Many people do not like to think that they are defined by what they do. They deceive themselves into thinking that their actions matter little in determining what sort of person they truly are and that their true self bears little resemblance to the person represented by their deeds.
A father, neglectful of his children, may try to insist that he is really, at heart, a good parent. An employee who spends his days trying to avoid work might still insist he is a valuable worker. A drunkard, or a drug addict, often denies their dependance upon the substance they intake regularly.
Sometimes people insist on doing this for other people as well. It is not uncommon to hear parents telling others that their children are “good kids,” even if the kid in question has perhaps been cursing and swearing and threatening to hurt others. Battered spouses sometimes come to the defense of their wife or husband, insisting they really love them, despite all evidence to the contrary.
In religious matters, we can observe the same thing: individuals who insist that their soul matters to them, that they are really quite spiritual people, and that they care about the Bible, the church, and God while, at the same time, living worldly, ungodly lives and spending little to no time doing spiritual things.
The Bible has much to say about this. Solomon observed, “Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right” (Proverbs 20:11) and “As he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7a)
The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” (Galatians 6:7-8) You cannot live a worldly life and reap spiritual benefits.
Jesus taught, “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:43-45)
Jesus also warned that it was not enough to merely pay lip service to doing the things He commanded. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23) Jesus would go on to explain, in verses 24-27, that men who heard His words and then did them were the actual wise ones, but the men who heard his words and then never put them into action were foolish. He compares the foolish ones to men building houses on foundations of sand: they were destined to fall.
We should not delude ourselves. We are what we do. A person who regularly fixes plumbing is a plumber. A person who drives a semi-truck all day, every day is a trucker. A person who regularly practices sin, refusing to change, is a sinner. This does not mean that we are stuck being what we are. People can change. If you don’t like your job, you can seek a new one. If you don’t like your behavior, you can start new habits. But the change in actions must occur if there is to be a change in identity. Our desire alone does not define us. We must have the deeds to match.
A person may have a desire to be a painter, but they are not one until they have actually painted something. Another may desire to be a novelist, but until enough words are put to paper, they remain something else. Likewise, a person may desire to be good, but until they do the good deeds, they fall short of the goal. A person desiring to be saved and to have a relationship with Christ, until they develop that relationship through obedience to Christ, are lost and without Christ in the world.
Each of us needs goals in life, areas in which we want to improve, identities by which we desire to be known. And then we need to work to attain those goals, recognizing that we are what we do.
At the church of Christ, we seek to serve God now that we might be with Him then, and to so serve, all of our lives. We invite you to join us at 197 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.