Belief Series: (Part 7) – Persuasion, Faith and TPM
Persuasion: The Crux of TPM
The word faith has many different meanings in the Bible, depending on the context. It may mean:
- trust in something or someone
- reliance or confidence in something
- assurance or a guarantee
- intellectual assent to what is believed to be true
- the experiential knowledge of something
Beyond all of the different possible meanings of faith that are used in the Bible, there are also two primary aspects of faith that are the heart and essence of all we do in TPM. The Greek word most often translated “faith” in the New Testament is pistis. If we dig deeper, we will discover that the root of the word pistis is the word peitho. Pistis (faith) has many different meanings depending on the context in which it is found, whereas peitho, translated “faith,” has a narrower meaning and simply means persuasion. This persuasion has two elements: either the act of persuading someone to believe, or the state of being persuaded or convinced of something by a persuader.
Peitho: How We Come to Believe
Peitho (persuasion) is a primary concept needed for understanding how truth is received in a TPM session. This concept explains why it is so difficult to let go of a lie-based belief once we hold it in our hearts. Our friends and counselors may succeed in persuading us of the truth if we are dealing with intellectual belief only, but when it comes to heart belief, we cannot even persuade ourselves to believe differently. No one but God can persuade us to believe otherwise in our hearts. Only the Spirit can illuminate the truth in our hearts resulting in a renewed mind. We will soon discover that there is a logical and rational reason for this that we have called the “Trust and Authority Principle.”
Persuasion is not self-achieved.
Being persuaded (peitho) of the truth is not something that is self-achieved, but rather is brought about by an outside force, or the persuader. We can only know the truth in our hearts by faith (peitho) if God has persuaded us of its validity. During a TPM session a person does not find freedom from the lies that bind him by increasing his knowledge of the truth, or by trying harder to believe it, but only by the Spirit of God’s persuasion. This persuasion was never more obvious than when we originally came to believe, and it resulted in our salvation. We did not enter into our salvation because we decided one day to believe and trust in Christ, but rather because God, through His Spirit, persuaded us to believe.
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6 NIV). It is only because God persuaded us of the truth of His mercy and grace that we believed, resulting in our righteousness. For it is with the “…heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Rom. 10:10). It is a falsehood to think that we are the initiators of our salvation. Jesus said it clearly when He said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” (Jo. 6:44) Then later John the Apostle said, “We love, because He first loved us” (1 Jo. 4:19).
Some people think that their salvation was the outcome of their choosing to trust in Jesus to save them of their sins, and fail to recognize that it was God who first persuaded them of the truth of the Gospel that resulted in them being able to trust. Their placing trust in Jesus only occurred because they first believed, and they believed only because God persuaded them of the truth. We will soon discover that we do not persuade ourselves of the truth, but rather we are persuaded by God and as an outcome we believe. Again, belief only occurs when God causes “…His light shine in our hearts to give us the light…”
The Apostle Paul refers to the persuasion of God when He declares, “I am not ashamed, because I KNOW the One I have believed in and am persuaded (peitho) that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).
We Believe Because We Have Been Given Faith
Faith is not what we do but rather what we possess.
Faith is not something that we do, but something we have been given. Because we have faith in our hearts, having been persuaded of the truth by the Spirit, we experience the fruit of the Spirit. Unless the Spirit persuades or convinces us of the truth, we cannot know it as faith, nor can we walk out the “good works” we were destined to experience. (Eph. 2:10) Walking in faith is not trying to “do” the fruit, but rather, the fruit is an outcome of the faith we have been given. Because we possess faith, we are loving, joyful, peaceful, kind, good, faithful and self-controlled.
Somewhere along the way some of us came to believe that doing good works was the same as bearing the fruit of the Spirit. The formulate for successful Christian living (good works) was thought to be; 1) Know the truth, 2) choose to obey it, 3) perform it, 4) maintain it. This is not a New Testament formula. The post-Resurrection instruction is; 1) Learn the truth (2 Tim. 3:16) (intellectual), 2) Be persuaded of it by the Spirit so that we might believe it (peitho), (Col. 1:9, Eph. 1:17-18), 3) Be transformed by it and effortless experience the fruit (Rom. 12:2, Col. 1:10) .
So we see that faith is not what we do, but rather, what we have been given—a persuasion of the truth in our hearts. It is because God has persuaded us of His truth that we believe, and therefore we are able to do the will of God. It is only when God “…fills [us] with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, (His persuasion of the truth) … that [we can] …walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience…” (Col. 1:9-11).
We are already walking in faith, but not all faith is pure.
Where we hold faith—unwavering heart belief—we will walk in an effortless victory. Each of us are already walking effortless in our faith, but not all of what we believe in our hearts (faith) is the truth. Nonetheless, it takes no more effort to walk in the truth in faith than it does to walk in the lies we believe. It is the same process. When it is difficult to walk in the truth that we say we believe, this difficulty is due to a contradiction in what we say we believe (intellectual) and what we actually believe in our hearts.
The areas in which we struggle to naturally live out the truth are indications of lies we still hold. As we wrestle with this, we might do better by asking the question, “Why?” rather than putting all our energy into the fight. If we are trying to trust God by disciplining ourselves to walk in the truth, and by making a great effort to live rightly, then our very efforts to do these things are evidence of beliefs we hold that are contrary to the truth. When we are persuaded of the truth within our hearts, the truth will transform us in the areas of our walk to which they are applied. This brings forth the fruit of the Spirit. If we are not persuaded into the truth, we will find ourselves endlessly attempting to conform our behavior to the truth as opposed to being transformed by the truth.
A pure faith produces good works without effort.
Faith is knowing the truth in our hearts with absolute certainty, because we have been persuaded of it by the Spirit. This faith produces the “good works” we were destined to do (Eph. 2:10) through transformation (Rom. 12:2), and are the expression of the fruit of the Spirit. This sheds much light on what the Apostle James meant when he said that “faith without works is dead” (Ja. 2:14-25). Faith will produce the good works as an expression of the fruit of the Spirit. Where there is no fruit, there is an absence of faith. James was not saying that when you have faith, then go out and do good things; he was saying that if you possess faith (the persuasion of God’s truth) then good works will be present in your life. You have no other option. As I said, we are already walking in our faith. Faith produces works. However, an impure faith also produces works, just not a pure fruit.
Striving to believe the truth is evidence of a lack of having been persuaded about it. Throughout the Christian life from beginning to end, faith is not about what we do, but what we possess. Our faith is an unearned gift of God that brings about genuine and eternal transformation. As believers, we are always on the receiving end when it comes to faith. Faith is not something that we can muster up and produce, or cause to increase. Instead, faith is the outcome of God persuading us of His perspective. When He persuades us of the truth in our hearts, transformation ALWAYS follows.
Belief is Not By Choice but rather By Persuasion
I was taught in my early years that believing was a choice that we make. I was told that in order to be saved, I needed to “choose” to believe on Jesus as my savior. This action placed all of the accomplishment of belief onto my decision as to whether His truth was the truth. Believing is not something that I do by volition, but rather, by God’s persuasion. When He provides me His perspective, it is then that I may be convinced of the validity of His message. If God does not persuade me of the Gospel, I will not believe it. He grants me the grace and faith to believe (Eph. 2:28-29). We each one believed when He “… made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6) and not because of anything that we might have done.
Some people may balk at the idea that we do not choose to believe something. The truth is, we cannot believe anything unless someone in whom we trust or a trusted source of information persuades us to believe. Think of anything thing that you believe, whether biblical truth or day-to-day knowledge. How did you come to believe it? Did you say to yourself, “I think I will choose to believe that?” That is not how it happened. Someone or an information source presented to you a “truth” and the moment that you were persuaded that it was true, you believed it. In the same way that you came to believe all that you believe, you cannot “un-believe” any of it unless someone or a source of information persuades you otherwise.
For most of my life I believed that I was called to “win” people to Christ or convince them to choose to trust in Christ. Today, I realize that people trust in Christ when the Spirit persuades them of the truth. I have told the following story in another place, but it is worth repeating.
From the Delivery of Furniture to the Delivery of the Truth
My wife and I ordered a piece of furniture and had it delivered to our home. When the delivery man showed up he helped me bring it in and set it up. In my living room, I have an assortment of framed Bible pages from old Bibles dating back to the 1500’s. I have the entire gospel of John framed that is dated near the first printing of the 1611 edition. The man noticed the pages and asked me what they were.
After some discussion he said to me, “I have been thinking lately about looking into different religions. I was raised a Muslim, but I am not really anything.” I assumed that the Lord had scheduled this appointment so I began to explain to him how all other religions were based upon performance and striving to do the right thing, whereas, Christianity was about grace and faith. I shared with him about Jesus’ death and resurrection.
After hearing what I said he looked at me through tearful eyes and said, “I believe that.” I did not have him pray the “sinner’s prayer,” ask him to choose Christ, turn from his sins, or join my church. I simply told Him the truth of the Gospel, and the Spirit persuaded him to believe it. He went on to say, “I just felt something happen in me. I felt a burden lifted, I feel like God just forgave me.” I affirmed his belief and he left a new believer in Christ. This is the persuasion of God. When this occurs we believe with faith, or more precisely, we believe the truth in our hearts.