In life, it is easy to equate knowing with doing. More specifically, it is easy to think we have reached great wisdom and maturity because we know about a certain thing or topic even if we never put that knowledge into practice. You might study woodworking or beekeeping or gardening and learn a great deal without ever building anything or raising any bees or planting a single seed. In that case, can you really say you are a woodworker or a beekeeper or a gardener? No, you cannot. A person might have a great deal of knowledge on a particular subject, but if that knowledge is not put into practice, then it is no good. The same holds true for Christianity.
Christianity involves a lot of “knowing”. The Bible is full of facts and truth that God wants us to know. We are called to love God with all of our heart, all of our soul and all of our mind (Matt. 22:36-37). We are called to “meditate” on God’s word (Ps. 1:2) – which is an act of thinking. We are encouraged to be like the Bereans who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily” to see if what they were being told was true (Acts 17:11). This was an act of thinking and knowing and considering. Christians are not called to believe in spite of truth and reason and logic but precisely in line with it. We are called to see things as God sees them and understand things as God understands them. “Knowing” things is vitally important to the Christian life.
That said, the Bible also has strong words about the dangers of “knowing” without “doing”, and we would do well to hear them and examine our own hearts against them. James says clearly, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). If we hear what we ought to do and yet do not practice it, we are convincing ourselves of something that is not true – namely: we are thinking of ourselves as honoring God and moving toward blessing when we are not. Later on, James is even clearer: “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). Faith that does not evidence itself in deeds is dead and will not accomplish anything. It is not the person who calls Jesus Lord who enters the kingdom but the person who seeks to do His will (Matt. 7:21,24-27). Jesus did not simply speak truth to us so that we would know it but so that we would act on it (John 13:17). Ultimately, God is not simply interested in filling our heads with facts but in making us like His Son – transforming us from the inside out so that we love what Jesus loved and live as Jesus lived (Rom. 8:29).
So all that said, we should consider our own hearts and lives. Where are the areas that we are “good Christians”…in theory only? Do we know a lot about evangelism without actually speaking the gospel to real people who are actually lost and appealing to them to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:16-21)? Do we know a lot about discipleship without actually going to real people and making them real disciples by teaching to obey what Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:18-20)? Do we know a lot about how the church should look and work without actually doing the hard work of showing up (Heb. 10:24-25), bearing other people’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), and exhorting each other everyday (Heb. 3:12-13)? Are we more satisfied with the reputation of faithfulness than the actual reality of faithfulness (Rev. 3:1-6)? Can we quote the Bible’s words about marriage and parenting while refusing to love our wife or respect our husband or raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 5:22-6:4)? Do we preach against stealing and adultery while secretly doing those very things (Rom. 2:21-24)?
If so, we need to repent. If we know what we ought to do – because God’s word has told us – and we do not do it (though we might know a great deal about it!), that is sin (James 4:17). And the only proper way to deal with sin is to repent and return again to the shepherd and deliverer of our souls so that we might receive grace and forgiveness. Then we can go forth once again – not simply to “know” but to actually walk in the good works which God ordained for us (Eph. 2:10). Don’t simply be a Christian “in theory”. Be a doer and not just a hearer. Love in word…and in deed (1 John 3:18). Amen.