Do You Believe?
Everyday we operate on thousands of different beliefs. You assent to some truth in your head, and you act on it.
For some of you, you understand that a cup (or a pot) of coffee in the morning is the only way you will be able to function (belief). So you act on that belief by swinging your feet out of bed and, before you have even considered anything else about your day, shuffling to the kitchen to dump grounds into the filter, pour the water into the reservoir, and push "BREW."
Then, after your morning routine of breakfast and coffee, showering and getting dressed, you head out to the garage. You get in your car, trusting that when you insert the key and turn it (or push the button to start the car) that the car's engine will respond to you (belief), so you do it (act). You drive down the road to work or school or church with the understanding (belief) that when you push the brakes, the car will slow, when you cross the bridge it will support you, that when you turn the wheel left the car will go left... and so you push the brakes, cross the bridge, and turn the wheel (action).
When you go to a store or a gas pump, you (believe) there is gasoline or fuel in a large tank under the ground, so you (act) lift the handle to pump the gas. Your entire life is about you acting on what you believe.
Mind the Gap
Now when it comes to morning coffee and driving a car, there is very little (if any) gap between what we say we believe and how we actually live. No one who believes the bridge will support them actually turns the car around in the road and tries to find a bridge-less way to get to work. I've never seen anyone pull up to a gas station, stare at the pump for a minute, then drive away saying, "I know there is gas here, but I just can't do it." We believe, and our actions support that belief.
However, when it comes to spiritual matters, it's not always quite the same. The Bible teaches us various beliefs, or "doctrines," like, "God is sovereign," "God is all-powerful," "God is good." We know that all Christians should agree that those things are true, and so we genuinely may assent to those things being true... however, the gap between what we say we believe and how we act on those beliefs can be significant.
Here's an example: Pastor Rodney (I'm using my real name) helps a team launch a new church in Riverside, Iowa because he believes that there are people in his own backyard who have not yet heard or lived the gospel. He enjoys opening the Bible and teaching the truths of Jesus' grace, of salvation, of the future hope of glory. He loves singing songs about the victory over sin and death, songs of joy, songs of hope, and he gets emotional talking about how Jesus rescued him from darkness. If you asked Rodney what he believes about Jesus, he would say that Jesus is the ultimate Savior. Nothing else in life comes close. Hope cannot be found anywhere else.
But Rodney is also anxious. A lot. He feels like he needs to be all things to all people at River City because they are counting on him. He needs to do better in his sermons. He needs to be a better Community Group leader and coach. He needs to do a perfect job of leading through COVID. He needs to inspire people to take steps of faith, and lead the church into a new building and/or city-wide action.
The gap between what I said I believed about Jesus and the way I acted were actually pretty far apart. I believed and taught and sang that Jesus was the Savior, but lived as though I was. I taught that hope is found in the gospel, but lived as if it depended on me. The result? Anxiety. Fear. Withdrawing. Distrust.
I don't believe that God intended our walk with him to simply be a mental assent. It's not just about believing, or simply getting to heaven one day. As the quote above says, doctrine is about transforming the way we live our lives.
So, in our new sermon series, which will be based on a book by Paul David Tripp called Do You Believe?, we are planning to take the next 12 weeks over the summer to examine a few core doctrines (beliefs) of the global Christian Church, specifically to try and help all of us connect what we believe to how we actually live our lives, for God's glory and our good. Here's the list of topics we'll cover this summer:
- The Doctrine of Scripture
- The Doctrine of God
- The Doctrine of the Holiness of God
- The Doctrine of God's Sovereignty
- The Doctrine of God's Omnipotence (All-Powerful)
- The Doctrine of Creation
- The Doctrine of the Image of God in Man
- The Doctrine of Sin
- The Doctrine of Justification
- The Doctrine of Sanctification
- The Doctrine of Perseverance and Glorification
- The Doctrine of Eternity.
These doctrines are the bridge, the structure, the framework of our faith. You can assent to them all day long, but will you actually drive your life on them – and what does that even look like?
In the study I've done on this so far, I believe this will be ground-breaking for some of you. Others may find it old news. But the goal is that together we can take a step toward closing the gap between what we say we believe and how we actually live.