Belief Series: (Part 4) – If the Bible/Truth Does Not Feel True
Much Bible Knowledge is Merely General Knowledge and Not Heart Belief
The memory that I have of studying my Bible this morning is what we have identified as “Experiential Belief.” Whereas the knowledge I gained from my study as, for the most part is Intellectual Belief or the subset thereof; General Knowledge .
The portion of the text I read from the Bible that I actually remember is the general knowledge of what I intellectually retained. The intellectual knowledge that I gained from the Bible is not fixed or static and can be potentially changed, or altered if challenged. This is not saying that the truth in the Bible is not static and sure, but only what I believe about it.
Intellectual belief in what the Bible says is not spiritual in and of itself, since unbelievers can intellectually believe what the Bible says and apply some of its instructions. Even the demons believe the Bible intellectually and “shudder” (Jam. 2:19). However, when the Spirit illuminates the truth that I hold intellectually and “opens the eyes of my heart” to it, then it will become spiritually understood. This is what we will soon discover to be Heart Belief or the persuasion of God. When this happens, something spiritual takes place. We will be transformed by the truth we believe in our hearts. Too often we try to conform ourselves to the truth we intellectually hold, as opposed to being transformed by it.
Heart belief supersedes intellectual belief and is the essence of our faith. Whatever we believe with our hearts is our faith. Believing with the heart is something that God works within us. Heart belief is faith that is the “… assurance of things hoped for or the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Heart belief (faith) is knowing the truth with absolute certainty. I cannot believe in this manner apart from God bringing it about. Heart belief is not a feat accomplished by mental fortitude. It is a gift from God, His persuasion of the truth.
I know with absolute certainty that I had coffee and sprinkled donuts this morning. I do not need to convince myself of this belief and no one can talk me out of it. What would it look like if we possessed the same measure of steadfast belief in God’s truth as we do in what we remember about the donut shop? God wants us to know the truth with the same certainty. When I ate that donut this morning, I experienced it and believed. When the Lord grants us faith (heart belief) we experience Him. The truth received from God within our hearts supersedes our intellect and becomes experientially realized. It is “…to know the love of Christ which SURPASSES knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19). This belief is our faith.
General Knowledge Does NOT Produce Emotion
It is probably safe to say that most people reading these words believe that the Bible is true. Many would lay down their lives for what they believe about all that it says. However, if we are honest with ourselves, much of what we read from its pages simply does not feel true when we read it. We want it to be true, wish it were so, and diligently try to deny and suppress any doubting we may harbor. There is a reason why that to which we ascribe intellectual assent does not feel true even though this is what we desire. Trying harder to believe will not make it feel any more true. We must identify and address why the truth does not feel true. The problem here is that General knowledge of intellectual belief does not produce any emotion so it will never feel like anything. whereas, when we know the truth in our hearts we will feel what the truth feels like. Again, we feel whatever we believe.
Much of what we believe about the Scriptures we do believe intellectually, but it may not have found its place in our hearts. A simple test, to determine if what we believe intellectually is also our heart belief, is to identify what we feel when we read the Scriptures. If what we read does not cause us to feel anything then it is probably not heart belief. Intellectual belief does not produce emotion, whereas, heart belief (whether in the truth or a lie) will cause us to feel a corresponding emotion. Heart belief is the seat of our emotions.
Some may feel a little defensive on hearing me say if we have no emotional response when we read the glorious truths of God’s Word, then it may not be heart belief and only intellectually known. Some may protest and say “Emotions are not important when it comes to believing the Bible. We should deny what we feel and just believe with faith!” I am suggesting that when we believe the truth with faith, it will feel true and produce it’s corresponding emotion. If we are having to work at believing something, denying our contrary emotions and trying harder to believe, then something is amiss.
Believing with the heart requires no effort to do once we believe. Like experiential belief, If I go to the coffee shop and have my morning latte, I do not have to try hard to believe that I went there. My experience is fixed and static. My believing I went there requires no effort on my part to do. I simply know and believe that I did. In like fashion, when we know the truth in our hearts we do not have to try to believe it, we just do.
Heart Belief Test
What follows is a random passage pulled from the writings of the apostle Paul. Read it out loud and be aware of what you feel as you read it. If you believe with your heart what is stated in this passage, you should leap for joy and thankfulness. We would not be able to contain ourselves emotionally if this belief was truly resident in our hearts. If we have a slight emotional rise then we have some heart belief. If there is no emotional response then we need the “eyes of our hearts opened” so we might see. Probably all who read this passage will believe it intellectually, but where there is an absence of emotion, then there is evidence that it is not yet a heart belief.
“.. you were dead in your trespasses and sins, …but God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, … for by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. …for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them…” (Eph. 2:1-10)
If you felt nothing or only a little something, do not be discouraged. The words in this passage that says “…we are His workmanship…” means that He has taken the responsibility to bring about all that He has planned. However, we can choose to move in His direction and position ourselves to be more cooperative with what He is doing. We can “…draw near to God…and “…He will draw near to us” (James 4:8) as He goes about His work. He is at work in us so that we might be “…renewed in the spirit of [our] minds…” (Eph. 4:23) making the truth to become our heart belief as He grants us “…a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him (as He opens) “…the eyes of [our] heart (so we) may be enlightened, so that [we] will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Eph. 1:17-19). His job is to do and ours is to position ourselves so we may receive. Remember Martha and Mary and how Mary positioned herself at the feet of Jesus while Martha was busy trying to do something for Jesus. Jesus declared that Mary had discovered the better place.
While intellectual belief is practical and useful, it will not transform our lives. Again, we have to differentiate between the transformation that only God can bring about, and our trying to control our behavior to conform it to the truth. Controlled behavior is self effort which is the same practice used in all other world religions and cannot produce transformation. Choosing to do the right thing by ardent obedience will not produce transformation. Controlling our behavior has value, but it is not transformation.
So we see that we may read a glorious truth from the Bible without being emotionally moved by it. What we read will not feel true to us until it is believed in the heart. Again, someone will say, “We should not worry about how we feel about the Scriptures, but rather just do them!” That sounds noble, but feelings are a God-created and expected outcome of heart belief. We also cannot escape the TPM basic principle that says, “We feel whatever we believe.” If the truth of God’s Word does not cause us to feel something, then we need to explore our beliefs to find out why. At least two of the fruits of the Spirit are experienced through our feelings; joy and peace. If we do not feel joy and peace then we have a belief issue.
When we know the truth in our hearts, it will also feel true.
When we believe the Scriptures with our hearts, nothing can sway us from this belief. Whereas, our intellectual agreement about them may be swayed by convincing argument, the presentation of seemingly contrary and indisputable facts, or even life experiences that call into question our initial beliefs.
When we read or even memorize the Bible we may initially know it with our mind. This is intellectual belief. We can give this knowledge intellectual assent, agreeing that it is true; but this does not mean we believe it in our hearts. This intellectual assent to the Word of God will only carry us so far. Intellectual assent to the Scriptures is not heart belief or faith. As has been already stated, believing the Scriptures with the mind is something that any person, or demon, can do.
Double-Mindedness: Holding Two or More Opposing Beliefs
It is also very possible that we can believe the Scripture with our minds intellectually, and yet believe something completely contrary with our hearts. For example: this can be evident in times where we are worried over our finances, yet we say we believe that God is the provider. We may say we believe God is always with us, yet feel abandoned and alone.
Some of what we believe intellectually is inaccurate.
It is also possible that what we believe intellectually concerning the Bible may not even be the truth, but rather a misinterpretation of the Scriptures. Earlier in my life, I had some well-meaning Bible teachers who taught me things that I no longer agree with. Through the years, my intellectual knowledge of the Scriptures has morphed and changed. This does not mean that the Bible contains inaccuracies , but it does mean that it can be inaccurately interpreted.