“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
~ author disputed, possibly Frank Outlaw
During my college years in the early 2000s, many of my peers clung to the idea of moral relativism. There seemed to be this spoken and unspoken rule: “What you believe is as equally true and valuable as what I believe.” It seemed an absurd concept to me.
Let’s take a simple example: If I have a black piece of construction paper, how is it possible that my neighbor could believe it to be yellow and their belief be equally true and valid? Even those with colorblindness wouldn’t mistake black for yellow!
Since 2004, moral relativism has evolved into something far more dangerous. These self-proclaimed tolerant individuals are stubbornly intolerant of anyone who believes in absolute truths. Nowhere is this becoming more evident than in California where legislators are trying to pass AB 2943, which designates gay conversion therapy as “fraudulent.” The bill would prevent anyone from practicing paid counseling to stop homosexuality (including the sale of books, speaking engagements, conferences etcetera).
California Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi said, “The faith community, like anyone else, needs to evolve with the times. The science is clear. The claim that the First Amendment can be used as a defense for promoting fraudulent conduct is a fallacious argument.”
In essence, Muratsuchi is expressing the idea that helping people to overcome homosexuality is “fraudulent conduct,” and our faith is not absolute but must “evolve with the times.” Does anyone else see the irony that it’s totally acceptable to offer counseling that aids a man in his pursuit to become a woman (transgenderism), but we cannot help people stop practicing homosexuality? This is the outcome of moral relativism.
We’ve moved from “tolerance” to, “accept my belief or be punished!”
This moral relativism has crept into the wider Christian community. There is an unspoken idea that as long as we believe in Jesus, nothing else we believe about the bible actually matters. For example: “it doesn’t matter if one believes God created the earth the way it was recorded in Genesis; it will not affect your salvation, so who cares?” Or, “You don’t have to believe in all the miracles recorded in the Bible. Just believe in Jesus as the son of God and live like a good person.” Another pervasive belief is the prosperity gospel, “Live right and God will give you health and wealth!”
Does it actually matter what we believe?
It matters. Immensely.
Consider this passage from Proverbs:
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
We own a water softening unit in our home, and we also filter our drinking water through a reverse osmosis system. That filter is quite valuable because it keeps out unwanted calcification that would potentially ruin every surface and every appliance in our house. The water source is hard West Texas water. However, if the water source were highly polluted with toxins and chemicals, that filter will only do so much. The source water is critical.
Our beliefs are formed in our minds and hearts, so be careful what you accept into those vessels!
Belief shapes behavior.
Let’s look at a non-biblical example for a moment. There are many children within our educational system who unknowingly possess a mindset of generational poverty/entitlement. I recently heard a story from a former teacher who worked in a low-income school. She strongly encouraged her students to aim for college, explaining how many of them qualified for scholarships and could have their tuition covered. One of young men spoke up and said, “Why would I go to college?! I jest gonna get a [welfare] check.” Nothing improved for mom/dad/grandma when they tried try to excel, so why bother? Belief shapes their behavior.
Our Spiritual Beliefs Shape our Daily Behavior
Why does it matter what I believe about God?
If I believe, for instance, that God did not create the earth the way it is recorded in Genesis, and concoct a theory that He simply caused the “big bang” and let nature evolve, I would have to toss out most of the Bible. I would have to disregard passages in Isaiah, Psalms, Proverbs, John and more:
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 40.28)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1.1-2)
“…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Rom 1.25)
He who planted the ear, does he not hear?
He who formed the eye, does he not see? (Psalm 94:9)
[God speaking to Job]: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know! (Job 38.4-5)
I am he who comforts you;
who are you that you are afraid of man who dies,
of the son of man who is made like grass,
and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth, (Isaiah 51.12-13)
The last passage in Isaiah illustrates how belief translates into action. The audience fears man because they don’t actually believe (or cling in confidence) to the power of Almighty God. He is reminding them that the very ground on which they stand was formed by His hand, so why do they need to live in fear of men with no lasting power?
If I were to start disregarding passages like the above because I don’t believe in God as the Creator, eventually I would doubt the veracity of the entire Bible. I would think, “Did God really say thus-and-such, or is that made up by some man with an agenda?!” The Bible would lose its reliability and be nothing more than a book of good “suggestions.” Eventually, I would live my way instead of God’s way.
Why Does it Matter If I Believe the Prosperity Gospel?
Misguided expectations often lead to a loss of faith. The emphasis on present affluence deadens our longing for eternal life. Instead of focusing on God and how we can serve Him, we are concentrating on ourself and how He can serve us. The good works performed are not for God’s benefit, but rather become bargaining chips. “I did ‘x,’ Lord, so give me ‘y.'” Furthermore, if I do not get my y, z, or q, desires fulfilled, I might lose faith in God completely and seek a more presently profitable pursuit.
Guard your heart with vigilance.
The present mantra of our day is, “Follow your heart.”
Only follow your heart if your heart is actively pursuing God and His will.
Guard your heart from false beliefs and don’t listen to the voice of the serpent who hisses, “Did God really say…” Dig deeply into the word and discover what it teaches about the Lord. Observe the world around you and allow the creation to teach you about our all-wise, all-powerful, Heavenly Father. Allow what you know to be true about Jesus dictate your choices and actions. We will only turn the world upside down if we truly believe in the power of God rather than the doubts planted by Satan.
This is the first part in the series “Belief Shapes Action.”
In upcoming posts we will discuss: