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Friday, November 04, 2005


1. The feigning of beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; insincerity.
2. Pretense of goodness.

Hupokrisis (Greek):
Playing a part on the stage.

How many times have you heard, “The church is full of hypocrites!” Partially we deserve this sort of put down because there are some people in our churches who seem to think that God takes attendance and accounts it to them as righteousness. Maybe they are a full-fledged sinner all week and then on Sunday put on their Christian face and use their Christian language and think that they have done their duty. Some might think that as long as they fulfill the traditions, sacraments, or rituals of their denomination they have likewise fulfilled their obligations to God.

This is a dangerous aspect of religion. Some think that they have no need to attend services and gather with other believers. This is convenient because having no other Christians around they can place themselves at the top of sainthood having no one but the late night news to compare themselves to, they can look in the mirror and say, “Not too shabby.”
Yet, the Bible states,
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

God wants relation not religion. Religion without a relationship with God is very empty and meaningless in its rituals. Often these rituals are accepted as tradition yet, not understood nor questioned by the participant.
Relation is putting God first in all things. It is to know that a life lived for God is more important than outward appearances or ritual.
“…Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1st Samuel 15:22).

However, doesn’t a relationship to God naturally turn into a religion? Generally, or naturally, it often does. But it should be one that follows the precepts as laid down by God and not merely the traditions of men. This then would still be relation and not religion, although the word religion is very generalized and used generically.
“This people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me, and their reverence for me has become routine observances of the precepts of men” (Isaiah 29:13).

Having considered all of the above, note that the statement “The church is full of hypocrites” is usually used as an excuse to not live for God and to not go to church. It is another log that an unbeliever, or a lukewarm believer, can toss into the fire of their rebellion. We are to be salt and light to the lost and not bad examples. Our lives should not be able to be used as an excuse for the unbelievers to stay the way they are. Rather, we are to bring them to the shepherd that they may be fed like lambs. God loves us just the way we are, but He loves us way too much to let us stay that way.
“As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, for it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1st Peter 1:14-16).

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). This commandment is not necessarily speaking of cussing, it is speaking of calling ourselves by God’s name i.e. Jewish or Christian and continuing to live our lives according to our own wills. When we claim to be holy, godly people but we live as sinners we damage the holy name of God. When King David slept with another man’s wife, and then had her husband killed so that he could be with her, Nathan the prophet told him, “by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme” (2nd Samuel 12:14).

A hypocrite is usually viewed as a person who says one thing and does another. Is the church full of hypocrites? There are two parts to the answer.

First, we’ll make an odd admission, which is that we cannot help but be hypocrites. In choosing to live our lives for God we have agreed to take on a task that is impossible for any human being to fulfill. God’s standard is one hundred percent perfection one hundred percent of the time and we realize that no one can live up to those standards.

No one that is, but the Messiah Jesus who alone lived up to perfection, which is why we rely fully upon Him. While most of us would have no problem with keeping to the commandment that prohibits murder, fewer people keep from committing adultery, yet fewer can keep themselves from lying, fewer still can keep from coveting things in general. It appears that we all fall short at some point.

Consider the following statements made by Jesus,
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22).

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).

“If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also” (Matthew 5:40).

“But I say to you that for every idle word men speak, they will give an account of it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36).

And what about gluttony or sloth? So you see it is literally impossible for us to keep from hypocrisy.

Now to the second aspect, which is that we are not at all hypocrites because no Christian preaches that they are perfect and sinless (admittedly there is a fringe Christian groups do claim sinless perfection but their semantic technicality is to say that they do not sin but they do make mistakes!?!).

In fact, true and honest Christians will be the first to call themselves sinners. Sinners who found themselves to be so repulsive, so weak, so lost that they literally gave up their life. We put ourselves to death to be born again by the work of the only one that could save us from this body of death. The only one who lived the perfect life in our place and once and for all pleased God and quenched His righteous anger due to the sins of the ages. Jesus the Messiah the unblemished sacrificial Lamb of God took away the sins of the world. It has been written of Jesus,
“Here was the greatest soul of the sons of men; a man of genius of religion; one before whom the majestic mind of Grecian sages and of Hebrew seers must veil its face. What man, what sect, what church has mastered His noblest thought!”[1]

A hypocrite then is not one who preaches perfection if along with that preaching comes an admission that the task is impossible to complete. We realize that while we are in this fallen world, in these perishing bodies, surrounded by wolves, in a universe of entropy, we will still be tempted every day and will not be perfect. Yet, the Lamb of God paid the price for sin and took away our slavery to it. We have chosen to follow God and to accept His word because therein we find the highest possible moral standard.
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1st Corinthians 19:13).

For those of us who have given our lives over to Jesus life is not a bowl of cherries, in fact in some ways it is harder than ever. Before salvation we did whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, however we wanted and we were not really spiritually attacked because the devil had us on his side right where he wanted us.

Now we are tempted in every area of life, we are more sensitive to every sin. We are cautious of what we say, what we think, what we feel and how we act and react. We close our minds as much as possible to all filth, lies, evil and sin yet; we open our minds to all love, truth and righteousness. Now we go against everything that the world considers right, true and fun. We go against our own sin nature that urges us to give in to sin all the time.
“For you, brethren have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

Yet, this is no loss to us who have an eternal perspective; we know that the worse suffering the world has to offer is only for a little while compared to eternity.
Paul wrote,
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7-8).

We know that God approves the suffering we endure so that we may learn something from it. Job had lost all he had in the world; all his riches, all his animals and all his children had been killed, and his body was covered with soars, all in one day. Then his own dear wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).

Job responds, “You speak as a foolish woman speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10). Job later says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). Job’s story is an illustration of the honesty of the Bible and the reality of walking according to God’s will. Having stated all that he did does not mean that he did not mourn, grieve and get angry. But he had eternal perspective and does not end up giving up on God.

If Christianity is to be discredited for being hypocritical because some Christians are hypocrites then all religions are to be discredited because some adherents of all the religions are hypocrites. Parenthood is to be discredited because some parents are hypocrites. Schools are to be discredited because some teachers are hypocrites.

Sports are to be discredited because some athletes are hypocrites. All the races are to be discredited because some people of each race are hypocrites. Both genders are to be discredited because people of both genders are hypocrites.
The world is full of hypocrites, so why should it be surprising if there are hypocrites in the church. Why pick on us? It is a compliment of sorts to say that the church is full of hypocrites because it shows that even non-Christians expect more from us.
They know we preach a high standard and therefore, it is only right that we are called to live up to those standards. As my own dear wife often says, “If I know that someone is a Christian, I expect more from them.” Christians should expect our own brothers and sisters to not only preach the gospel but to live it, to demonstrate it by example.

If you really think that the church is full of hypocrites then take up the challenge. Accept the salvation that God offers as a free gift through Jesus and I guarantee that you will only go but a few minutes before discovering that now you too are a hypocrite. One who is absolutely, unquestionably, unable, no matter how hard you try to live up to perfection. This is in no way an excuse to not even try or to cheapen God’s grace by sinning because God will forgive.

Sounds pretty discouraging doesn’t it? Why bother then if we strive for the impossible? Because
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Because faced with impossibility we turn to the Lord God Almighty who saves us from a life of sin. “Who then can be saved?…With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:25-26).

“For we do not have a high priest who
cannot sympathize with our weakness, but
was in all points tempted as we are, yet,
without sin. Let us therefore come boldly
to the throne of grace, that we may obtain
mercy and find grace to help in time of need”
Hebrews 4:15-16

[1] Theodore Parker, Discourses of Matters Pertaining to Religion

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