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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Wrong Belief, Right Belief

Patrick knew the difference.

Patrick (16) 

                        His purpose to
obey, the sun arises every day,
and yet its splendor is a passing ray
of brilliance. All who worship it will be
to grievous punishment subjected. We,
however, who the True Sun, Christ the Lord,
adore, will never perish. All who guard
His teaching will abide forever, just
as Christ Himself. So likewise all who trust
in Him will with Him reign, Who reigns on high
with God the Father and the Spirit, by
the power of God.

- Patrick, Confession

…although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

 - Romans 1.21-23

Patrick was hard-nosed about the exclusivity of Christ. There was no bringing along into the Church any of one’s favorite idols. Those whom Patrick called to repentance and faith understood that old things—including old beliefs and aspirations—would have to be set aside. And though all the people Patrick encountered revered the sun, they would no longer be allowed to give it worship. The sun, and all created things, are appointed by God and serve His purposes (Ps. 119.89-91). To worship these as a deity of any sort is to deny the sufficiency and exclusivity of Christ.

Jesus, Patrick insisted, was the “True Sun”, the Light of God and Lord of all men and creation. All who believed in Him would reign with Him, both in this life and in the life of glory; and they would know the power of God to serve Him with every aspect of their lives.

In Patrick’s mind there was no such thing as “unbelief”, except as that related to those who did not believe in Jesus. But everyone in Ireland of Patrick’s day believed in something, trusted in some deity, or revered some standing stone, mythical creature, legendary ancestor, or favorite place. The same is true in our day, only with different objects of devotion. All such “unbelief” is really wrongbelief, and Patrick explained that all who clung to their wrong beliefs would end up knowing the judgment and “grievous punishment” of the Lord. Only right belief—belief in Jesus—would avail for everlasting life.

We’re not as cut-and-dried about this as we might be. Many today who profess faith in Jesus nonetheless cling to certain things or hopes as though these were the true objects of their devotion. A comfortable retirement, things and experiences, diversions of various kinds—these are what many Christians look to or aspire to as most important in their lives. We want Jesus and the forgiveness and eternal life He offers. But we do not look to Him as our source of peace and joy, except only in the most abstract and eschatological way. The happiness we seek derives from our stuff and our circumstances, making us just as much idolators as any Irishman of Patrick’s day.

If we know God, Paul wrote, we will glorify Him and give thanks to Him as the true and only source of happiness and purpose in life. We won’t need to prop up faith in Him with any of the things that previously gave us meaning and happiness. That doesn’t mean we won’t have possessions or enjoy any of the many good things available to us in this world. We just won’t worship them. We could live without them or give them all away and still know real joy, as Habakkuk explained:

Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills. (Habakkuk 3.17-19)

We’re living in wrong belief if we must have this or that, or go here or there, or acquire these things to be truly happy and secure. When our hope is in the Lord and Jesus is truly our all in all, we will let go of the idols of this secular and materialistic age—and all other idols as well—and devote ourselves to Jesus only.

This is what the people who responded to Patrick did, and it’s why they turned their world rightside-up for Jesus.

For Reflection
1. How would you know if something in your life had begun to be an idol? What should you do then?

2. How does Habakkuk counsel us to be free of things and false securities and to live in the joy of the Lord?

Psalm 27.1-6 (St. Denio: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise)
LORD, You are our Light and our Savior most dear!
You guard us with might; therefore, whom shall we fear?
Though evil surround us, our enemies fall;
no harm shall confound us when on You we call.

One thing we request but to dwell with You, LORD.
Your beauty to test and to think on Your Word.
In trouble You hide us secure in Your grace;
no foe may o’erride us: We sing of Your praise.

Lord, cleanse me of any idols and help me to be more devoted to Jesus and I will…

T. M. Moore

Patrick’s Legacy
You can read more about the impact of Patrick’s ministry in our book, The Legacy of Patrick. Here you’ll learn how Patrick’s work has affected generations of Christians down to our own day. Order your copy by clicking here.

Support for Crosfigell comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

And please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. You can contribute online, via PayPal or Anedot, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 103 Reynolds Lane, West Grove, PA 19390.

All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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