For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
1 Corinthians 4:7 (NASB)
Let me begin by defining belief and unbelief. Jesus said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.”
I take it, then, that unbelief in Jesus (NOT believing in Jesus) is a turning away from Jesus in order to seek satisfaction in other things. And BELIEF in Jesus is coming to Jesus for the satisfaction of our needs and our longings.
Belief is not mainly an agreement with facts in the head; it is mainly an appetite in the heart which fastens on Jesus for satisfaction. “He who comes to me shall not hunger and he who believes in me shall never thirst!”
Therefore eternal life is not given to people who merely think that Jesus is the Son of God. It is given to people who drink from Jesus as the Son of God. “The water that I shall give him shall become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). He is the bread of life for those who feed on him—who get their nourishment and satisfaction from him. That is what it means to believe on the only begotten Son of God and be saved.
One more form of unbelief that we need to talk about is the unbelief of a haughty spirit, or pride. There is a very close relationship between unbelief and pride. Here is how I would describe that relationship. Unbelief is a turning away from Jesus (or God) in order to seek satisfaction in other things. PRIDE is a turning away from God specifically to take satisfaction in self.
Covetousness is a turning away from God to find satisfaction in things. Impatience is turning away from God to find satisfaction in your own swift plan of action. Lust is turning away from God to find satisfaction in sex. Bitterness is turning away from God to find satisfaction in retaliation.
But deeper than all these forms of unbelief is the unbelief of pride, because self-determination and self-exaltation lie behind all these other sinful dispositions. So it is fitting that the last sin we take up in our series is the deepest one, namely, pride or an arrogant spirit. And it is especially fitting during advent, because the coming of the Son of God in the form of man was an extraordinary act of humility and self-denial.
When I call pride a form of unbelief, the practical implication is this: the battle against pride is the battle against unbelief; or to put it positively, the fight for humility is the fight of faith.