Yesterday, the t-shirt experiment went on at our church - I didn't see anyone get really upset about seeing people walking around with the shirts on... but I also didn't see a lot of people talking to the shirt wearers either.
The title of our message yesterday was Fired Up About Hypocrites, and is part of a series of messages we're going through about the Passions of Jesus.
For starters, lets define what a hypocrite is: a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion, or a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.
Hypocrisy literally means to act a part.
Our pastor burst all our bubbles yesterday when he clearly showed us that we are all hypocrites - including himself - when we choose something other than God's plan or go against his teachings. Basically when we act like our human selves and sin.
We really dove into Matthew 23:13-32 for the scriptural readings behind the day's message.
Kevin showed us Key Thoughts that came out of his scripture:
- Hypocrites make salvation difficult. (When we don't obey God's word - or don't step out in faith.)
Matthew 23:13 (NIV) "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
Kevin asked us, "Would someone want to become a Christian because of seeing God's word in/through your life?" Ouch, honestly - sometimes... but other times, probably not. He also asked, "Would they see the difference between being a Christian and not?"
- Hypocrites use people to get what they want. (They see people as a means to an end - or a way to get something for yourself.)
Matthew 23:14 (NIV) Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Therefore you will be punished more severely.
Matthew 23:15 (NIV) Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
I found the second passage almost scary - because it is a scary thing to think about converting people to Christ, but in their quest to be better Christians than those that converted them - they can miss the message even more than their teachers.
- Hypocrites try to wriggle out of any promise they don't want to keep.
Matthew 23:16-22 (NIV) "Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.' You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.' You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.
Kevin asked us if we remember being kids and promising things - while crossing our fingers behind our backs - as if our word was voided by that simple action. It is often better to come clean about things that you can't accomplish or help with - instead of promising to do more than you can.
- Hypocrites make a big deal out of little things and give little attention to the things that matter greatly.
Matthew 23: 23-24 (NIV) Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. 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. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
Interesting here how these people in the passage take great strides to tithe from the spices that they aren't required to tithe from - in order to show their generosity, but they miss the big things... the big principles that mean more than the bit of extra money.
In addition - our memory verse for this week goes along with this principle:
Micah 6:8 (NIV) He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
- Hypocrites are concerned with the outward appearance and not worried about what is on the inside.
Matthew 23: 25-26 (NIV) 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. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
This is where he drove home the point about the shirts... you see, God can see our hearts - he can see the things that no one else can. He knows when we've struggled to get to church - even when we're not happy to be there... or when we've fought with our spouse the entire way there...
At the same time he knows when we get there the heart attitude underneath the pretenses we put on our face and in our voices when we get there. The whole "everything is great" attitude... even when things are falling apart.
Kevin asked us, "What do you do when no one is watching?" "If God were looking into your heart right now, what would your t-shirt say?" Ouch... yesterday - I know my t-shirt wouldn't have been flattering. Honestly in that moment - I felt guilt for not having focused my heart on God more... and for being so overwhelmed by all the other things I needed to get done yesterday. After all, there is nothing more important than learning a lesson God had prepared for us.
Clearly, sometimes the message is painfully clear.
- Consistent, unrepentant hypocrisy is evidence that the new birth has never taken place. (This may be an indication that your relationship with Christ is not as you thought.)
Matthew 23: 27-32 (NIV) 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 dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!
You might be thinking "Okay, I'm a hypocrite... now what?"
- Examine your faith to be sure it is real.
- As the Spirit reveals His truth and your lies, repent.
- Seek to live under the control of the Holy Spirit daily; by reading the Bible, praying and getting connected with other believers for encouragement and accountability.
I leave you with our last scripture of yesterday's message... and possibly the most powerful:
Galatians: 5:24-25 (NLT) Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
It is hard to give it all over to God and for our human nature to not step in from time to time... the key is in recognizing it when it happens, repenting, and seeking God's message in the moment... seek his teaching and follow him.