Inoculated by Unbelief

Article by: Bridgehaven Team

Counselors Reflect on Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp
A Series to Care for the Care Takers of God’s People


“Unbelieving” captures what we do to cover our sin and defend our righteousness. Rather than a simple faith and rest in the accurate diagnosis of the Word of God and the sufficient grace of Christ, we work to tell ourselves that we are not really, in this particular instance, sinners in need of forgiving mercy, because what we have done is not, in face, wrong. Our self-atoning arguments are acts of pride, rebellion, and unbelief. (Paul David Tripp in ‘Dangerous Calling’, p. 71)


The process of hardening for the human heart is a subtle, silent, and often unobserved to the untrained eye. Tripp cites Hebrews 3:12 in warning pastors and ministry leaders of this process of hardening. 

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. (Hebrews 3:12).

The presence of sin, either indwelling or active, is the origin of this process of hardening. This evil, not of God, is the seed of doubt, which breeds ‘acts of pride, rebellion, and unbelief.’ The church is well rehearsed in our identity as sinners saved by grace through faith in Jesus. We are all too familiar with the remaining presence of sin in our lives, and the slow and tedious process of sanctification. And yet, we are a bit oblivious to the process in which our hearts become hardened. If we could understand the downward spiral of hardness, we could better equipped to kill sin, and grow in holiness.

The author of Hebrews connects some dots for us in understanding our growth in grace by showing us a negative example of the hardening process. Sin thrives in unbelief. When we ignore or neglect the presence of indwelling sin, we omit the stringent examination of our hearts, which is required in order to practice repentance, cultivate humility, and persevere in faithful obedience by grace. This state of unbelief rapidly accelerates the expansion of sin in our lives. Our hearts become hardened. We become desensitized to sin, and our capacity to defend and justify ourselves blossoms. With our budding righteousness, we become increasingly complacent to our sin, and audaciously captivated by temptation.

So how does understanding the process of hardening equip us to grow in holiness? It is only when we are attentive to the remnant sin our lives that we can really hear gospel truth. The humility of repentance allows us to receive the grace of God. When we are negligent of our need for mercy, we develop a false self-reliance resulting in pride. The unbelief of our own depravity blinds us to the beauty of grace. We become inoculated to God’s grace, while involved in the ministering of God’s Word.

It is vital for leaders to grow in their sensitivity to God’s Word and their tenderness of heart. One way to combat hardness of heart is to ask God to show you your sin. This can be a terrifying request, but it opens the conversation with God. A lack of prayer leaves us not only exposed, but also shows evidence of our self-reliance. Another aspect of fighting hardness of heart is reading Scripture at a personal level. This means not reading pragmatically to complete a reading plan, write a sermon, or teach a study, but to soak up the meaning of the text, and meditating on the implications in your own life, and how it would change your life if you believe it to be true. This exercise should drive us into prayer. A third way of growing in tenderhearted-ness is to include others in your covenant community in this process. It is important for leaders to have other people they can trust to speak candidly, and have permission to speak into their life. We need other members of the body to see our blind spots, encourage us in our struggles, and exhort us in truth.

Unbelief is the catalyst for growth of sin by producing self-righteousness, pride, and further rebellion, but through communion with God, the lens of Scripture, and gospel community, we can grow in our knowledge of Christ, and begin to rest in the finished work of Christ.

While this requires participatory effort, it is incredibly liberating to not have to prove oneself righteous. And as we honestly look at our need for the Savior, we begin to understand the steadfast love of our Lord, and how it endures forever. 

Join us as we explore “Dangerous Calling” by Paul David Tripp.


To order a copy of your own of Paul Tripp’s book click on the link below.

535826: Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry By Paul David Tripp / Crossway Books & Bibles