The Importance of What is Believed 

By Jon W. Quinn

A very prevalent idea in the religious world is that it makes no difference what one believes so long as one is sincere. While people do not have to necessarily be religious to think this, and in almost any other area they do not, when it comes to religion, this is thought by many to be the way to go. Many think that "strength of faith”, rather that what is believed, is most important. While not denying that faith must be strong, we would also suggest that at least equal in importance is what is believed.

One man put it this way: "Those who practice 'natural religion' (as God revealed in nature) have as much faith as that based on (written) revelation." The suggestion is that one who has never read the Bible can have adequate faith just from observing nature and pondering its Creator.

Others say, "All are going to same place, just different ways" to justify, and even promote religious divisions. In the movie: “Oh God!” the question as asked, “Was Jesus your Son?” The answer: “Oh yes, but so was Mohammed and Moses and Buddha.”.

It is difficult to reach one who accepts this idea. Few would see this as a reasonable way to think in any other area. We would not want to treat an illness “any way we want to as long as we sincerely believe we'll get better” or “You just treat your illness your way and I'll do it my way because we're all going to get better, just by different means.” There would be no reason to have doctors if that were true. We could treat an infection with ice cream. But sadly, it isn't true. It does matter what we believe.

If it makes little difference in what I believe, then it makes little difference if I study and learn. I just opt to believe what I am comfortable with without much investigation. In fairy tales, it may not matter. Who cares if Cinderella's coach was made from a pumpkin or a watermelon? It doesn't matter what you believe about that because it is a fable anyway. But when it comes to truth, it does matter. God's word is truth (John 17:17).

A casual reading of the New Testament shows that what one believes determines his conduct: Such weighed by God (I Samuel 2:3), will determine destiny (John 5:29).

What I Believe Effects My Relationship With God
The idea that it makes no difference what one believes is contrary to reason and to scripture. Wrong beliefs lead to wrong conclusions. If someone takes poison sincerely believing it to be medicine, it still harms whether sincere or not. Following wrong directions to a destination, even sincerely, will not get us to the right place. A loaded gun thought to be unloaded still has bullets in it. Sincerity does not change a thing in these regards.

Accurate information is essential in every area of life. The more important the topic, the more important it is to have accurate information. Belief doesn't change consequences.

Sincerity without correct beliefs does not change the consequences of making ill-formed decisions and choices. Saul sincerely thought to do many harmful things to early Christians, but what he did was still contrary to will of the Lord. No matter how sincere. Great crimes have been committed by "religious" people who were convinced that they were right.

Belief determines conduct and ultimately character. "Fellowship with God" is determined by whether one is “walking in the light” (I John 1:7) and this can only happen if we are listening to those sent from God" (1 John 4:6). If it doesn't matter what one believes then truth is of no more value than error, but Jesus says otherwise (John 8:32). Jesus came into the world to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37). Those who preach and teach the gospel are told to "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching…”(1 Timothy 4:16) .

The Scriptures themselves contain many examples to illustrate. Eve ate forbidden fruit. She had been deceived through the craftiness of Satan. But deception did not change the awful effect of her disobedience (Genesis 3:15; 2 Corinthians 11:3). She believed a lie, and this led to a change of conduct, and this changed her relationship to God. Sincerity did not change the consequences.

Israel believed the false report of the ten spies rather than the truth of Joshua and Caleb. They turned back in heart to Egypt. These were not permitted to enter the promised land (Numbers 14:1-11; Hebrews 3:17-19).

The young prophet was sent to Jeroboam at Bethel to reprove the king and was instructed not to eat or drink in the land, nor to return by the way which he came. An old prophet met him and told him an angel of the Lord had spoken to him and invited him home to eat..."But he lied unto him" (1 Kings 13). The consequence of sincere belief of the lie was death.
The Bible says that the Jews crucified Christ "through ignorance." (Acts 3:17). The Scriptures teach that one must love the truth or become susceptible to believing that which is false and suffering the consequences (2 Thessalonians 2:9,10,13)..

What I Believe Determines My Conduct
The atheist, or those who subscribe to the "God is dead" theory often find themselves having less and less hope, moral restraint and purpose (Romans 3:18). This, I fear, is responsible for moral decline in our own nation. One of the reasons Marxist nations are also opposed to religion is because they want man's primary responsibility not be to please God but to serve the nation.

Religious error results in "more ungodliness" (2 Timothy 2:16-18). Those who deny the resurrection and judgment see no hope for future and no accountability for the present; so, "eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.”

What I Believe Does Matter
Is one church as good as another? Did Jesus promise to build only one? Did the Lord, with His blood, purchase only one? Is He the Savior of one? Does He add the saved to the one? Is He the head of only one? The Bible's answer to all these questions is “Yes, only one” (Matthew 16:16-18; Acts 20:28; Eph 5:23-27 ; Acts 2:47; Ephesians 1:22,23).

Will what I believe make any difference in judgment? The Bible says yes (Matthew 7:21-23)! It will matter what I believe about God, His Son Jesus, and the gospel of salvation (Romans 1:16).

Will what I believe about obeying the gospel make a difference? Of course it will! (Romans 10:8-10; 17; Acts 2:38).
Will how I worship, which is based on what I believe, make a difference? It will if I must worship God in spirit and truth. And that is exactly how I must worship Him (John 4:24; Colossians 2:23). In fact, all I do must be by the authority of the word of God. It must be in the name of Jesus (Colossians 3:17). God's word plainly teaches that what we believe makes a great difference. Satan does not want you to think it does. But we're not going to fall for it, are we?
From The Bradley Banner 9/11/2005
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway
Bradley, IL 60915


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