Pt. 3 of the Series- “What Jesus Would Undo?”
March 8, 2020
Matthew 23 (Selected verses)
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.…13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.  15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are … 23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. 25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. 27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. …33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?
Let’s say you needed to go into Rochester for something so you go down to Route 31 to the entrance over by Pittsford and you go around the ramp and you are about to merge onto 490. You have an opening and you press down on the accelerator and you merge onto the highway. But, then you look in the rear view mirror and you messed up. You misjudged the space you had to get on and you misjudged how fast the person behind you was going and they come barreling up behind you, like they are close enough that you can see the whites of their eyes, and what do they do? They pull up as close as they can and they lay on the horn. I mean, they lay on the horn. They give it to you good. They decide to go around you and as they do, you sheepishly look over like, “I’m sorry. I messed up.” Instead, of the sign for, “That’s okay, pal, we all mess up,” no, they give you the international sign pointing directly to heaven. You know what I am talking about and it has nothing to do with heaven. Now, they have gone and done it. Now, they got you mad. Being the righteous person that you are, you speed up to them and give them some added direction on the way to heaven, if you get my drift. You feel like you got back at them good. However, as they go by, you look at their bumper and they have a bumper sticker on the car. It is not just any old bumper sticker. It is a Risen Christ bumper sticker. So, here is this guy with his Risen Christ bumper sticker. He displays it proudly. He wants people to know he is a righteous, church going Christian. Yet, somehow, his actions don’t match up to his bumper sticker. His actions don’t match up to his inner life. And, if you would be honest, neither do yours.
We are in the midst of a series called, “What Jesus Would Undo.” So far on Ash Wednesday and last Sunday, Deacon Al covered Indifference and Hollow Worship. What Jesus would undo is indifference, apathy, and hollow worship, not having your heart in worship. Jesus would undo those things. Today, we are going to talk about hypocrisy, that another thing Jesus would undo is hypocrisy. So, to help you deal with any hypocrisy you may have regarding your driving habits, I am going to give you a Risen Christ bumper sticker. Display it proudly and make sure how you drive and what hand gestures you give aligns with your membership in God’s kingdom and His church.
- Hypocrisy- What is it? Who is One? What are its Effects?
- The what of hypocrisy
Hypocrisy is when you say one thing and do another. Hypocrisy is when there is a gap between what you show and who you are. Hypocrisy is when what you say is different from how you live. It is when your public persona doesn’t match up with your private character. Hypocrisy is when who you are in the dark is different from who you are in public. It is not practicing what you preach. Hypocrisy is when a parent holds a beer or a cigarette all the while admonishing a child not to drink or smoke. Hypocrisy is when who you are on the inside does not align with who you are on the outside. One day, Robert Redford, the famous actor, was walking through the lobby of a hotel when a woman recognized him and ran over. She gushingly said, “Are you the real Robert Redford, to which he replied, “Only when I am alone.” Hypocrisy is being someone we aren’t.
The original term for hypocrite means one who is wearing a mask. In ancient Greece, actors didn’t have to act out various emotions. They just wore a different mask. So if their character was to be angry, they would put on an angry mask and if they were supposed to be happy, they would put on a happy mask. The term came to mean anyone who showed one thing on the outside, but on the inside, they were very different. So let me ask you, do you know of any hypocrites? Raise your hand if you know a hypocrite. Are you sitting next to one? Don’t raise your hand on that one because we don’t need anyone pointing out to you the way to heaven.
- Who are hypocrites?
Listen now, Jesus never spoke more harshly than to hypocrites. Jesus has zero tolerance for hypocrites. In our Scripture for today, Jesus lays it on the Pharisees. I mean, He really lays it on them. Jesus described what a hypocrite is and gave the Pharisees as examples. Did you hear what He said? He said that the Pharisees love to sit in Moses’ seat, and tell the people what to do. But, Jesus said, “do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” He said that these religious leaders did everything for people to see, wearing large phylacteries and tassels so everyone could see. They loved to be seated in places of honor. They loved to be greeted by the people in the marketplace. Then, Jesus launched into a series of “Woe” statements, “Woe” meaning you are condemned. Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” Jesus came right out and called them hypocrites. He said that they shut the door to the kingdom on people because they conjure up all of these extra laws that they expected the people to follow but the Pharisees didn’t follow those same laws themselves. “You hypocrites!” Jesus said that they were scrupulous about giving a tithe, even giving a 10th of their spices, but inside they neglect justice, mercy and faithfulness. “You hypocrites!” He said they are like whitewashed tombs. On the outside they are sparkling clean but on the inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. “You hypocrites!” Listen to how Jesus closed out his condemnation; “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell” These Pharisees were guilty of hypocrisy. They wanted to be looked up to by the common people, but on the inside, these Pharisees were dead. They were not the same on the inside as they were on the outside. They were hypocrites and because they were the religious leaders, their hypocrisy made it hard for everyday people to believe.
- The Effects of hypocrisy
- Hypocrisy makes it hard for people to believe
Think of how devastating it would have been if the common people knew what these Pharisees were really like on the inside. Think of how it would have been if they saw the Pharisees do all of these holier-than-thou religious things, but then to discover that what they did was just for show, that inside they didn’t have any mercy, that inside they didn’t care. How devastating it would have been if the common people discovered that these men who were to be examples of piety, that these men did not have much, if any, faith at all.
Maybe you have heard this. Maybe some of your friends have said that the reason they don’t go to church is that the church is filled with hypocrites. Have you heard that? People don’t come to church because it is filled with hypocrites. There is reason for this when some studies have shown that Christian’s lives are no different than non-believer’s lives. Christians lose their tempers at about the same rate as non-Christians. Some studies have found that divorce rates are even lower among atheists than for Christians. When non-Christians watch as Christians don’t seem to practice what they preach, there is some reason for the thinking that the church is full of hypocrites. Author Brennan Manning wrote: The single greatest cause of atheism on the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Hypocrisy makes it hard for people to believe
- Maybe you have been affected by hypocrisy.
Maybe you hear the reports of the Catholic priests abusing young boys. And, let’s not just beat up on Catholic priests when there are other ministers also guilty of sexual misconduct. How difficult it is for those victims. How difficult it is for folks looking at this and thinking, how can you rely on these people when what they are on the outside is not what they are on the inside. Or, maybe it becomes more personal for you. Maybe you had an authority figure, your mom or dad or an aunt or uncle, who were seen as pious people but at home they were anything but. Maybe you have been touched by hypocrisy. Now, I am going to drill down on this even farther.
- Hypocrisy is more widespread than we might think
- From a Biblical perspective
There are characters from the Bible that were hypocritical in some ways. Abraham was certainly a man of God, yet he tried to pawn off his wife as his sister in order to save his own hide. David was a man after God’s own heart, but he had a secret life and acted that out with Bathsheba. The people got wind of that sexual escapade and they made fun of David. Peter was a bit of a hypocrite. In the book of Acts, he, a good Jewish boy, would eat with Gentiles, meaning that he would not keep kosher. However, when the Jews came, he would have nothing to do with the Gentiles and would follow kosher to the “T”.
Pastor Craig Groeschel says that at seminary, one of his professors spoke about what some have called, the Pastor’s Mystique. The Pastor’s Mystique said that you have to be a little above everyone else, that you had to dress the part, look the look, and have the Pastor’s language and you never let the people know when, for instance, you have a bad day, or that you have doubts or that you have trouble in your marriage. In other words, the Pastor’s Mystique says that you are going to be one thing on the outside, but something else on the inside. Hypocrisy! Now, here’s
- Where the rubber meets the road
Here is my contention; there’s a bit of a hypocrite in all of us. There are parts of us that are not the same on the inside as we are on the outside. There’s a dissonance in all of our lives between what we know is right and the way we are currently living. Hypocrites wear a mask. Maybe you should have a mask, too, but this is a low budget operation and we couldn’t afford it. I will wear the mask for you, as your representative. Maybe you are far from perfect but you act as if you are. Maybe you say that you have a perfect marriage, that you and your spouse are all lovey dovey, but at home, things are so bad that you are not even sleeping together. Maybe you read your Bible on your phone but look at porn on it later. Maybe you tell your spouse that you love them but you flirt at work. Maybe how you are at church, all holy and all, is very different from how you are at work. Maybe you act like a Christian but you have a secret addiction. Maybe you say you are not a material person, but you have overwhelming debt. You may not be the type of hypocrite that makes the evening news, but, speaking for myself, there is a bit of hypocrisy in all of us. Let me remind you again, Jesus had the strongest words for hypocrites. He has zero tolerance for hypocrisy. Jesus has zero tolerance for your hypocrisy! (Take mask off). However, there is a second part to that statement. Jesus has zero tolerance for hypocrites but—listen now—he has unlimited grace for a sinner in need of forgiveness. Jesus has unlimited grace for a sinner in need of forgiveness. You see
- There is Hope for the Hypocrite
Let’s go back to Jesus’ words to the hypocrite Pharisees;
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Matthew 23: 25-26
Did you get that? “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” There is hope for the hypocrite and it is found in Jesus’ words. Clean the inside and then the outside will be clean. Pay attention to what is going on in the inside of your life and then the outside will follow along. Now, in the 45 minutes I have left, I want to give you a four step process to give you hope for the hypocrite.
Step 1- Admit you are a hypocrite
The natural inclination of a hypocrite is to hide. That’s what a hypocrite does. A hypocrite hides what they are on the inside. They don’t want others to see what they are inside. They wear the mask. The Pharisees Jesus addressed did all they could to be seen by other people in a very different way from what they were on the inside. They were hiding. That’s what hypocrites will do. They will go to great steps to keep that mask on, to keep up the defenses. The first step in gaining hope for the hypocrite is to admit you are a hypocrite.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8
What this entails is to admit you do have secrets, to admit, who you are on the inside is a far cry from what you do. It is a far cry from the way you live your life. This is the step where you come to grips with the fact that there’s something fishy in Denmark. It is the step that admits you have a problem. It is the first step of AA. It is the step that says, Houston, we have a problem. This is a huge step. The psychologists call it defense mechanisms that we use to protect our egos. Those same defense mechanisms can protect the hypocrite from coming to grips with their hypocrisy. Someone tried to very unscientifically quantify this first step. They said that admitting you have a problem is 80% of the cure. Just getting to the point where you admit you are a hypocrite is huge. Notice how John puts it, that if we think we aren’t sinners, if we think we aren’t hypocrites, we deceive ourselves. We deceive ourselves! Now, you don’t necessarily have to admit that to other people. There is some good to be had for admitting that to others. It may help you come to grips with your hypocrisy. But, the One to admit this to is God. Admit to God that you are a hypocrite. So, Step 1 is to admit you are a hypocrite. That leads to
Step 2- Confess your hypocrisy to God
John goes on;
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins…” 1 John 1:9
We could paraphrase, “If we confess our hypocrisy…” In our early service, whenever we have communion, we begin the service with what is called a General Confession of Sin. Everybody joins together and says, “Yep, Lord. I am a sinner.” That is all well and good but it presupposes that you’ve done some homework. It presupposes that you have looked over your life and found where you have sinned in very real terms. Some people use the 10 commandments and compare how they live with the 10 Commandments. Others use the Sermon on the Mount.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24
Specificity in confessing your hypocrisy is critical. Get brutally honest. List out the ways you are a hypocrite. Write them out on paper. At least enumerate them in prayer. Figure out how who you are on the inside is not aligned with the way you are on the outside. I would go so far as to say that the more you recognize, identify and come to grips with the specific ways you are a hypocrite, the more hope you will have to get beyond your hypocrisy. I want to be seen as a faith filled person, but inside, I have my doubts. List that. I come across as self-assured, even arrogant, but on the inside I have low self-esteem and I am constantly questioning myself. List that, too. I tell people that I am more than comfortable about death, but inside I have some fears. List those ways in no uncertain terms. Confess your hypocrisy.
Step 3- Let the blood of Jesus cover your hypocrisy
“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…” 1 John 1:8-9
Once you have listed the ways you are a hypocrite, then realize that Jesus forgives that hypocrisy. That is what the cross is all about. Paul had an interesting way of saying this;
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” 1 Timothy 1:15
Paul admitted he was a sinner. He admitted his hypocrisy. But, Paul also knew that Jesus came to save sinners, to save hypocrites, just like him. Jesus came to save hypocrites just like you and me. How would it change you to know that those doubts that you have, admit that sin, confess it and then know that Jesus has forgiven that. The way you talk about grace to a fellow employee but then you pick people apart, you pick them to shreds, admit that sin, confess it and then know that Jesus has forgiven that. The way that you say that you don’t love all of the stuff of this world and yet you feel safe with more and more money in the bank, admit that sin, confess it and then know that Jesus has forgiven that. Admitting you are a hypocrite, confessing that to a holy God, and then allowing Jesus’ blood to cover your hypocrisy will bring you great hope. Just think of the change in you when you can move beyond that constant guilt of your hypocrisy, to know that Jesus forgives that guilt, He forgives that hypocrisy, what impact that will have on your spirit. That is His promise. You don’t close the gaps between your inside and outside with perfection. You close those gaps with Jesus. God “is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins…” What hope!
Step 4- Use Jesus’ forgiveness to align the inside with the outside
“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.” 1 John 1:8-9
You want to be seen as so self-confident but inside I have such low self-esteem. See that as a sin because you have taken your eyes off of the main thing, the cross of Jesus Christ where Jesus says that you are so valuable that I would dare to die for you. The more you concentrate on Jesus, the more you concentrate on the cross, His love, His grace, the more you will experience hoe valuable you are to Him and the misalignment will stop. You will not have to overcompensate by coming off so self-confident because you have found your confidence in Him. Your inner self and outer self will be more fully aligned. You come across as having your act together spiritually, that you don’t have any doubts about your faith, but inside, you do have doubts. Knowing that Jesus forgives you for those doubts, knowing that His Word is sure, that you can come back to that again and again, that will allow you to know God’s love is for even the worst doubters, Thomas included, and your inner self and outer self will be more fully aligned. You like to be seen as successful and up and coming. You see the things you have bought as indicators of that. You have to have the right clothes and the right car. But, inside, you have amassed considerable debt and you are drowning. Knowing that you have confronted that, receiving Jesus’ forgiveness, will allow you to address the debt, seek a Christian financial counselor and work at aligning your inside with your outside.
In short, applying these 4 steps forces you back to the cross where you can receive God’s love anew each day. It allows you to take off your mask, to get your inside aligned with your outside. It will allow you to work at getting rid of that one thing that Jesus would undo. He would undo hypocrisy.
In Jesus’ name.