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Yeah, it’s true…I am a hypocrite.
You want to try it? Really, you should give it a shot. Ok, say this with me, “I am a hyp…”. Wait, not yet. Let’s make sure you should say it. I suppose it’s possible (though not likely) that there may be someone to whom that label doesn’t apply.
Let’s find out:
1. Are you perfect?
2. Have you ever been perfect?
3. Do you ever plan to be perfect this side of the grave?
4. Have you ever acted like you are perfect?
Alright, let’s evaluate a little bit because, frankly, I think it would be pretty easy to come up with a big negatory on all four of those. That is, unless we explore question number 4 a little bit closer.
So, you’ve never acted like you’re actually perfect…I mean literally perfect…but have you ever acted like you have it all together? What I mean by that is, you don’t have any really serious sins in your life; you’ve managed it all pretty well so that if anyone looked at you, they would say, “Hey, he’s got it all together” (or something like that).
Let’s look at it another way: Would people be shocked if they knew how you really were on the inside? Would they be disappointed if they saw the ugliness that you know is there, but can’t bear for anyone else to see it? Would you be embarrassed or downright humiliated if you let them know the real struggles you deal with regularly? You talk the talk, but the walk doesn’t look quite so polished and pretty. Do you feel the pressure to hold it together so that you don’t disappoint or discourage someone who may be looking at you as an example?
Congratulations…you’re a hypocrite.
Ok, so back to where we started. Altogether now: “I am a hypocrite.” No, really, because I know you did not say it out loud. Once again and for real this time…with feeling: “I…” You can do it… “I am a hypocrite.”
There, now. Feels better, doesn’t it? Owning it is the first step in killing it, and kill it, we must.
Hypocrisy is one of the greatest enemies of the Church. Think about it: What is the number one reason unchurched people give for being unchurched people? Right! “That place is full of hypocrites.”
You know what? They’re right.
Before you go and jump to conclusions about what we hypocrites look like, let’s unpack it a bit, shall we?
If you’re like me, the first thing you think of is this: “I need to bring my actions in line with my words.” In other words, “I need to try harder to actually LIVE the life I SAY I live.”
Uh, yeah, thanks for playing, but WRONG!
If that’s your game you will simply solidify yourself as a life-long, devout, professional hypocrite. Look, did the Old Testament teach us nothing? The WHOLE THING was written to unveil God’s plan of redemption and I assure you, it had nothing to do with your goodness or Super Christian…..ness. Whatever.
What it DID have to do with was God giving us His Law and saying, “Keep it.” The problem? Nobody could do it. Ah-hah! Now, we’re on to something! Nobody could…that’s the point. What happens when you are told that the ONLY way to have relationship with God is to keep the Law fully only to realize it can’t be done? (check out Galatians 3:10 – For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”)
What happened in the OT was that people finally began to realize their inability to please God through the Law. What does that lead to? Yep, hopelessness. What’s the point in even trying, right?
See, what happened at that point was God stepped in with some really great news. Catch this:
Jeremiah 31:31-34 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
You got that, right? God steps in and says, “Hey, you know that covenant I established that you didn’t keep? I’m replacing it. See, the reality is that you couldn’t keep it because you are fallen humanity. You had to experience the hopelessness of trying in order to learn that you couldn’t do it. Now that you realize that you can’t earn your own salvation, I’m stepping in to do the job myself…because I’m the only One who can.” (That’s from the New Modern, Uninspired Davidic Paraphrased Edition).
Then you get word through the prophets that a Messiah (or Deliverer) is coming and it just sweetens the pot! So, you get that kind of news, what do you do? Uh-huh…you start looking for that Deliverer!
Then He comes! That’s where the New Testament picks up.
Alright, all of that and where does it leave us? Back to that passage in Galatians 3:10, but now we go a little bit further. Let’s run by verse 10 again and then go from there:
Galatians 3:10-14 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
So what Paul did there was establish that anyone who tried to be justified under the Law is cursed because they can’t do it though commanded to in order to earn eternal life. Then he points to Jesus who did fulfill the Law! Perfectly. Every proverbial jot and tittle. Then, having fulfilled the Law through His life, He satisfied the wrath of God towards sin in us through His death (taking our place) and then secured our eternal resurrection through His own from the dead. That, then, is the free gift of salvation given in Romans 6:23. That’s incredibly cool! Seriously…think about that…cool!
Now, back to the hypocrite issue.
Life under the Law declares you must be perfect, but get this: CHRISTIANITY DOESN’T!!!
It is precisely THAT you are a filthy sinner that you NEED a Savior. If that is the case, why do we act as though we don’t! (The exclamation marks are evidence I’m getting fired up, huh?)
So, seriously. When we ACT as though we have it all together, failing to be honest before the world about our sin and short-coming, we are actually communicating that, though we may have needed the Gospel INITIALLY to save us and deliver us from sin, we really don’t so much any more because we’ve got this sin-thing managed pretty well.
That, my friend, is called deception. YOU are deceived into thinking that you must look good to be a good Christian and you are deceiving the WORLD into thinking the very same thing. Further, it puts you in a position of looking down on the other filthy sinners who haven’t done nearly as good of a job as you have to cover up their sin. At least when they flaunt it, they’re being honest (and don’t forget, lying is a sin).
In fact, to be a good Christians assumes you’ve been a very bad person. Because you screwed up being a perfect human before God, you need the God-Man, Christ Himself, to do what you failed to do.
Alright then. If this is true, what, do I just own my sin and flaunt it? Um, Paul says no.
Warning: This is a little bit long, but very important.
Romans 6:1-14 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
This means that sin no longer has me under its spell, but does not mean that I will be sin-free. It means that I am free to live honestly about my sin nature; that I can openly communicate to those around me that I am still wrestling with this sin, but that I am no longer destroyed by it; that I am no longer a slave to it. I can confess that I am no better than anybody else and that my sin bought me a ticket to hell just like the rest of humanity. The ONLY difference in my sin and someone who has not trusted in Christ is that mine has been paid for. See what Paul later said in Romans 8:1-4:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
No condemnation! None. Zilch. Nada! This means very simply that I don’t have to walk according to the flesh anymore, but I don’t have to act as though I’m perfect, either. I can admit the fact that I needed the Gospel initially to save me and I need the Gospel NOW to sustain me. It’s all about Jesus!Now, rather than trying harder to actually LIVE the life I SAY I live like I’m tempted to, I simply need to submit honestly and humbly before Christ so that HE can live His life through me, killing the sin in me, not trying to hide it (like we hypocrites are prone to do) but rather flaunting the work of Jesus so He gets glory in re-making a sin-soaked guy like me.
What happens if we can finally get this? We can at last live in the freedom of Christ, having been liberated from the pressure to appear perfect, while demonstrating to the world around us that they can find the same solution for their own sin problem, AND the Church will become a much nicer place when the Christian elite stop thumbing their noses at fellow sinners who haven’t learned to wear the masks yet.
Then the Church can move from being a museum full of spiritual relics (I believe Jesus called them “white-washed tombs”), setting examples of what it looks like to fake it well, to what it is intended to be: a hospital full of people being healed and made whole by a Great Physician. A place where He gets the full glory and man gets a very…yes, cool…blessing!