The Pyramid – The Connection Between Christian Thinking and Living
|By: Dr. Steven Riser; ©2004|
|All that we are and have has been bestowed upon us by a gracious God, and nothing less than an effective strategy for Christlike living is an adequate response to such grace. Dr. Riser presents a “pyramid” strategy for living godly lives with God’s character as our base.|
The Pyramid: The Connection Between Christian Thinking and Living
All that we are and have has been bestowed upon us by a gracious God and nothing less than an effective strategy for Christ-like living is an adequate response to such grace. God does not ask for anymore nor does He expect any less. Paul urged believers, “…in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your reasonable service or your spiritual act of worship” (Rom. 12:1). This strategy is called the Pyramid because each step is built and based on the one preceding it. Let’s start at the bottom of the pyramid and work up to the top:
Have you ever wondered how God’s character should impact our daily decisions and living?
Any effective strategy must begin with God and not with us, for He is the focal point of the universe and the center of all reality. Paul said, “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). Without Him, Jesus said, we can do nothing (John 15:5). But with Him, Paul said, we can do “all things” (Phil. 4:13). The Savior and not “the self” is intended to be at the center of our lives. He is to be preeminent in all things (Col. 1:18).
The Spirit of Christ is present in the life of every Christian (Rom. 8:9). The Spirit of Christ is evident in the lives of many Christians.
The Spirit of Christ is dominant in the lives of some Christians. But— The Spirit of Christ is preeminent in the lives of few Christians.
The single most important ingredient in any worldview is our understanding of the nature and character of God. Ultimately, the only way that we can have accurate knowledge about Him is if He has taken the initiative to reveal His nature and will to us. This is precisely what He has done in His written Word—the Bible (Heb. 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17), and in the Living Word—the Incarnate Christ (John 1:1-2). The Son, the living Word is “the exact representation of His being…” (Heb. 1:3). In Him “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead…” (Col. 2:9-10).
How is God accurately known? He is accurately known by the revelation of His attributes as recorded in the Holy Scriptures. Space does not permit for us to delve into this any deeper, except to say that one way by which God is known is by the attribute of truth. Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) Jesus said, “I am the truth…” (John 14:6). The Apostle John said that Jesus, the Word was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God is the basis of life and is broader than truth, even though He is “the way, the truth and the life.”
Where is truth to be found? Truth is a person! Truth is found in the person of Christ! Christ’s claim to be “the truth” sounds extremely arrogant to our post-modern culture. More and more people in America are asking, 1) How can Christians believe that Christ is the only way and the source of all truth? 2) How can they claim to know absolute or universal truth? Underneath these questions lie: the theological and moral relativism that is engulfing our society.
What is the sanctity of Truth? It is the belief that God is the source of truth and that truth is a sacred gift of God and as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ—
- We must: learn, know, believe, love, rejoice in, live, be sanctified by, speak and propagate the truth for the greater glory of God!
- We must not: deny, reject, disobey, oppose, wander from, dilute, speak or do anything against the truth.
What is the chief enemy of the sanctity of truth? One word: relativism! One of the devil’s most deceptive and destructive devices in the world today is relativism—especially in the area of theology and morality.
What is the source of truth? The triune God is not only the source of truth, but is the Truth(John 1:14, 17). Truth is that which is real, complete and unchanging—Jesus Christ (Heb. 13:8).
What is the nature of truth? The fundamental association of the Hebrew root normally translated as “truth” or “true” as in “the true God” (Jer. 10:10), is “something which can be relied upon, someone who can be trusted.” God’s truth and faithfulness go hand in hand. The true Christian is called upon to practice as well as believe and teach the truth in the midst of such relativism.
What are the consequences of rejecting the truth? Failing to take account of reality has both short and long-term consequences.” The result is short-term confused thinking or darkened understanding (Rom. 1:18-32), which leads to long-term depravity and condemnation (Rom. 2:8, 9).
How can Christians address the relativism of truth in our culture?
- Learn from God by studying the truth of His Word (2 Tim. 2:14).
- Imitate God by walking in truth and love (3 John 1:3). Honor God by…
- Contending for the truth (Jude 1:3) and be willing to stand alone in defense of the truth, if necessary.
Truth is based on what God is and says and forms the basis of our assumptions. We all make assumptions; we all hold a number of beliefs that we presuppose or accept without conclusive support from other beliefs or evidence. These assumptions are necessary if we are to think at all. Augustine said that, “We must believe something before we can know anything.” Whenever we think, we take certain things for granted. The consequences of our presuppositions can be very significant. For example, do we assume that the material universe was created or do we assume that it always existed? The assumptions that we make are often unexpressed, sometimes unrecognized and often unproved. The most important assumptions are the beliefs we have about God, man and the world. These assumptions form a perspective, which influences how we interpret, events, circumstances and experiences. These basic assumptions provide the boundaries within which all other beliefs are held.
Further, basic assumptions or presuppositions are important because of the way they determine the method and goal of thought. They can be compared to a train running on tracks that have no switches. Once a person commits to a certain set of assumptions, the direction and destination of his thinking is determined.
Any worldview contains basic assumptions about the nature of reality in an attempt to make sense out of our world. The assumptions that we make clearly color every aspect of our worldview. Our assumptions affect our perception and understanding of the world in which we live. We are all familiar with the expression “garbage in, garbage out.” If you start with the assumptions of a particular worldview, you will end up with the conclusions of that worldview.
The non-Christian has great difficulty acting in a consistent fashion with his presuppositions because they do not reflect reality. For example, it hard to consistently live as if everything is morally relative. Only the Christian can act consistent with the Christian worldview because his assumptions are consistent with the way the world really is. The assumptions that we hold determine our perception and the distinctions that we recognize. Assumptions are what we believe to be true but we do not comprehend all truth; however, our assumptions are foundational to our ability to make distinctions.
A discerning person is one with the correct assumptions who has the ability to make accurate and meaningful distinctions. Discernment is the power to accurately interpret what we see and hear. It is the ability to see how God relates to all of life and to understand His intentions in every circumstance of life. We may not always understand just how everything works out for the good of those who love the Lord (Rom. 8:28).
Discernment is the ability to distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong and is a prerequisite to making wise or realistic decisions. Since discerning precedes deciding, proper distinctions precede proper decisions.
One of the ways to measure intelligence is to measure the number of accurate cognitive categories a person possesses. When God told Solomon that he could have anything he wanted, he asked for a discerning heart (1 Kings 3:9) and became the wisest man in the world. Discernment is one of the characteristics of a mature Christian (Heb. 5:14). As we mature, we learn to see things more and more from God’s point of view. According to George Barna, only about 10% of Christians actually have a biblical worldview because only 10% have assimilated enough of God’s Word in order to think biblically. He also said, only one out of two Protestant pastors have a biblical worldview.
How does discernment differ from judgment? A discerning person can honestly examine himself and others without condemning either. A discerning person checks out all the facts. One who judges forms an opinion and then looks for supporting evidence. A discerning person is one who has experienced God’s grace. A judging/condemning person is often self-righteous. A discerning person has a single standard; whereas one who judges often has a double standard—one for themselves and a higher one for others. Jesus said that we were to take the log out of our own eye so we could see clearly to take the splinter out of someone else’s. An observation becomes a judgment when there is no desire to provide a loving solution. Discernment is God’s call to intercession and servanthood, never to faultfinding and condemnation.
What is the alternative to discernment? In a word, the alternative to discernment is deception. The alternative to accurately perceiving reality is inaccurately perceiving reality. God is the supreme realist and we are realistic only insofar as we perceive things from His point of view. The alternative to believing the truth is believing a half-truth or a lie (2 Thess. 2:10-11). Truth is like a puzzle, we do not have all the pieces, but God does and he says that if we lack wisdom, we are to ask Him (Jas. 1:5). The Bible teaches that we must study God’s Word if we would be wise. Paul says that the Holy Spirit is particularly instrumental in helping Christians make proper distinctions (1 Cor. 2:12-16). We grow in our ability to discern as we understand and obey God’s Word (Heb. 5:14). Distinctions are based on our assumptions of truth and provide the basis of our decision-making ability.
Decisiveness is the ability to choose what is right based on accurate information, godly counsel and Biblical goals. This is why we need to seek God’s wisdom in order to make wise decisions. God said to His people, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live”(Deut. 30:19). God wants each one of us to choose early in life to decide to do what is right whatever the cost. Character is formed by the decisions we make about values, priorities and the convictions we develop before the trying circumstances and tempting situations come.
The first step in making proper decisions is correctly determining our ultimate object of love and loyalty. That is, committing ourselves to loving God first and foremost. Jesus warned that no one can serve two masters—we cannot serve God and money (Matt. 6:24). Deciding to follow God means setting aside everything that competes with Him. We are to choose this day whom we will serve (Josh. 24:14-15). We overcome our difficulties when our hearts are ready, in advance, to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be.
What is one of the greatest hindrances to making good decisions? James says that a double-minded person—one with divided loyalties and desires—is unstable and he cannot expect to receive anything from the Lord (Jas. 1:6-8). We can’t have it both ways! We must be single-minded.
Life is a continuous series of exchanges based on wise or unwise decisions. What criteria did Paul use in making his decisions? Paul was committed to knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8) and making Him known (Col. 1:28-29). Everything else was secondary.
Dr. Glen Heck has identified the four D’s of Decision Making:
- Don’t—if it is the responsibility of others, let them do it.
- Delay—if it should be done at a better time, wait.
- Delegate—if others can do it better, let them.
- Do It—if none of the above apply, do it.
A good decision maker realizes that your decision is only as good as your best option. Decisiveness is based on wise and careful consideration of all the available options. It does not take the short view (Heb. 11:25) but rather the long view of things (Heb. 11:26). In order to have confidence that our decisions are wise and correct we need a reality check—namely godly counsel. A fool is right in his own eyes but he who listens to counsel is wise (Prov. 12:15). In a multitude of counselors, purposes are established and there is safety (Prov. 15:22; 11:14).
What is the foundation of godly decision making? Wise decision making must ultimately be based on God’s will as revealed in His Word and not on our own natural inclinations or on what happens to be popular or politically correct. There is a way that seems right but its end is the way of death (Prov. 14:12). Therefore, he who trusts in his own heart is a fool (Prov. 28:26). The clearer and the more biblical our goals, the easier it will be to make the proper decisions and priorities.
What are some questions we should ask in making godly decisions?
- Do I have the proper biblical values and priorities?
- Have I consulted the proper authorities and do I have a clear conscience?
- Do I have the proper motive and goal for making a wise decision?
- Have I yielded my rights and am I in harmony with others?
- Am I fulfilling God’s purposes—His calling for my life?
Decisions are the basis of all our actions. Once we make a decision we need to learn how to implement that decision in daily living. Let us begin at the outset by avoiding the temptation of compartmentalizing our lives. Life is a whole and each activity will impact every other. We can’t act one way on Sunday and another way the rest of the week. Our faith must impact all our life— 24/7. If we are to live as persons with integrity, we need to be morally sound and live consistent with the vows or commitments we have made. For example, consider our commitments regarding marriage, children, employer, employee, colleagues, friends, Christ, church membership and leadership, etc. Much of our time should taken up with keeping the commitments we have made to God, ourselves and others.
In addition to understanding and keeping our commitments, we need to have a clear picture of our values and priorities and the direction we believe that God wants us to head. The better we integrate our lives, the more effective we will become as persons. We live life forward but we learn life backward. We live in the present based on the lessons that God has taught us in the past and based on accomplishing the goals He leads us to set. If you are serious about living in a way that would please God, you would do well to write out your current commitments and future goals. Those who take time to write their goals are far more likely to achieve them.
Most of us don’t think we have enough time to do all that needs to be done. Here is the truth: we don’t have enough time to do everything that others wants us to do; we don’t have enough time to do everything that we want to do; but we do have enough time to do everything that God wants us to do. Now, it’s time to begin filling an empty calendar and scheduling time with God, your spouse, your family, yourself, others, flex time, work and planning time. You may have the best of intentions but if you don’t schedule an important activity, it may never happen.
Summing Up the Pyramid
Here again are the six steps:
- God is the basis of life and is broader than truth. He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).
- Truth is based on what God says and forms the basis for our assumptions (John 17:17).
- Assumptions are what we believe to be true, but we do not comprehend all truth. Our assumptions are foundational in our ability to make distinctions.
- Distinctions are based on our assumptions of the truth. Proper distinctions provide the basis of wise decision making.
- Decisions are the basis of all our actions. Life is a series of decisions. Good decisions are based on our ability to make the proper distinctions.
- Actions are based on our ability to make decisions, based on our ability to make clear distinctions, based on our assumptions about the truth of God.
One’s understanding of and trust in God is the single most important ingredient in determining one’s lifestyle as well as one’s worldview. In light of this fact, it is no accident that the final exhortation written by the Apostle John, in his first epistle says, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21) Therefore, we must shun anything or anyone that would keep us from acknowledging the only true God as revealed in the Holy Scripture and trusting in Him alone. The writer of Proverbs expressed it best when he said, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5,6). The Pyramid explains why and how this verse is true!