1 John 2:4-6 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar… whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
My biggest failure in life has not been any one particular dark deed. My biggest failure in life was knowing God, claiming to follow him and then behaving in a completely contrary manner. I have been a hypocrite. I have proclaimed faith in God and yet my actions betrayed my focus on self. If I am honest, I can see that I still harbor hypocrisy in my life today. I still have areas of my life in which I follow self instead of God.
Oh don’t be so hard on yourself, Scott. Show yourself some grace. This is the kind of thinking that tolerates destructive behavior. It destroys relationships, marriages, careers and faith. This is exactly the kind of thinking that got me into treatment. I have misused grace to justify a life that was inconsistent with that which I claimed to believe.
John insists that my walk needs to match my talk. If I claim to know Christ but do not follow him, I am a liar. I am a hypocrite. I have misunderstood faith to mean just that which I know in my mind. When faith is just a thought, it does not have to impact behavior. I have known the truth that I was saved and forgiven. I have used that forgiveness as justification to follow self. Forgiveness means that I can do whatever I want now. John says that this is not faith. It is dishonesty. It is hypocrisy and with it I deceive myself.
There is of course a danger in clinging to deeds to prove my faith. I have been guilty of this as well. I have pointed to the things I do or do not do as proof that I really am a good Christian. I think this is a trap for many of us who harbor secret sins that no one sees. I don’t drink, smoke or chase women so I am a good Christian. Faith becomes defined by that which I do not do instead of by following Christ. Meanwhile, I can be tremendously prideful, condescending, hateful, and judgmental. Thank God I’m not like these other sinners… This too is focus on self instead of Christ.
John says it is hypocrisy to claim to follow Christ while following self. I need to look at my own life and see if my actions are actually in line with Jesus commands. Do I love God above all else or do I cling something above God? Do I love my neighbor as myself or do I love me above all else? Do I feed the hungry, minister to the needy, and visit those in prison, or do I just live to entertain me? John’s words are painful as they expose the lie that faith is just an act of the mind. Faith is following Christ. If I say that I have faith but do not follow him, I am a hypocrite.