Over the past year I have had the privilege of speaking to our Sunday morning high school students at our church. I am honored that our youth pastor and church leadership entrusts someone like me, who has had no formal Theological training, to speak to a group of kids. I would like to share with you the message I shared last Sunday and I hope it causes you to pause and reflect on the questions that matter.
Key verse: Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Let's say that you woke up one morning and found yourself deep in a forest. You look around you and see that there are others with you who are also wondering where they are. It is raining outside and cold so you have a natural urge to want to leave the forest and find your way back home.
What is the first thing you would do in this situation?
I believe that there are 4 different things that can happen.
1. You can trust your intuition that you know how to find your way out and begin walking in whichever direction seems right. This almost always ends badly. Not only is it highly unlikely that by chance you will find the way out, but you also eliminate any chance of being found.
2. You can just start walking. This is a bit different than trusting your intuition because it means you have not even considered that you are trusting in yourself to make the right call. You are just walking aimlessly in hope that something good might come out of it.
3 You can ask those around you how to get out. This is probably better than the first option but what you do in this situation is entrust your life in the credibility of the person who is giving you directions.
4. You can ask directions from someone who has demonstrated that they know the forest and even have printed directions on how to get out.
Option 4 is the one that makes perfect sense. The problem though is that despite these claims, people are still heading in various directions. Why should you believe that the map is reliable? How can you trust a person that says that they "know" the forest. How can anyone know the forest?
Over the past several weeks I have attempted to begin typing out the questions I have about life that matter the most. The purpose of this exercise is to begin thinking about each of these questions and what it means for my life. Some may say that this is over-analyzing what we cannot know. Some may think this is over-analyzing what we should just faithfully trust in. Others may say that this is not a good use of time and we should spend our time and energy on the things that really matter, like charity and love toward others.
This is where I will object. One thing that I can believe more than almost anything is this:
Belief precedes action. Action does not precede belief.
I will type that again because it is important that you grasp this concept.
Belief precedes action. Action does not precede belief.
What I mean by this is that the way you behave, I behave, or anybody else behaves in this world reflects what they believe to be true. This is a profound statement because often we think that merely telling someone to do something or not to do something will change their actions. This is not the case. In some cases it may be true because you have only instilled a fear of the consequences of not doing what you said. But once you are out of sight, they no longer do what you ask them to do and they begin doing exactly what you told them not to do. The only way people can genuinely change is if their beliefs of the world around them are changed. I write this blog post because I believe that it can be transformational in how you perceive life and what you choose to do or not do.
There is a pattern to this world as Paul indicates in Romans 12:2. The pattern is to believe a certain way which results in acting a certain way. However, the way that most people act is not what we like. So, if we want to see change in how people act, there must be a change in their beliefs and understanding of their surroundings. Paul urges in this verse for us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. In other words, the renewal of our minds from its initial state, which is the pattern of this world, will transform our lives. Now the question is, does the Gospel change our lives for the better? It should, but as we see these days, there are many who say that they believe and continue to act in a way that paints the gospel as something harmful. This is due to a failure to diligently seek Biblical truth that renews our minds.
I will list 5 of the main philosophical questions that everybody deals with:
1. How did we get here?
2. Why do we exist?
3. What is wrong with the world?
4. What is the solution to what is wrong with the world?
5. What will happen when we die?
My big idea that I want to communicate in this blog post (other than the strong emphasis on "belief precedes action") is that whatever our answers are to these 5 questions, they will have a profound effect on the answer we come to in the next question:
How should I live my life?
If you are not happy with the consequences of how you are living, I would strongly urge you to stop walking in the wrong direction and go back to where you started. Ask the questions that matter and reset your foundation so that you will be "transformed by the renewing of your mind" and then know God's good, pleasing and perfect will. If you have difficulty trusting that man who says he knows the forest, take some time to figure out on your own if what he is saying is credible.
I hope this post changes you for the better, I know it has changed me.
We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive. - C.S. Lewis