Summary: There are right things to do, and right ways to do them. Sincerity is not a Christian virtue - obedience to God is!
Right Things In Right Ways (God’s Will)
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There is a very common attitude in the world today, that whether a person is right or wrong is not as important as whether they be "sincere". We can see this among unbelievers who think that, no matter what they believe or how they act, sincerity will ultimately save them when it comes time for them to face God. Their attitude is that God wouldn’t send a person to hell as long as he or she believes in something, and tries to live their life according to that belief. It doesn’t really matter to God what that something is, because after all, God is love. In the end, He’s going to accept anything that we do because He loves us. The important thing is that we be sincere about it.
My computer Thesaurus has a number of other words to describe the word "sincere." These words are "genuine, honest, truthful, earnest, straight, heartfelt, frank, open." I can accept most of these other words, except for the word "heartfelt." The heart of a person, that is, the human soul with its feelings and emotions, is evil and can not be trusted. The Bible tells in:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (KJV)
The word "sincere" comes from the Latin word "sincerus", meaning "whole, pure, or genuine" (7/97, "Merriam-Webster’s Word For The Wise"). Its real meaning when applied to a person is that the person be honest, genuine, truthful, pure. It isn’t supposed to describe a person who "means well", regardless of whether that person is actually right or wrong.
Sadly, the word is misused today. The problem with today’s concept of being "sincere", is that it means "heartfelt", not things like "genuine, honest, or earnest". I think that today’s concept of the word "sincere" can be summed up with the phrase, "he means well", or "his intentions are good".
Unfortunately, that attitude is also prevalent in the Church today, among many Christian believers. For instance, it doesn’t matter how you pray, witness, preach, or worship, as long as you "mean well". I once taught a Bible class on the topic of prayer, and I showed them that God doesn’t listen to a believer’s prayers if that person has unconfessed sin. This is clearly taught in Psalm 66:18,
"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:" (KJV)
After the class, a believer who I will call Bob told me that he agreed the Bible teaches what I said. However, Bob then added that he still thinks God will listen to the prayers of a believer with unconfessed sin, defending his unbiblical viewpoint with the phrase, "I think that God will look at their heart". In other words, despite what the Bible says, this Christian still believes that God will overlook a person’s failure to follow His word if that person "means well". Furthermore, God would then certainly forgive Bob for rejecting what His word teaches, because God would look at Bob’s heart and know that Bob "meant well". This view lets Bob or any other believer "off the hook" for not knowing God’s word, or for rejecting and not following the Bible when it goes against how we feel about something.
Sincerity is often regarded as some kind of a Christian virtue, although you won’t find the word or the concept in most translations of the Scriptures. The Bible teaches something very different, that God has a protocol for us to follow in doing His will. Protocol can be defined simply as doing the right thing in the right way. For example, if we were going to attend a dinner at the White House to meet the President, there would be a protocol to follow, a right way of acting and speaking. Pastor R.B. Thieme of Berachah Church in Houston, TX, often defines protocol in this simple way:
"A right thing done in a wrong way is wrong;
A wrong thing done in a right way is wrong;
Only a right thing done in a right way is right."
In today’s Church, too many believers first of all don’t even believe that the Bible alone and in its entirety is God’s infallible word. Of the remainder who do claim to base their faith solely on the Bible, many have a lazy attitude toward learning it. It is the exception when a believer seriously studies God’s word, and rests his or her faith and actions upon it.
The small pivot of believers who are true disciples or students of the Scriptures often find their greatest opposition, not from unsaved people, but from the majority of other believers in the Church. When you choose to know the Bible and live it correctly, pastors or other Christians who don’t study the Bible seriously will try to make you feel guilty for it. You’re likely to hear such smugly spoken statements as: