What you know and what you believe will affect what you do. That statement is true of the Christian life as well. In the last two posts in this series weI have discussed the need for being a three-fold disciple: head, heart, hands. First, we must know the truths of the gospel (head), which in turn changes what we believe and reorients our affections (heart). Today we will discuss how the first two drive the disciple to change what they do.
The Apostle James writes, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-17, ESV). He goes on to say, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even then demons believe and shudder” (2:19, ESV)! Belief in God alone, merely knowing religious facts, is not enough. By God’s grace we must allow what we know and believe about the gospel to transform how we live.
I hope you see that the order of things is important. Discipleship is not ordered by hands, heart, head. Good deeds apart from a life transformed by the gospel is legalism. Changing one’s behavior does not change one’s heart and mind. Duty without delight is deadly, it only leads to despair. Additionally, discipleship is not ordered by heart, head, hands. Whipping up our emotions may change our behavior for a short season, but it does not bring lasting change. No, our actions change only when our affections change, and our affections change, only when our minds are renewed by the power of the gospel.
Think about it this way. Why do we sin? We sin because by nature we are dead in sin and set our minds on the things of the flesh (Romans 8:5). Jesus said that “out of the abidance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34, ESV). The psalmist refers to the human mouth as an “open grave” (Psalm 5:9). If that is what flows out of our mouths, it is simply a reflection of our heart and Jeremiah said of the human heart that it is “deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). The fruit of a depraved mind and a dead heart will always be sin. Conversely, when our minds are renewed by the power of the gospel (Romans 12:2), and our affections are reoriented to goodness of God in the gospel (Romans 10:10), the fruit will be a changed life by the gospel to the glory of God.
Yet we are not changed for ourselves alone. We are set free from the bondage of sin and transformed by the power of the gospel to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:7). We love the Lord by loving and serving our neighbors. We do this by sharing the gospel with them, and serving our neighbors in practical ways. In so doing we bring glory to God. Yet we love and serve our neighbors, not to earn God’s favor. No, we do these things because already have God’s favor (Ephesians 2:8-10).
This changes everything! A disciple must learn the gospel (Head), believe the gospel (Heart), and experience/live the gospel (Hands).
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