A look, a smile, body language. A lot of communication happens without words. Our actions belie our true thoughts and beliefs. Some try to hide what they are really feeling, but any astute observer can read the message loud and clear, even without words being spoken.
We know this to be true in our interactions with with our families, friends, mates, and co-workers. Body language doesn’t lie, no matter what the words coming out of our mouths are saying.
How often do we think about what our actions communicate about our faith?
Sure we might post verses from the Bible on our walls, wear a cross around our neck, talk about how we serve at and love our church; but what message are our actions shouting to the world around us?
It doesn’t matter how well you talk about your faith, it matters how you live it out.
I had dinner recently with a believer friend whose heart was heavy as she asked me why someone who claims to be a Christian, would be so untrustworthy? Not paying their bills, being unreliable, etc. She was trying to reconcile what she knew our faith taught, with what she was seeing in the actions of this person who claimed to have the same faith.
It’s a struggle we have all seen, faced and even perpetrated: Our faith in action.
I answered simply, “They just aren’t living out what they believe.”
I must admit (and you will too if you’re honest) that I haven’t always lived out my faith as I should. I have both said and done things that are incongruous with my beliefs that I hold dear.
- I regret them
- I lament them
- I confess them
I ask God for strength and power daily to live like the redeemed child of the King that I am. But I fail and I fall because I am human. I still drag around my lower self. (my sin nature). I present my body to God as a living sacrifice and then crawl off the altar when it suits my purposes. As you look at your own life and actions, you will see evidence of the same.
Given the fact that we won’t reach perfection until we enter into glory, missteps and the occasional failing are to expected, but they shouldn’t be the norm. We should not be living in our actions lives that contradict the messages of faith we speak and proclaim.
So let’s get to the bottom of this.
Let’s look at the why and the what of action that speak loud and clear, regardless of our words, and then we’ll look at how we can do life differently in a world that so desperately needs what God has given us-grace and mercy.
Why do some people live out their faith like a shining star while others live their faith like a flashlight that needs new batteries. They need to be constantly whacked just to get the light to come back on for a brief, dim moment.
1. They don’t actually have a real relationship with God.
Some people are simply Christians in name only. They claim to be a Christian only because it is the closest title they can relate to. They aren’t a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Buddist, or an Atheist. If they are asked on a survey to identify with a religious preference, they’ll click “Christian” because they went to church with their parents as a kid, or they got baptized, or finished confirmation.
None of that has anything to do with having a real relationship with God. None of it. Man-made traditions are external, relationships are internal. You could stand on your head and recite prayers from memory while juggling with your feet and you wouldn’t be any closer to a relationship with God than when you started.
A real relationship with God only comes through Jesus Christ. Those are His words, not mine (although I wholeheartedly believe them)
“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NLT)
A relationship, a real one, with God comes from recognizing our need as sinners, (yes, you are a sinner and so am I); believing that Jesus, the only Son of God came, lives a sinless life so that he could die in your place to pay the penalty for that sin; acknowledge that He did that just for you; and receive that gift of His sacrifice. Apologize for being the wretch that you are and let God give you a new heart and a new life.
Simple? Yes. Easy? no. Because you are going to need to admit your need, and you are going to need to accept on faith.
Although I grew up going to church and even went to a religious grade school, I didn’t have a real relationship with God until I was 15. You can listen to my faith story here when you have a chance.
It is only by having a real relationship with God, through His Son Jesus, that you will have the change, the power and the faith to live a life consistent with your beliefs.
2. They don’t live in the Power of the Holy Spirit
There are many believers who have a real relationship with God like I described above, who then try to live out that faith in their own power. BIG MISTAKE. God talks about this through Paul in the book of Galatians:
“Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?” (Galatains 3:3 AMP)
I love the amplified version here. Are you so silly to think you can live this life depending on your own puny power when it was your power that brought that new life to begin with? Silly. Silly.
Once you have that relationship with God like I described above, you also have the Holy Spirit (also God) living inside of you. The Holy Spirit was sent to give us power, understanding, wisdom, strength, and on and on.
I cannot tell you how many true believers I see living defeating lives because they are trying so hard to do it in their own power instead of surrendering and relying on the Holy Spirit to enable them to live out what they believe.
[Tweet “Without the Holy Spirit’s power, we are like a lamp that isn’t plugged into the outlet.”]
3. The cost is too high
The majority of believers don’t live out their faith in every area of their lives simply because they’re afraid. It’s going to cost something to stand up and live out their faith. You know what? They’re right.
It will cost you to live out your faith. To make sure the Message is loud & clear through your actions and not just your words. What might it cost?
It might cost you your job, your friends and family. You’ll get weird looks, called names, ostracized; at least in America. In some countries, you could be tortured, imprisoned, or even killed for living out your faith. I guess a little cold shoulder and odd glances doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Make no mistake, if you go public with your faith and live out what you believe, you will be under attack. Our enemy, satan, hates it when we live out loud. He would love nothing more than to keep us in fear of “what might happen”. And so many sit on the sidelines in fear of what might happen and miss out on what can be in the power of God. Don’t be that person.
Those are only 3-reasons why people of faith don’t act in accordance to what they believe. But what does it matter? Who cares if I choose to believe privately and keep my beliefs separate from my work life? What effect does that really have on God’s vast Kingdom as a whole. I’m not that vital to God that it will make a difference, right?
Here’s where the what comes in…
What affect does this separation of faith and action have on the world around us? A bigger one than we can even begin to realize. When you choose to believe one way, talk about your faith, but not back it up with your behaviors, your impact lasts for eternity.
1. You put up a roadblock to God
What’s the number one excuse we get when we try to share the truth of Christ or invite others to church, “But there are so many hypocrites. Why would I want to be a part of that?”
Hypocrites: two-faced, mask-wearers, who act one way on Sunday, and totally different the rest of the week. (Isn’t this what this article is all about?)
When others hear you talk about God and your faith, but see you cheat, lie and act irresponsibly, they figure you are no different than everyone else, so why believe what you have to say?
[Tweet “You and I do not live in a vacuum, everything we do affects everyone around us. “]
When your loud & clear message contradicts the gospel you share, you put up a “road closed ahead” sign on the road that leads to heaven. Our actions can actually block the way for someone who needs God’s mercy, forgiveness and grace.
I don’t want to be responsible for keeping someone away from God, do you?
2. You become a stumbling block to believers
Every believer is at a different stage in their walk with the Lord. Some are infants in the faith, they need help to grow. When we live a double life as believers, we risk giving them permission to do the same and may cause them to walk away from their faith altogether; get caught up in old behaviors newly abandoned; or keep them from growing deeper in God.
Our actions not lining up with our faith can actually stunt the growth of other believers. You never know where someone is at in their faith journey. They may need a strong example/mentor to help guide them in their growth. You can either help your fellow believers, or hurt them, by sending a mixed message of faith in action.
3. You tarnish the Name of Christ
This is the hardest one to use in justifying a life that screams, “I don’t know God”, when you say you do” you can tarnish the name of Christ. We are ambassadors here on earth. We are here to represent Jesus to those who need His message of forgiveness and hope.
When we live a life contrary to our beliefs, we are essentially dragging the name of Jesus through the mud. We might as well be dragging Him through the mud. Can you picture it?
Here you are, merrily going through life, talking to co-workers about the love of God on minute, and then biting off the head of your direct report the next. You talk about how much you give of your time, talent and resources at church, and you pay you bills late with disregard or apology.
There’s Jesus, right there with you, muddy and bruised because you don’t value who He is and how you represent Him. Enough said.
Okay, so you blew it. You haven’t been living the message that you speak. What now? What do you do when you feel like you’ve blown it? Read this, and then look at how we can get on the right path of a loud & clear message that matches our faith.
How do we keep from being a casualty of our incongruous faith? How do we keep from having the distinction of being a hypocrite?
1. Check your relationship with God
Go back and read #1 under “why” in this article. Then ask God to give you a heart check-up. Make sure that your relationship with God is real, based on a personal relationship not on religiosity.
2. Study God’s Word
If you want to know how to behave in a manner consistent with your faith, you’ll need to study the ‘how-to” manual. It’s called the Bible, and it has every answer to every area of your life. It’s all in there, and God can help you understand it, you just need to crack it open and study it.
3. Obey-no matter the cost
Choose right now, every day, every hour that you will do what God says in His word and by His Spirit. He will give you power and the desire to obey Him, you just have to take that step towards obedience and then God will enable you to follow through, no matter what the cost. That’s what Jesus did. He only did whatever the Father told Him to do. It cost him His life, but look how much He (and we) gained through His obedience. God always blesses obedience, so just do it.
[Tweet “God always blesses obedience, so just do it.”]
Here’s the thing: God won’t force us to do the right thing. I wish He did. Life would be so much easier if God made me make the right choices all the time. But He doesn’t. He gives us the choice.
What will you choose?
Whew, that was a long one! Glad you made it through.
Now tell me what you think.
Why do so many not live their message in their actions?
What other consequences are there for sending a mixed message of our faith?
How else can we keep our actions consistent with our message?