Summary: Many skeptics use Christian hypocrites as an excuse for rejecting Christ. In this sermon, we make the distinction between sinners and hypocrites. Everyone in church is a sinner, but not everyone is a hypocrite.
A. One day Robert Redford, the famous actor, was walking through a hotel lobby, when a woman recognized him and ran over to him.
1. With great excitement, she gushed, “Are you the real Robert Redford?”
2. As the doors of the elevator closed, he replied, “Only when I am alone.”
B. How hard it is to be the real me and the real you at all times.
1. How hard it is to be our best selves at all times.
C. I was fascinated by the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., whose story was told by Steven Speilberg in the movie Catch Me If You Can.
1. Before his 19th birthday, Frank Abagnale, Jr. had successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars by posing as a Pan Am airline pilot, a Georgia doctor, and a Louisiana parish prosecutor.
2. His primary crime was check fraud, and he became so skillful that the FBI later employed him to help in catching other check forgers.
3. Frank Abagnale, Jr. was a real life pretender, or another description we might use is “hypocrite.”
D. By definition a hypocrite is “an insincere person; one who pretends to be what he is not” (Webster’s New Concise Dictionary).
1. The word hypocrite comes from a Greek word that literally means “one who hides behind a mask.”
2. In the ancient theater, actors often played multiple parts and wore different masks that went with the part they were playing.
3. Spiritually speaking, we would say that a hypocrite is a person who pretends to have beliefs or practices which he or she does not actually possess.
4. In other words, a hypocrite is someone who not only does not practice what one preaches, but is a person who actually does the opposite of what one preaches.
E. So what does this subject have to do with the faith questions that we have been trying to answer?
1. Well, we find ourselves at a time in our nation when church attendance and involvement is at a very low point.
2. When surveyed as to why they don’t attend church or have dropped out of church, many have replied that they often don’t see Christ in those who claim to follow Him.
3. Their responses often go like this: “There are too many hypocrites in church” and “If Christianity is real, why doesn’t the church look more like Jesus?”
4. Now when we consider the way the popular media has portrayed Christians and Christianity in recent decades we should not be surprised at the negative attitudes that many people have.
5. At the same time, we must acknowledge that many churches and Christians have given the media a lot of ammunition to use against us – everything from child sex abuse in the church, to high profile Christians getting caught up in sex scandals and money schemes, and churches burning copies of the Koran and protesting at military funerals.
6. All of this leaves many skeptics wondering: “If Christianity is real, then why are there so many hypocrites in the church?”
F. So how do Christians, answer this question?
1. First, we begin by admitting that certainly there are some real hypocrites in the church, but the vast majority of people in the church are real, faithful Christians.
2. Let’s spend a few minutes discussing what I mean by real, faithful Christians.
I. Real Christians Are Forgiven Sinners.
A. Perhaps you have seen the bumper sticker that reads, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”
1. The Bible never claims that followers of Christ are perfect.
2. It does say that those who surrender their lives to Him and walk with Him will be perfectly forgiven.
3. See there’s a big difference between being a sinner and being a hypocrite.
4. All hypocrites are sinners, but not all sinners are hypocrites.
B. For many people in the world, there is the assumption that a Christian is someone who no longer sins.
1. But nothing could be further from the truth.
2. The Bible says just the opposite.
3. Look at some verses from 1 John: If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 Jn. 1:8-2:2)