The apostle John knew Jesus personally. He had spent 3½ years of his life accompanying Jesus in His ministry. He knew the Lord very well and was used by God to write about 20% of the content of the New Testament.
In the verses above, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, John says clearly that it is not enough just to “talk the talk.” The true believer must also “walk the walk.” Or, to combine the thoughts into a simple, memorable (and thoroughly biblical) phrase: “Walk the talk!”
Both in John’s day and today we find those who say, “I know the Lord.” But they do “not do what he [the Lord] commands.” The apostle says that such professing believers, who do not do what Jesus commands, are liars! Strong words, but they are God’s Word.
Likewise, there are many who “claim to live in Him,” but whose lives and conduct say the exact opposite. The Word of God tells us that if we make that claim, we “must live as Jesus did.” Is that something the believer can take an option on? No! It is a biblical “must.” The true believer in the Lord must strive to walk the walk our Lord Jesus exemplified while on earth. We must aim to be like Him in our conduct. We must seek to be transformed into His image, His likeness, His holiness, His blameless character. And genuine believers are enabled to pursue these noble goals effectively by the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling them as born-again sons and daughters of God (2 Corinthians 6:18).
Probably most of you reading this today hear the Word of God regularly. Perhaps during church sermons. Or listening to CDs or on the internet, etc. And of course you have your own times of Bible reading. I heard God’s Word preached until age 25, but only then did I do something about it, deciding to repent of my sins and in faith to receive Jesus personally into my life as my Lord and my Savior. I was wonderfully saved/born again and have enjoyed His love and His presence in my life for these past 49 years. How did this happen? I went from being a “hearer only” of God’s Word to one who actively embraced it and did what it commanded — in this case, to repent of sin and receive Jesus in faith into my life as Savior and Lord (Acts 20:21).
But now, as a long-time believer, I can’t lapse back into being just a hearer of God’s Word. My wife and I read the Bible together daily. It’s a great time of devotional interaction with the Lord. But even in these, our senior years, we are constantly prodded by the Word of God to act upon things God’s Word shows us are lacking, deficient, or wrong in our lives. As we read the Word, I am thankful to God for His Spirit’s ongoing conviction of things we need to change to become more conformed to His blameless image. She and I both want to be obedient doers of the Word and not hearers only.
It’s common for Christians to profess: “I love God … I love Jesus.” That’s a very good thing to do. In fact, Jesus said that the “first and greatest commandment” is to love God with all our heart and soul and mind (Matthew 22:37-38).
However, these can be nothing more than empty words if another element is lacking. And that element is a life dedicated to keeping the Lord’s commandments. “The talk” — and hopefully very sincerely so — is statements like “I love you, Lord.” “The walk” is not as easy, but equally important, and that is obediently keeping the Lord’s commands. As we’ve read (above), Jesus Himself said, “If you love me, keep my commandments … If anyone loves me he will keep my word.” The apostle John (above) wrote what is effectively a definition of loving God: “This is love for God: to keep his commands.”
As the modern saying goes, “Talk is cheap.” It’s one thing, an easy thing, to say you love the Lord. It’s a whole other thing, and a biblical one, to be doers of His Word by keeping His commands and instructions. That, said Jesus and the apostle John, is proof that we do indeed love the Lord.
I’ve heard Christians say such things as, “I’m not into a ‘works’ trip, not into a ‘performance’ mentality,” or similar words. Sad to say, these statements are often used to justify not being doers of the Word, but hearers only. Examine yourself. Have you fallen into the trap of these antibiblical slogans?
Similarly, many believers will profess: “I really love my brother and sisters in the Lord.” Again, “the talk” is cheap. The apostle charges us not to love only with “words or speech, but with actions.”
In verse 17 of the Scripture just above, John speaks of a “brother or sister in need.” Then he speaks of the believer who has material possessions — that is, the ability to help meet that need — but refuses to do so. He uses that as an example of “loving” in words, but not with actions. And (vs. 17) he says of such a believer talking the talk but doing nothing to help: “How can the love of God be in that person?”
In James 2:14-17 we read of a similar example. James is speaking of those who profess to have faith, but it is not accompanied by and proven by actions. He says (15-16): “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” Such a believer is a classic example of talking the talk, but doing nothing to relieve the brother or sister’s distress.
Sometimes it seems like our prayers are not being answered. There could be other reasons, but I want to suggest one possible reason why from this verse. Its positive teaching is that we ask and receive “because we keep [God’s] commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.”
Conversely, we can deduce from this that if we are not keeping His commandments and/or are not doing things that are pleasing in His sight, we have no biblical right to expect to receive what we are asking Him for. We are told that we ask and receive from God “because” we “keep” and “do.” This speaks of our deeds, our actions, our conduct, our obedience to His commands.
Yes, we certainly are “saved by grace through faith … not by works” (Ephesians 2:8-9). But too many Christians overlook the very next verse (10): “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works…” We are not saved or kept by works. But we are most certainly “new creations” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) “to do good works.” Why are our works important to God? To get saved? No. To stay saved? No. But because we’re saved! As born-again children of God, we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV). Again, not to get saved or to stay saved, but being “doers” for God because we’re saved!
Not to overwork the expression, but it’s true that talk is cheap. It’s easy to talk a lot about God and His Son Jesus. That’s “the talk.” And yet some who do so are polar opposites in “the walk.” Paul told Titus that some professed believers (to use one of my favorite expressions) talk a good game. But, said Paul, “in works they deny Him.” He calls such people abominable, disobedient, and reprobate.
Let me use an example that may be a bit of a stretch, but I do think it fits. In livestock country they have a saying that someone is “all hat, no cattle.” Spiritually speaking, we can see that in the lives of some who profess to know God. Lots of talk (their 10-gallon hat, etc.) But there’s no godly fruit in their lives (no cattle), but rather wicked works that deny and contradict the confession of their mouth.
Perhaps Jesus might have been thinking of the biblical proverb about those who have “fervent lips with an evil heart” (Proverbs 26:23) … or perhaps of Ezekiel 33:31f — “Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain…  for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.”
The profession “Lord, Lord” (“fervent lips”) and the apparent presence of gifts of the Spirit in a person’s life are not the Lord’s measuring rod. Jesus said that at the judgment there would be “many” saying to Him, “Lord, Lord,” and saying that they had been used in prophecy, casting out demons, and doing miracles. But Jesus didn’t comment on those things yes or no. Rather, He said, “Away from me, you evildoers!” In Luke’s account, Jesus said to them, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
I’m reminded of the slogan of the American athletic shoe manufacturer Nike: “Just do it.” Their context is not a religious one. But it would be a great slogan for every Christian to adopt in relation to the Word of the Lord. When we see God’s instructions in the Bible, our response should not be simply to talk about it, but to “just do it!” No ifs, ands, or buts. No excuses.
Again, I cannot overemphasize that we are indeed saved by grace, through faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). But now saved, we are commanded to be obedient doers of the Lord’s commands in His Word. And that will have great consequences at the Lord’s Coming: “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (Matthew 16:27, NKJV). Saved by grace through faith? Absolutely. But the Lord will judge our works in the context of His rewards to believers (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). I sincerely desire that He will find your works and mine on that day to be “gold, silver, [and] precious stones,” rather than “wood, hay, [and] stubble” (vs. 12).
This is the famous Great Commission of Jesus to His Church for the entire Church Age. We believers are charged to go and make disciples of all nations, to baptize them, and to “teach them to obey everything I [Jesus] have commanded you.”
Sad to say, a looseness and a tolerance of carnality seem to have crept into large segments of the American church. Nonbiblical conduct is excused by many with the earlier-mentioned comments like: “Our church is not into a ‘performance’ mentality” … or “We’re not into a ‘works’ trip.” You’ll hear some believers rationalize carnal conduct by such excuses as: “I’m saved, but I’m human. God understands, it’s ‘all good’.” No! It’s NOT “all good”!
We read Jesus’ words to some professing believers at the judgment: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). And He said also: “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 who is in heaven…  Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23)
From my heart I encourage everyone who has read this far to determine that you will be a doer of God’s Word and not a hearer only. It’s easy just to talk about our faith and about the Lord. But God expects more than that. He expects us to obey His commands, to do the things that He says.
Should we talk about the things of the Lord? Absolutely. We are to sow the seed of God’s Word into the hearts of others in obedience to Christ’s Great Commission (Luke 8:11). We are also to live lives worthy of our great salvation. As we talk with others about the things of the Lord, we will be received much more willingly when people see godly character and conduct in us in addition to the words we speak to them. In closing, the message I believe God is impressing upon us today could be summarized in these words:
Talk the Talk AND Walk the Walk
©2018, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.