To put it bluntly: too few of us who profess to be Christians live and act consistently with our profession.
That there is so often a wide gap between a knowledge of doctrine and the outworking of it reflects badly on us who ought to be living epistles, “known and read of men.”
To many of us Christian doctrine is a matter of greatest importance, for doctrine consists of those things we believe about Christ—who he is and what he has done for us.
But unless that which we believe is translated into a life consistent with our beliefs, the depth and reality of our professed faith necessarily becomes suspect.
This is not to imply that genuine faith in Christ eventuates in perfection in this life—far from it. But our desires, aspirations and most important of all, our love centers in Christ, and as “new creatures” in him we should live in a way which honors not dishonors him.
Many years ago a small Negro boy was brought into court in Richmond under the charge of theft. It was judge Crutchfield who asked the boy, “Son, did you steal that box?” “No sir, Judge, that would be sin,” the boy replied.
“What is sin”? asked the judge. Earnestly the boy said: “Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of the law of God.” He had learned this at the 17th Street mission and it was implanted in his heart.
The judge immediately dismissed the case and the boy went free.
Here was doctrine in the heart and honesty in action. Such behavior should characterize every Christian, but how often it does not!
In the realm of God’s moral law what effect has Christ’s fulfilling that law had on our behavior?
We might ask ourselves these questions: Owing God primary and final allegiance, do I have any other gods before him?
Is God first in my life? Do I honestly try to put the interests of God and his Kingdom before everything else?
Knowing that God abhors idols, do I worship money, position, attainments, sex, anything? Even in our worship are not some of us in danger of transgressing his holy command with pictures, candles, music and the like?
Although we know that God will not hold the offender guiltless, do we nonetheless take his name in vain, or, stand mutely by while others profane that name?
From the very beginning of time God set aside one day in seven as a day of rest. How often we make it a holiday instead of a day dedicated to worship and Christian service!
Concern and making provision for our parents is a divine injunction. While we may give them material things, are they conscious of our love and appreciation of that which they have done for us through the years?
We may not kill those with whom we disagree, but how often is there hatred in our hearts—sin in God’s sight?
We may not commit the overt act of adultery, but who would be willing to have the innermost thoughts of his heart made public? In these days how often do we look with complacency on the moral debauchery all about us and in so many phases of American life?
Some wag has said that income tax laws have made thieves of us all. This may not be true, but unless we are careful there is an unending tendency to try to get the best of others in our business dealings.
Bearing false witness against our neighbors is now so common, even in Christian circles, that some individuals and institutions seem to think they are honoring the Lord when they lie about someone with whom they do not agree. In fact some do this in “defending the faith.” May God have mercy on such zealots!
An old priest is reported to have said that in all the confessions he had ever heard, not a person had confessed to covetousness. Yet the desire to possess that which is not our own is too prevalent in Christian circles.
We who name the name of Christ, and then dishonor him in the most flagrant ways, reveal our disgraceful irreverence for the moral code that God has ordained.
The Apostle James warned the early Christians, “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
One of the besetting sins of Christians is backbiting and criticism. It is embarrassing to read: “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.”
Knowing the sinfulness of the human heart and the deception for which we are all subject, Christ said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my father in heaven.”
James’ succinct statement, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also,” is a truth the unbelieving world grasps readily. It is when we Christians translate the things we believe into the things we do that our Christian profession becomes a reality to those around us.
As profession without action is a sham, so are good deeds without concern for the spiritual welfare either of ourselves or others. Our Lord made it plain that our lives are to show forth righteousness unto the glory of our heavenly Father. How often we try to steal God’s glory to take it for ourselves.
What is the arbiter of Christian living? Where can we find those precepts by which we know God’s will for our lives? How can we understand the meaning of righteous conduct towards God and our fellow man? Strange as it may seem to those of the world and even to the nominal Christian, we find these answers in the Bible.
Not only is the Bible the source of doctrine, and of those things we are to know and believe about God and his Son, but it is the chart for daily living.
Centuries before our Lord came to this earth, his people Israel had sinned and departed from his commandments. A copy of the law was discovered and brought to King Josiah and read before him. He listened in astonishment and then with consternation. “And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the law, that he rent his clothes.” This was an act caused by deep conviction of sin. He exclaimed: “… great is the wrath of the Lord … because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do after all that is written in this book.”
Here we see the terror of the law, but in Christ we see the mercy and grace of a loving God.
If Christians are to live like Christians, their feet must walk firmly up on the truths which have to do with Christ—his person and his work. Their faith must show the reality of his transforming graces which proceed from the Spirit of the living Christ. Then only will we show Christianity as faith in action.
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