There are multitudes who think occasionally about Christianity, but unhappily never get beyond thinking. After a stirring sermon, or after a funeral, or under the pressure of illness, or on Sunday evening, or when things go bad in their families, or when they meet some bright example of a Christian, or when they fall in with some striking, religious book or tract, they will at the time think a good deal, and even talk a little about religion in a vague way. But they stop short, as if thinking and talking were enough to save them. They are always meaning, and intending, and purposing, and resolving, and wishing, and telling us that they “know” what is right, and “hope” to be found right in the end, but they never attain to any action.
There is no actual separation from the world and sin, no real taking up the cross and following Christ, no positive “doings” in their Christianity. Their life is spent in playing the part of the son in our Lord’s parable, to whom the father said, “‘Go and work today in the vineyard:’ and he answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go” (Matthew 21:30).
They are like those whom Ezekiel describes, who liked his preaching, but never practiced what he preached: “My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. . . .Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice” (Ezekiel 33:31- 32). In a day like this, when hearing and thinking without doing, is so common, no one can rightly wonder that I press upon men the absolute need of self-examination. Once more, then, I ask my readers to consider the question of my text, “How is it with our souls?”
Adapted from J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion