Here is an email question I just received:
I am wrestling with a question about faith that I’m hoping you can shed some light on for me.
I’ve heard it said often that our actions are always a product of our belief. For example, if I believe that I should love my wife, then I will. Therefore, if I’m not loving my wife, it’s because my belief is wrong.
Is this a correct way to think about the relationship between our faith and our actions? It seems like it is possible to genuinely believe certain things are true and yet not act on those beliefs.
Any help you can give is greatly appreciated! Thank you so much!
I have been married for nearly 43 years. During that entire time, I’ve believed that I should love my wife as Christ loves the church, that is, sacrificially. I believed that doing so was good for me and for her. Yet I have not always loved my wife sacrificially. I have at times. But at other times I’ve been unloving. I’ve even yelled at Sharon at times. I’ve found the need to confess my sins to God and to ask Sharon to forgive me. While other couples may have a lot less to confess and to ask forgiveness for, there is no married couple that has unfailingly loves one another 100% of the time.
What is the point of confession if we always act in accord with what we believe?
James says that it is not enough to verbalize what we believe. We must also do what we say we believe (Jas 2:12). It is fine to say, “Be filled and be warmed” to a cold and hungry believer in our church (Jas 2:16a). But if you don’t give that person the things which he needs to be filled and warmed, then there is not profit in your bare words (Jas 2:16b).
King David believed that adultery is wrong right up to the point where he allowed desire to have mastery over him and he committed adultery with Bathsheba. King Solomon believed that idolatry was wrong until his heart was turned by his many foreign wives.
Now it is true that our behavior flows from our mindset. We are transformed “by the renewing of our minds” (Rom 12:2; see also 2 Cor 3:18). If we have “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16), then we are spiritual believers. But that does not mean that we are sinless (cf. 1 John 1:8, 10). As we walk in the light of God’s Word (1 John 1:7), we must confess our sins as we become aware of them (1 John 1:9).
We need to confess when we realize that we have acted in a manner that is inconsistent with what we believe, that is, what we know to be true. God uses the act of confessing our sins to change us. While a day is coming when we will act totally in accord with what we believe, that day is not yet. “When He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).