Someone that I consider a mentor said to me not long ago, “It is not what you know that matters, but what you practice.” That is so true. We can know everything about finances (how to save, invest, manage a budget), but if we do not put into practice what we know, it will not do us any good. With all the financial knowledge in the world we could lose our business, home, and go bankrupt. We could even teach financial principles at conferences, but if we do not pratice what we teach, it does nothing for us.
The Christian life is very similar. We can know all the right doctrine there is to know, yet if we do not practice it, it means nothing. The Bible says that knowledge puffs up (1 Corinthians 8:1). In James 1:22 it says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Jesus said of the Pharisees, “they preach, but they do not practice.” (Matthew 23:3). The heart of hypocrisy is knowing the right thing to do, demand for others to do it, but not practicing it yourself.
Do we see some examples of this in the church? I can think of a few. I am preaching a four-part series on “Idols that keep us from following Jesus.” The series is based on Matthew 16:24-28 where Jesus says that if we want to be His disciple, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. In my series I have chosen to unpack four idols that, in my opinion, have hand-cuffed the church’s spiritual growth and global impact. They are money, sex, comfort-security, and hedonism (not in the way John Piper explains it in his book, Desiring God, but in a sinful way. I agree with Piper that we are to be Christian hedonists).
Think about it. Most Christians know that we cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24) and that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6). Yet, when it comes to applying those truths, we are hypocrites. The majority of us give very little or nothing at all to the mission of Christ’s church. The biggest theives are those that are found in church gatherings on a regular basis, for they rob God. We have chosen to build things for ourselves while the mission of God is not pursued nor supported (Haggai 1).
We see the same hypocrisy when it comes to sexual immorality. Most Christians know and believe the biblical doctrine for sex. It is only for marriage between man and woman (Genesis 2:24). But while knowing good, true, and biblical doctrine we pay to watch Hollywood perform it right in front of our eyes. A well-known Christian speaker has said that the church practically says to Hollywood, “We will not do what you do, but we will gladly entertain ourselves by watching you.”
We see Scripture call us to dress modestly, yet we do the opposite. We rightly stand against homosexual marriage, yet watch porn, masturbate, flirt with co-workers, and tell crude jokes. Are we practicing what we preach, or simply acting as 21st century Pharisees? Is it like holiness has become like a buffet (picking and choosing what we are for and against) or just simply optional.
Some of us love our comfort and security more than we love God. Many say they are ready to do anything to follow Jesus, but they will not go on a mission trip if it can not guarantee them wifi and no physical danger. We refuse to welcome people from other countries because of potential dangers, and bascially ignore Scripture passages like the Good Samaritan. The list goes on and on.
So, what is my point in all this? Simple. Do not just know the truth, practice it. All of it. Believe what the Bible says, faith without works is dead (James 2). I am just as guilty as you are. I want to repent of my hypocrisy. I want to walk in holiness. I need the Spirit of God to lead me. I need the word of God to instruct me. I need the church of God to hold me accountable. And I need the grace of God to encourage me. But one thing is for sure, I do not want to be passive anymore.
WHY? Because I know that there is no greater joy than following Jesus. Nothing more satisfying. Nothing more fulfilling. And I know unless I forsake my hypocrisy and my idols, I cannot be with Jesus. Also, I know that my idols cannot satisfy me. Do they give temporary thrill? Sure. But they also disappoint for they take MUCH more than they give. I know this. But I must, for my joy and God’s glory, practice what I know.
Following is more than a saying. It involves action. Believing is doing.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who DOES the will of my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21 (emphasis mine)