Does it really matter what I believe, as long as I sincerely believe?

(Answered on 09/26/2015 Program)

This question might be broken into a few questions to help answer it:

  • Am I free to believe what I want? (“free will”)
  • What specifically am I supposed to believe? (“truth”)
  • Does sincerity matters most when it comes to belief? (“consequences”)

There are several examples in the Bible that illustrate people are truly free to believe what they choose. Consider when Joshua prompted the Hebrews to publicly decide if they will choose to follow the Lord who had helped them over many years:

Joshua 24:15 If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (NASB)

In Joshua 24, Joshua had just reminded them of the blessings and curses God had promised to deliver to the those who love and obey Him or to those serving other gods. Though they should have known specifically what the Lord expected of them,  Joshua gave them the choice to serve God and live just as Moses before him had invited them in Deuteronomy 30:15-20.

Choice And Consequences

With that freedom to choose what we believe comes the responsibility to make our choice with care. There were consequences for those in Joshua’s time and also in the New Testament period when Paul brought the message of Jesus to the Jews:

Acts 13:44-46, 48-49 The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. (NASB)

Jews who knew God’s history should have recognized Jesus so were brought the gospel first, yet they rejected the message/messengers. Paul declares their choice to reject the word of God showed them to be “unworthy of eternal life“. Specifically, they were rejecting Jesus as the Messiah whom they should have recognized from the prophecy given to the Jews. The response of the Gentiles to accept the word of the Lord and believe resulted in their being “appointed to eternal life“. All hearing the message had the freedom to choose to believe it or not, heard a specific message to believe, and their acceptance or rejection of the message (belief) had eternal consequences.

The fact that humans have the freedom to choose what they believe and that there are consequences to the choice they make has been true even all the way back to the beginning of our history.

Genesis 2:16-17  The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (NASB)

God’s commands were clear and He warned there were consequences to their choosing to disobey. Notice that belief has a connection to obedience. They had the opportunity to choose to believe/obey God or not. The next few verses in this chapter of Genesis 2 show us that, with the serpent’s encouragement, they decided not to believe God.  The consequences that followed show that God’s words were indeed true. Did it matter what tree they ate from? Apparently it did, but they did have the opportunity to choose.

Sincerity

It’s interesting that only in religious matters do we ask “Does it matter what I believe?” In arithmetic or physics or even history, we would not even consider we had the option to believe what was “true”. Though I might not know t = -6 solves the following equation, I can know it is either true of false.

Algebra using square roots

Likewise in religion, there is truth in spiritual matters. Yet, because I believe something, even sincerely, it doesn’t make it factually true (I might believe God is a dolphin). Truth is always independent of belief. No matter how hard I may believe my pick-up basket ball games at the YMCA have prepared me for the NBA, it doesn’t make it true. Certainly, there are matters in the Bible some may believe “ain’t necessarily so” (David sleighing Goliath, Jonah in the whale, Methuselah living 900 years), though the historical accuracy of these being true or false is dependent on if the Bible is reliably the word of God throughout (a topic for another show).

Let’s look a the biblical example of an intelligent and religiously well-educated Pharisee who sincerely believed something that was truly wrong. Saul of Tarsus (later named Paul) was acting in “good conscience” when he severely persecuted the Christians. But he discovered what he believed was true, turned out to be uninformed (ignorant) of God’s purpose for Christ’s church. The following passages show Paul’s actions reflected his believe he was doing was right followed by his realization what he believed was not true.

Acts 8:3 But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. (NASB)

Galatians 1:13 or you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; (NASB)

Acts 26:9 “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. (NASB)

Acts 23:1 Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” (NASB)

1 Timothy 1:13, 15 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 5 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. (NASB)

Paul’s expressed his true sincerity when he said “I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God”. Paul concluded “I acted ignorantly in unbelief” when he was shown the truth and recognized his mistrust of the church of God (his “unbelief”) was wrong. Also Paul’s saying “I was shown mercy” indicates it did matter what he believed about Jesus and God showed mercy instead of what consequences he might have been due. The faithful Christians were even warned of some people who would kill them sincerely thinking they were offering service to God (John 16:2).

Jesus Said It Matters

Jesus said what you believe matters.  If you choose to believe the Bible is true, Jesus states you must believe in Him (the Son of God) in order to have eternal life.

John 3:36  He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (NASB)

Here just like we saw in Genesis 2, there is a connection with believe and obedience that Jesus affirms. Whatever it encompasses to “believe in the Son”, we at least known it includes obeying Him in order to not receive the wrath of God. Seeing these eternal consequences of what we believe in, it is a worthy endeavor to seek to understand better what it means to believe and obey Jesus. A few chapters later in the gospel of John, Jesus tells more about what we need to believe about Him:

John 8:24  Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins. (NASB)

Jesus makes it clear what the consequences would be if we do not believe that He is the promised Messiah; that is, the chosen one sent by God to save the world from their sins. Note in Matthew that Jesus even cautions those who say they believe in Him and sincerely thought the things they were doing were pleasing to God the Father:

Matthew 7:21-23 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Definitions

  • Kingdom of Heaven:  from the Greek words basileia and ouranos, indicating “that realm where the Messiah reigns” (See Strong’s number G932 and G3772). This can describe heaven where those believing in Jesus and doing God’s will are given eternal life.

From this, we see believing in Jesus and doing things in His name do not qualify us for the kingdom of heaven. It is the obedient belief in Jesus that understands what it means to do God’s will.

What’s Your Choice?

You are free to choose whatever you’d like to believe and live out your life accordingly. Just like those following Moses and Joshua, God wants you to choose to believe and obey Him, especially considering there are life and death consequences. Paul found he was sincerely wrong in what he believed and concluded there were eternal consequences that God was merciful to forgive based on Paul’s response to the truth. Jesus has let you and I know in the Bible that we need to believe in Him, obey Him and do His Fathers will. I hope you will also conclude, it does matter that you believe there is truth in spiritual matters. Now seek further what you must believe by reading your Bible.

How can I know the spiritual advice I get is from God or man? And does it matter?

(Answered on 09/19/2015 Program)

Consider how the Berean Christians approached this when hearing spiritual teaching:

Acts 17:10-11 10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica,for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.  (NASB)

These disciples were commended for examining for themselves whether the things they had heard were indeed consistent with the scriptures. We are wise when we do the same with advice from someone we trust.  Considering you are reading our commentary on Bible passages on this website, we recommend you too read the scriptures yourselves to verify if these convey an appropriate understanding.

Consider this passage from the Bible about how to handle the God’s word:

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (NASB)

Definitions:

  • Accurately handling:  from the Greek word orthotomeō, meaning “to make a straight cut or to dissect correctly” (Strong’s number G3718). This conveys the idea that God’s word should be interpreted or expounded on with care.

Context: This is a letter to Timothy from Paul who is instructing him about carrying out his duties to meet God’s approval over any motive to please men.

Here Paul instructs Timothy about the need to work and study in order to properly handle and treat the word. This would be for him to accurately understand what the words are saying and to be sure anything he teaches is truly what God intends. Paul’s practice was also to take care to reason from the scriptures to persuade others:

Acts 17:2-4 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.

Just as we see Paul going directly from the scriptures to reason with others, Philip used the scriptures to help the Ethiopian eunuch understand what he was reading:

Acts 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him

It is the scriptures that are used to teach the truth about Jesus. So we know the spiritual advice we get is from God or man when it comes from the scriptures. There is such a great responsibility given to the teacher to teach scripture correctly, a very strong admonish is given to those that would who would teach the word of God:

James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment (NASB)

James indicates that teachers will be held to a higher standard for the important spiritual matters they are teaching others about. Teaching the message of Christ correctly was important because even in the first century Paul cautioned Christians who were embracing a distorted message about Christ:

Galatians 1:6-9  I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (NASB)

Definitions:

  • Distort: from the Greek metastrephō, meaning “to pervert or corrupt” (See Strong’s number G3344)
  • Accursed: from the Greek word anathema, meaning “a thing setup or hung” (See Strong’s number G331). The meaning describes being doomed to destruction just as a sacrifice being kept for an offering was hung on a wall.

Paul describe how serious it is to teach a message that is contrary to what the inspired apostles taught. He also described them as “false prophets”:

2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves. (NASV)

1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (NASV)

It is important to note that these false prophets were “among you”. The warning for any of us today is the same; we should verify the truth of what anyone says by looking to the scripture. This is especially important when we have heard things preached for years and always assumed they were scripturally correct without our personally taking responsibility to “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” just as the Berean’s in Acts 17 did.

These scripture hopefully have given an answer how we should verify if advice is from God; we should look to the scriptures to confirm it. Of greater importance, it does matter if the teaching we get from others is in keeping with what is taught in the Bible. Those teachers will be condemned and we the listener maybe lead astray from the truth God wants us to know.

Can the Bible help me change and improve my life?

(Answered on 09/19/2015 Program)

Psalm 119:9-11
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
10 With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You. (NASB)

This is a picture of a heart seeking guidance. The question asked shows an openness to reach a higher standard for themselves. This passage says that it is God’s word that can keep a life pure. The result of one who chooses not to wander from God’s commandments and treasuring God’s words are a life that does not sin against God (sin is breaking His laws and separates us from Him).

Change and improvement in life assumes there is some solid foundation from where you have as a base to grow.

Matt. 7:24-27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” (NASB)

This is a very simple metaphor that illustrates the importance of building on a sure foundation. The idea here is that those who hear and act on the words God has provided have the wisdom based on a sound and reliable foundation for life. Each one of us is building a life so the foundation we are building on matters. The words of men are like ever-shifting sands of the while a life built on the solid foundation of the word of God can endure hard things. Improvement includes preventing a fall in life and that will depend upon what we build our life upon.

I may choose my own foundation and way of life, but this next scripture suggests I may not always know as well as the Creator what is best for me:

Jeremiah 10:23 I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps. (NASB)

This might seem absurd to suggest I do not know enough to direct my own way in life; people do all the time. Yet, I can’t say know what the rest of today brings, let alone tomorrow. In fact, I can’t say I know how everything is supposed to work in my life. Where I have been wrong so many times in my life that I can see I don’t know all the answers, it is the Creator’s words that can guide my way with insight I might only gain from Him.

Proverbs 3:5-7
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. (NASB)

This passage suggests we should rely on God for wisdom and not on our own understanding of life. When we consider Him in all aspects of our life (all your ways), He can ensure our way of life can have a good course.

Regarding being “wise in your own eyes“, we can sometimes see how we can too confidently rely on ourselves and take wrong paths in life. Think about the last time you got new item like an appliance or tool and you just tossed the owner’s manual in a drawer without reading how the item is supposed to be used. When we struggle to figure out how to work it and resort to trying things that frustrate us or damage it, we realize we need the knowledge of the manufacturer. Don’t we often treat the Bible that way? Like it is some Owner’s Manual for life that we just have no time to read. Considering God is our Creator, He should know how life is to be lived since He designed it.

Considering these passages from the Bible, the Bible can be a source of information from our designer that if we follow can lead to a way of life free from sin and based on a foundation that is sound. We can realize we may think we know how to live out life, but God offers wisdom that will allow us to withstand storms of life and be an actual guide to life.

Why should I pay attention to what the Bible says?

(Answered on 09/19/2015 Program)

2 Timothy 3:15-17 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;  17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.  (NASB)

Definitions:

The Bible’s claim is that it (the scriptures) is inspired by God. That is, wisdom from the very breath of God is useful for life. This passage indicates the wisdom from the Bible leads to salvation for those with faith in Jesus Christ, and that these scriptures can be used to teach, give evidence, to correct, and train how to be righteous. The end goal in looking to the Bible that has these purposes is to equip the hearer to be well prepared for good work.

Romans 1:16-17 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”  (NASB)

Definitions:

  • Gospel: from the Greek euaggelion, meaning “good news”, telling of the message telling about Christ (See Strong’s number G2098)
  • Salvation: from the Greek sōtēria,  meaning “deliverance or safety from harm” (See Strong’s number G4991). The gospel message relates to being saved from the punishment that is due those who break God’s laws (sin)

Paul was bold in teaching the message (gospel) and described it as having the power to bring salvation for those having faith in Jesus Christ. This salvation that is offered to all who choose to believe was spoken about in the first century when the writings of the New Testament began, and also before in the Old Testament times (Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4) that described those righteous people lived by their faith in God.

Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.  (NASB)

Definitions:

Seeing faith is key to salvation, this passage explains one has to hear to acquire faith. Also the word of Christ (God, in some translations), or those things uttered by God help us hear what is needed to believe. So there is something in the message that informs us of what is important in gaining that faith that plays a part in salvation.

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host. (NASB)

The word of God has such creative power, with it He spoke (breathed) creation into existence. From this God, we also have His word in the Bible that can have its affect on us.

2 Peter 1:19-21 19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 20 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (NASB)

Definitions:

  • Interpretation: from the Greek word epilyō, meaning “explain or unloosen” (See Strong’s number G1956). This word is used to indicate the origins of those prophecies are from God and not from man who might have his own explanation of truth.
  • Moved by the Holy Spirit: including the Greek words pherō, meaning “carried or influenced by” (See Strong’s number G5342) and pneuma, describing the third person of God (See Strong’s number G4151)

Context: This chapter in 2 Peter reminds those faithful to Jesus Christ of the knowledge God has provided that can keep them fruitful and tells them of their responsibility to diligently mature in their faith. Peter distinguishes between man-made stories and the message he is delivering that is verified by historic prophecy foretelling of Jesus and his being an eye-witness When God the Father in heaven affirmed Jesus was His Son who came for a special purpose.

Peter points out we would “do well to pay attention” to the prophetic word that told of Jesus. He stresses the origins of these words that are like a shining lamp were given by God to men through the the Holy Spirit. These words in the Bible are not the words of men, but those from God who are important to hear.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.  (NASB)

The people here were commended for an attitude recognizing that these words were indeed the word of God and not just the advice of mere men. Jesus also spoke about the value of His words:

John 6:63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life. (NASB)

Here we can see that Jesus tells us that there is something vital about His word. They are full of Spirit and life.

Context: Jesus had just finished teaching a crowd of followers with some teaching that were uncomfortable for them to hear and as a result, in the next couple of verses many turned away. This makes the following verses really stand out as it relates to a way of gaining eternal life:

John 6:67-68 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. (NASB)

Even if the words of God are difficult to hear, they are the words of life, indicating they are important as they related to our life that will go on eternally.

1 John 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life

John shows his purpose for writing his letter was so believers could know whether they have eternal life. I certainly want to know.

From these scripture, the Bible is worth paying attention to because they are the words of God that can bring salvation and are useful in life to prepare us for good work. Hearing the words of the Bible can help us to obtain the faith in Jesus Christ who has the words relating to eternal life.

The Wonderful Word Of God

When something is wonderful, it is something that excites us! It is extremely good or astonishing! That is what the word of God is  – it is WONDERFUL!

Here are somethings that makes the word of God not just and a wonder, but wonderful.

The word of God is truth

In a world were we are told that there are no absolutes, that truth is relative, the notion of truth is trivial, and that it just doesn’t matter.  But nothing could be further from the truth (no pun intended).  We need want, need, and rely on truth. Truth is essential to life.  Truth is liberating, “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). As Jesus prayed His High Priestly prayed, He said these very powerful words, “Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Let these words echo through your mind for a moment, “you will know the truth” “the truth will set you free,” and “Your word is truth.” The Bible is that truth being spoken to us. It is the communication from heaven to earth. God’s word is dependable, it is trust worthy. The Bible is unlike the unstable philosophies and sophistries of men; the word of God is the one constant on which we can always trust – “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away” (Luke 21:33).

The word of God is powerful

The Bible is likened to a seed, a fire, a hammer, and food. All of these images show that the word of God is impactful, or as the author of the book of Hebrews wrote, “the word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:13). I recently heard it put this way, “The Bible wasn’t given to us just for information but transformation.” What makes the Bible such a wonderful book is not just the information that it gives but the radical changes that it makes in the lives of those who will give themselves to its instruction. In Acts 11:19-23, something very powerful is related to us, when the apostles heard that the gospel has been accepted by those in Antioch, they sent Barnabas to encourage them. Now, listen to this, “Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with a resolute heart to remain true to the Lord.” What did Barnabas see? He witnessed the power of God, surging, changing, and transforming the lives of those who would but welcome it.

The word of God leads to a glorious relationship

Jesus said, “no man can come to me except that the Father draws him” (John 6:44). The wonder, truth, and power of the Bible is that it is the only means by which  God has chosen to draw us to Himself. Since “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17) We must listen to the word of God.  Jesus said, “It is written in the prophets ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me” (John 6:45). And again, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). We can have the glorious relationship of salvation with Jesus Christ, and it will be because we have heard and heeded His wonderful words and accepted the beautiful invitation, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Where should you look to answer a question about the Bible?

The Bible (scriptures).

2 Timothy 3:15-17  15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (NASB)

God intended His message to be understood by all people so you can read the Bible and grasp true wisdom (Psalms 19:7). The Bible has enough depth to keep a brilliant mind seeking further understanding, yet God’s design was to provide the information people need to know.

Our radio program and the contents of this site aim to ask spiritual questions and look to the Bible for the answer. That is, providing the scripture for you to read and seek to understand with minimal commentary about what we think the Bible passage is saying.

Please submit a question on our Ask A Question form or call in (651-289-4499) on Saturday’s at 11:00 Central time on KKMS AM 980 to ask a question.