Thinking Is Not Enough

by Doug Cartwright.

“Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and does not do it, sins.”
James 4:17 (NIV)

As a Christian, do you ever find yourself not doing the good you know you ought to do? Of course you do, you’re human. In fact, if you have been a disciple, a follower of Christ – a Christ-ian – for even a short period of time you will have become aware of several gaps:

Mike Davis has written extensively about getting the scriptures from your ‘mind into your muscles’ elsewhere on this site but I want to consider it somewhat from another angle.

Have you been seduced by the idea that ‘head knowledge is enough?’

In Unleashed Michael Hall talks about “the prison of the intellect”

Some people get locked up in the deep caverns of their mind assuming that if they “know” something, intellectually understand and explain something then they have the competency to achieve their dreams. P131

This is not a new problem. Soon after the time of Jesus Paul warned that:

While Jews clamour for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. (1 Cor. 1:22)

The Message

The Greeks wanted the head-knowledge of Christ thinking they could get His wisdom through debates and teaching from the front but Jesus himself had said:

`If you obey my word, you are truly my disciples.  32And you will understand the truth and the truth [that you know] will make you free.' (John 8: 31:32)

Worldwide English New Testament.


Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. "If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you." (John 8:31-32)

The Message

So what we have here is Jesus making it clear that you have to obey and therefore experience his teachings for you to understand them as Truth. The thoughts of the mind need to be translated into muscle-action and behaviours.

If there were any doubt at all:

16Jesus answered, "My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. 17If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. (John 7:16) NIV

So why am I labouring this point?

Because I believe the idea that knowing is enough is a mental-disorder peculiar to the West and whilst the point is valid in all areas of life, it is particularly important to shake us Christians up about it. Jesus actually says he will one day spit us out of His mouth if we are lukewarm in our commitment to showing Him to the world. (Rev 3:16)

In 2008 I spent six weeks in Guyana, South America and saw first-hand the third-world style poverty there. In Guyana, you worked or you starved. You mastered a trade and you sold your skills or you starved, and your family starved. Most people did not have the basic luxury of being able to sit around ‘knowing’ but not doing.

That is why I say it is a Western delusion because we have the time and the money to know and not do.

As a Christian if you hear something in a sermon that applies to you, what do you do?

Do you make a mental note of it under “that’s interesting” or “applies to someone else”? Do you feel any compunction or compulsion at-all to change your ways? 

I suffered under this insanity for a long time thinking that having made the change in my head was enough. I actually believed that integrating the change into my everyday life was not necessary; but once I did the meta-step-back and evaluated these thoughts I realised how utterly ridiculous they were and determined I would find ways to integrate new behaviours into my life, into the contexts where they were needed.

Literally, years of life can go by without realising the effect of these ‘hidden’ frames of mind. But James said that if we merely listen to the Word and do not do what it says we deceive ourselves. Therefore, it is important than we uncover the deception by examining our actual actions compared with what we believe. In the gap sits our convictions (or lack of) and perceived capabilities for putting things into practice.

It is not always a quick or easy process. One of the main reasons is that our minds are designed to reinforce their own perceptions and after a while our beliefs become familiar and ‘just the way it is’. As Michael says the meanings, ‘get into our eyes’, and into our habitual way of thinking, moving and talking so we do not even realise what we believe is just that – a belief, a thought to which we have said a lasting ‘yes’.

This integration of ideas into the matrix of our mind is similar to the ideas expressed in the film The Matrix (1999):

Morpheus : The Matrix is everywhere. It's all around us, even in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to work, when you pay your taxes. The Matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes, to blind you from the truth.

Neo : What truth?

Morpheus : That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison...for your mind.

The good news is that Jesus came to ‘to proclaim freedom for the captives  and release from darkness for the prisoners’; (Isaiah 61:1)NIV

He wants us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind so [then] you will be able to test [through doing as well as understanding] and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)

So I challenge you to examine the validity and soundness of your thoughts about turning thinking into action. I am challenged too, every time I think about where my ‘faith expressing itself through works’ stands in real actionable terms.

"How to Bridge the Gap Between 'Knowing and Doing': Filling in the Gap with the Lord Jesus".

Below are a list of questions you can ask yourself to help stimulate this transition process.

If you read around on this site or visit you will find many articles about the power of beliefs to create mental ‘blinkers’ and create blind spots in your perceiving – AND also what to do about it to create new ‘liberating’ frames of mind that lead to Godly and resourceful action.

I also highly recommend reading Neurosemantics for the Christian Mind: Moving from Knowing to Doing by Mike Davis.

If you are interested in having coaching for the process of Living your Words, please visit


Unleashed (A Guide to your Ultimate Self-Actualisation), Hall, Michael (2007), Neuro-Semantic Publications, ISBN-10: 1890001325

2009 Doug Cartwright All rights reserved.