By Jeff Vanderstelt
I’m an unbeliever. So are you. “Wait,” you’re thinking. “What are you doing writing a book about the gospel of Jesus Christ if you’re an unbeliever? And what do you know about me? Who do you think I am?”
I grew up believing that people fall into two categories: you are either a believer or an unbeliever; you either believe in Jesus Christ and what he has done for us or you don’t. Now, after more than 25 years as a pastor, I see that every one of us is an unbeliever, including me—at least in some areas of our lives.
Don’t misunderstand me. I do believe there are some who are regenerate children of God and others who are not yet.
There are those who have been given new life through faith in Jesus. They have become new creations and have been given fresh starts because of their faith in Jesus Christ and what he has done for them. And I believe there are others who are still dead in their sins and not yet truly alive in Christ (see John 1:12–13; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:1–10).
When I say we are all unbelievers, I mean we still have places in our lives where we don’t believe God. There are spaces where we don’t trust his word and don’t believe that what he accomplished in Jesus Christ is enough to deal with our past or what we are facing in this moment or the next.
We don’t believe his word is true or his work is sufficient. We don’t believe. We are unbelievers. I struggle with unbelief on a daily basis. I have a conversation with my wife, and when she points out something I’ve yet to get better at, I hear the word failure in my head.
I try to lead a good conversation about the Bible at the dinner table with my children, but instead of eager beavers on the edges of their seats, I get slouched bodies and rolling eyes. Bad father.
I teach on being a good neighbor, one who knows the stories of the people who live on your street, but since I moved into my current neighborhood a few months ago, I know only the story of failed attempts to meet people. Hypocrite.
I slip in and out of believing God’s word about me and trusting in his work for me. Jesus gave his life to make me a new creation. He died to forgive me of my sins and change my identity from sinner to saint, from failure to faithful, and from bad to good and even righteous and holy.
But I forget what he has said about me. I forget what he has done for me. And sometimes it isn’t forgetfulness. Sometimes it’s just plain unbelief. I know these things. I just don’t believe them.
I am an unbeliever. Not every moment, of course. But I have those moments.
So do you. I’m certain of it.
We all struggle with unbelief in God because the message of who he is and what he has done for us can sound unbelievable at times. We all slip in and out of confidence that what he has done for us in Jesus is sufficient for us today.
It’s very possible that even though you are familiar with Jesus, you have yet to believe in him for yourself, for your life. Or maybe you have come to faith in Jesus, but it hasn’t really changed what you do daily or how you engage in the everyday stuff of life.
The apostle Paul said to the believers in Jesus in Galatia, “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God [Jesus], who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
They had started with faith in Jesus, but they were putting their faith and hope in something else to make them right instead of Jesus. Paul called them back to an awareness that the good news about Jesus—the gospel—is for all of life: everything.
A life of true living is a life of faith in Jesus, a life of believing in Jesus in the everyday stuff of life.
I’m still learning how to live like that. I’m still an unbeliever in many ways. And yet, I don’t want to stay that way. I want all of my life to be marked by faith in Jesus.
God is intent on making everything about Jesus because it is through him that all things came into existence and it is in him that they are sustained (Eph. 1:22–23; Col. 1:15–20).
God also wants to rescue you from unbelief and sanctify you to become like Jesus. Sanctification is just a big word for becoming more and more like Jesus through faith in Jesus. You become like what you believe in.
So becoming like Jesus requires believing in him more and more in every part of your life. Sanctification is moving from unbelief in Jesus to belief in him in the everyday stuff of life.
You’re not there yet, are you? Neither am I. We’re still unbelievers who need Jesus more—in more ways and more places.
JEFF VANDERSTELT, content taken from Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus into the Everyday Stuff of Life, ©2017. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.