Here is an excerpt from Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy. After reading it, I hope you will realize why it has taken me a couple of months to make it through this book – it is thick with wisdom!
“…When we bring people to believe differently, they really do become different. One of the greatest weaknesses in our teaching and leadership today is that we spend so much time trying to get people to do good things people are supposed to do, without changing what they really believe.
But in our culture there is a severe illusion about faith, or belief. It is one that has been produced by many centuries of people professing, as a cultural identification, to believe things they do not really believe at all. That goes hand in hand with the predominance of what was called client, or consumer, Christianity earlier. Thus there arises the misunderstanding that human life is not really goverened by belief. This is a diastrous error.
We often speak of people not living up to their faith. But the cases in which we say this are not really cases of people behaving otherwise than they believe. They are cases in which genuine beliefs are made obvious by what people do. We always live up to our beliefs–or down to them, as the case may be. Nothing else is possible. It is the nature of belief. And the reason why clergy and others have to invest so much effort into getting people to do things is that they are working against the actual beliefs of the people they are trying to lead.
But what we must never forget, in moving toward the faith “on the rock,” is that our “doing” comes–or fails to come–from what our beliefs actually are. Hence, if we would train people to do “all things,” we must change their beliefs. Only so can we change their loves. You cannot change character or behavior and leave beliefs intact. It is one of the major illusions of Western culture, deriving from a form of Christianity that is merely cultural, that you can do this. We cannot work around that illusion, but must dispel it.
Just as we must change the beliefs of individuals in order for them to become disciples in the first place, so we must further change their beliefs if they are to develop as disciples into that fullness and abundance of kingdom life that has obedience as a byproduct. And to help disciples toward intelligent assurance that this universe really is God’s world is to advance them greatly toward “loving the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength” (Mark 12:30).
Jesus, in stating that s the primary, or “first,” commandment, understood that if such love were in place all else of importance would follow, including “hearing and doing.” And that is why hearty and clear-headed love of God must be the first objective in any curriculum for Christlikeness. That objective is substantially gained when God is clearly and constantly present to the mind as our “faithful Creator” (1 Pet. 4:19).”
~ pp. 307-308, 331-332