How and why do we believe what we do? How do we come to believe anything, not just about God, but our opinions and beliefs about life in general? To answer this question, we need to first realize that we have a connection with the world around us--the physical earth and the people in it. We are not all islands unto ourselves—gods who create our own universes with their own rules and laws. This would never work. There would be destruction all over the place as our “truths” collided. (Maybe this was what brought the earth to the condition of chaos in the beginning when God spoke our current world into existence). There is such a thing as Truth and it has the power to rule.
So let’s look at how the mind works. We must hear something first before we can form an opinion, agreement, or belief about it.
How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? Romans 10:14
This process involves our ability to hear, understand, and then judge ideas and concepts according to Truth. Bear with me, I’ll explain.
When we hear words, the sound goes into our ears and is processed by our brain. (Or, if we read words, they are de-coded by the brain through the optic nerve of our eye.) However it happens, we somehow “hear” language and de-code it—through sight, sound, or touch. For example, when we hear the word “winter” we know what it means because we’ve heard it before, and we’ve associated the sounds with the thought. (Or, if reading, we’ve matched the written symbols to the thought).
To some degree, we move from de-coding the sights and sounds to understanding the thoughts, concepts, and ideas that the author/speaker is trying to get across. The level of understanding varies according to our ability to think, allowing us to judge the thought according to Truth.
If you hear “the dog is red” you can understand what each word means separately, but you group them together to get the thought—the image—the phrase is conveying and in your mind you see a red dog. Thoughts and concepts vary in complexity. “The red dog is barking at the cat while a screaming man is running towards them.” Gives you a more complex thought than just “the dog is red.” You could ‘read between the lines’ to examine motive and predict what might happen. More complex sentences bring you into ideas, thoughts, rationales, explanations, right and wrong, truths etc.
Some people don’t get past the basic de-coding. They’re happy to understand at a basic level, but not at a high enough level to judge whether the concept is true. It seems they are content to de-code and accept, but don’t spend the mental exertion necessary to fully understand what the person they are listening to is saying, in order to judge whether its true or not. This may be more than personal laziness; it may be because our current trends in education encourage mental laziness.
Educators, and sad to say sometimes parents, offer to do the hard thinking for their students. However, this is nothing more than indoctrination, and children don’t often know the harm in it and will take the easy path if offered.
It’s hard work to understand. It takes effort. I would say God makes it like that on purpose because He wants a people who know the value of Truth. Look at the effort He says to give in going after wisdom, understanding, and discernment:
…Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; 3 For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; 4 If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures;… Proverbs 2:2-4, emphasis added.
It takes effort. Yet people often skip over words they don’t understand while reading, guessing their definition by the context of the sentence. This can lead a person to agree with, and believe in, concepts that aren’t really true, with devastating consequences. Putting effort into thorough understanding is worth it. It’s necessary.
So how does this lead us to belief? Once a person decodes and then understands the thoughts and concepts he hears, he is then faced with whether he agrees or disagrees with it. Does he believe it to be true? Once again, some people don’t face this question. They are content to bounce around from thought to thought and let others do the “hard things” like deciding what is true.
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; Ephesians 4:14
It’s dangerous to let someone else tell you what Truth is because there are those who will intentionally deceive you for personal gain if allowed. They’re not motivated by love for you (like Truth is). We must not be one who doesn't want to think and search for Wisdom and Truth.
Wisdom shouts in the street,
She lifts her voice in the square;
At the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings:
“How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?
And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing
And fools hate knowledge?
“Turn to my reproof,
Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you. Proverbs 1:20-23
(Of course, this passage of Scripture goes on to say the consequence of turning against wisdom, which is not pleasant. It’s worth reading the whole chapter).
So once again, when we arrive at the place where we understand a concept, we decide whether we agree with it or not. It’s important to note here that agreement is more than having heard it once before. Some confuse familiarity or recognition of a concept with agreement.
The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him. Proverbs 18:17
Just because you’ve heard something before does not mean it is true. When a person hears something once or twice and recognizes the thought as one he’s heard before, he might begin to repeat it and talk about it. Now it’s been given life. It’s been given space, and a rumor, or lie, is born.
Agreement is not just accepting something you’ve heard before as true. It’s taking a concept, comparing it to Truth, and making a choice about it. Some want you to think you don’t have a choice over what you agree with or believe in. They may express ideas in such a way that they prompt you to search your memory for a similar thought. If you find a familiar concept there, you begin to accept it. However, remembering is not agreeing. Knowing what something means, is not agreeing. The thought must be judged according to the Truth, which involves the person putting in effort to understand the thought, and then judging it appropriately. It is said if you hear a lie often enough, you’ll believe it. This does not have to be. This is a strategy our enemy uses against us. Yes, there is an enemy who wants to mess up your life.
…the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Agreement, or belief, is a spiritual thing. It’s free will. It’s a choice. Its where you say, “I want to know and believe this Truth,” or at least “I want to want to.” Agreement is not something you have no power over. If someone asks you if you agree with something, you don’t need to search some hidden reservoir inside of you to try and find out if you agree. You don’t search your memory banks to base your agreement on simple familiarity or recognition. You judge what you are hearing with what you have discovered to be Truth, and if it agrees with the Truth then you agree with it.
Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12, emphasis added.
Those who reject Truth and choose pleasure in wickedness over Truth, will be deceived and judged. It’s not about searching your memories or emotions to see if an idea sounds pleasant or acceptable to you. It’s not about collecting a wish-list of ideas to create a fantasy land. It’s about loving the Truth. Looking for it. Searching for it. Submitting to it. Even sacrificing for it, if needed.
Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding. Proverbs 23:23
Truth might cost you something. Do you still want it? Yes, because sincere agreement with the Truth is the only thing that will give life, love, freedom, and all that is good because God is Truth and He is all those good things. Some may have trouble with the word “God” because of a misunderstanding of who He is and His nature. But God is Truth. He is life, light, and love. He is all that is good and right.
We want to bring the thoughts and ideas that we hear into alignment with what is good and right--what is life and love. This is what we want to agree with. This is Truth, and God is the source of it.
Let’s look again at how we come to believe, or come into agreement with a thought or concept:
De-code it for a basic, parroting-type of understanding
De-code it for a basic, parroting-type of understanding
Put mental effort--thought--into understanding the concepts and ideas presented
Judge the thought according to Truth
Agree (believe) or disagree with it
God has enabled us to determine Truth, not just from the Bible, or nature, or the experiences of other people, but He has given us access to the Spirit of Truth. When we compare the written Word of God, the experiences of our life, the testimony of others we know, with the Spirit of Truth speaking to our spirit, this gives us a confirmation that this thought or idea is of God—it is Truth.
Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses. 2 Corinthians 13:1 (See also Matthew 18:16, John 5:31-32, 1 John 5:8).
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth… John 16:13
Truth is revealed to us, by God, in a variety of ways. The Bible is a tried and true way. In the Bible, truths were revealed to men by God. The Bible is a written account or record of what the authors experienced and what was revealed to them. Their testimony has become history.
The Bible is the most accurate record of Truth because it’s been proven over millennia. It’s been tried and proven to be true in the lives of billions of people. People have testified that in their experience, the truths of the Bible are in fact true. This is what it means to be His witness. (Acts 1:8).
Our own testimony, and the testimonies of others, are spoken or written accounts of experiences, which, when taken in their sum total of a person’s life, may be used as a record of truth. If studied, one might see the Word of God proven true in their life—whether the outcomes are good or bad. This person’s life, along with other non-biblical classics—books, art etc. don’t have the same degree of testing and proof as the Bible, but may still contain truths which will help those who read to understand them.
Deception occurs when a person believes what is not true. How? When a person believes something is true it means he has accepted it as an idea that can and will be enforced. So he adjusts his life accordingly and tells others to do the same. Once again:
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5
We are in a war of knowledge, thoughts, concepts, and ideas. It’s political, yet spiritual. What you have heard, understood, and chosen to agree with is what you believe. If you’ve heard it, understood it and chosen to believe it, that’s where your faith is.
However, when you hear something familiar, that you’ve heard before, don’t mistake that recognition for faith. Don’t substitute the familiarity of a concept with belief or agreement with it. Understanding is necessary, only so we can properly judge a concept in accordance with Truth. If it doesn’t line up, don’t believe it. Don’t accept it. Others might, but you don’t have it. You have a choice. There’s thought involved. There’s free will involved. God made it that way.
You have a choice over what you believe in. You can’t change the truth by believing something contrary to it, but you can become deceived by choosing to believe something to be true when it isn’t. You have the ability to choose to disagree with the truth and not believe it, however, there will be consequence to that beyond your control. Truth, by definition, is something that has the power to enforce itself. We see this in laws of nature, like gravity. It’s true whether you believe it or not.
We have an enemy who wants people to think there is not one standard of Truth, there is no God, and there is no one to enforce Truth. This lie says that everyone can believe what they want. He uses the familiar to substitute for agreement because when a person agrees with the Truth, its powerful and our enemy doesn’t want that to happen.
This is why its important to read, hear, study, and meditate on the Word of God. To quietly hear from the Lord the concepts and thoughts He’s speaking to you in your inner closet, in your own still heart, where the Spirit of Truth speaks, to get an accurate understanding of truth.
The Word of God and the Holy Spirit within you, bear witness with each other to the Truth. And your own life becomes a testimony to it as well. Don’t just read and decode the Word, understand the concepts of it, according to what the Author means, then come into agreement with it. Judge according to truth, not familiarity.
This is why its so important to give kids the Truth at a young age.
like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 1 Peter 2:2
We must not wait until our children are older thinking they can’t understand “big” concepts. Feed them pure Truth so they can grow. Feed them from the book of Proverbs, short concepts of Truth. The book of Job is an example of a book that needs to be read in its entirety to get the whole concept of it, but Proverbs is perfect for the young. Bite size nuggets of Truth that can be discussed, while they develop their “thinking” muscles.
Let these words sink into your ears; Luke 9:44
The Mission of the Church
I’m adding this section to the end of this (long) blog, because I feel it helps explain why developing relationships with other believers is important “and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25).
It is very difficult for one person, by himself, to research and investigate every piece of information he comes across. Every news story, every trend, thought, idea, concept, argument, etc. He needs to be connected to a group that he can trust. Each member of this group will have their own set of experiences, knowledge they’ve gained, opinions, thoughts, interpretations, revelations and so on. Together, this tribe of believers can think and discuss concepts and trends of the day and come to conclusions regarding what is True and what is not.
…When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation… 1 Corinthians 14:26
It’s like the story of The Blind Men and theElephant. Each has their own viewpoint, which is true, but doesn’t give the whole picture of what an elephant really is.
The job of the church is to bring the thoughts, concepts and ideologies of the day, of the current generations, into alignment (obedience) with the Truth. Through our discussions we destroy “speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” This means that we judge the current ideologies according to the Truth, teach our kids, and stand publicly with the Truth as needed.
We trust those who are in our tribe, yet we must always put God first. We don’t believe what’s popular, even within our own group, but seek the Truth first. Then, together we stand for Truth.
We are God’s “witnesses.” We testify of His goodness, His love, and all of His attributes, as if in court. We have a testimony—experiences we can share that validate who He is, that declares that His ways are the Truth. That our life has proven it to be so.
Each one in our tribe has personal experiences, lessons of life, revelations of truth, which becomes our testimony. We gather these things from:
· Personal experiences (our testimony)
· Personal revelation (from meditation, study, and prayer)
· Biblical studies (our private time which brings revelation and interpretation)
· Autobiographies, biographies (the stories of others)
· Fictional stories and classics (the thoughts and concepts of others)
· Lectures, teachings, and opinions of teachers (doctrines)
We form our opinions and beliefs based on these things.
And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old. Matthew 13:52
We must teach our kids from our stories--what we’ve learned, what we’ve come to believe, and how. Pull the old treasures from your house to share with your kids and grandkids. But there is also the new. Allow them to share their fresh perspective, based on what they’ve seen and experienced so far. It may be in its infancy, but they still have seeds within them that will need to be nurtured and grown. Rather than pulling out every concept that doesn’t agree with you, teach them how to find Truth and then, how to compare their seedlings of thoughts with it.