I firmly believe that there is an inseparable connection between right doctrine and right practice — or in the theological terms one of my pastors uses, orthodoxy and orthopraxy. One of the biggest examples of this in my own life was during one period when I was particularly defensive, angry, critical, and unforgiving. While I’m sure I was NOT very pleasant to be around, the real problem was not my attitude or behavior toward my coworkers. Those were only symptoms of a much deeper issue: my theology. I completely misunderstood God’s grace, and as a result I could neither accept it from God nor extend it to others.
I love how A. W. Tozer expresses this link between right thinking and right living in his book, The Knowledge of the Holy. In the first chapter, he says this:
A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse. I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.
The real kicker is this quote from the Preface:
It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is.
When I learned that lesson about God’s grace, the result was more than just smooth relationships with my coworkers. It was, as Tozer puts it, “spiritual power.” I began to see God use me in ways I had never seen before, ways that I knew had nothing to do with my abilities, because my abilities hadn’t changed. I had simply begun, in Tozer’s words, “to think of God more nearly as He is”, and God did the rest.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
– 2 Peter 1:3 (NIV)