I recall a story told by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, founder of Evangelism Explosion, a program for training believers to effectively share the Gospel. He was a man who led by example and shared an experience that I found insightful. After witnessing to a woman he asked her if she would like to receive Christ as her Savior. She asked him if all she had to do was say she believed. Dr. Kennedy replied no, she must believe to be saved.
The point Dr. Kennedy was attempting to make to this woman is there is a difference in saying one believes and believing. This is an important distinction. It is a distinction that can mean the difference between heaven and hell. It is the same distinction Jesus was making in Matthew 7:21, “Nor everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter.” What we do will always be the criterion by which what we say will be judged, here and later.
I think many well-meaning believers in ignorance accept what people say and ignore what they do believing we should “not judge” so they “will not be judged.” But Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1-5 have been misinterpreted repeatedly. Jesus is condemning hypocritical judgment. He is not saying all human judgment is wrong. In fact He tells us we have a responsibility to make righteous judgments in John 7:24, and Paul writes, “Do you not know that we will judges angels? How much more matters of this life (1 Corinthians 6:3)?”
Christians are not called to be shallow-minded simpletons. We must make judgments every day. We are making judgments every time we buy a car, choose a college, or cast a ballot. When we view the way others live their lives we make judgments as to whether or not we want to emulate what we see. We must determine what is right and wrong conduct so we can live as God would want us to. Whether we are making a decision as to what is in our best interest practically or spiritually, we are making judgments.
Back when Donald Trump was contemplating a run for the Presidency, he was interviewed by David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. In the interview Brody asked Trump, “Do you actively go to church?” Trump replied, “I’m a Sunday church person. I’ll go when I can.” In an article I wrote about the interview I had said Trump should clear his calendar for his appointment with God each Sunday.
I was criticized for what I wrote then (and will probably be criticized again now) for imposing my standard of church attendance on Donald Trump, but that was not the case. I called Trump to task for what he said. It is hypocritical to say “I’m a Sunday church person” and in the next breath say “I’ll go when I can.” Does he make business appointments on Sundays that keep him from church? Did his chauffeur get sick, or did his limousine run out of gas? What stops him from being the “Sunday church person” he claimed to be. Surely it is not because he lacked the means to get there.
Regarding church attendance I have heard countless times the claim that one can be a Christian without going to church. This is usually said by someone who has never read the Bible, or having read it has forgotten what they read. Being a Christian means being Christ-like, doing the things He did. While Christ taught in homes, by a lake, on a mountain, and in the streets, we also see Him repeatedly in the synagogue teaching and healing. Why, because He made it His practice to be in His place of worship on His day of worship (Luke 4:16).
Why do people claim to be Christian, but shun the very institution that He founded and shed His blood to establish? Because it is easier to say one is a Christian than it is to be a Christian. Why do they shun the fellowship of their brothers and sisters in Christ? Because it is easier to say you love these Christ died for than to love them.
At the end of the day there is no dichotomy between faith and practice. What you do is what you believe and what you believe is what you do. Saying is not believing.