“But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17,18).
CONCEPTS HAVE CONSEQUENCES IN OUR LIVES, AND CONCEPTS OF GOD ARE THE MOST CONSEQUENTIAL OF ALL. False information about God will mislead us, whereas truthful information about Him is a “lamp” to our feet and a “light” to our path (Psalm 119:105). Christianity is a powerfully transforming force because it involves a deep renewal in our thinking (Romans 12:1,2), especially our thinking about God Himself (John 17:3). Yet long after the time when many of us should have experienced quantum improvements in the quality of our lives, we still struggle to maintain a minimum level of purity and holiness. We stumble as if we were walking in the dark. Could it be that our outward actions are being produced by inner thinking that is unworthy of God? Are we still being hindered by careless thinking about our Creator?
In Romans 6:17,18, Paul expressed gratitude that his readers had been “set free from sin.” This, he said, had followed from their having “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.” Most people think of “doctrine” as nothing more than religious theory, and they spend little time with it because they feel it is not very practical. But doctrine (which means “instruction”) is eminently practical. Without right thinking, there simply can be no right practice, at least none that will stand the test of time. The entire work of the devil is based on falsehood (John 8:44; Revelation 12:9), so it should come as no surprise that truth is the means by which God undoes that work (John 18:37; Acts 26:18). To know God as He truly is, and to base our practical decisions on that truth, is to be “set free from sin.” There is no other way to make progress. Jesus said it with utter simplicity: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
We should set ourselves the goal of carefully improving our thinking about God a little bit each day. There is no question that our lives will be governed by some sort of thinking about God. The only question is what the quality of that thinking will be.
“A thoughtless or uninformed theology grips and guides our life with just as great force as does a thoughtful and informed one” (Dallas Willard).