Broken in Acting Instead of Being

I was walking toward town beside my step-father. He seemed like a giant to me. His gait was long and I was only in first grade. As he held my hand, I felt like I was running just trying to keep up. That’s because I was running trying to keep up. At times, I would go a bit too fast and surge ahead and then slow my pace and find myself a half-step behind. I felt like a horizontal yoyo, never in sync with his strides. I then switched tactics and decided if I took really big steps it would help me keep in step. All it really achieved was embarrassment to my Dad as he now had what undoubtedly looked like a miniature, crouching Groucho Marks trying to keep pace beside him. He stopped. Next came the question, “What are you doing”? I was a child and I simply said “taking big steps”. He said, “stop it”.

To his credit, he perceived what was needed and slowed his steps. I was able to walk with him – without looking too ridiculous.

God wants us to walk with him. Immediately after the fall in Eden’s garden, it is implied that God walking with Adam was a common thing. As God approached in the garden, Adam and Eve knew that sound and in shame they hid. Their absence was unusual because God calls out “Where are you?”(Gen 3:8). Enoch also walked with God. This was obviously pleasing to the Lord (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5). His close companionship with God meant he did not taste death. In Micah 6:8, walking humbly with God is something that is required of us.

So I try. I try to walk like Jesus. I desperately try to match his gait and pace, but I can’t because he is so much more than me. At this point I want to make clear what I am not saying. I am not saying that looking and acting like Jesus is not important. They are. I am saying I can’t do it on my own or learn by simple method.

I was not tied to my step-father by a stitch of DNA, yet by my teen years people would comment on how much I looked and acted like him. I stood like him, and, yes, I walked like him. I didn’t intentionally mimic him. I looked like him because we lived life together over an extended period of time. Because of that, his traits and attributes infused themselves into my being.

At times in the past, I have found Matthew 7:21-23 troubling. Jesus declares that not everyone who says he is Lord will enter heaven’s Kingdom. The people in this passage have done some pretty incredible spiritual stuff. The problem is, they had not developed the relationship that allowed them to discern the will of God the Father in their actions. God’s intention and character were foreign to them and as a result they were branded as strangers and their works declared lawless.

Lord God, too often we try to mimic you without allowing our hearts to be transformed. May we indeed reach wide into the world, becoming the hands and feet of Jesus. However, first may our actions be saturated with your characteristics and aligned with your will as we spend time with you. Then as we walk amongst others, may it be obvious to them that you are our Father. And when all is done, may we know you and be known by you.

9 thoughts on “Broken in Acting Instead of Being

  1. Mike,

    Thanks for connecting us to a very important and challenging passage in the teaching of Jesus.

    Jesus says that it is only those who do the will of His Father who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

    Don’t you think Jesus means to define doing God’s will in terms of living the righteousness He had just described in Matthew 5:1 – 7:20, that living in a relationship with Him is, essentially, loving God as a person who seeks “His kingdom and His righteousness?”

    1. Good morning Dr. Sloat. I appreciate the question, as it allows me to expand beyond what a reasonable blog length would allow. Every individual scripture should fit within the fabric of the rest of scripture. I do think living in righteousness is important. That is what I was trying to communicate, perhaps feebly, with my caveat “I am not saying that looking and acting like Jesus is not important.” This passage follows directly on the heels of a warning from Jesus about false teachers. A primary question here is, what qualifies toward entry into the Kingdom? In this instance, knowing Jesus and being known by him is the key. Salvation is outside of ourselves and our works. After salvation, we now have the hope of walking righteously. I would even say we have the obligation, in thanksgiving and joy, to walk in such a way. My call to the non-believer is to trust in the righteousness of Jesus for salvation, not works. My call to all believers is to do good works and walk in the Lord’s ways. Do so not simply to go through the motions of obedience as a duty, but let the source be gratitude and spending time with the father. When you do, walking in his ways will be a joyful, natural outcome of such a relationship.

      1. Michael,

        Thanks for engaging in conversation.

        The issue at hand is absolutely crucial: What is salvation, or, as you say it, what qualifies toward entry into the Kingdom?

        In a teaching close to the beginning of what we call The Sermon on the Mount, which is parallel to Matthew 7:21-23 which you cite, Jesus says that “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

        Jesus echoes that thought in the Sheep and Goats teaching in Matthew 25 where He promises to exclude from the Kingdom people who don’t feed and house, etc., the “least of these.”

        In Ephesians 2, where Paul declares that it is by grace we’ve been saved through faith, he concludes that thought saying that we are God’s handiwork “created in Christ Jesus to do good works.”

        And, as we know, James famously says that “faith without works is dead.”

        I think that, sometimes, we attempt to split an atom that can’t be split.

        As I read the teachings of Jesus and His early followers and note the lives they lived, I am convinced that knowing Jesus and living a righteous life of grace, mercy and love are one and the same thing.

        You can’t claim to know Jesus and be known by Him until you produce, as John the Baptist commanded, “fruit in keeping with repentance.”

        And, incidentally, that was the spirit of the life and teaching of our Church of God in its movement days. And, for that matter, every revival movement with which I’m familiar.

        As I study the Word and the history of the people of the Kingdom, I believe that being and acting are inseparably connected. Some in the church emphasize one over the other, but Jesus connected them.


        1. Good morning Dr. Sloat. I think we are in agreement. You stated, “I believe that being and acting are inseparably connected”. Stated in that order I wholeheartedly agree. If we are the children of God, there should be action that confirms we are his. However, I do also believe it is possible to act without being (i.e. believing). That is the issue I seek to address here. It is a “cart before the horse” issue.

  2. There are usually errors on both sides of the truth, aren’t there?

    I believe we’ve seen both of these errors.

    I know I’ve seen many people who confess Jesus but seem to have little interest in being his apprentice in daily living.

    The Pharisees (and God’s people throughout much of the Old Testament) were at times on the opposite end of the problem. Doing without understanding the heart of God.

    Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 23 speaks boldly to this I believe.

    25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

    27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

    I’ve been reading some Dallas Willard recently. His perspective is that Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5-7 etc. is not a new list of rules that God wants us to follow, but a picture of what those who know Jesus will do and live out.

    Become the kind of person who does that.

    So, to Mike’s point, doing flows from being.

    But the doing tells the truth of the being.

    Or to use another statement from the master: You can tell a tree by its fruit.

    1. Dan,

      Thanks for this comment.

      When I was at Winebrenner, a point that I stressed is that much truth has components capable of being over-emphasized and taken to extreme.

      As you point out, this is certainly the case with being and doing.

      Your citation of Dallas Willard’s take on the Sermon on the Mount raises the question of how this very important teaching of Jesus is to be understood and lived by Jesus’ disciples.

      Perhaps this is a conversation we can extend.

  3. Excellent video.

    Paul says, in Galatians 5:13, “…you were called to freedom brothers, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh but, through love, slave one another.”

    And, in verse 14, “For the whole law is fulfilled in the word, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    The freedom that God’s grace gives us is intended to empower us to obey him and serve others in love.

    However, I have been involved in the CGGC for nearly 50 years. And, my experience doesn’t lead me to the same conclusion you express in the title of your post.

    In fact, sadly, I disagree.

    In my experience, we are not a people of action who care little about our relationship with Him. We, for the most part, are a people interested in being saved and, as Dan Masshardt says, getting a ticket into heaven.

    Your prayer at the end of your post confesses, “too often we to mimic you without allowing our hearts to be transformed.”

    Again, sadly, I don’t see that among our churches. I don’t see our people living a “red letter” life in the world.

    Your Hands and Feet articles, from my experience, point out rare exceptions to the rule in the CGGC.

    If I am wrong, I apologize to my brothers and sisters in the Churches of God, General Conference. But, I don’t think I am.

    1. Dr. Sloat, I think I know where our miscommunication is happening. I am using one word that has a certain meaning in my mind and it is having a different context for yours. I am basing this personal epiphany on your comment about the title of the article. I may be wrong, but I believe you see in the title “acting” as a synonym with “action”. (I also see it in this post). The sign of true belief is action – and that would certainly make the title present a troublesome divide between grace and law. However, I had a different meaning in mind when I used the word “acting”. I spent 21 years working full-time with a Christian drama ministry. In the title I was referring to those who “pretend” in a staged performance way. As I am sure you know, the root word for “acting” in this sense is the same root as “hypocrite”. That is why the prayer states, as you have quoted, “too often we to mimic you without allowing our hearts to be transformed.”

      Perhaps a better title would have been “Broken by Pretending instead of Being”. I can see where that kind of language would have helped in the body of the text as well. So, I am mildly embarrassed at the miscommunication but glad that we are indeed in the same camp of belief and understanding of practice.

      As to the state of the churches in the CGGC I cannot fully comment. I have visited few CGGC Churches and could never hope to gain the experience you have had. I do know that what you describe is a malady of the Church in general. However, Hebrews 10:24 encourages us, ” And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works”. So, I will continue to stir trusting that the one who commissioned me is able to not only keep me faithful but to make me fruitful as well.

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