Does it matter what you believe? Refs

What you believe is vital. Eve believed the serpent instead of God and that belief led to her death. Some say that sincerity is all we need, but we can be sincerely wrong. The Bible tells us what we must believe and why it is so important.

Revelation 2:18-29

Jesus wrote letters to seven of the churches in the Roman province of Asia. These show his judgement of the spiritual
health of each. Some receive praise while others are criticised. In his letter to the believers in Thyatira, Jesus first praises them for their faith, deeds and perseverance. He then criticises them for tolerating Jezebel, a woman whose teaching was wrong. She had been given long enough to repent and Jesus did not want them to accept this woman or her teachings and warns that he will judge them.

1. Do you think the woman’s name really was Jezebel or was she called that because her behaviour was like Jezebel in See 1 Kings 21:25-26 the Old Testament?
2. If the believers were not to tolerate Jezebel, what should they do to her?
3. What was Jesus going to do to Jezebel and her followers?
4. What did Jesus require the believers to do to be saved?
5. What was wrong with the teachings of Jezebel? Find verses that contradict her teachings.
6. Could Jezebel or her followers be forgiven? If so, how?

Truth matters!
Have you ever sincerely believed something to be a fact and later found it to be wrong? It may have been a small thing like being sure you did not like a certain type of food-until one day you were forced to try it only to find you quite enjoyed it! Did your sincerity make you right? Of course it didn’t. Sincerity is never a substitute for accuracy, but it is essential along with accuracy. Sincerely believing that you are heading in the right direction will not make you reach your destination if you travel in the wrong direction.

So truth matters, beliefs matter and sincerity matters, but how much?

Belief in the Old Testament
God showed very early that believing what he said was more important than anything else. He told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent told Eve a different story and Eve chose to believe the serpent. Her wrong belief brought her death as God had promised.
See Chapter 15. Events in Eden.

In the Law of Moses, God again told his people to believe in him and worship him in the way he required. Israel was not allowed to choose how they worshipped God-he showed them his power and then told them what was right and how to please him.

You must not worship the LORD your God in [the Canaanites’] way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. (Deuteronomy 12:31)

In Malachi, at the end of the Old Testament, God complained about the Levites. They had been given the job of teaching God’s law to the Israelites, so they knew what was right and what was wrong.

“But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi”, says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 2:8)

Was their teaching important? Of course it was! The priests were teaching wrong things about God, and so God was angry.

Only Christianity can save
Many people nowadays say that different religions are just different paths to the same goal. Such people tell us that Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and all other religions can lead us to salvation. When we read the Bible, however, it says that being saved from our sins can only come through Jesus. So if we accept the Bible, we can accept no other religion than Christianity. God sent his son to be the saviour of the world. That is why it was so important that his apostles went out into all the world and preached the good news to everyone. Only Christianity can offer a hope of salvation.
Acts 4:10-12

Only true Christianity can save
Within Christianity there is a wide variation of beliefs, and each person needs to decide how important his or her beliefs are. In the focus passage, Jesus showed that just being a Christian was not enough, his followers had to be true Christians. And that makes very good sense too-if you claim to follow someone, you are trying to be like him.

God is near to those with truth
Psalm 145:18.
Individuals need accurate beliefs
Acts 16:13-15; 18:24-27; 19:1-6.
Fellowship requires shared truth
2 Corinthians 6:14-17; Ephesians 4:3-6.
Teachers must
    • teach truth and not error
2 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Timothy 6:2-6.
    • not teach man-made rules
Matthew 15:7-9; Galatians 1:8-11; Colossians 2:20- 23; 1 Timothy 4:1-5; Hebrews 13:9.
Teachers of false doctrine
    • earn God’s anger
Job 42:7; Galatians 1:8-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; Revelation 2:14-16,20-23.
    • must be stopped
1 Timothy 1:3-11.
    • are not to be welcomed
2 John 10-11.
    • lead others astray
Matthew 23:13-15.
Individuals must
    • hold on to true doctrines
1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15; 2 John 9.
    • live by the doctrines
Matthew 7:21-23.
    • worship in spirit and truth
John 4:22-24.

So what did Jesus say about the importance of belief and the teachings we believe?

They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. (Matthew 15:9)

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)

Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. (Revelation 2:15-16)
Nicolaitans: thought to be followers of a man named Nicolas, possibly one of the chosen in Acts 6:3-7.

Similarly, Paul wrote

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:6-8) What was the “different gospel” that was being taught in Galatia?

To be a true Christian, you must follow Jesus, learn to think like Jesus, make his beliefs your own and his teachings the rules for your own life. This is summed up by Peter:

. . . be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:17-18)

Anyone who takes up their cross and follows Jesus is committed to following wherever he leads, believing whatever he believed and living as he lived.

Where do we draw the line?
Since it does matter what we believe, is everything we believe important? Some people believe that one make of car is better than another. Is this belief important? When considering matters of life and death (i.e., our relationship with God), we have to determine which beliefs are important, and which (like the best make of car) are not important to salvation. Everyone makes this decision-even those who say that it doesn’t matter; they have simply decided that no beliefs are important. And in this they disagree with God.

Here is a brief list of some of the beliefs (and the actions that flow from them) which God says matter:

• faith in God Romans 1:17; Hebrews 11:6;
• repentance Acts 2:38; 17:30-31; Revelation 2:16;
• baptism Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38;
• Jesus as Lord Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-10;
• Jesus died for our sins 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 Peter 3:18;
• resurrection of Jesus Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:4;
• immorality is evil 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21;
• loving the truth 1 Corinthians 13:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:10.

There are many others which are discussed in other chapters of this book. This chapter does not attempt to cover all the beliefs that are important, but rather to establish that what is believed is important. As Jesus said:

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. (Matthew 10:14-15)

Truth matters! God cares enough about truth to have written the entire Bible so that we can find truth. Having found truth we can then worship God with sincerity in a way acceptable to him.

Only Christianity can offer salvation-and only true Christianity will save us.

In this chapter, we have not attempted to define what the true beliefs are; we have simply shown that beliefs are important.
Important teachings of the Bible are discussed in many chapters of this book.

1. Find some examples from the Bible where wrong beliefs led people to their deaths.
2. What did Jesus mean when he said that it would be better for Sodom and Gomorrah than for the towns in Israel that refused to listen to his message? (See Matthew 10:14-15).
3. Can you think of any examples of people in the Bible who changed their lives because they found that what they had believed was wrong?
4. Is true doctrinal understanding essential for salvation?
What are the conditions for salvation? See Matthew 7:21- 27; 25:34-46; James 2:14-26.

1. Imagine you have a new pen-pal who writes you a letter saying she is a Christian but she doesn’t really care about doctrine because all that matters is being kind to others.
She asks you what you think about doctrine. What would you include in your letter to her?
2. Try to write down your basis for deciding what is true doctrine and what is not. It may help to consider Matthew 22:29-32, 23:23 and Acts 17:11.
3. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus criticized the Pharisees for ignoring the weightier matters of the law. Are there ‘weightier matters’ of doctrine and if so, how do we determine them?

• BB Section 10.4
• One Bible, many churches. Does it matter? by Dennis Gillett (published by The Christadelphian). 16 pages.

10. Worship
13. Idolatry
14. Holiness and obedience
15. Events in Eden
53. Fellowship