In the Gospel of Grace circles, the truism of “Right believing produces Right living” gets tossed around a lot. Many people are blessed by this phrase and have made it the anthem of their lives, yet others object, citing just because a person “knows” to do something doesn’t mean he will do it. This truism is borne out of many deeper dimensions of biblical truth but a superficial look tends to tempered by the observer’s innate bias of their own experiences (as opposed to what the Bible tries to elucidate on “right” believing).
In my own life, the summary of my struggle, wrestle and victory can be summarized in the above phrase. However, in order to do the phrase justice, I want to unpack it for you because I believe it may really change your life in ways unimaginable.
The other day, I was reading a Christian post about grace, faith and works and how some speakers seem to oppose the idea of “grace alone”. In the comments section, Tony (not his real name) shared how he felt this truism was “sadly incomplete.” I felt compelled to unpack the topic and build common ground between the truism and the bits of truth that Tony had come to accept.
Another reader chimed in and said she really loved my post and wanted to share it, hence I thought if my post could encourage her so greatly, I owe to share it. Here’s part 1.
A guy Tony (not his real name) posted:
I wish it was that simple that “right believing produces right living”.
🙂 Then Paul wouldn’t need to compare the journey as that of a race with a runner (needing to train, beat their body to subjection, deny themselves….) to then run the race to win, or being a soldier etc. There are so many well-meaning believers who absolutely believe rightly about being holy, loving God with everything etc, but end up doing things or leading lives that they know is wrong and definitely not what they want. The motto sounds nice and catchy but is sadly incomplete. Here’s a simple test. Look around and see if you can find one single human being (who is truthful) that dares say that he/she is living right just because what they believe is correct (unless what they believe is erroneous in the first place). Even Paul says he does things he knows he shouldn’t do and doesn’t do things he knows he should… And James isn’t the only place to look for evidence that faith without works is dead. You can find this with Paul, Jesus, and throughout the Old Testament. Salvation is not obtained by works. But if you have “faith” and nothing to show for it, err pray tell what kind of witness are you to the lifechanging power of Christ in you? Romans 10:9-10 “that if you confess with your mouth (work) the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart (faith) that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”. Lastly, the Bible is not for us to selectively use or interpret by saying this was directed at the Jews, at the gentiles etc. Read it in totality. While we dont practice the ceremonial laws in the OT today, the principles of God aren’t meant for specific individuals, otherwise, that should similarly apply to the blessings. Cheers.
I replied to him:
Hi (Tony), I don’t think the truism “right believing produces right living” is anatema to the verses you cited about faith and works. Both verses work well together. It states that the degree in which you believe correctly is the degree you will have good fruit. If you don’t believe correctly, your works cannot last long, as it is based more human effort; and like the parable of the sower, those seeds get washed away. The seeds that are properly planted in good soil produce multiple fold. Properly planted seeds are those that receive the message correctly and with the right posture towards God’s wisdom… which directly impacts “right believing”.
“Then Paul wouldn’t need to compare the journey as that of a race with a runner (needing to train, beat their body to subjection, deny themselves….)” However, the ability to beat your body, deny yourself can only be sustained if you have the right belief of how God is. Paul believed correctly that there IS a reward, and that God will “supply all his needs according to his glory” no matter how difficult it is. It is impossible for any human to continually sacrifice unless they know what is awaiting them at the end, and know that they will have enough resources to get there. Knowing what’s at the end, and having enough resources is part of “right believing”.
“end up doing things or leading lives that they know is wrong “. But Tony, some will say that if this is so, they have the wrong believing. For example, people fall into sin because they want something and they want it now. If they believed God has something even better for them, they would wait and do it God’s way instead of their own.
“Look around and see if you can find one single human being (who is truthful) that dares say that he/she is living right just because what they believe is correct (unless what they believe is erroneous in the first place).” However, the phrase “right believing produces right living” is a syllogism with objective standards (What the Bible says about God and you), it’s not based on people’s opinion of what right believing is. The word is used is “produces”, meaning, the more you believe correctly, the more right living you have. The problem is the degree in which people are believing. We can’t ask people when it comes to philosophical definitions/argumentation because then it reduces to relativism. Also, when people sin, it’s because they fear. They fear they don’t have enough. They fear they won’t get anything better. They fear of missing out. They fear others will take advantage of them. They fear the unknown. But the Bible says, perfect love drives out all fear. The man who fears is not made perfect in love. The degree in which we understand and accept God’s love (major component of right believing) drives out the tendency to fear, and to sin.
I’ll give a personal example. In the past I met a girl, and she was hot but I knew deep inside she wasn’t healthy for me because she wasn’t mature, and she didn’t quite subscribe to the Christian belief. But because I was impatient and feared that I might never have the girl of my dreams, I dated her. It turned out badly, and brought out the worse in me. I feared because I didn’t think God would provide. (Wrong belief)
The problem is not the girl, but that I didn’t believe God would bring me that girl who was hot and had a heart after God. If I had belief, I would have waited. So the extent that I believed God can give me exceedingly and abundantly more I can ask or think is the degree I can pass on temptations which I know is not God’s best.
Here’s another, in 2009, we were in the midst of a financial crisis. I lost a lot of my savings. But God urged my heart to give 20% of the year’s earnings to a particular missionary. I resisted for weeks, making typical human earthly excuses like, “I’m sure God wouldn’t mind until I make up the savings that I lost before tithing”, or “maybe I will tithe 3% or less.” But it was until I challenged myself to believe that Eph 3:20, God can do abundantly more with me that what I can do that I gave “sacrificially”. That was good work. It was a humbling experience. God then proceeded to bless my year more than could imagine.
Hence, right believing doesn’t just mean I believe in Christ or that I am Christian. It means we have a revelation of all that God is. Who He is, what He will do, what we deserve, who we are in reference to Him, how we are forgiven and what it means to be forgiven. For example, many Christians are unaware that being forgiven also leads to us having the blessing of Abraham, And many don’t even know how God related to Abraham. If they did, I suspect they would be more patient, and naturally do things more of God’s way because it achieves much more than the worldly way. This is also why the brilliant verse, “where your treasure is, there your heart is also” exists the way it is, and not the other way round which is more intuitive to the self-righteous mind. If we realize that God’s treasures are better than earthly treasures, the less we do things the worldly way.
Tony replies to this, allowing me to further unpack those dimensions, that will be in part 2.
Be blessed, my friends!