Action! Action!! And more action!!! The clarion call everywhere seems to be activity, and more activity. Get up and do something no matter what. Yes, we live in an age where everybody seems to be in a hurry: they are either after something or something is after them. Everything appears to be urgent and many things have to be done at the same time.
This whirlwind of urgency has engulfed the church too. It has seemed to reach a level where the Holy Spirit, the all-important comforter and helper of the church of Christ has been crowded out of the work of God. Some even claim now that the Holy Spirit and His gifts are no more available to the church: They call themselves the secessionists!
It good to have zeal for good things and to be urgent about things, especially for the things of God. However such urgency and zeal should be based upon the knowledge of the word of God and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The zeal without the knowledge of God will do things but such will be things that will not please the Lord for they will not be according to what He demands. Some hate to be and indeed cannot be still or quiet. It is all action; all motion; all activities and programs.
Some do these things as if with a vengeance. They want to be seen to be active for the Lord. They may want to score religious points too.
Yes, to just let someone know:
- I have been praying.
- I just went and came back from evangelism.
- We are having a forty-day fasting in our church.
They never seemed to pause, to think and ask:
- “Is this what the Lord will want done?”
- “Is this according to the instruction of the Lord or just so people can see that you are busy doing something?”
- “Is that what the Lord ordered?”
B. Saying and doing
This brings us to the issue of “saying” and “doing.”
Though the distinction between “saying” and “doing” is obvious, yet many still muddle the two or almost equate saying with doing. There are also extremes: on the one hand, there are those who talk so much of professing their faith without due regard to doing, while on the other hand there are those who are all action, all activity without due cognisance to the profession of their faith.
C. Character is core
People talk so much of professing their faith that they seem to forget that character is more important than profession. What you do bears a weightier testimony to your character than what you profess.
Looking around at human experience, it is easy to see that people generally live according to what they believe deep down in their heart. And this bears witness to the fact that many therefore profess things that are contrary or in opposition to what they are actually engaged in doing.
The fact is that practice of the faith is of more value that mindless ritual observance. And your faith in any creed is better testified to by your conduct.
D. Both professing and doing are important
The truth of Scripture is that our Lord Jesus Christ makes it very clear that both professing our faith in Him and doing things according to knowledge to demonstrate that our faith in Him are very important.
It even reasonable to say that there is no doing that will please the Lord without first confessing Him as saviour and Lord.
At the same time, professing that is true and acceptable to the Lord never seems to stand alone but is always and should always be accompanied by doing according to the knowledge of the Lord and His word.
We thus see our Lord Jesus Christ laying much emphasizes on the importance of “doing” in His teachings. The inward reality of the Christian faith is demonstrated externally in the character and conduct and not just the profession or “saying” of the one who claims to believe.
We cannot and should not underrate the importance of saying or profession for we are told that the confession of His name is one of the most important obligations of discipleship:
“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Mat 10:32-33; Luke 12:8-9).
E. The heart is centre and its condition critical
Both confessing and denying involve believe in the heart, speaking and doing. When you believe in the Lord in your heart, you confess Him openly as occasions demand and do things in agreement with that believe and confession/profession.
Similarly, when a person does not believe in the Lord in the heart, he denies Him openly in his confession/profession and he will do things in accordance with that unbelief and denial.
We are therefore told of these people who “profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Titus 1:16).
We thus see then that such confession must be based on a foundation of character acceptable to God for so it is:
“that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom 10:9-10).
This then shows us that concerning faith in the Lord, the critical place is the heart and the critical thing is what first takes place in the heart. It follows that a person may say it and not believe it or not mean it in the heart. But a person cannot believe it or mean it in the heart and not say or confess it. That is, when a person confesses to a genuine faith in the Lord in the heart, he follows or accompanies it with commensurate action or doing.
Hence, the Lord frequently emphasized the importance of “doing”:
- “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 which is in heaven.” (Mat 7:21).
F. The Lord Jesus Christ: the supreme example
He showed Himself as the ultimate example of “doing” for He said that He came not to do His own will but the will of His Father (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38).
Therefore, the ultimate or supreme “doing” is to do the will of God. Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ in His teachings gave a prominent place to the concept: “to do the will of God”, a phrase which appears in various forms in many places in the Holy Scriptures few of which include: (Mat 7:24-27; 12:50; 25:40, 45; Luke 10:30-37; 11:28).
His apostles echoed the same teachings of the Lord (Jam 1:22, 25 ). Not doing tantamount to denial.
“It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” (2Tim 2:11-13).
And “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: [but] he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.” (1John 2:23).
It would then appear that “doing” is the “quality test” or gold standard test of the Christian life and the only sure way to spiritual enlightenment (Mat 5:19, 47; John 7:17).
G. Some say but do not
The Lord therefore frequently warned the people against the dangers of merely saying and not doing:
- He stopped those who made hasty thoughtless profession in their tracts (Mat 8:19-20; 26:33-34; Luke 14:28).
- He rebuked the religious leaders for being so strong in profession while neglecting their own practical righteousness:
“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (Mat 15:8);
“for they say, and do not” (23:3).
It may sound surprising that some may say and not do but this is not new. Throughout the ages and eras of the existence of the people of God, there have always been hypocrites. People who mingle with the people of God and pretend to belong. They are referred to as a mixed multitude. They have the mob mentality:
“Let us do it together so they will think we are all the same and they will not be able to identify anybody!.”
However, just as in our day, the TV cameras and CCTV can fish out the vandals and criminals from amongst legitimate protesters, so our all-seeing God can and does know the hypocrites who are trying to masquerade as genuine believers as they mingle with His people:
“And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.” (Ezek. 33:31-32).
H. Pointed Illustrations
1. Parable of the two sons (Mat 21:28-32)
To bring the contrast between saying and doing home to the religious leaders, He told the parable of the two sons (Mat 21:28-32), with specific reference to on the one hand the Pharisees and scribes who outwardly were professing and seem religious and yet rejected His message and on the other hand, the publicans and sinners who outwardly were unpromising yet received the message of the kingdom of God.
2. A poignant question
After asking a pointed question:“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
3. Mr Rocky and Mr Sandy
He then told the story of the two builders Mr Rocky and Mr Sandy in the parable of the two builders to show the end result of the two positions of saying and doing (Mat 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49).
4. The fig tree
The withering of the fig tree that had green leaves but was barren (Mat 21:18-19; Mark 11:12-14): is an ominous sign for those who would likewise profess while they will not do to demonstrate that profession: they will wither and be cast away!
Remember the fig tree deceptively showed green leaves purporting to be fruitful while it was not: it said but it did not do accordingly.
I. Balance demanded and should be maintained
Professing and doing go together. We should never stop to say or profess our faith but should not stop at the professing. Rather, we should diligently proceed further to doing, to action informed by the truth.
We should then humbly acknowledge the truth that even our best efforts and achievements were enabled by God (Phil 2:13) for His glory and agree with the Lord’s demand that:
“So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10).
This balance between professing and doing is clearly shown by the words of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38).
“For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26).
“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” (Rev 3:5).
These are the words of our Lord. With the written word of God and the available presence and help of the Holy Spirit, let us heed them!
As in all other areas of our faith, our Lord is the supreme example to follow. Let us therefore endeavour to balance our professing with doing as we daily continue in our journey of faith.
The Lord will definitely encourage and bless us as we do so in obedience to Him.