Why Do People Not Believe?
I took time out of my writing and studying schedule recently to watch two interesting documentaries. I wasn’t watching either of them for “fun,” but because I wanted to learn something. The first was completely secular. It was produced by secularists and was made for society at large. It highlighted the famous street in Hollywood called Sunset Strip through the decades and how it changed over time and evolved to what it is now. The level of debauchery noted in the documentary was incredible. In fact, one young man with his friend were complaining that today’s Sunset Strip is absent of the level of “debauchery” (his word) that the Strip used to have. Both of them longed for that time.
I certainly will not go into all the sordid detail, but I will say that anything you can imagine that might have taken place on that strip – drugs, sex, rock and roll, the mob, racketeering, prostitution, etc. – actually took place on that Strip. The tragedy is that what people often saw were the “beautiful” people, the actors, the dancers, the singers, the musicians, all enjoying the company of one another in places like Ciros, Spagos, Whiskey-A-Go-Go, The Rainbow, and many other places. That one street catered to (and still caters to), the people who seek out Hollywood as some sort of Mecca for artists. Many call that area “home” yet as was brought out in the documentary, the Strip winds up killing too many people. It’s a tragedy that has played itself out repeatedly over the years and continues to do so. People get much more than they bargained for and only the very few are not overtaken by it.
As I watched the documentary, I just felt this growing sense of complete emptiness for the people being interviewed or the ones shown on the street looking for that something that will lift them up out of their doldrums and give them the experience of their lifetime. Many of those interviewed (Richard Lewis, Mickey Rourke, Tommy Lee, Sharon Osbourne, the rock group Steel Panther, et al), clearly believed that life is what you make it and there is nothing else after this. This is it and they wanted to get the best of this “it” before it’s over.
Now imagine if you or I walked up to them and tried to talk with them about Jesus and their need for His salvation. Generally speaking, they would reject it out of hand unless of course, the Lord had worked to soften up their heart and open their eyes. They would laugh. They might even become angry. Many of these individuals on the documentary are very intelligent people. They know their way around the English language and can express themselves very well. Some not so much, but I point this out to simply note that intelligence alone does not make a person open to the Gospel. As the documentary progressed, my heart sank. Out of all those people, I only knew one who is a Christian, by his own admission. Alice Cooper. Thank goodness for that folks, because he may be making inroads better than you or I could do.
The videos of people spilling out into the streets, getting high and wild, enjoying the night life, and literally flirting with disaster reminded me of just how many people on a daily basis ignore God and His calling to them to come to Him for salvation. Once they leave this life, it’s over.
We are free agents in the strong sense of the word and unfortunately, most are so closed off to God and His miraculous cure for what ails us that even when it is presented to them, they refuse it because it is so out of sync with their belief system even if they were to tell you they don’t have any particular belief system.
The other documentary I watched was “Patterns of Evidence: Exodus.” It explores the archaeological evidence for or against the biblical Exodus. What the documentary notes is that modern archaeology generally rejects any possibility of the biblical Exodus because there doesn’t appear to be any archaeological evidence of it. As filmmaker Timothy Mahoney discovers, there does actually appear to be evidence for the Exodus if modern archaeology would be willing to reconsider the dates they’ve affixed to the three Egyptian Kingdoms.
Throughout the film, Mahoney sits down with people who are well-known experts in the field of archaeology or Egyptology and most deny that any evidence for the Exodus exists or has been discovered. Even when Mahoney is able to go back to these people and show them what might be evidence, they reject it. They are not open to it at all.
Watch the trailer below and if you have Netflix, you can watch the entire documentary there as part of your service, free of additional charge.
After watching these two separate films, I recalled a passage of Scripture that we all know. It’s Matthew 13:58 and it is the last sentence that sums up the situation up to that point where Jesus had been attempting to interact with the average person in a new area.
And [Jesus] did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
We’ve all heard the most common explanation for this text. Many Christian leaders and pastors point to this verse and tell us that had only the people in that region believed in what Jesus could do, He could have healed them physically and maybe even have fed them as He had done on other occasions. That may have been true, but I’m thinking that isn’t the point of the text.
The word “unbelief” makes it appear as though the people were either unable or unwilling to believe. Had they found a way to believe, Jesus could have done miracles for them as He would also love to do for you (as we are often told). Of course, the greatest miracle of all is our salvation, which heals us spiritually first and foremost. God never promises to heal us physically in this life (though I’m well aware that there are those who disagree with me on that). However, in the next, we will have glorified bodies that are not susceptible to sin, disease, or destruction (cf. Philippians 3:21).
Regarding the text, I am more inclined to see that Jesus’ hands were tied because of what the people were not willing to accept from Him. Yes, certainly, there was this attitude that said, “What? He’s who? He can do what? I don’t think so,” and people would walk away, laugh, or both. They were not open to the possibility that Jesus was who He said He was and could offer them more than what the religious leaders offered at the time. That thought was ridiculous. Forget it. Move on.
I don’t believe the text means that had the people believed, Jesus would have healed all their infirmities. He certainly might have done that as He had done elsewhere, but the upshot is that He could do nothing because they were not willing to receive Him or His truth, which is what I think the text actually means. Ultimately, what was Jesus wanting to provide? Salvation. The miracles He performed were to authenticate His ministry and authority over the things that ailed people, chief of which was sin.
As we Christians walk through this world, we constantly come in contact with people who are either unable or unwilling to receive what offer them in Christ. For instance, I find it remarkable that with all the evidence regarding the Exodus (and there is a very worthwhile and growing body of evidence), many archaeological experts or Egyptologists are incapable of seeing it. They are unwilling to accept anything that would indicate plausibility to the Exodus narrative. The rabbi of the largest Jewish synagogue in America does not believe the Exodus actually occurred the way it’s outlined in the Bible. It’s not that these folks are not intelligent enough to understand it. It’s that they are too stubborn to see that the archaeological evidence might be real evidence of the biblical Exodus.
I think this is exactly what Jesus was up against during His day. People wrongly (in my opinion), use the above text from Matthew and others like it to “prove” that God always wants to heal us if we will just have faith or believe in His ability to do so. I think it goes far deeper than that. God wants us to respond to Jesus with words similar to Peter’s words when he said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!” (Matthew 16:16). We should do this because that is the truth. It is that truth once embraced through faith that grants us the right to be called the children of God whereby we cry “Abba! Father!” That’s where that truth can lead if people will open their hearts to it.
The average person in the Sunset Strip film would laugh in derision or reject outright the idea that we are sinners in need of salvation. They’re not even interested enough to consider any evidence. The experts in the film about the Exodus could not see the evidence as truth. It is merely circumstantial and went against the grain of what they believed (they would say they “know”), about the dates for the Egyptian Kingdoms. Any so-called evidence that purports to prove the Exodus actually happened is simply coincidental.
There is plenty of evidence regarding the destruction of Jericho and the other cities of the plain where the Israelites led by Joshua overcame and destroyed. There are ancient tablets, archaeological digs near Avaris and elsewhere, and a papyrus called the Brooklyn Papyrus that offer some semblance of support for the biblical narratives, yet because of the dating of the Egyptian Kingdoms, these pieces of evidence are rejected out of hand by those experts in the field who have been in the field for decades.
It was interesting to watch as Israel Finklestein, barely kept his arrogance hidden when faced with some of the evidence uncovered. He simply shrugged it off and said it was of no consequence. This attitude – that of “unbelief” or an unwillingness to accept – is what keeps people from embracing God’s truth. We saw it previously with King Ahab and Jezebel, who, in spite of the terrible defeat at the hand of the Lord God Jehovah over the 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, utterly refused to admit God had defeated them and their gods. Instead, both stiffened their resolve and went after Elijah, threatening his life. Neither would bow down to the God of Israel, the only God. They’re both bowing now and it is so tragic beyond words that they rebelled in their unwillingness to accept truth that was presented to them.
It’s not that the text in Matthew 13 is telling us that if we only believed in God’s power in a greater way, we would be healed of all physical ailments. What we learn there is that God’s hands are often tied because of the stubbornness of people’s hearts, a stubbornness that pits them against God. Friends, we know that this is a very dangerous place to be, isn’t it? Yet, most in the world are there.
My wife travels from time to time for her work. It is always interesting to me how she prays that the person she sits next to on the plane will be open to Him and that He will lead her to carry on an informed conversation so that it meets them where their need is most. Whether she thinks so or not, she is an evangelist. Certainly, she takes the Great Commission very seriously. May the Lord continue to bless her for it.
Most of us fear telling others about Christ because we don’t know where to start or that we’ll come to a dead-end. The truth is that most people will reject it many times before they ever embrace it (if they do), because of their own stubborn human nature that does not allow them to believe in the One who has the ability to grant eternal life. Nonetheless, we plant seeds or maybe water ones that have been planted by someone else.
I wish people were not so stubborn. We have no reason to be, yet it is a very real part of the fallen nature each person possesses. Maybe the Lord embolden us to preach the Gospel in and out of season, to meet people where they are and to seek His glory in so doing.
Entry filed under: Atheism and religion, christianity, eternity, israel, Judaism, Political Correctness, Politically Correct, Politics, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: biblical exodus, exodus, history of sunset strip, Hollywood, joshua, moses, patterns of evidence: exodus, pharaoh, rahab, sunset strip, timothy mahoney.