It was in my expository preaching course that I learned it. It was driven into my teaching psyche and intended to become a part of my basic presupposed knowledge of ministry. Without it, all your preparation would be in vain. Lacking this, your message will fail to do what God actually intended it to do...
What is it?
“Belief is no good without practice.” Wake up and smell the manna!
Sounds reasonable doesn’t it. Let’s put it another way.
“Belief is not the end, it is a means to an end. The end is doing not believing.”
In preaching, it goes like this:
“If you don’t have a way in which people can apply the lesson to their lives today, you have not really done anything.”
The idea here is that belief, in and of itself, is not the end game that God has for us. God primarily wants us to be active in our practice. Good works, being nicer to people, acting out our love, giving to the poor, self-sacrifice, not cheating on tax-returns, avoiding certain web-sites, bringing home flowers to your wife, forgiving your father, protecting the unborn, knowing when to set down the beer, taking your daughter out on a date, remembering to say “I love you” (don’t just suppose they know), and trading your Hummer for a Honda. These are all things I can do today. This is what we need. Right?
God cares more about belief than he does practice. Belief, truth, doctrine, theology, and, yes, being correct, is more important than all the good works one can ever practice.
The “why” is more important than the “what.”
The “how come” is more important than the “when.”
The “because” is more foundational than the “so that.”
In fact, I believe the “what?” “when?” and “so that?” have no meaning outside the “why?” I also believe the “what” can exist alone in many cases and serve to bring great glory to God.
What I am saying is that God is glorified in our right belief. God receives great pleasure in correct doctrine. It is God’s first desire that we believe correctly. Belief, truth, doctrine, and theology are not merely a means to an end, but are the end themselves. Yes, this “end” will, more often than not, have natural consequences that will produce certain effects (i.e. good works), but the substance is in the truth understood and believed.
Preaching right belief and understanding, unfortunately, has become the red taped taboo of our generation. Avoidance of such is justified in the name of baseless pragmatism. It is the Evangelical and Emerging misdirection that could alleviate the church of the only legitimate reason we have for boasting. I believe that it is the crisis of the church today.
Friends, if people believe correctly—and I mean truly believe—they will act correctly when the situation calls for it. Not only this, but their good works will be done for the right reasons, based on a motivation of truth. Knowing and understanding God will change lives by bringing people in a right orientation with the way things actually are.