ONCE I ASKED A Christian acquaintance about the spiritual condition of a professing Christian that we both knew. She responded scornfully, “Christian is as Christian does.” In other words, “I can’t measure him by his profession. The quality and authenticity of his Christianity is a function of what he does, not what he says.”

It was a profound response, and one that has stuck with me. Although this woman was not a theologian, she was on to something. She understood that true faith is a “conviction” (Heb 11:1), and that “conviction” always drives behavior. Because this is true, you cannot separate what a person really believes from what they do. If a friend calls to tell me that a tornado is heading for my house, and I believe him, I will run for the basement.

This was Jesus point in Matthew 7:15-20. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Where are we professing faith that is not producing change? Could it be that our real problem is that we don’t really believe? We believe abstractly, in our heads, but there is little or no “conviction.”