The parable that Jesus tells in Matthew, chapter 21, gives us the opportunity to thing about the times when we say one thing and do something else:
[Jesus said] “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’  And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went.  And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.  Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. (Matthew 21:28-31, ESV)
The first son said he would not go and work in the father’s vineyard but later he changed his mind and went. He represents all those who refuse to serve God initially but then change their minds and begin to serve God. There was a large group of such individuals in Jesus’ day. They were living lives of sin but when John the Baptist came along they repented and did what God asked them to do. They began serving God in his vineyard by believing him him.
And to show how powerful the Gospel is, the people in this group have lived lives very far from God’s ways. They included prostitutes and greedy tax collectors. But through the preaching of the Gospel these committed sinners turned to God in repentance and faith.
The second son said he would go and work in his father’s vineyard but didn’t go. This son represents God’s chosen people, the people of Israel. Over the centuries on numerous occasions they had agreed to trust in and serve God. But time and again they had changed their minds and went to serving themselves or other gods.
In Jesus’ day it was the Jewish leaders who were especially guilty of this sin. While many ordinary people had repented and turn to God at the preaching of John the Baptist, none of the Jewish leaders followed either John the Baptist or Christ.
In both cases what the people did contradicted what they said. In one case it was good. In the other case it was bad.
As I said, this parable gives us the opportunity to think about if our actions are in line with what we say.
We say we believe in God and are willing to serve him but do our actions give us away? Do we say one thing and do another? We all do this to some extent. The name we use for such people is hypocrites.
If God would act this way, to say one thing and do another, it would be disastrous. But when God says something it can be trusted completely. And this works in both a positive sense and a negative sense.
The negative sense is summed up the words of God through the prophet Ezekiel: “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God, so turn and live.” (Ezekiel 18:32, ESV)
God has no pleasure in the death of anyone, but if he is going to keep his word, the wicked must die. If death is not the consequence for sin then we could never trust anything in God’s Word because God’s word says that the wages of sin is death.
Even though, as God says, he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, to be faithful to his word the wicked must perish.
He told Adam and Eve that if they ate of the forbidden fruit they would die. He had to keep his word so they died. That is God keeping his word in the negative sense.
In the positive sense it means that we can trust God when he says that, for the sake of Christ, all our sins are forgiven. We are forgiven for the many, many times when we have said one thing and done something else.
Both the positive sense and the negative sense have to be present for us to completely trust God’s Word. When God says the wicked will die, he must keep his word. When God says we are forgiven for the sake of Christ he must keep his word.
Chapter 18 of Ezekiel also has this passage:
“When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die.  Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life.  Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die.” (Ezekiel 18:26-28, ESV)
You may have heard some people say things like, “I don’t believe a loving God would send anyone to hell.” According to some polls this is an alarmingly common belief even among Christians.
It’s probably not a good idea to argue with people who feel this way. A better approach would be to ask, “Well, do you believe that God has forgiven all you sins for Jesus’ sake?” Most Christians would respond, “Absolutely!”
Then they are stuck. Because you can’t believe one thing that God says without believe all the things that God says. If you trust his word that, for the sake of Christ, your sins are forgiven, then you must trust his word when it talks about the fate of the wicked.
In fact, when I look at my many, many sins, and realize that God graciously forgives all of them for Jesus’ sake, it’s something that is almost has hard to believe as the fact that a loving God would send people to hell.
We can always trust God’s word. Those who do not repent will not be saved. They will perish. God’s word must be kept. It follows then that we can completely trust God’s Word when it says that, for the sake of Christ, we poor sinners are forgiven.
We serve a God who always keeps his word. Now let’s go and live lives where we are consistent with what we say. If we say that God’s word can be trusted in everything it says, and then turn around and are not trustworthy in the things that we say and do, people will not believe us when we say God can be trusted.