Attempting to persuade Judah to trust in God and stop trusting in Egypt, in chapter 28 Isaiah revealed the dire condition of the political and religious leadership of her northern neighbor Israel. In describing her prophets and priests, he shows how their self-indulgent lifestyle affected their vision, judgment, and teaching (vv. 7-9). Their desire for gratifying themselves overshadowed their carefulness with God's Word. Which came first? Their theology or their lifestyle?
Peter warns of an enemy in his second epistle. It is an foe who attacks the Bible. This opposition says Scripture is a collection of fables. He also scoffs at the second coming of Christ. Peter informs in 2 Peter 3:3 that the enemy is "walking after his own lusts." He says this mocker of the return of the Lord "walk[s] after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise[s] government" (2 Peter 2:10). Which came first? His theology or his lifestyle?
In 1 Peter the apostle warns that "fleshly lusts . . . war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11). Lusts affect the soul. Our thinking can change based upon our feelings. Instead of walking by faith, we can walk by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Evil companions can corrupt good behavior (1 Cor. 15:33). We can change what we believe and practice based on our desire for certain friends, particular things, or craved relationships. Or is it the other way around? Our theology came first--a weak one that led to bad practices, or a strong one that led to the right way of living. Did it or didn't it?
Early in Israel's history there was no king, so every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). Without a controlling legal authority, men did what they wanted instead of what God said. When no one is there to take a stand on God's Word, people will just run around living for the gusto. On the other hand, leadership folds from the pressure exerted by those they lead, clamoring for bread and circuses.
The world is getting worse. Theology is changing. Standards drop. This hasn't come because of better exegesis. Instead of liberties being about God, they're now about us. The popular interpretation and application of Scripture is the one that allows the most self-indulgence. The best church is the one that makes us feel the best. The listener becomes the sovereign of the sermon. The most popular theologians and preachers have some hierarchy of truths that dismisses worldliness and practical holiness and segregates the truth of the inward from the reality of the outward. So which comes first? Theology or Lifestyle?