While I was on the subway the other day, a tall, hairy, overweight, and quite possibly homeless man happened to stroll into my car and began to ask – loudly – if someone would spare a MetroCard. A young man and woman, both about twenty years old, decided to give the man one. They probably thought this offering would serve to quiet the guy, but to their luck (or misfortune?), the action only inspired the half-crazy man to engage in conversation with them. As the seemingly loony man began to converse about his life story in his oh-so-wonderfully-loud-and-obnoxious voice, he threw his right leg up on the seat next to the couple, as though he were holding this conversation in a gym locker room, and continued to dialog.
With a dirty crotch in her face, the woman of the couple peered over the man’s knee and made eye contact with me. We gave each other a look, one that when translated probably said, “Does this guy really have his stank Reeboks hoisted on the seat?” After a few minutes the man decided to put his leg down, at which point I’m sure the couple was finally able to exhale. But it didn’t stop there. The man continued to tell ridiculous, profane, and filthy stories about breaking out of recovery programs, his fiancée (yeah, a match made in heaven there), and how he was bedding different girls at the bachelor party the day before his first wedding. At one point, he actually acted out the bachelor party story, complete with pelvic thrusts, and concluded it by saying he got caught in the act. His response? “I didn’t know I couldn’t do that!”
To make a long story short, this man needed Jesus, and so did the couple – to save them from this homeless man’s ranting.
Right after the bachelor party story, in a strange and semi-wonderful turn of events, the man said something to the effect of, “But thank God Jesus saved my soul.” I said, “Oh, Lord…what’s next?!” He then proceeded to pull out his mangled pocket size Gideon Bible and share the Gospel with the couple! Seriously! This crazy guy started to share the Gospel with the couple! But the man wasn’t just saying what most people would have heard of Jesus (you know, “Jesus died for our sins”); my man was on his Old Testament game! He was talking about biblical forefathers, the Old Covenant, circumcision, and being justified by faith. He then proceeded to show how, by God’s grace, Jesus was offered as the sinless Lamb, shedding his blood as the New Covenant, and reconciling man back to God. I couldn’t believe it. This whack job was sharing the Gospel and he was on point!
The couple finally said, “Thank you!” and exited at the next stop. The man chased after the couple, shouting out John 3:16, and screaming, “You need grace!”
As this thought struck me, shivers went down my spine. The knowledge and consumption of truth without an active response to that truth will absolutely destroy us. This crazy man was speaking the truth, he knew of the Truth, and was even sharing it, but it was evident that his head knowledge of the Truth had never transformed him.
I began to think about myself and about the many biblically-sound sermons and podcasts I listen to. I thought about the various theological studies I do, using commentaries and expositions on Scripture to understand the profound truths of the Bible. It occurred to me that – just like my friend on the train – I could be consuming solid teaching and truths about Christ’s nature, but would remain in danger of becoming a walking head of biblical knowledge without an ounce of my life reflecting the very Truth I comprehended. The Truth must be put into action.
Now, I might not be running around on subways telling vulgar stories to random people, but what’s to keep me from knowing the doctrine of justification yet living in full-blown sin? What’s to keep me from utilizing my Internet connection to hear the greatest preachers in the world and then using the same Internet connection to access all forms of pornography? What’s to keep me from digesting a John Piper book on sexual sin and then sleeping with my girlfriend? Nothing but the grace of God, as I take Him at his word, putting faith into action and depending on the Holy Spirit to give me a new nature and empowerment to do as God has commanded.
How can we read Jesus’ words, “Truly, Truly I say unto you,” and believe them to be true, yet never let those precious words take hold in our lives? Perhaps it’s because we really don’t believe Christ’s words to be true. We do not fear God. Instead, we mock God by making Him a liar and refusing to take Him at His promises. We say we love Jesus, but we don’t hate the sin He died for, all because of our unbelief.
Let us repent and turn from our unbelief, begin to take God at His word, and act upon it. Let us not swell our heads with theological knowledge and leave our souls lean. My prayer is that we would not only know of this Jesus through the reading and studying of Scripture, but also that we would experience this Jesus through actively believing what He has said and allowing the truth of the Gospel and the living God to change us.