People talk a lot. The Bible consistently tells us to keep our mouths shut. Yet we keep talking.
The Bible also lets us know that talking is not what we are solely judged on. In fact, God seems not as much concerned with what we say as much as with what we do. Jesus tells a parable where two sons are told by their dad to go work in the field. The one who says, “Yes, sir” never goes. The one who said, “No,” ends up going. Which one did the will of the father? Not the one who said the right thing, but the one who did the right thing.
Christians are confused about faith. We know we are saved by grace through faith. God showed grace through Jesus Christ; our response is faith. Unfortunately, most think faith is the doctrines we believe. We think faith is believing the right stuff. And it is, in part, but it’s way more than that. The test of faith is what you’re doing. Doing things is hard. So instead we talk.
There are three wordy crutches that hurt our faith. Three things we say that keep us from doing what is right but feeling good all the same.
1. Right doctrine
We’re good at spewing out our accepted doctrine. We get our theological camp and get indoctrinated; we say what we’re supposed to say. We quote the right theologians. We use the right proof texts. We know how our favorite commentaries interpret verses. Because we say the right stuff about doctrine we assume we have faith. We know we’re saved because we’re Calvinist, or not Calvinist, or believe in sign gifts or don’t. I don’t know what your particular “anyone who doesn’t believe this isn’t saved” doctrine is, but that’s the thing that’s keeping you from actual faith. On the other side, some delve into doubt. They have unending questions about doctrine. Since they have questions they can’t be expected to do anything until they have no more questions left. Doctrine just becomes an excuse. “How can I listen to God if I don’t understand the nuances of the Trinity fully?” You’ll never do anything, but will sound intellectual in your laziness anyway.
2. Syrupy sentimentality
We use gushy words about God and Jesus, who is our lover and friend. We say the happy lovely thing about life. Always happy, always smooth, always nice. There is lovely sentimentality all over the place, sickly sweet. Your Christian language is a perpetual Contemporary Christian song lyric. It’s not realistic. It seems to miss any depth, nuance, or perhaps pain. But you know you’re supposed to “be strong,” so you keep saying the syrupy stuff. Maybe if you say them enough your doubts will go away. If you actually started living your faith, doing the hard thing, speaking the truth, the sentimentality would fade away because faith is a fight, it’s a long run, it’s hard. We can’t afford do anything that might make me look or feel not “strong.” Therefore, it’s safer to do nothing and feel sentimental than take a chance at losing it all.
3. Christian clichés
You have no idea what you’re talking about, but you know what you’re supposed to say. “God is still on the throne!” Great, what do you think that means? Is God on the throne a replacement for you being responsible? A replacement for you confronting someone over sin? An excuse for you to not apologize? What clichés do you use and why? Do they mean anything, or are they just band aids to cover problems you’ve deemed too hard to resolve? Cliches sound nice but mean little, but we flop them out there to fit in, to say the admirable thing. “Wow, if they say ‘the Lord gives and the Lord takes away’ when their mom dies, they must really have faith.” It’s possible, I sure hope so, but if not, woe to you when you reap the whirlwind from sowing hot air.
Words replace actions. People talk about going on diets more than they diet. People talk about exercise more than they move. People talk about reading the Bible more than they read it. We say stuff. We want our words to replace action. They don’t.
But since we sound good and fit in, we’ll leave faith at that. We’d rather fit in than do weird stuff like doing what God says and risk being the weirdo. Hebrews 11, the great chapter about faith, says at the front of each biographical sketch “By faith” and then it describes what they did. By faith Enoch walked with God. By faith Noah built an ark. By faith Abraham got up and moved. By faith Moses left the riches of Pharaoh’s house to suffer with God’s people. By faith they each did what God said.
Enoch didn’t talk about walking with God and go on about how wonderful it is to walk through the roses with his lover, Jesus. Nope, he just walked with God. Noah didn’t discuss ark building schemes and talk about blueprints and his intentions. Nope, he just built the ark. Abraham didn’t talk about the journey and make pithy self-help motivational memes. Nope, he just got up and walked. Moses didn’t say nice words about renouncing wealth and suffering with God’s people as a theory, a throwaway line. He just left the riches and moved into the desert.
Faith does what God says. Doing what God says is hard. Your flesh wants no part of it. Don’t be surprised if instead of obeying you just talk a good game.
“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 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.”