Doctrine and Attitude

by Bob Burridge ©2018

God teaches us basic facts about himself, about ourselves, about how things are designed to work in the universe he made, and about his eternal plan. We organize these facts by topics which we call “doctrines“. There’s the Doctrine of Creation, the Doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture, the Doctrine of the Trinity, and so on. The only reliable source of these facts is God’s inspired word preserved for us in the 66 books of the Bible.

We have to humbly keep in mind that there are many things God has not told us. Since his knowledge is infinite, there is a lot more we can’t know than what are able to learn. We are cautioned when we form our “doctrines”. Deuteronomy 29:29 warns us that, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

What we know, and what we admit that we don’t know, lays the foundation for our basic view of the world and of ourselves. The way we respond inwardly to these biblical facts and to the doctrines formed from them constitutes our “attitude” about ourselves, God, and the world we live in. These inward attitudes expose what we actually accept and try to live by as true and morally right.

Simply believing that there is one true God
is not the same as living with confidence in him.

James 2:19 tells us that even condemned evil creatures can acknowledge the fact of God. It says, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!”

This is where our “attitude” comes in. Trusting and resting in God is an attitude that reveals his redeeming work in a person’s heart. It’s a combination of facts and faith.

In Isaiah 1:10-20 it tells us that the Jewish nation brought many sacrifices of rams, fatted cattle, bulls, lambs, and goats. They burned incense in the courts of the Temple, and raised their hands in prayer. They kept the Sabbaths and special days the Lord had commanded.

All that sounds good – but it wasn’t. God said it was an “abomination” to him. He wouldn’t even look upon them, or listen to them. Their hearts were not right, and they were living sinfully. They followed God’s worship laws outwardly, but they also regularly did things contrary to God’s law, and inwardly their attitude was all wrong.

Today, there are those who go to church, pray, know the content of the books of the Bible, and have even memorized some Bible verses. Some might have a good knowledge of the historic doctrines of the Christian Faith, but if they are not actually trusting in God, intending to glorify him, and are in sincerity striving to keep from sin – it’s all an offense and an outward show of hypocrisy.

It’s vital to know and accept the facts God has revealed, but we also need to trust him in all he has made known, in all he’s doing, and in all he brings to pass.

If we see that we have been hypocrites and superficial in our behavior toward God, Isaiah’s words in verses 16-18 call us to repentance and restoration. There the Lord says, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.’ ”

We need to admit our own unworthiness and fully depend upon God’s grace extended to us on the basis of the death of our Savior in our place. Forgiveness and reconciliation with God are not earned by things we do or say.

We need to be ready to submit to the truth behind it all, that it’s all for God’s glory, and that he will use even the works of evil and the sad consequences of sin to teach us those needed but hard lessons, and to reveal his power, grace, love, justice, and glory.

The challenging question is this,
“How can we change our inward attitude toward God
and toward all he made and does?”

Throughout Scripture we are called by God to have faith in him, to rest confidently in his power, provisions, and promises. We are told to trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ in order to be restored to fellowship with God. But we are also told in the Bible that we are not naturally able to do those things. In Romans 3 we are taught that the fallen condition we inherit from Adam leaves us unable to do what we need to do. There in verses 10-12 the Apostle Paul quotes from the Old Testament saying, “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.’ ” We are not able to have saving faith until God regenerates us by applying the work of Christ. That work of our Redeemer is his gracious provision enabling his children to understand the Gospel message and to respond to it savingly.

Coming to God in true saving faith is therefore a work of God’s grace, not just a decision we make by our own fallen nature. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it very clear, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Any truly good thing we do, or God honoring thought that crosses our minds, are things for which we ought to be humbly thankful.

Doctrine informs us. Grace transforms us.

Though growth in our understanding, faith, obedience, and comfort is God’s work of grace, he provides particular means which he has ordained to use by which we lay hold of his blessings.

– He gives us his written word to teach us what’s right and true. It’s there in the books of the Bible that we learn about the nature, works, and promises of God. We are told that God decreed to restore his people to fellowship with him by the death of the Savior. But God’s word is more than just a source of facts. It’s empowered by God to help his redeemed family grow spiritually, and to enable them to sincerely love and obey their Lord. Psalm 119:11, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.”

– God calls us to pray. But our prayers shouldn’t be just repeated words. God has promised to draw us closer to him by the sincere expressions of our hearts as we speak to him humbly trusting in his wisdom and power. James 5:16 reminds us of the assurance we have from God as we pray. It says, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

– God calls us to worship. We come together humbly at times of worship to honor the Triune God for all his glory and wonders. We worship him through all the elements of worship which are defined in Scripture, specially the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It’s not just ceremonial symbolism that honors him. It’s the sincere attitude of our hearts as we come trusting in the promises he attaches to these elements. Psalm 96:9 says, “Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!”

– God also calls us to take part in the family of believers. We don’t become part of a church for just friendships, social activities, and to make business contacts. We are joined together to be brothers and sisters in Christ. Our privilege and duty is to encourage one another, and to help one another along the narrow path that honors our holy Creator, our only Redeemer. The officers of the church are there to shepherd us, teach us, and help us stay faithful. At times the church needs to discipline it’s members to lovingly restore them when they wander off into sin. Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

The evidence of where a person stands before God
is shown in his attitude of heart,
in his obedience and love as instructed by God’s word.

When we rightly use these means of grace it demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is at work in our hearts. When we abuse those means, or fail to use them, we are called to come repentantly through the work of Christ.

In John 15:8 Jesus assures us of God’s promised blessings when we sincerely live this way, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” Our transformed lives evidence this work of God’s grace in us. In John 13:35 our Savior said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The right attitude is to avoid questioning why things happen as they do. Instead we should ask what God would have us do in each situation that comes along, and to be sure our attitude is humbly seeking to respond in ways that honor our Creator.

Being honest with ourselves about our limitations and of God’s promises and instructions greatly influences our general attitude in all of life. We should always be aware that all we have and experience is there to remind us of God’s wonder, care, and purposes.

(Bible quotations are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.)

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