[Sept 09]--What Was Wrong With The Pharisees? Part Four

Matt. 23:25-28

\When defending the faith before skeptics and other nonbelievers, one of their favorite charges is “hypocrisy.” A lot of unchurched people, when you ask them why they aren’t attending, will trot out their favored horror story about hypocrisy. And to the degree that it’s true, it’s a serious problem. I once saw a cartoon of a conversation between a Christian and a skeptic, and the skeptic blurted out “I really HATE hypocrisy!” and the believer answered “Well, then you and Jesus have at least one thing in common.”

What do we mean by this word? As we discussed before, it was a term used for the drama stage. Due to the lack of talented actors, directors routinely used the same actor for the same parts. In order to distinguish between different characters, the actor would wear different masks during the play.

A hypocrite isn't someone who says one thing and then fails to live up to his own standards. A hypocrite is a pretender, someone who puts on a show for others. He tries to impress others with how holy he is, how righteous, how close to God. You might be able to impress people, but I assure you that he isn’t impressed.

Does this mean that the Lord doesn’t care about sin, as long as we’re open about it? Um, no. He hates sin. Our sin is what nailed his Son to a cross. But what’s the first step in Alcoholics Anonymous? “Admit you have a problem.” It’s the same in our relationship with God. As long as we pretend that everything is fine, nothing can be done.

We probably understand the image of the cup and dish, but what about the simile of a tomb? Jews took great care not to touch dead bodies unnecessarily, since it made them unclean. So they'd paint tombstones white so that people could avoid them. That was what he wanted them to understand: To the world outside they were beautiful, but to the Lord their hearts were “full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” If you've ever had to deal with a dead body, you know how much a disgusting stench it gives off after just a few days. That's how disgusting hypocrisy is before the all-seeing Judge.

I could be wrong, but I think that this is a greater danger as a Christian gets more mature in the faith. The Lord starts to remove some of the more blatant sinful habits, such as drunkenness, sexual immorality, and filthy language. But as the believer starts to improve in these areas, it’s easy for him to forget that God is just as concerned, if not even more so, with the condition of our hearts.

That’s why it’s so vital to spend time sitting at the feet of our Lord Jesus every day, asking him to point out the areas that need work. He's the ultimate heart specialist, and dealing with our problems from the inside-out is his specialty.

Lord Jesus, no more pretending. I wasn’t fooling you, anyway. Please forgive me, and cleanse me from the inside-out. Thank you for your promise to do this.

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