A message presented at FEBC’s Homiletics class on 24 February 2021
Scripture Text: “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?”(Prov 20:6).
“Walk the talk” sounds nice because it’s short and it rhymes, but how many of us do it? Recently, a man by the name of Ravi Zacharias caused an uproar to Christianity, even among unbelievers. He passed away last year but when he was alive, he was a strong apologist who defended the Christian faith. He had a huge ministry named after him “to reach and challenge those who shape the ideas of a culture with the credibility of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” as stated in his website. At his passing, many people praised his life, for his testimony, integrity, and successful ministry. Meanwhile, ugly truths about his sexual misconduct which he hid in secret began to surface. He was big in the talk: he spent his life pointing others to Christ as an apologist, but he never really did the walk: he was a fraud and a manipulator. I’m sure none of us here would want to end up like that. So how can we walk our talk?
Do Not Talk Proudly
Our first point is do not talk proudly (v6a). In the first part of the verse, we read. “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness.” To proclaim is to cry out. Here, it is to advertise ourselves and proclaim our own “goodness”. The Pharisees, in the days of Jesus for example, had no shame at all and are ignorant of their self-deceiving hearts. Jesus called them hypocrites, for when they gave alms, they would do it in a way that made sure everyone around noticed what they were doing. They would stand in synagogues and in the corners of streets to pray in order to be seen of men.
We may protest that we are not like those hypocrites. We may even condemn what they did, but we come to church and we claim that we are the children of God. At church, we dress modestly, we sing the notes of the hymns right, we can answer the questions our Sunday school teachers ask, and we can talk with the church people in a very holy and godly way. We can “be a Christian” in church, but once we step out of the church premises, we slouch back into an easy-going attitude where we are not watchful with what we think, say, and do. We are so eager to prove to others how good we are, but once we’re out of their sight, we stop bothering. Isn’t it frightening how we have lost sight of who God is? That He is omniscient and omnipresent? That despite the absence of men, God sees us. In our private moments, behind closed doors, and the things that we think no one sees, God sees. That is why we must think twice before we talk about ourselves.
Furthermore, when men proclaim their own goodness, they rarely talk bad about themselves and they don’t like to talk about the good of others. We should just try listening to ourselves and calculate the percentage of the time we talk about ourselves. As human beings, we tend to show others our good side simply because we want people to think well of us. We are desperate for people to accept us. That’s why most of us are also quick to defend our names for the smallest tarnish of it makes us feel so uneasy. When you hear your classmates spread false and bad things about you, naturally, you would be angry. You might probably want to go to the source of the gossip and tell them to fix the mess they made. Even if the other party does not want to hear you out, you would probably still make an effort to say something to save your image. That’s how much we care about our name. But this is pride. It is a sin all of us are prone to commit. Sometimes we may even be unknowingly proud because it is a very subtle sin that can be hidden from sight and can come in forms of thought and feelings. Knowing this, we must be extra careful to guard our hearts from being proud.
The Bible says that all our supposed goodness “are as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6), “there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom 3:12). We try to up one another on who’s better, but have we compared ourselves to God? He is so holy, and we are so sinful. Apart from Christ, every good work we try to do will immediately be smeared with sin. If our hands are dirty with mud, no matter how clean the cloth is, it will become dirty once we touch it. We must realize that we must be stripped of all notions of goodness we have of ourselves. It’s only when we are good in God’s sight, that we are good in the truest sense.
Our second point is to walk faithfully (v6b). “But a faithful man who can find?” The “but” here, as you would have learned at school, is a conjunction that contrasts the previous thought. So if the first part of the verse says, “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness,” this second part means that the faithful man is not like most men. He does not do what “most men” do. That means faithfulness is not common. It is a very rare virtue that must be cultivated from within in order to be demonstrated outwardly. But do not lose heart! Rare doesn’t mean it’s not there. It just means it isn’t common.
So, what does it mean to be faithful? It means that a man is what he says he is. Faithfulness is to walk the talk. He is trustworthy and dependable. Faithfulness is not just based on someone’s words. If someone promises you something, you can only call him faithful after he has fulfilled that promise.
Faithfulness is not quick to promote self, but focuses on doing what needs to be done quietly and diligently. He doesn’t need to prove to others what he can be because the Person he’s trying to please is God, not man. At the same time, that doesn’t mean we totally do not care what others think of us. Don’t say, “God is my Judge; therefore, I am accountable to no man.” Instead, because we want to please God, it means we keep His commandments, which is to love Him and to love our fellow men as ourselves. To love our fellow men is to live in a way that will not cause them to stumble and sin.
This faithful man also knows that he has a living and true God who sees and hears everything, that’s why he is careful with what he says. He knows he is accountable for every action he takes. But take note that being faithful doesn’t mean being perfect. The faithful may stumble and fall into sin, but he will arise, repent, and live rightly again.
The question “a faithful man who can find?” seems like a rhetorical question that renders the answer “no”. Indeed, no man can, for he sees only the outside, but God sees the inside. Man can judge what he sees, but he cannot be 100% sure whether his judgment is correct or not. God, on the other hand, sees past the words and actions, and sees the hearts and motives. Since God is the ultimate Judge, then we need to know what His standards are in the Bible. If we measure ourselves with the Word of God, can we ever claim that we are faithful? Every day we will find ourselves failing. The things we see, hear, touch, feel, and taste – can we say they are glorifying to God?
There is a reason why it’s only “most men” who proclaim their goodness, and not “all men.” It means there are a rare few, so rare that they need to be searched, like some sort of a treasure. The reason why they are hard to be found is that they are not trying to be found. Who are these rare faithful ones? The only people who can be seen as faithful in the eyes of God are those who have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ, whose sins have been washed by His blood. They are the ones who confess that they are sinful and not good, and have placed their faith in Christ who can help them be faithful.
There was a girl who was born into a Christian family. For a long time, she thought she was a good person who could enter into heaven. In her teachers’ eyes, she presented herself as an obedient girl, willing to do whatever she was asked to do. She had a lot of friends because she did what would make them happy. It wasn’t until one night when she was told that she will not be able to go to heaven unless she receives Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. It was then that she knew the truth, and so she did. After that, she was bravely telling her classmates that she was a Christian and would openly pray before her meals. But one day, her class was to make some sort of a small doll from tissue paper so that it would not rain the next day which was sports day. According to superstitious belief, if people prayed to this doll, it would grant clear skies and good weather. This was a clear cut sin of idolatry. Suddenly, she couldn’t bring herself to reject doing it and say that she is a Christian. She was scared of being made fun of by her classmates. So she made the doll and prayed to it. This girl was me. In a moment of weakness, I failed to walk my talk, and I still struggle to. It is even my present fear that I am just talking here, but will not walk this talk that I am talking about. That’s why we can only depend on God to do this and not on ourselves.
It is important to walk our talk. It is useless to say that we are Christians when we don’t even live like Christ. It is useless to say that we have been freed from sin, but we still chase after sin. It is useless to say that we love God when we don’t keep His commandments. It will be a struggle for you and me, but we can take note of two things: (1) do not talk proudly—be not quick to talk about ourselves because that is the sin of pride, and (2) walk faithfully—know that we are living for God and His glory and not for ourselves. Above all, we are not left to ourselves. God is always there to help us as we pray to Him. May He find us faithful, walking our talk.
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