Belief Series: (Part 8) – Trust and Authority Principle
Believing with Absolute certainty
When you encounter the word faith in TPM training, it has a particular meaning. It can be briefly be defined as, “that which we believe in our hearts with absolute certainty.” Whatever we believe with the heart is constant and unwavering, even when it is untrue or inaccurate. Faith that is of this steadfast and static order is not something we have to maintain or hold in place, whether it reflects the truth or whether it is a lie. This faith is unwavering and steadfast, in and of itself. If our “faith” requires our attention to maintain or live out, then it is not faith. As I have said before, it requires no more effort to live out of the truth when we are persuaded of it, than it does to live out of the lies we believe. It is the same process.
Faith, as it is defined here, is a fundamental concept found throughout TPM. Unless God persuades us of the truth, we cannot know the freedom that our heart desires, because we cannot persuade ourselves to change our belief. In a TPM session, God persuades us of the truth that we could not believe by ourselves. Being persuaded (peitho) is not something that is self-achieved, but rather is brought about by an outside force: the persuader. We cannot persuade ourselves of the truth or change what we currently believe on our own. This is why we use the TRANSFORMATION BOX question, “Does it still feel true that…?” to determine whether or not His “persuasion” has occurred. Only the Holy Spirit can cause the lie to stop feeling true and the truth to take its place. If I still believe the lie, then I have not yet been convinced of the truth; the Holy Spirit has not yet persuaded me of it.
Double-mindedness and a Purified Faith
It is possible (and very common) to intellectually believe a biblical truth while also believing a lie-based heart belief. In TPM we refer to this as being double-mindedness. I can intellectually believe that God loves me and will never forsake me or leave me, yet while I profess these words, I can also feel abandoned, rejected, and alone. If I hold a belief in my heart that is contrary to the truth I know intellectually, my emotions will expose what I believe in my heart. This is because my lie-based heart belief is overriding my intellectual belief concerning Bible truth I have memorized.
When we are double-minded, we need God to persuade our heart of the truth even when we may already know it with our intellect. We may try to convince ourselves of the biblical truth that we have memorized, but if we already hold a contrary belief in our heart, we will not be able to do so.
Double-mindedness is commonly seen in TPM sessions where people make statements such as, “I know that it is not true, but it still feels true.” A person may intellectually know that he has worth and value with God, yet still feel worthless. When this person thinks of the memory of when he adopted the lie-based belief that he was worthless, the lie will still resonate as true, even though he intellectually knows the Bible says otherwise.
This is where peitho-faith (persuasion) comes into play. Only God, through His Spirit, can persuade us of the truth and disprove the lies that we believe with our hearts. Since God has taken the responsibility to persuade us of the truth, our role is simply to be persuaded. This is a far cry from trying harder to believe. Being persuaded of the truth is an act of submission, listening, and positioning ourselves to receive. Just as the father of the epileptic son cried out, “Lord, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24), we are helpless to know a purified faith apart from God granting it. We need to cry out, “God, persuade me, so that I may believe.”
We have seen that whatever we believe with our hearts constitutes our faith, but not all faith is pure. This is made evident by the way we respond emotionally at any given moment. Emotions such as fear, worry, anxiety, feeling out of control, feeling overwhelmed or dejected, etc. are all emotions produced by an impure faith (or lie-based belief). This is why we need our faith purified. As already explained, we cannot change it ourselves.
The Principle of Trust and Authority
When God persuades us of the truth, we will immediately let go of the lie-based thinking we were harboring, and believe the truth with our heart. There is no effort involved. His persuasion will dispel our lie-based belief, which will then feel false, just as the truth will feel true. We do not have to choose to believe, but only choose to position ourselves so that we may be persuaded of His truth. When this occurs, a purified faith is established to replace the impure faith we previously held. Faith is a gift of God, which He bestows on those who desire to receive it.
There is a reason that we cannot persuade ourselves to stop or start believing something. We only believe when we are persuaded to believe. We do not choose to believe something on our own. We might choose to place our trust in something or someone even when we do not fully believe, however, this would be highly unlikely. For example, I am not likely to entrust myself to someone’s protection if I do not think that they are capable of protecting me. I may not totally believe that they are capable, but there must be some measure of belief in their protection before I would surrender to their care. More often than not, we will trust someone or something because we believe that they are trustworthy. So belief comes first and trust follows.
If I have come to believe something, it is because someone or some source of information has persuaded me to believe. Once I am persuaded to believe, I cannot just choose to “unbelieve” or even believe something different. In the same way that I came to believe what I believe through persuasion, I must be persuaded to stop believing or start believing something else. I cannot just choose to do otherwise on my own.
Let’s keep it simple for a moment. You probably believe that 2+2=4. You probably believe this with absolute certainty. Try and talk yourself out of this very simple truth. Can you do it? Of course you cannot. If we cannot talk ourselves out of a very simply and elementary truth, how do we think that we can talk ourselves out of believing an eternal truth once it is believed with the heart. If God persuades my heart of the Gospel and I believe it and am saved, can I talk myself out of such truth? However, if my “faith” in the Gospel was held in place intellectually and not belied in my heart, then it is possible that this “faith” can falter.
People who struggle with the assurance of their salvation lack genuine heart belief. If my “salvation” is resting on my intellectual assent to the Gospel, then my “salvation” is vulnerable to being questioned. However, if I believe the Gospel because I have been persuaded of its validity by the Spirit within my heart, nothing can shake my position. I will be as the Apostle Paul who proclaimed, “…I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded (peitho) that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12 kjv).
The Principle Defined
This principle is simply understood as; “When someone we trust, whom we believe holds a higher authority of knowledge than we do, makes the truth known to us, we will be instantaneously persuaded to believe it.”
This principle explains why a ministry facilitator should never attempt to supply the person with the truth during a ministry session. The person may fully trust us, therefore meeting one requirement, but we do not have a higher authority of knowledge than the person who is holding the lie-based heart belief. We were not present at the time of his difficulty, we do not have his personal “eye witness” understanding of things, and we only possess our secondhand opinion, conjecture and general knowledge. Our opinions and advice do not trump his firsthand experience. Unless we can fulfill both requirements of trust and authority, we cannot succeed in persuading the person of the truth at the heart level. The good news is, God always fulfills both requirements; He is completely trustworthy and has the authority to offer an accurate perspective. He is the only one who can persuade their hearts of the truth.
For example, I remember in the early years of my counseling, prior to TPM, I tried to persuade people of the truth about their childhood sexual abuse. Recalling this abuse caused them to feel panicky, dirty, shameful, trapped, out of control and more. When I asked them why they felt those emotions, they would reveal the lies behind their feelings: “It was my fault that it happened,” “I am dirty because of what he did to me,” “I am trapped and out of control,” “I am going to die.” I knew that none of these beliefs were true.
I could persuade them intellectually that they were believing lies, but I was never able to persuade their hearts of the truth. They would acknowledge the truth intellectually and could share this truth with others in our group who believed similar lies, yet when they returned to their own abuse memories, they continued to feel the shame, guilt, fears, and stress that were still being produced by their heart belief.
This problem was related to the “Trust and Authority Principle.” Unless the truth is provided by someone who is trusted and also holds a higher authority than the one being persuaded, then the truth cannot become a reality. God’s perspective is more complete, more accurate, more insightful than our own. He has the authority to offer a better, clearer, truth-based perspective.
Although I met one of the criteria, in that these people trusted me, I did not possess the authority to speak the truth into their hearts. All I brought to the table was my secondhand opinions of the memories that they reported. I was not there when they were sexually abused. I did not see what happened. I was not the one who interpreted the situation the way it was interpreted. They were. They held a higher authority as to what had happened, why it happened, and what it all meant in relation to them as a person and to their state of being. So when I said to any of them such things as, “It wasn’t your fault; you were a little child,” “You’re not going to die, you are safe now,” their minds were hearing the truth and were able to accept it rationally and intellectually, but their hearts could not hear it.
In order for me to have persuaded them of the truth, they would have had to disavow all that they believed about their experience: the conclusions that they had come to, their interpretation of what it said about them as a person, and their state of being. I was asking them to deny their heart belief and trust my secondhand deductions and opinions. They would not do so, because they could not.
Their memory was experiential, and their interpretation of what happened was their heart belief. My intellectual reasoning and opinions lacked the authority needed to persuade them of anything. They needed someone with a higher authority to do this. Only the Spirit of God qualifies. No one but God holds a higher authority than we do, even when it comes down to what we believe experientially in our hearts. He alone can speak into our hearts and shine the light of truth into our darkness. His experience holds a greater authority than our own! He knows the truth and He was there when what happened, happened.
Intellectual Persuasion IS Possible
When it comes to intellectual belief, our friends and counselors might persuade us of the truth without much effort if they meet both criteria of the Trust and Authority principle. All we need is someone we trust and accept as having more authority than we do, to present convincing and compelling evidence to persuade us intellectually. The moment that we are given this, we will at once be persuaded and believe. If we are not persuaded, it is because we either do not trust the one offering the truth, or we do not believe they have a higher authority of knowledge than we have in the matter. If I believe that my own authority supersedes the one offering me the truth, or if I do not trust them, then I will not be persuaded by them.
So we see that it is possible for us to persuade each other when the misinformation we harbor is an intellectual belief, however, we cannot persuade one another of the truth where lies are harbored in the heart. However, there is great value in persuading one another intellectually of the truth. As a matter of fact we are told in Scripture to do just this. We are to teach, instruct, give guidance, and even rebuke and reprove when necessary. This is where the Word of God can be applied as we seek to help each other. We know from the Bible that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16).
This passage is describing how we, as believers, may handle the written Word and apply it to the task of equipping one another for service, and persuading one another where there may be intellectual error at play. However, do notice how each of the applications have to do with intellectual understanding as opposed to heart change: teaching, rebuking, correcting and training.
If you were to do a word study of each of these terms you would see that they have almost a classroom connotation. Teaching is the dissemination of knowledge. Rebuking is correcting or pointing out where error in knowledge is present. Correcting is bringing behavior that is out of line back into order. Training is about mastering some particular application or life skill. All of these can be used to help each other intellectually if the “Trust and Authority Principle” is in place. However, if we need heart persuasion, that is a task that only God can do. However, the intellect is the front door to the heart. A person needs to know the truth intellectually before the Spirit can illuminate it within his heart. This was pointed out by the Apostle Paul as it relates to salvation. He said, “…How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14) Before a person can believe the Gospel the Spirit must persuade him of the truth, but he first must be given the good news from a “preacher” before the Spirit can bring His persuasion.
By comparison, there is another passage where the Bible talks about dealing with heart belief. It says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
Here we see the Word of truth accomplishing something after the truth has been proclaimed within the heart of the person. This second work is a work of God and not the involvement of others. The Word is “piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit…,” “… able to judge the thoughts and intentions…” (exposure of what is hidden). This is the persuasion of God’s Spirit working through the Word within our hearts, to bring us into God’s truth. It is possible that a “preacher” might take the written Word and speak it to you and yet nothing happen at all. Unless the Spirit takes the truth and persuades you of it, nothing will happen other than your knowledge possibly increasing.
This is not to say that when we speak God’s Word to one another that the Spirit will not take this opportunity to bring about heart change, for He does. This may occur in the context of Bible study groups, sermons, and friend-to-friend conversations. When there is a persuasion of the heart, it is only because the Spirit brought it about, even if the truth has been delivered through a human channel.
So although we can use the Scriptures to persuade one another at the intellectual level, only the Spirit can persuade us in our hearts. In all cases where persuasion is needed, the “Trust and Authority Principle” must be in place.
Once we are persuaded of something and believe, we cannot just choose to “unbelieve.”
Once I believe something to be true, even if it is not, I cannot change it on my own. I will need to be persuaded to believe the truth in order to exchange what I believe for something else. For example, if I genuinely believe that Jonah built the ark in order to carry the Children of Israel across the Sea of Galilee to escape the Philistines, I cannot persuade myself to believe otherwise simply by choosing to. I will need to be persuaded by someone or a trusted source outside myself to bring about the correction.
So then, when it comes to heart belief, only the Spirit can persuade us to let go of our falsehood and embrace His truth. We only know the truth by faith if God has persuaded us of it. We cannot persuade ourselves to believe something, no matter how hard we may try. If we believe in our hearts that God cannot be trusted, then we will not persuade ourselves to believe that He can. If we believe with our intellect that Jonah built the Ark, then unless someone we trust, who we believe knows more than we do, persuades us otherwise, our thinking will remain fixed, and Noah will be very confused as to how he ended up in the belly of a whale!