The Gospel of John says the following:
(John 3:16-21) For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.
Note the action verbs. “He who does what is true COMES to the light.” It doesn’t say “He who believes does what is true.” The light is Christ, and doing what is true – that is doing good rather than evil – brings us to Christ. In other words, our actions dictate who we become, not the other way around.
We have a certain amount of control over our destiny. We can choose, through our actions, whether to walk toward Christ or to walk away from him. This is true in the aspects of our life other than spiritual. We can become good spouses by acting like good spouses. We can become good parents by acting like good parents. We can become happy people by acting like happy people. If I despair that I am not the person I wish I was or that other people wish I were, then I am being disingenous unless I decide at that moment to start acting like that person I want to be. If I act that way, then eventually – and it takes time because “coming to the light” is not a sudden switch but a gradual and oftentimes painful transformation – I will BE that way.
Modern psychology glimpses this through CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy. They teach people with emotional issues to change their thought patterns, and the feelings will follow. More importantly, we change our actions, and the nature of the person will change to adjust to those actions.
This highlights one of the dangers of allowing ourselves to be immersed in the corrosive culture in which we are currently living. If I act the way our culture dictates – by enjoying the same hedonistic entertainments and pursuing the same self-centered goals – then I will become the kind of person that the culture celebrates, a secular moral relativist with no love for God. I have to reject the culture and live a counter-cultural life not BECAUSE I have achieved some level of holiness, but because I WANTto achieve some level of holiness.
If I want Christ, I have to act like it first.