Our actions are the manifestation of what is on the inside of us, which means that our actions reveal what is true about us: what we believe, who we serve, and who we love.
If we say that we believe in something, our actions can contradict us to reveal what we truly believe. If we say that we love someone more than ourselves, our actions will reveal if it is true. What we do shows who we really serve, who we love the most, and what we really think.
If we ever need proof of what is true about ourselves, we can look to our actions to always tell the truth because our actions are absolutely dependent on what is true inside of us.
James and Paul both make it clear that our actions reveal the truth about what we believe.
James says, "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith." (James 2:17-18; also see James 2:26)
In the context of Titus 1:16, Paul is speaking of false teachers when he says, "They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions." These people likely had themselves convinced that they did know God, but by their actions they denied him. Paul is claiming that their actions revealed the truth.
Paul was also someone who thought he was serving God when he initially persecuted Christians, but his actions were actually opposing God.
"[Paul] asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' The reply came, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.'" (Acts 9:5) Jesus explains in John 16:2, "Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God."
These people will think they know God and are serving him, but in reality they are opposing God with their actions.
Realizing that our actions reveal the truth about what we truly believe is essential to understanding faith and repentance.
Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.'" (Matthew 7:21-23)
Jesus himself makes it clear that our actions reveal what we truly believe. Jesus claims that the only people who will be saved are those who obey God's will. There are people who will say "Lord, Lord," but their evil actions mark them as "evildoers" and reveal that Jesus is not their lord.
may think they believe in Jesus Christ, but their actions reveal that
they do not really believe in him or really know him.
According to Jesus, "No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (Luke 16:13; Matthew 6:24)
Jesus speaks specifically of God and wealth, but because the Foundation of All Sin is Selfishness, we are really either serving God or ourselves.
James explains that, "No one, when tempted, should say, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:13-15)
It is serving ourselves and being "tempted by one's own desire" that causes us to sin and disobey God.
Paul explains in Romans 6:15-18 that we are either a slave to sin or slaves to righteousness:
"What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness."
Paul compares sin to righteousness, explaining that we "are slaves of the one whom you obey." As Paul explains earlier in Romans 2:8, we are obeying either ourselves or God, "for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury."
John also makes it clear that the separation between the righteous and unrighteous is by what they do. Our actions reveal the truth about who we serve.
"Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil...The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters." (1 John 3:7-10)
Jesus Christ modeled obeying God over ourselves, as Paul explains in Philippians 2:8, "he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross."
When Jesus was about to be crucified, he is recorded as saying to the Father, "not what I want but what you want." (Matthew 26:39) Jesus' actions reveal the truth about who he served: God, not himself (ironically since Jesus Christ is God in the flesh - John 1).
However, Paul has just explained this irony in Philippians 2:6-7, "though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness."
John explains in 1 John 5:3-4, "For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world."
If we fail to obey God's commandments, then we reveal that we do not love God. If we love God above ourselves, then of course his commandments would not be burdensome, because we obey the one we love.
As Jesus says, "for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Luke 16:13; Matthew 6:24)
The two greatest commandments are to love God above all and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40; Luke 10:27).
This is a commandment to change the hierarchy of our love: replacing loving ourselves first for loving God first, with ourselves and others as a tie for second.
If we sin, it reveals that we love ourselves more than God, since sin is a self-seeking act (James 1:13-15). If our sin is something that could hurt someone else (adultery, murder, stealing, etc.), then it also means that we love ourselves more than that person. Otherwise, if you loved that person more than yourself (or even the same), then you would not be able to commit that sin.
When God first gave his commandments in the Old Testament, it is explained, "You shall not act as we are acting here today, all of us according to our own desires..."(Deuteronomy 12:8 )
Also written is, "... observe this entire commandment that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God and walking always in his ways..." (Deuteronomy 19:9)
Loving God first is what causes us to obey him, because disobeying him happens when we love ourselves first. Sin (disobedience to God) is a self-seeking act (Romans 2:8; James 1:13-15).
Therefore, our actions reveal the truth about who we love: ourselves or God.
When Jesus speaks of salvation, he makes it clear that denying ourselves in favor of Jesus is absolutely necessary, "and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me." (Matthew 10:38)
"Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'" (Matthew 16:24) Jesus bluntly says that if we do not deny ourselves and love him first, then we are not worthy of him.
Whether or not we deny ourselves reveals whether or not we love Jesus first, because the idea of denying ourselves means that we are placing the 'love of ourselves' below our 'love for Jesus Christ.'
John explains in 1 John 2:3-6, "Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, 'I have come to know him,' but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, 'I abide in him,' ought to walk just as he walked."
When John speaks of obeying God's commandments, he clears up any confusion there might be by saying "whoever says, 'I abide in him,' ought to walk just as he walked."
In such a person who lives as Jesus modeled for us by obeying God, "in this person the love of God has reached perfection."
Returning to what John says in 1 John 5, he continues by saying, "And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5)
Rephrasing what John says in 1 John 5:3-5: believing in Jesus Christ is the faith that gives victory because then we are born of God and able to obey his commandments, which is the love of God.
According to these verses, true faith is what empowers our obedience to God, just as loving God first empowers the same, making obedience or disobedience to God (our actions) the factor that reveals: what we truly believe, who we truly serve, and who we love first.
If we only sin occasionally, it means that we love God until it collides with our own strong desires. Essentially, we love God as long as it does not cause us any serious discomfort, displeasure, or inconvenience.
Truly loving God first means that our love for God trumps all our own desires, like Jesus modeled for us, even "to the point of death— even death on a
cross." (Philippians 2:8)
Even though these three subjects of faith, obedience, and love are examined separately, in reality we can see that these subjects intertwine in scripture. Authors that discuss love also discuss its connection to obedience and faith, while authors that discuss faith also discuss the connection between obedience and love.
Many of the scriptures quoted can be used to show that our actions reveal the truth about all three subjects: what we believe, who we serve, and who we love.
What is love? It's a call to action. Guest post by Ben Byrum.
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