A Faithless Popular Culture Breeds Unbelief
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.
- Summary: Unbelief permeated the culture of Jesus' day, just as it dominates many sectors of our skeptical modern world. Jesus' ministry to a boy with seizures contains jewels of insight to help keep us from being influenced by our faithless popular culture.
Mark 9:17-24 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.  Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”  “O UNBELIEVING GENERATION,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? BRING THE BOY TO ME.”  So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.  Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered.  “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But IF YOU CAN DO ANYTHING, take pity on us and help us.”  “ ‘IF YOU CAN’?” said Jesus. “EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE FOR HIM WHO BELIEVES.”  Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I DO BELIEVE; HELP ME OVERCOME MY UNBELIEF!”
- •• The bottom line, and today's sermon theme is: “A Faithless Culture Teaches Unbelief.”
(1) “O UNBELIEVING GENERATION” — we face that today, as they did then.
- •• A longtime pastor in our Rogue Valley was often heard to say: “This valley is full of unbelief.”
•• A man at a wedding in Vermont said to me: “I believe we’ll achieve perfection through technology.” He had no faith in the Lord for that hope!
•• Virtually all unbelievers — and, sadly, most Christians — turn immediately to doctors for healing needs, rather than to the Lord.
•• Interestingly, Jesus included even His disciples in the rebuke as an “unbelieving generation.”
•• Unbelief is contagious! The current culture around us is faithless. Watch out, lest its pernicious influence spread to you.
•• The rest of this account gives us some clues to overcoming the infectiousness of unbelief.
(2) “Bring the boy TO ME” — Jesus Christ is Lord of all.
- •• Jesus is Lord over demons, as here.
•• Jesus is Lord over blindness, deafness, cancer, and every other disease.
•• Jesus is Lord over fig trees...tall waves...bread and fish.
•• In great need? “Bring the boy TO [JESUS].”
(3) “IF YOU CAN do anything” — too low an appraisal of Jesus.
- •• Remember, Jesus walked on water, healed every disease and sickness, raised the dead, rose from the dead!
•• There should never be an “if you can” on our lips.
•• James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.
- • NIV: When he asks, he must believe and not doubt.
• Doubt says, “Jesus, you either can’t or won’t do it.”
(4) “IF you CAN?” — Jesus’ reaction was amazement.
- •• In Mark 8, the disciples mentioned forgetting to bring bread to eat. Jesus reminded them of His having fed the 4,000 with 7 loaves and the 5,000 with 5 loaves. Then He said, “Do you still not understand?”  — kind of a Jewish “Mama Mia!”
•• Jesus was saying to them [and us]: “No more of this ‘if you can’!”
(5) “EVERYTHING is possible” —
- •• Enlarge the horizons of what you are looking to the Lord for. Don't limit God!
- • Remember that “with God ALL things are possible (Mark 10:27) ... [and that] nothing is too hard for [Him]” (Jeremiah 32:17).
• God was able to heal a woman who had been infertile for six years (my wife!) and enable her to give birth to four children.
• Jesus has been able to save billions of people previously dead in sins.
• Jesus took a friend of mine — once a hopeless alcoholic — and made him a dedicated Christian, a fine husband, and a communion server in his church.
(6) “...for him who BELIEVES” —
- •• Matthew 21:22, KJV And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
•• Hebrews 11:6 “...anyone who comes to [God] must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
- • If you believe in God, you will seek Him!
- • Not man and man’s wisdom.
• Not the ways of the world, which only reinforce unbelief.
(7) “I DO believe!” — Good! That’s what the Lord wants to hear from our lips.
- •• I recall one time when I was praying alongside my first pastor. His inspiring words, expressed fervently, were: “I believe God!”
(8) “HELP me overcome my UNbelief!” —
- •• This is honesty and sincerity before the Lord. Acknowledging our weakness and asking for help.
•• And he looked for help in the right place — To JESUS he said, “Help thou mine unbelief!”
In sum, our faithless modern culture teaches and spreads unbelief. You can come through victorious and full of faith, if you:
- 1. Remember Jesus’ words: “Bring the boy TO ME.” Jesus is “Lord of ALL.”
2. Remove “IF you CAN” from your vocabulary in talking with the Lord. He CAN! And He said, “I AM WILLING!”
3. Believe Jesus’ words that “EVERYTHING is possible for him who BELIEVES.” Everything!
4. Respond to Him with: “I DO believe!”
5. And look to Him for help to remove any remaining doubts — “Lord, help me overcome my UNbelief!”
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©2005, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.