Who determines what I should believe?

(Answered on 09/26/2015 Program)

The short answer: God does; but let’s discuss how we may seek what we should believe.

Each of us has the choice to believe what we want and can look to any source for what to believe. Having discussed it does matter what we believe, it’s important to then consider where do we look to find what we should believe. While few stand up and tell us “this is what you should believe“, we willingly listen to some people for advice or guidance. For any topic, it is prudent to identify who is a reputable source for information we might believe. Regarding spiritual matters, we may trust the conclusions of a council of authorities or some knowledgeable teacher, but shouldn’t we be listening carefully to the Creator of life Himself? He designed life; He should know how we should live and what is worthy of belief. So what does God say one “must believe” who comes to Him wanting to please Him?

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him

God establishes a base-line of what He expects for belief:

  • At the very minimum, God says we must believe He exists
  • Faith is necessary to please God
  • Seeking God will be rewarded

Believing the Bible is God’s word, I can read my Bible and learn from this passage I need to trust God’s existence is actually truth and have full confidence in Him (faith) in order to please Him. Knowing part of God’s means of communicating His truths are through people teaching the gospel, I might have learned this from others. Here we’re back to asking who should I trust to help me determine what I should believe?

Why this is important is because even the respected authorities on religious matters may be wrong or have motives that distort the message they deliver. The Pharisees were religious leaders who claimed the law God gave to Moses was the source of their teaching. In John 9, the Pharisees even question the authority of Jesus who healed the blind man they were interrogating:

John 9:28-29  28 They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”(NASB)

Jesus had repeatedly rebuked these religious teachers for their hypocrisy (Matthew 23), improper motive and even corruption in their teaching others. Jesus had pointed out their failing to believe Jesus was the Messiah showed they didn’t actually know Moses’ writings that prophesied of Jesus:

John 5:46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. (NASB)

In Galatians 1:6-12, Paul also cautioned against teachers who would teach a perverted version of the gospel message about Jesus. Paul reasoned that standing for the message he truly knew was from God meant he would gain no favor from people:

Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (NASB)

Here, Paul makes a distinction about who a teacher is desiring to please that explains how the gospel message can become distorted. Even in the first century when Apostles like Paul received revelation from God (Galatians 1:11-12), there were religious teachers with a following who taught a message that did not please God.

So if even respected teachers may lead others astray, you might think it is safer to look to a source the majority of people are following. Recall how Jesus illustrated how only a disciplined few will find the way that results in eternal life:

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (NASB)

This metaphor depicts the masses following some way of life (guided by their belief) that leads the wrong way. The contrast indicates those making efforts to follow a certain path (based on some belief) enter a gate that ensures safety to their life. While this passage shows our personal responsibility to search to find the gate most will not find, in the passage just following this (Matthew 7:15-20) Jesus warns them to “beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

Seeing we must take care in who we look as a reliable source of truth, fortunately you have access to the source of God’s word in the Bible. If we are looking to the sayings of any, consider the consequential words that we will be held accountable for:

John 12:48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day

These are the words of Jesus who puts the obligation on the listener to receive His teachings or choose to reject Him. He declares it is by His words that we will be judged.

If this has stimulated thought, let it move you to evaluate the sources for what you believe. When you decide in what you should believe, make sure it is founded on truth. You are capable of understanding the Bible when you read it. Read and digest God’s words and may it be the true source to determine what you should believe.