Pastor Robert Morris says that your belief determines your behavior. From a sermon recorded in 2018:

“Your belief determines your behavior. So there are people that say they believe in Jesus, but they’ve never lived for him. Please hear me. I don’t think [they] really believe. I really don’t. Because when you believe, the Bible says God gives you a new heart and you have a desire to turn from sin and to turn to God. You have a desire to follow God; you don’t want to do those things. I’m not saying you never fall, but you don’t want to – you want to go a different way. If you still want to go do those things, there’s something wrong and your heart hasn’t been changed. Your belief determines your behavior.”

Based on this clip, Pastor Morris concludes that “belief determines behavior.” His reason is based on his observation that people “say they believe in Jesus but they’ve never really lived for him.” Does Scripture support this idea?

how Scripture answers "Does your belief determine your behavior?"

Belief does not necessarily determine behavior, at least according to Scripture1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. In particular, we have Jesus’ statement1 to those who Scripture confirms had believed! These disciples were only “truly” disciples if they continued in the gospel word and did works in accordance with the will of the Father7. Paul effectively says the same thing to the Corinthians6 – he literally says their belief could be in vain. Likewise, Peter says the same thing to the scattered Christians8. All three of these explicit statements fly directly in the face of an absolute statement that “belief dictates behavior”.

Good works5/obedience3,8 (e.g. “behavior”) should follow belief/faith and indeed must if one’s faith is to be effective1,5,6,9. However, as Jesus demonstrates2 and James plainly states5, even demons believe (and obivously don’t “live for Jesus” as Pastor Morris puts it). Jesus, Paul and Peter confirm1,6,8 this hopeful but not automatic relationship between belief and behavior, and Paul shares his own struggle with this – a constant battle in the flesh4.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you dwell/remain in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Jesus is teaching in the temple while being challenged by the Pharisees (vss 13, 19).
How does it inform?

Jesus explicitly instructs the “Jews who had believed” that they must continue to “abide in my word” (obey). This is not an “automatic” (he says “if you abide”) and it’s exactly the inner conflict Paul dealt with4.

Does it apply? Yes

And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me. For he was saying to him, Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!
When he [Legion] saw Jesus a ways off, he ran to Him and bowed down and loudly cried out, “What have you do to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you by God, do not torment me.”  For Jesus had been commanding him, “Come out of the man you unclean spirit!”

When arriving in Gerasenes, Jesus is immediately confronted by a man that was known for his demon possession and “living among the tombs” (vs 2).  Jesus ends up casting them out of the man and into a herd of pigs that subsequently run off the side of a cliff into the sea (vs 13).

[parallel account in Luke 8:28-30]
How does it inform?

The demon acknowledged (e.g. believed) that Jesus was the Son of God. Further, he acknowledged God’s power/dominion over him — exactly what James5 talks about.

Does it apply? Yes

through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
through whom [Jesus Christ] we have received grace and apostleship to cause obedience (good works) to follow belief in his name among all people, including you that are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

Introduction of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.

How does it inform?

Paul doesn’t just say “faith” but qualifies it as “the obedience of faith”. With this phrasing, repeated again at the end of the letter (Romans 16:26), Paul is effectively saying the exact same as James says5, “faith without works is dead”.

Does it apply? Yes

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace (8:6).

How does it inform?

Paul is expressing his own struggle with sin and the fact his desire is to do good but his flesh wars against it.

Does it apply? Yes


But someone will say, You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Someone may say some have faith and others works.  Show me that faith and actions are separate, and I will show you my faith because of my actions. A belief that God is one is good, but even the demons believe and fear Him.

James has just stated that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (vs 17).  He goes further to call it foolish to believe they are separate and uses the example of Abraham offering Isaac (vss 20-26).
How does it inform?

James states that good works are what prove your belief, but that belief without [good] works is dead – not as in “doesn’t exist” but “not effective” or “not toward an end”.

Does it apply? Yes


Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

Paul reminds the Corinthian brethren of the word, the Gospel of Christ, that they believed and is currently saving them. It will continue to save them as long as they remain in it (“hold fast”).

Paul is about to make his great defense of the resurrection of Christ.

How does it inform?

Paul clearly states their belief could be in vain if they do not “hold fast to the word”.

Does it apply? Yes

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven—only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many powerful deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’

Not everyone who appeals to me will enter the kingdom of heaven; only the one that obeys my Father’s will.  On that [judgement] day, many will claim they did good works in my name, but I will denounce them saying, “I never knew you. Go away from me lawbreakers!”

Jesus’ conclusion of his sermon on the mount (chapters 5-7).

How does it inform?

Jesus states that only doing “the will of my Father in heaven” will permit someone to “enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Notably, he calls out those that obviously believe in him as the ones that will be surprised to learn this “on that day.”

Does it apply? Yes

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,
God the Father judges impartially according to each person’s deeds.  Therefore, if you call on Him, do so with fearful (e.g. reverent, obedient) conduct throughout your entire walk on this earth.

Peter’s letter addressed to the “elect exiles” (vs 1), or Christians that had been dispersed throughout the region.

The word “fear” here is understood better and is consistent with the broader definition that Scripture gives.

How does it inform?

Peter clearly states that God judges “each one’s deeds” (e.g. works).

Does it apply? Yes

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”

Don’t throw away your assurance and its great reward. You need to endure and continue to do the will of God in order to receive what [He] has promised. Remember what God has said through the prophets, “In a little while the one will come and not delay; but until then my righteous will live by faith, not shrinking back so that I can approve him.”

The Hebrews writer is beginning the conclusion of his letter imploring the Jewish Christians to remain faithful and not forget all of the “better” things they have in Christ.  A Christian continuing to sin willfully is further described as “one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace” (vs 29).

The writer appears to be quoting from both Haggai 2:6 and Habbakuk 2:3-4.

How does it inform?

The Christian’s “promise” is recieved “when you have done the will of God.”

Does it apply? Yes

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