This past weekend I shared a concept from Michael Novak that a lot of people found really helpful. If you’re interested in being the real deal with God, this can help. You can watch the whole message online by clicking here.
There are three levels of conviction or belief we all have.
We have PUBLIC beliefs which are those convictions we want other people to think we believe. We may not really believe them, but we want others to think we do. Smiling kindly and acting as if you’re glad to be at a party while secretly you are dreading every minute and wanting to be home watching the Vikings game is an example of conveying a public belief. Sometimes in public, in business, or in politics we learn to give the “right answer” even if we don’t deeply believe it.
Sometimes it’s less innocent: When King Herod asked where the Christ child was, he said he wanted to know because he wanted to “worship” him. Yeah right. In truth he wanted to kill the baby, but conveyed a different public belief.
Then there are PRIVATE beliefs which are those things we actually think we believe – until it is tested. Peter told Jesus he would follow him forever, loyal to the end. He even swore an oath of allegiance about it. But when the rooster crowed the next morning he had caved, deserted, denied three times. He was totally sincere! He was convinced! But testing revealed that loyalty to Jesus was not yet a core belief.
CORE beliefs are the things that are revealed by our daily actions. What you really believe is shown in what you actually do. We always act out of our core beliefs. I may want you to think I’m a good husband and not that selfish (that’s public belief). And I may really believe it myself – that I’m a pretty good husband and not that selfish (my private belief). But if in reality, in daily practice, I act selfishly and am inconsiderate, regularly mistreating my wife, then my CORE BELIEF is revealed. It becomes apparent I have some growing to do as a husband.
We spend a lot of time worrying about what other people think we believe. We also spend much energy convincing ourselves we are “okay” because we’re sincere. But in the end, Jesus doesn’t give a rip-snort about our public or private beliefs. What Jesus is after is the real you, the real me. He desires that we would trust him at a core belief level – who we actually are, as borne out in our actions. Jesus’ first words to us are not “agree with me” or “like me” or even “believe in me.” Instead he says, “Follow me.”
In the scriptures, hearing and doing are not separate activities. To truly HEAR the voice of God, means we will RESPOND to it, in obedience. Hearing IS doing. That’s why Jesus keeps saying, ”Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.” He means, if you truly hear me, you will do something about it. He was always pressing to our core beliefs.
Following Christ is about a lot more than image management or convincing ourselves we’re better than the next guy. “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6). Somehow, I must trust Jesus enough that I will actually do what he asks me to do. Go where he tells me to go. Live like he tells me to live. Cling to him when my life is hard. There is hearing and then there is responding.
So today I’m going to worry less about what you think I believe. That’s all exterior stuff, plastic fruit on the tree of my life. Instead I’m going to work on letting Jesus know me, down deep inside. If I will let him love the real me, forgive the real me, and call the real me to follow, then I can stop wasting so much energy trying to convince you and my own self of this or that – and instead let Jesus just change me from the inside out.
Here’s a great place to start. Wrestle with this question: What is Jesus saying to me? And what am I going to do about it?