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Belief and Really Believing

Philosopher Michael Novak writes of three different levels of conviction: public, private, and core. The public conviction is what we say we believe and want people to believe about us. The private conviction is what we think we believe, but when the rubber meets the road those convictions dissolve. Our core conviction, what Novak says is the deepest of one’s convictions, is what our lives display by default. In other words, I don’t need to tell you what I believe about my family, sexuality, money, marriage, or any other sphere. My behavior says it for me. My creed is found in my calendar. My statement of faith is spoken with my attitudes, responses, actions. Pastor John Ortberg reflects on Novak’s work saying, “The best indicator of my true beliefs and my true purposes are my actions. They always flow out of my mental map about the way things really are. What I say I believe might be bogus. What I think I believe might be fickle. But I never violate my idea about the way things are. I always live in a way that reflects my mental map. I live at the mercy of my ideas about the way things really are. Always. And so do you.”

This should help us see that one of the biggest reasons we struggle to follow Jesus is because we simply don’t trust him. That is, we don’t believe in our core convictions that his way is right and best. Now we might say to the contrary publicly or even think differently privately. But often when push comes to shove, and we get outside the four walls of a church building Sunday morning, our daily behavior and decisions concerning our family, our sexuality, our money, our marriage, or our [you name it] throughout the remainder of the week reveals the reality that the truth of Jesus and his Kingdom has yet to move into our core.

Now that doesn’t mean we hate Jesus. We just don’t really believe him. So when he says in John 10:10 that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.[He] came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” if we’re honest, we’re not convinced. Not that we are unconvinced about who he says he is, but who he says he is for us! I know that’s been the case for me. This lack of belief produces hearts that say, “It’s great to have him as Savior but I’m not so sure about Lord. I want his forgiveness but I’m not sold on his Kingdom. I’ll let him take care of Heaven and I’ll mind Earth.” If the push-back is, “Oh, I would never say that!” We don’t have to, our daily actions beat us to the punch.

However, if we want to see catalytic spiritual growth in our life we must move from believing that “Jesus is right about salvation” to “Jesus is right about everything else.” We must trust in our depths his way is better. Period. Consequently, our walk with Christ can be transformed:

  • We follow Jesus because we believe he has our best interests in mind
  • We obey because we believe he truly satisfies us
  • We serve because we believe his way is good, beautiful, and….better.

Why? Because we believe in our core that Jesus comes not to kill the party but to bring a better one; where his truth, righteousness, and grace wins the day. And if we ever doubt his heart for us we need but only look to the Cross. Calvary tells us you can trust Jesus with every part of your life because he gave you every part of his. Romans 8:32 echoes this truth: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Struggle with trusting Jesus? Look no further than the Cross.

May we all move from just believing Jesus to believing in him more deeply.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

– Louisa M.R. Stead, ‘Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

4 thoughts on “Belief and Really Believing”

  1. Preach it! It’s all about faith! Favorite quote: “one of the biggest reasons we struggle to follow Jesus is because we simply don’t trust him.” Let’s pray we learn to trust completely SOONER rather than later.

  2. Great blogpost,Yance. As a Christian man,my beliefs are intact. However,also as a man, i struggle with performance and sufficiency issues. Sometimes, it’s important to go through my day trusting Jesus to fight my battles and grow my heart for Him,rather than conciously worryin about others interpretation of my beliefs. It’s a delicate dance,but Jesus is my dance partner and He leads well.

  3. Great post! As Paul said, we do the things we know we shouldn’t and don’t do the things we know we should. Complete faith makes us come to the light. We long to trus in him always.

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