God’s plan of salvation has been presented plainly and simply to you through the witness of the Scriptures. The wedding feast of the gospel has been spread, and God invites you to have eternal life. All you need to do is come.
Is Jesus Christ calling to you? Do you see yourself, not as a special sinner, but as a needy, lost, hell-deserving sinner? Then come to Him in repentance and faith. Look upon Christ as the perfectly suitable “friend of sinners.” See how His perfectly righteous life fully satisfies the requirements of divine law. Consider how His substitutionary death fully satisfies divine justice for your sins. Do not make complicated what God has made beautifully simple; just come. Come to Christ because of God’s gracious directive: “This is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 3:23). Come to Christ because of God’s gracious promise: “Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). May you this day put aside any reasons that stop you. Come to Christ, that you may have life.
Just as I am, without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come.
Just as I am! Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve,
Because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come.