I firmly believe “Right believing produces Right living”. What is the right thing to believe? That grace and truth comes, as one entity, from the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross for you. The fullness of meditating on God’s word in the Old Testament is beholding Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus was the original Word, and the Law and the Prophets were only part of that Word. So the more you behold Jesus and everything He has done, the more your proclivities change. That’s why Buddy Owens puts it another way, “When you fix your thoughts on God, God fixes your thoughts.”
My long road to redemption started first and foremost with finally having the right belief that the complete works of Jesus give us purpose, forgiveness and victory in this world. That’s what my book will be eventually about.
Have you seen my testimony? A video link is here: https://youtu.be/D5EYyP9kGiM
In my last post, I wrote on how Tony (not his real name) had genuine objections and felt this way of thinking is “sadly incomplete”.
Before I continue our discourse, let me just add some insights here.
A big reason why Christians “know” what to do in terms of behavior but don’t do it consistently is that they might have been taught an incomplete Gospel. Many sincere Christians don’t realize that God’s new covenant for us includes power, blessing, and provision for every good work (Hebrews 13:12). The new covenant also guarantees that the end result will be worth it (Romans 8:28). In other words, you’ll get the crown at the end of the race, and God will give you whatever it takes to get you there. Additionally, the journey will be characterized by God, who can do “exceedingly and abundantly more than we can imagine or think” (Eph 3:20).
People sin because they fear they don’t have enough. Who can blame them? Without the existence of a gracious God, the world is bleak and unfriendly. Dog eat dog. Why be honest to a fault when lying might get me further in life? Why sacrifice for others when I can amass wealth? Why keep ourselves for that one deserving girl when I can hedge all my bets and get with all of them? In a world like this, it’s hard to be like Jesus when it seems everyone else is getting ahead.
Likely the first time he heard someone give an exposition that way, he didn’t try to debate any of my points, and just repeated his observations.
“actually, the only thing i’d say is that A = B doesn’t necessitate that B = A. Meaning, to have right living, we of course should believe the right thing in the first place. no disagreement there.
But having said that, many people believe say for example that smoking is bad, yet they keep on doing it. Is there enough evidence of linkage between smoking and lung cancer out there? Certainly. And most smokers will readily tell you they know or they believe it. But ……
Or something simple, many people say we should exercise and eat right, but they don’t. They continue their merry ways and end up with chronic diseases, obesity etc.
So maybe it’s also a definition of what is “right” and what is “believing”. Is “right” meaning literally the right or correct thing to do or is it something else? and is “believing” simply to mean having faith, adhering to something we know is true but may not be currently manifest? And on this side of heaven, aren’t we still imperfect and totally capable of sin and displeasing God, no matter how strongly or rightly we believe?”
I see your points, but I would like to make sure some details are lost in the nuance making the comparisons a little imprecise.
You said “actually, the only thing i’d say is that A = B doesn’t necessitate that B = A. Meaning, to have right living, we of course should believe the right thing in the first place. no disagreement there.”
I agree. However, I want to point out that as we humans are myopic (we have problems seeing A in it’s entirety), and we are temporal and have an inbuilt sinful nature (we can’t always hold A with our full attention), so this means that A = B will occur in the long run, but in the short term can be erratic; if and only if we 1) continue to get the proper understanding of A, and 2) we mature and learn God’s ways are better so we can connect A to B and not get distracted by the world (we learn that the Cs and Ds of the world can’t cause B as good as A).
“But having said that, many people believe say for example that smoking is bad, yet they keep on doing it. Is there enough evidence of linkage between smoking and lung cancer out there? Certainly. And most smokers will readily tell you they know or they believe it. But …… “
I agree with your observance here. It’s true that many people know vices are “bad” yet keep doing it. It happens with food and smoking. However, we have to unpack what “bad” is in relation to the truism “Right believing” produces “Right living”. The “right believing” we are talking about is the complete loving plan and action God wants to do in your life backed up by His infallible character, not the truth that smoking is long term unhealthy. As I mentioned before, people sin continuously because they lack, or they fear, or they haven’t experienced perfect love. So when people continue to smoke or pig out on food uncontrollably without regard to the future, it’s because they don’t believe their futures will be much better than their mundane present (either in material magnitude and/or in spiritual depth), hence they don’t value incremental health (extension of their lives) because of short term gain or indulgences. Hence, they are stuck in the mud, trying to feed their temporal wants now because they aren’t confident they have a great future, or they have the resources to get there.
Let’s do a thought experiment.
Imagine the possibility of a great future was open to this guy and he knew it. He would eventually marry the girl of his dreams (as gorgeous as Christy Chung, and is dutiful and loving), he will have loving kids and grand kids, he will have a large house with land, family and friends will visit him regularity and seek his company and counsel, he will spend his time writing a best selling book as he enjoys his family. He will do things infinitely more excited than a mundane smoking session like represent his nation on stage through his work or sports.
If a guy REALLY believed that, he will not want to shorten his life at all! He will stop smoking and hit the gym because he knows how awesome his life will be. However, people believe their future is “blah”, hence they ignore the threat that a cigarette can cut their life by a couple mins a stick. For many people, their lives are in despair and are conditioned to think the future is shrouded, and vices (drugs, sex, food) numb the pain.
Now if we believe God knows our needs more than we do, and has a meaningful purpose ahead of us. God says He has a plan to prosper us and not to harm us (Jer 29:11), and that He will give us resources for every good work (2 Cor 9:8). Instead of just putting down cigarettes, we will do even more things God’s way instead. We see this all the time, a guy can’t change his bad habits until he meets the girl of his dreams and he quits to earn her approval because they thought of being adored and loved by this “chio bu” (pretty girl) and much greater than the temporary sensations of a smoking high! What more a more perfect and loving God?
“So maybe it’s also a definition of what is “right” and what is “believing”. Is “right” meaning literally the right or correct thing to do or is it something else? and is “believing” simply to mean having faith, adhering to something we know is true but may not be currently manifest? And on this side of heaven, aren’t we still imperfect and totally capable of sin and displeasing God, no matter how strongly or rightly we believe?”
BINGO! “Right believing” that JP talks about is not the rules or regulations of good or healthy behavior. They would be what the Pharisees did. Right believing is not faith, but it produces faith on the long term. As I mentioned in my last post, it was only because I believed God truly wants to provide that I could tithe more money in the midst of a financial crisis. If I didn’t know the character of God, I would never had the courage to do so. “Right believing” is referring to the revelation of the character of God, how we sons and daughters relate to that and what He wants to do for you. Part of which is the actualization that 1) you can have a meaningful, great future (God can do exceedingly and abundantly more we can ask or think Eph 3:20, He has a plan for us, to give us a hope and a future Jer 29:11) 2) and that He will give you resources to get there today (God supplies all our needs according to His riches and glory Phil 4:19, God is able to make ALL grace abound to you so that in all things and all times … you have all you need for every good work 2 Cor 9:8)
The whole life of Abraham is there for us to see this dynamic struggle. Every time Abraham had the wrong belief about God, he fell victim to his sinful, unwise nature. He didn’t think God would give him a future, He got Ishmail through his own effort. He didn’t think God would protect him, he tried to trade his wife for his life to a king. But when He realized that God’s grace is bigger, and his future is secure by God, he was brave in war, and was willing to give up the most important thing to him ever – his Son Isaac. And, through this fact, humankind is reward years later with Jesus; as Abraham is the father of faith, and Isaac was a typology of what God wanted to do for us.
To summarize, I draw from where I first started I want to point out that as we humans are myopic (we have problems seeing A in it’s entirety), and we are temporal and have an inbuilt sinful nature (we can’t always hold A with our full attention), so this means that A = B will occur in the long run, but in the short term can be erratic; if and only if we 1) continue to get the proper understanding of A, and 2) we mature and learn God’s ways are better so we can connect A to B and not get distracted by the world (we learn that the Cs and Ds of the world can’t cause B as good as A).
We mature in God’s ways the more we have faith in small things, and then we see the results. That’s why God talks about “grace to grace” and “the path of the righteous is brighter and brighter”.
After posting these responses, a couple other readers remarked that they thought my responses were very on point, with an angle they never saw before. That’s the reason I decided to share it here, I hope it encourages!
Here’s the rub. People do things their way because they haven’t been taught that God wants to provide for us first, and don’t realize that the “mandate” to have the perfect character like Jesus is not the commandment of our lives. Instead, being like Jesus comes as a consequence of receiving God’s grace and purpose, not something you have to beat your chest and pull your hair over (it is a fruit, not a work). If we try to be like Jesus with our own strength, we are doomed to fail.
Almost the entire Old Testament is a showcase to show just that. Before the Law, Abraham failed, but was still blessed, because God grace didn’t fail. And Abraham eventually was sanctified to have great character and faith. After the Law was given to Moses, the people kept failing because they thought they could be perfect without God.
Consider how the whole Old Testament drama was played out in the New Testament. Martyr was trying so hard to please Jesus that she failed, and even got indignant with Mary. Jesus commended Mary to say “only one thing is needed”, and that Mary did that, and it will not be taken away.
Instead of trying to be perfect and proving to God you are all that, try sitting at His feet; appreciating His love, accept His gifts, and humble to listen to His wisdom.
Why sin when God has something better for you?