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ReVision

Why Doctrine Matters

Some doctrine is shaping your mind. Is it sound?

The Mind of Christ in His Word: Part 2 (3)

And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak… 2 Corinthians 4.13 

Belief and life
What Paul says here about his speech is true of every other aspect of our lives: we live what we believe. And what we believe is shaped by doctrine, whether it is the sound doctrine of God’s Word or shifting and deceitful winds of doctrine that blow continuously against us.

Put another way, as Jesus frequently explained, how we live demonstrates or reveals what we believe. And, of course, what we believe is informed by the content of our thinking. And, since thinking is primarily about information, ideas, opinions, preferences, and the like, what we think – and therefore what we say and do – will be unavoidably shaped by the worldview we embrace.

If we want to live like mature Christians, rather than like infants, then we will need to press on toward maturity by seeking the mind of Christ. And that means feeding our minds with the sound doctrine of the Word of God.

Doctrine – teaching, information, viewpoints, opinions, worldviews – matters because it shapes beliefs, which, in turn, determine our affections, fortify our conscience, and guide our conduct in the world. The things some people believe – that is, the doctrines they have embraced – make them a blessing and a boon to society. Those whose beliefs are informed by ideas of generosity, selflessness, compassion, and love are more likely to be the kind of people we like to be around, as opposed to those whose beliefs have them and their interests at the center of the universe, and you and yours merely as means to whatever ends they might desire at any given time.

Right beliefs lead to right living, living that honors God and blesses others; and right belief is the product of right and sound doctrine.

Sources of doctrine
For most people, the doctrines which shape their beliefs, and, in turn, guide their conduct, come to them from a variety of sources, and are often uncritically embraced. Their thinking is a pastiche of ideas, notions, tastes, and habits which they have absorbed from the information environment to which they expose themselves. That environment lobs doctrine at people continuously. Advertising affects how people think about material possessions. The opinions of our friends or of people we esteem influence our thoughts as well. What we read, see on the evening news, enjoy in pop culture, are told by our politicians – all these ideas and opinions – all this doctrine – affects our thinking and beliefs, which in turn determine how we live.

To set the matter in a more Biblical framework, there is doctrine which emanates from the Spirit of Christ, speaking in His Word; and there is doctrine which emanates from the spirit of the age, speaking through the voices of media, advertising, false teachers, pop culture, education, and so forth. Paul warns that such “winds of doctrine” can keep us from reaching maturity in our thinking (Eph. 4.14) making us, therefore, unlikely to be of much service in advancing the rule of King Jesus.

We don’t always examine what we hear as carefully as we should. And so it may surprise even us when, in some conversation or situation, we find that our thinking merely reflects that of the people around us and offers very little, on any topic, that would suggest we have been renewed in the mind of Christ. Thus we prove the truth of Socrates’ admonition, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

An unprotected mind
False doctrines can invade a mind that is not protected by sound doctrine like termites sneaking into the bones of a beautiful home. We may not even be aware of the thoughts, outlooks, and opinions which are taking shape in our minds until they suddenly and unexpectedly surface. Or we may understand full well the ideas that are guiding our beliefs, and we may be living entirely in line with them, content with worldliness of thought and life. Unless the sails of our soul are squarely unfurled into the winds of the Spirit, false winds of doctrine will blow us off course in our journey with Christ and keep us from realizing the power of a mature mind.

If what we hold to be true, and therefore what directs our lives, is shot through with self-interest, expediency, pragmatism, materialism, and moral relativism, we’re not going to contribute much to bringing the mind of Christ to light in our sphere. Even more important, our desire to serve and glorify God will be thwarted to the extent that the spirit of the age, rather than the Spirit of God, is the source of our doctrine. 

C.S. Lewis once warned that “The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments” (The Abolition of Man). If we want to prevent our words and deeds from being false, selfish, and counterproductive to Kingdom living, and if we want to glorify God with our beliefs and lives, then we need to raise a hedge and infuse an atmosphere of sound doctrine into our minds. Only sound doctrine can enable us to recognize false and deceitful ideas and, by discernment and persuasion, send them packing before they settle into our brains.

Everyone believes something – you, the people in your life, the people who are running this world. And those beliefs are grounded in doctrines of one kind or another. It matters what we believe – whether the good stewardship of sound doctrine or the vain speculations of self-interested minds. The Wind of God or the deceitful winds of the world. If we would be renewed in the mind of Christ, and live a mature experience of following Him, then we must pursue and tack into the sound doctrine of Scripture. We must continuously seek and follow the Wind of God, delighting in Him and His Word, allowing sound doctrine full rein in our thinking and affections, and living consistently with what the sound doctrine of Scripture teaches.

Sound doctrine makes for a well-kept heart and a strong soul. Everything in life follows from that.        

For reflection
1.  What do we mean by saying that belief shapes action? Can you give some examples?

2.  Review the list of important doctrines you prepared for the preceding installment. For each one, suggest some ways that this doctrine shapes our actions.

3.  How do the vain speculations of those who reject sound doctrine shape their actions? Can you give some examples?

Next steps – Preparation: Give thanks to God for the sound doctrine of His Word. How would you counsel new believers to be continually renewed in the mind of Christ?

T. M. Moore

This might be a good time to review our ReVision series on “Winds of Doctrine.” You can download all the studies in that series by clicking here.

All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here. Check out our newest feature, Readings from the Celtic Revival (click here).

Thanks for your prayers and support
If you find ReVision helpful in your walk with the Lord, please seek the Lord, asking Him whether you should contribute to the support of this ministry with your financial gifts. As the Lord leads, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, 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.
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