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Tuesday
Dec162014

The Sin of Hypocrisy

Today we will be in Luke 12:1-12.  We apologize that the audio is not available for this sermon.

In the previous chapter, Jesus had been speaking in particular to the Pharisees and Lawyers.  Here he turns directly to his disciples in the midst of a chaotic scene that had developed around them.  His directives to them can help us to see how these religious leaders could be so blind to the Truth of what God had actually called them to do.  Well the answer to that has to do with Hypocrisy.   This is a Greek word that originally referred to the dialogue that would occur between actors.  But over time it became associated with acting itself.  This quickly was used with the negative connotation of someone who wasn’t being real, they were acting out something other than what they actually were; thus, a hypocrite.  These religious leaders had become great actors (hypocrites).  But their inner life was anything but godly and they constantly talked about being like God, but never actually doing it.  So, today, we use this word to speak of those who say one thing but do another.  Of course it has become an easy pejorative to throw around.  What I mean is this.  Just because someone sins doesn’t mean they are automatically a hypocrite.  Some refuse to try and live as the Bible tells us because they don’t want to be hypocrites.  However, this is actually hypocrisy.  With their mouth they are testifying that they want to be a “good person.”  Yet, with their actions they reject God’s direction in this area.  The truth is that they only want to follow their own ideas.  Let’s look at the passage.

Beware of Hypocrisy

Now in verse 1 it tells us that the crowd had increased greatly and that people were beginning to “trample” one another.  It is possible that people were actually getting stepped on and hurt.  However, this word was also used metaphorically to refer to rudeness, insults, and overall selfish activity at the expense of others.  There is an irony pointed out that they were trampling one another in order to get near and hear Jesus, who would be teaching them to love one another.  Did they really want the Word of God?  How can one justify trampling their brother in order to get something from God?  Of course this is the way of the world and to be expected of humans.  But it is not the way of God and should not be acceptable in the life of one who claims to love Him.  When you look at the angry, verbal attacks coming from the Lawyers and the people trampling each other to get closer, it becomes clear that there is some evil spirits at work here.  This is not as an excuse for the people, but as an extra dimension to what is stirring them up.  Jesus has spoken truth to them and they don’t like it.  Their flesh and a spiritual enemy is stirring them up so that they do not receive what Christ has to offer.  Things are getting ugly quick.  It is here that Jesus teaches his disciples to beware Hypocrisy.

He does so by using the imagery of yeast or leaven.  When you add a little bit of yeast to a lot of dough it will cause the whole loaf to become fluffy.  Now this is good if you like fluffy bread.  But it is a picture of how sin and hypocrisy work.  Whether we are talking about a group or an individual, to allow hypocrisy to continue without rooting it out will eventually affect the entire person or group.  Now the word “beware” is to watch out for something, and to keep it in front of you so as not to forget about it.  Thus we must be vigilant within ourselves and not put up with “small” amounts of sin.  This is how hypocrisy starts.  We make excuses for small amounts of sin and yet pretend as if they don’t exist or matter.

Next Jesus warns that all hidden things will be brought to light.  Now many things are brought to light in this life, however, not all things.  Still, imagine if everything you said in private or thought in secret would end up on your FaceBook page.  We can be thankful that life doesn’t work that way.  Yet, Christ warns us that we should not “bank” on secrecy and privacy.  God has an interest in making all things public because everyone of us plays the hypocrite throughout our life.  If it wasn’t for the reality of God we would all be completely consumed by it.  Yet, eventually we will all stand before God one day.  God knows all things.  Our hidden thoughts and secret counsels are completely open to Him.  He will bring forth judgment upon our life.  If we don’t want to be convicted and exposed as a hypocrite before Him then we will have to judge our own hidden things now.  What I mean by that is this.  God calls all who want to follow Him to live lives of recognizing their own sin, confessing it to Him, and asking for forgiveness.  This “pre-judging” of our own sin, if done with faith in the mercy of Jesus, will allow us to avoid the judgment of God.  Also, if I will not judge myself now, then God will judge me later.  Either way, the truth is going to come out.  This should affect the life of anyone who believes that Jesus means what he says.

Thus we should be careful what we say in secret, whether to another or to ourselves mentally.  The disciples of Jesus are called to be those who guard their tongue.  A part of ourselves that James says is “a world of iniquity….and it is set on fire by hell.”  Most people fear private speech only because of the threat of a tyrannical government.  But God challenges us to think higher.  We guard our words because God Himself has vowed to bring them all to light.  What is going on in the secret place of your heart and mind, your inner sanctum?  Jesus warns us to not play the hypocrite, but rather bring those areas under control.  This naturally leads to the problem of those who fail to heed this advice and choose the path of Hypocrisy.

Don’t Be Afraid of Hypocrites

Hypocrites are able to worm their way into many positions of authority and power.  The temptation is to let our fear of them be the only thing that affects what we say or do.  This might keep us from speaking, but it will not put out the seething inferno that is ignited in the heart of those under tyranny.  I don’t say this to promote tyranny.  Just to point out that fighting against tyrants may bring relief in the life of many, but it will never make us more like God.  In fact, many rebels who have thrown down tyrants have in turn become tyrants themselves.  Jesus moves to the issue of the fears of our heart that lead to compromise and hypocrisy.  He says point blank that they will seek to kill his disciples.  Here we already see their anger against Jesus.  Elsewhere Jesus told his disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before you.”  When we follow Christ we are called to be the opposite of a hypocrite.  Instead of acting out a pretend role we are actually living the life of one who is a warrior against their own sin.

Like Cain with Abel, the hypocrite’s beef is not with you.  Rather, it is with God.  However, since they can’t take it out on God they take it out on you.  Many hypocrites started out wanting to be like God and stay true to the principles of their heart.  But fear of the hypocrites they ran into along the way caused them to compromise and eventually they became a hypocrite themselves.  At this self-loathing point one either drops the charade or angrily defends their portrayal of righteousness.

Yet, Jesus reminds us that these hypocrites are limited.  They can only kill your body.  Now this is not to put down the horrendous things that men have done to each other.  Torture and hideous deaths are not just things of history.  They are our everyday news.  Yet, Satan uses our fear of being limited and weak as a means to bully us into playing the hypocrite.  Jesus tells us that this can only go so far.  Ultimately, they cannot control what you think and believe in your heart.  Even though they kill you, they can do nothing more.  Yet, God is greater than these hypocrites or any man for that matter.  He can not only kill you but destroy your body and soul in hell.  If it is fear that motivates you then fear the right thing.  Don’t give up in the short-term at the expense of the long run.

Now God wants us to be motivated by something better than fear.  If we are rejecting Him then we need a healthy dose of the reality that His power over our lives is greater than all the other things we fear in life.  But if we want to be His disciples then he wants us to know his love and care for us.  Thus God’s love is the prime motivation for not being a hypocrite.  If you love God then you will flee hypocrisy like Ebola.  Jesus softens the previous words about hell, by pointing to God’s desired intentions toward them.  God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.  When you are surrounded by hypocrites it always feels like God has forgotten you.  You are tempted to give in.  Yet Jesus reminds his disciples that God has not forgotten them.  Just like the Father did not forget His Son who was hanging on the cross feeling abandoned, which was proved by the resurrection and ascension.  So God hasn’t forgotten you, no matter what you are going through.  He also points out that we are valuable to God.  If he notices when even one sparrow falls, does he not notice you?  Of course He does.  You are more valuable to Him than many sparrows.  He counts the very hairs on your head; that’s how much He cares for you.  We can always know that God has not forgotten us because of the Truth that we are valuable to Him.  How do we know this?  God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  Jesus hanging on the cross is God’s ultimate picture to you of how much He loves and cares about you.  So don’t be unfaithful to Him and play the harlot with other hypocrites.  Rather endure their insults and persecutions and keep your eyes upon the character and will of God.  When the righteous are put to death, God is not forgetting them nor are they merely expendable.  Rather, they are doing exactly what Jesus himself did: testifying with their dying breath on behalf of the love of the Father.  Hypocrites live as if God cannot see them.  But believers live knowing they are always in His sight.

Speak as Christ before All Men

In verses 8-12 we have several words that deal with speaking.  Hypocrisy is generally revealed through the things we say in private versus those in public.  The word “confess” means to acknowledge, to agree with, or to speak the same as another.  The word “deny” means not to speak for or on behalf of another.  The term “blaspheme” means to speak evil against another.  Lastly the word “answer” means to speak in defense of one’s self or another.  This is why I summarize the section with the phrase “speak as Christ before all men.”  We are not only to acknowledge the Truth of Christ, but we must also agree with it and speak it exactly as he did.  We are to be Christ living through our lives.

Thus in verse 8 Jesus tells his disciples, who in their fight against hypocrisy would be struggling with these temptations, that if they will confess him before men (speak the same thing as he and be identified with what he said) that Jesus will acknowledge them before the angels in heaven.  Now in Matthew 10 Jesus says the same thing only saying that he will acknowledge them before his Father in heaven.  Thus the idea is that our confession here on earth before men will be vindicated by Jesus in heaven.  There is a timing issue here that is not specified.  In the now, it seems that heaven is silent as we suffer and are persecuted.  Yet, we are told that Jesus is interceding on our behalf before the Father.  He is speaking up for us and acknowledging us.  This ought to give us great hope to know that whatever we face, God is in control; even if it be a cross.  Yet, when we die we will stand before the Father.  He could bring out a long list of our sins and failures.  Yet, Jesus promises that He will acknowledge us and speak up on our behalf.  “He belongs to me.”  Thus judgment will be avoided by those whom Jesus acknowledges.  Yet the alternative is true.  If we refuse to speak on his behalf (whether out of being neutral or from rejecting him) he will refuse to speak on our behalf.  Thus we will face judgment without the forgiveness of Christ.

Next Jesus gives an interesting view into our sins against God Himself.  Jesus says that those who sin against him will be forgiven.  The implication is that those who ask forgiveness will receive it.  He is not saying it is okay to sin against him.  Only that it will be forgiven to those who ask it.  We can think of the Pharisee Saul/Paul here.  He fought against the Christians and the testimony of Christ and yet, when confronted by Jesus himself, Paul repented and received forgiveness.  Jesus then warns against blaspheming the Holy Spirit, i.e. speaking evil against the Holy Spirit.  This leads us to what has been called the “unpardonable sin.”  Ultimately the unpardonable sin is completely rejecting the witness of the Holy Spirit, which is pointing us to Jesus.  If you are afraid that you may have committed the unpardonable sin then it is pretty clear that you haven’t.  I say this because sensitivity to sin is a sign that the Holy Spirit is still working in your heart and you are open to Him.  I do not believe Jesus is saying that one cannot ever reject the witness of the Holy Spirit.  Otherwise, a story like Paul’s would not make sense.  When Jesus confronted Paul with his sin of rejecting the witness of the Holy Spirit, Paul repented, changed his thinking and life.  Yet, many of his generation refused to accept the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives.  They persisted to the point that they could not receive the very thing that was sent to save them.  If we die making our stand against His witness then we cannot be forgiven.  That is what many of the Pharisees did.  Yet, there was still hope for them if they would repent and believe.  The Holy Spirit would especially be working once Christ was resurrected and ascended into heaven.

Lastly, Jesus reminds them that when they are persecuted they are not supposed to worry about what they will say.  Jesus knew that those who speak with him in their life would eventually face persecution.  He comforts us with the reality that we need not worry how we will defend ourselves or even Christ.  We needn’t worry because the Holy Spirit will teach us what to say in the moment.  Though we won’t be able to see Him, God Himself will be present with the followers of Jesus and in the moment of their greatest loneliness He will fill their mouths with the words to say.  We see this evidenced in Scripture when Steven is martyred.  Can we trust God and live open unhidden lives before Him and each other?  Only by dying to self and following Jesus is it possible.  Let us fervently love one another in truth.