(Photo by Selma Komisky)
Reflect and Refine Your Beliefs
By Jasmin Patterson
Conversations around emotional health and self-development have taken a front seat in our culture over the past few years. People are often encouraged to reflect on the past experiences and personal belief systems that have shaped who they are today, and to take steps for growth when necessary.
Understandably, there are some aspects of how our world would approach these things that a Christian would approach differently, but lately I’ve been thinking about something. What if we applied the essence of that concept to reflecting and refining our spiritual beliefs so we have a pure perspective that’s truly grounded in God’s Word?
I’ve had conversations with friends recently about where our beliefs came from and how our perspective has changed as we’ve matured in our faith. Anything from beliefs about what dating boundaries should look like, what it means to dress modestly, what entertainment is okay for Christians to enjoy, whether it’s a requirement to get dressed up for church or not, what worship style is preferable, etc. We both laughed and grieved as we realized that some beliefs we developed early on in our lives came more from people’s opinions, expectations of church culture, or even an unintentional misreading of Scripture than they actually came from the Word of God.
Jesus talked about this. In Matthew 15:1-20, He called out the Pharisees for elevating their own traditions and customs to the same level of importance and authority as the Scriptures. In Luke 11:46, He rebuked them for adding guidelines to God’s Word in an unhelpful way that put undue burden on people in their spiritual life instead of helping them know God and follow Him more faithfully. Sometimes, as followers of Jesus, we make these same sincere mistakes today. I know I’ve done it before at different times in my life.
As we explore the topic of purity, we can ask God to help us reflect on where our beliefs come from, so He can refine and purify them by the truth of Scripture.
A quick caveat before we move on: It’s popular in culture today for some professed Christians to deconstruct or dismantle their belief systems in a way that’s not godly or helpful. The result often looks like questioning the authority of Scripture, believing things about Christ’s character that don’t align with the Bible, rejecting fellowship with the Church, and abandoning faith in Jesus altogether. That’s not what we’re talking about in our conversation today, and I’m not encouraging that kind of practice.
My heart breaks for those who find themselves in a crisis of faith. I understand there are legitimate questions, situations, and pain that may have led them to such a place in their spiritual journey. But I believe Jesus has a better way for them to seek healing than distancing themselves from biblical Christianity. Refining our beliefs in a godly and healthy way leads us to submission to the truth and authority of Scripture, holiness in conduct, and a deeper commitment to Jesus and His Church.
What I’m calling us to is a mature faith that proactively studies God’s Word for ourselves. This way, we can discern, practice, and preach truth accurately. So, how do we do it? We follow the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:11. Evaluate your personal beliefs and the teachings you hear against Scripture to see if they’re true.
Ask yourself some questions:
Have I studied what the Bible has to say about this topic to form my beliefs? Or have I just adopted a viewpoint that I never checked against God’s Word? Does the Bible speak specifically to this issue? If it doesn’t, are there any general guidelines in Scripture that can help me discern what to believe? (For instance, the Bible doesn’t say specifically whether it’s okay for Christians to watch movies or not, but it does teach us how to handle issues of personal conscience.) How does God’s Word either confirm my beliefs or invite me to adjust my thinking and practice?
As you make space for God to purify your beliefs, you don’t have to take on an attitude of suspicion towards the Church or live in constant fear that you’re mistakenly believing something wrong. Like the Bereans, you get to study God’s Word from a posture of peace and eagerness to learn. And God is faithful to teach, guide, and correct you as needed through His Word, His Spirit, and the community of believers.