Do our actions shape us more than our beliefs? What are the implications for discipleship?

(SeanO) #1

I ran across this quote from Aristotle and a rephrasing of it from Will Durant that emphasize that excellence or virtue is achieved not by belief but by action.

“these virtues are formed in man by his doing the right actions”

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”
–Will Durant

If we look in Scripture, we see the extreme importance laid upon obedience and action and the connection with actions and a truly contrite heart. This connection could explain the importance of rituals in the Old Testament - the sacrifices - the act of humbling one’s self before God - transformed peoples hearts when they engaged in them habitually.

So I wanted to ask you - do our actions shape us more than our beliefs? What are the implications for discipleship and Christian living?

(Martin Pitts) #2

I believe our actions do shape us more than our beliefs because our actions betray our beliefs.

1 Samuel 15 to me kind of points to this, and what you mentioned about being obedient as well as humble in offering sacrifice. Saul was given clear instructions on how to bring God’s punishment to the Amalekites for how they treated Israel, but instead Saul does his own thing. He sets up a monument to himself and goes to sacrifice the animals on top of a mountain, and Samuel calls him out saying, " 22 So Samuel said:

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.”

Without being obedient and humble the sacrifice means nothing. The same goes for Jesus. If He hadn’t been humble and obedient throughout His life and even unto death then His sacrifice wouldn’t have been accepted, and the resurrection never would of occurred.

Kind of going back to the Eastern ways of thinking in “both/and”, we have to accept Jesus as both Lord and savior. If we only want to accept Him as savior, and not treat Him as Lord then we aren’t being obedient but simply looking for fire insurance. Which in turn leads to the implications on discipleship and Christian living.

If we don’t treat Jesus as Lord as well as savior then we don’t really have good reason to follow His commands on how Christians should live, without living out the belief then there is no more making of disciples because there’s nothing that really sets us apart from anyone else in the world who doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

I apologize if I’m jumping around a bit, but I just remembered another bit of Scripture, James 2:14-26, John 13:34-35, and Ephesians 2:8-9. Although we are saved by grace, through faith, and not by works (Ephesians) we are meant to show each other love (John), and through the acts our faith is justified (James).

Took me a long way to get through the thought process, but I finally reached the end of it hahahaha.

(SeanO) #3

@mpitts92 Thank you for those thoughts. I think King David and Saul are a great example of this concept in the Bible. When David went astray, he repented and made amends - his first concern was to honor the Lord. Saul feared his men and his lack of obedience actually demonstrated his lack of belief in God. There is another verse in John that is powerful in connecting love for God and obedience.

John 14:21 - Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.

(Gregg Johnston) #4

I believe our actions are a reflection of our beliefs – our true beliefs. If we state that we believe something, but in our actions do the opposite, then do we really believe it? For example, let’s say I believe that eating kale is the best thing for humans, but yet I never eat kale, then I really do not believe that kale is the best thing for humans. There might be other reasons that I would be stating that belief, but in my core, I don’t believe it because it does not come through in my life in practice. On a spiritual level, this is important. Our actions are driven by our core beliefs. If I believe in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus along with the sending of Holy Spirit at Pentecost, then that should direct my actions as a Christ follower. If I live an untransformed life, even though I profess to be a Christ follower, then I don’t really believe it. Doesn’t mean I have to be perfect, but it means that my attitudes and my desires line up with Jesus.

(SeanO) #5

@greggpj That is a helpful way of thinking about it. In that sense, you are defining belief much the same way James defines faith - belief without works is dead, empty and meaningless. True faith (belief) is connected to works. This is a stronger definition of belief than simply defining belief as what we think we believe or what we give mental / verbal assent to.

(Gregg Johnston) #6

Right - because there could be other reasons that we state what we believe and then act differently. Think about religions that have strong cultural ties. I could say “I am a Baptist” and that could be because mon and dad and community are all Baptists, but yet not really believe anything that is taught in the pulpit. I would state that I believe it because of my family and community, but eventually my behavior would betray my beliefs.