Most evangelicals (myself included) have lived under the idea that a person comes to believe in Jesus and then their behavior will change. A true statement, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Yes, there are those who have a Damascus road experience leading to immediately transformed lives. But stories abound of men and women who ‘walked the aisle,’ professed Christ, and then returned to the same habits, behaviors, and lifestyles.
So which is it? Does one believe, then behave? Or start to behave in a way that leads to belief?
Let’s start with the disciples. Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Future tense. As these guys walked with Jesus, listened to His teaching, and watched Him perform miracle after miracle, their belief grew. Yes, they waffled when it came down to life and death stuff, but after the resurrection . . . after they saw Jesus die and then live again, their belief and their behavior locked in at 100%.
My friend John shared this quote, “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.” This is why belonging to a church family or a Christian community is so critical, especially for those who don’t yet believe!
It’s also why consistently living “this way of life” is so critical for all of us who profess Christ. Skeptics are super-sensitive to hypocrisy, mask-wearing, and self-righteousness. But that same sensitivity leads them to curiosity when they see authentic, genuine faith lived out in front of them. If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t be sensitive either way.
An old Celtic phrase I quote all the time, “Belong, believe, behave.” In that order.
Question: Who has God put in your life that you can help to belong? Who can you bring into your Bible study, small group, or Sunday school class?