HAZARD AHEAD: HYPOCRISY
(All my sermons use illustrations found at www.sermoncentral.com and All scripture is NIV unless otherwise noted)
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons given by non-churchgoers is “church is full of hypocrites.” This is true to some extent, but there is always room for one more.
Many persons who are seen by outsiders to be "hypocrites" may be true, yet immature, Christians. Christians are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone and are being changed into His likeness; some grow quickly in their walk with the Lord, others more slowly.
However, there is another undeniable fact. There are many hypocrites in the church. People have many reasons for attending church; some are Biblical and valid, others are not. Many Pharisees in Jesus' day performed the external actions of religion without true inner devotion to God. Jesus didn't mince words with them. Seven times in Matthew 23, Jesus pronounced "woe" (a curse) on the scribes and Pharisees because they were hypocrites, leading the people astray.
Also, even though Judas Iscariot was chosen to be among the twelve original disciples, Jesus knew him to be a hypocrite. When Judas was proclaiming along with the others that he would not betray the Lord, Jesus said to him, "Yes, it is you." (Matt. 26:25) Judas had earlier complained about a woman pouring expensive perfume on Jesus' feet saying, "It could have been sold and the money given to the poor." But John 12: 6 tells us that Judas did not care about the poor for "...he [Judas] was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it."
The use of the Greek word for hypocrite refers to being a play-actor. An actor usually wore a mask and in speech and action imitated the character of someone else while on a stage to be seen by others. The English transliteration of hypocrite has the meaning of pretending to be what one is not, especially in the area of religion or morality.
Sadly, there are clergy, televangelists and people holding Christian positions, as well as people sitting in the pews each week, professing to be Christians who don't know Jesus Christ. They may have head knowledge but have never been born again. 2 Timothy 2: 19 says, "The Lord knows those who are His and everyone who confesses the Name of the Lord must turn from wickedness." Peter wrote, "Therefore, rid yourself of all... hypocrisy." (I Peter 2: 1) Jesus said the place assigned for hypocrites is in hell. (Matthew 24: 51)
Does the fact that there are counterfeit $20 bills in circulation prevent you from using those that are in your pocket? No! You trust that they are real. The fact that there are hypocrites in the church should not prevent you from receiving Christ into your life and being all you can be in Him!
Hypocrites play at religion when people can see them in church; but they live, talk and act much differently elsewhere. They watch the same movies, tell the same jokes, commit the same sins and have the same bad attitudes as others of the world when outside of their "religious" setting.
True Christians have found Christ's forgiveness through repentance of sin. They are not perfect, but they will live life with the fervent desire that the power of God's Holy Spirit will change them more and more into the image of their Lord.
This morning let us look at a passage of scripture from the Old Testament, the Book of Isaiah chapter 29:13-21
Isa 29:13-21 The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. 14 Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish." 15 Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think,"Who sees us? Who will know?" 16 You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it,"He did not make me"?Can the pot say of the potter,"He knows nothing"? 17 In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field and the fertile field seem like a forest? 18 In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. 19 Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. 20 The ruthless will vanish, the mockers will disappear, and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down-- 21 those who with a word make a man out to be guilty, who ensnare the defender in court and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.
What is it that keeps us in the realm of being Hypocrites? I think the first thing we need to understand is that our love for God, our love for others and our service for the kingdom MUST be a heart thing.
I. IT’S A HEART THING!
So many people think they can act their way into righteousness. Follow a few rules and act as if they are righteous when all the time they are not “loving” God.
The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. 14 Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.
They are thinking about how good they look, as if that will matter when judgment day rolls around. Isaiah says, they speak and act as if they love me, but their heart is no where around. AND then talks about how the worship of God is done by ONLY by rules taught by men.
Listen to these same verses in the Living Version of the Bible
Isa 29:13-14 And so the Lord says, "Since these people say they are mine but they do not obey me, and since their worship amounts to mere words learned by rote, 14 therefore I will take awesome vengeance on these hypocrites and make their wisest counselors as fools."
In other words, it is not about memorizing the things that sound good, but actually doing as God commands, and God says that he will make those that look and sound good look like total fools.
Last week, Becca and I were talking about a televangelist she was watching one night as she was pulling one of her all night work sessions. She told me that the man really had a good message, it made sense and she listened until at the end he mentioned another televangelist she knew was a nut case and then her ears really perked up and that is when it came out. “Folks, if you send money to me I can assure you of financial blessings.” Now there was another Pastor on the show as well, and he said something about giving some money to his church. The televangelist stepped in and told him, “No, you must send 1,000 to me for this anointed blessing and no one else, and then you will be blessed.” Now as they were talking, someone cut in to tell the televangelist that he had just got a donation of 5,000, and he looked at the other pastor and said, “see, I told you before, 12 people were going to donate 5,000 and they would be blessed even more.” And then to make matters worse he preached that God was holding this anointed blessing to 162 people.
These people may think they are smart to pull the money of God using His Word the wrong way, but God himself will be their judge and they will not look so smart on judgement day.
The second thing you must see about being a hypocrite is:
II. YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE
" 15 Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think,"Who sees us? Who will know?" 16 You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it,"He did not make me"?Can the pot say of the potter,"He knows nothing"?
So many people are under the idea that God does not really see all of our lives, listen to these verses again in the Living Version.
Isa 29:15-16 Woe to those who try to hide their plans from God, who try to keep him in the dark concerning what they do! "God can't see us," they say to themselves. "He doesn't know what is going on!" 16 How stupid can they be! Isn't he, the Potter, greater than you, the jars he makes? Will you say to him, "He didn't make us"? Does a machine call its inventor dumb?
So many people believe that as long as the world views them as righteous hey must be righteous. But the truth God KNOWS EVERYTHING. We are nothing without God, and only through God can all things be done. Can we be so arrogant as to think we are hiding anything from an Almighty God who sees all The scripture says here that they say “God CAN’T see us.” But in Hebrews 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
NOTHING is hidden from God!
There were two brothers who were active members of their church. The brothers were well known for their giving to the church and they were also well known as cheats, liars, woman chasing, no goods. The church was trying hard to build a new wing so they could expand and the brothers were bringing the money, so no one really ever said anything to them. A time came when a new minister came to town and he saw the need the church had to build. Well shortly after he got there, one of the brothers died, and the other brother went to the preacher. He told the preacher he would make a deal with him, “Preacher, if you will tell everyone at the funeral that my brother was a saint, then I will give you the money you need to finish the wing of the church.” The preacher thought for a minute and agreed that he would announce to the congregation that the dead brother was a saint. The living brother donated the money to the church and on the day of the funeral the preacher stayed true to his word.
He preached a fiery sermon on truth and then he said, “It is sad that here lies a man that would not of known the truth had he fell over it, he was a cheat, a liar, he chased women and he was good for nothing. However, compared to his brother he was a saint.”
We can pretend that because we may be good in some areas of life that there is no sin, but God sees all areas of our lives. You may run but you can’t hide.
Two elderly, excited Southern women were sitting together in the front pew of church listening to a fiery preacher. When this preacher condemned the sin of stealing, these two ladies cried out at the tops of their lungs, "AMEN, BROTHER!"When the preacher condemned the sin of lust, they yelled again, "PREACH IT, REVEREND!"
And when the preacher condemned the sin of lying, they jumped to their feet and screamed, "RIGHT ON, BROTHER! TELL IT LIKE IT IS... AMEN!" But when the preacher condemned the sin of gossip, the two got very quiet. One turned to the other and said, "He’s quit preaching and now he’s meddlin’."
The third thing we should see in today’s passage is:
III. SIN WILL FIND YOU OUT
20 The ruthless will vanish, the mockers will disappear, and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down-- 21 those who with a word make a man out to be guilty, who ensnare the defender in court and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.
Oh yes, we might run but when God reveals our sin, the ruthless will VANISH, and those who mock God and the truth will DISAPPEAR, and all those that think it is fun to be evil and ugly will be CUT DOWN.
So many today act as if they are great example of what Jesus would be on earth, however, the truth is we all fall so short of the glory of God. Is it not better to admit when we are wrong? To humble ourselves before an all knowing and powerful God and rejoice with Him in the fact that we need Him? That is what this scripture says, look with me to verses 17-19
17 In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field and the fertile field seem like a forest? 18 In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. 19 Once more the humble will rejoice in the LORD; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
In a very short time those that pretend will be found out, and it is the humble that will rejoice with the Lord and IN the Lord. It is those that are willing to say, God I did my best, but it is not good enough without you God. I need you, I need the truth, I need the power of your Holy Spirit to make it Father .
DON’T BE A HYPOCRITE - The truth is WE ALL FALL SHORT
Once there was an emperor in the Far East who was growing old and knew it was coming time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or one of his own children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, "It has come time for me to step down and to choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you."
The kids were shocked! But the emperor continued. "I am going to give each one of you a seed today. One seed. It is a very special seed. I want you to go home, plant the seed, water it and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring to me, and the one I choose will be the next emperor of the kingdom!"
There was one boy named Ling who was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his mother the whole story. She helped him get a pot and some planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it carefully. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.
After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept going home and checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by. Still nothing. By now others were talking about their plants but Ling didn’t have a plant, and he felt like a failure.
Six months went by, still nothing in Ling’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn’t say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow.
A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she encouraged him to go, and to take his pot, and to be honest about what happened. Ling felt sick to his stomach, but he trusted his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace.
When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by all the other youths. They were beautiful, in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other kids laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, "Hey, nice try."
When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown," said the emperor. "Today, one of you will be appointed the next emperor!"
All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. "The emperor knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!"
When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. "My name is Ling," he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him.
The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, "Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!"
Ling couldn’t believe it. Ling couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?
Then the emperor said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds which would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!"
So many people try to be what they are not. We are not capable of ridding ourselves of sin, only God can do that. We are human and we will fall, but thanks be to God for His Son Jesus Christ, who willing went to Calvary and died for our sins that we might have access to the amazing grace that only our God can provide.
Our love for God must be a heart thing, it cannot only be a surface love, it can not only be an intellectual love, it must be a love that comes from the heart. When this happens God is worshiped in Spirit and in Truth. The father wants those who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth, and that must come from the heart, not a series of traditional acts that are though out and done to make us look good in front of others.
You can run from God, you can attempt to keep your sin in the darkness hoping God won’t see it, but by His powerful Word, our sin is laid bare before Him, it is revealed by the power of an active and living Word. God will always be able to see our sin, we could run, but we can’t hide.
And eventually your sin will find you out, it will be revealed to all people, whether that is while you are alive our dead, your sin will find you out. And even if you might be able to hide your sin from other men, you might be able to trick people into thinking you are righteous, God knows, and so will you and the rest of the world on the day of judgment.
So I ask you, are you ready to give control of your life to the only one that can free you of the sin of hypocrisy, our Lord Jesus Christ?