Thursday 20 April 2017

Religious Hypocrisy does not only affect Liberals and Roman Catholicism!

In recent times, it is well documented of the hypocrisy that has been uncovered among the Roman Catholic fraternity. The outstanding movie "Spotlight" (2015) records the expose of the child sex-abuse scandal in the Greater Boston area. With a priesthood who are forbidden to marry, such sinfulness working in darkness is no surprise to believing Protestant evangelicals. Paul warned Timothy: "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth" (1 Tim 4:1-4).

Similarly, among liberals, those who do not believe in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus or the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, we may well expect double-standards and hypocrisy. However, a prideful self-deception emerges when Christians think that because a church community holds to Reformed Confessions and the authority of the Bible, that hidden sin must be a rarity or that hypocrisy is not our primary concern. This is not biblical thinking.
Three teachings by the Lord Jesus Christ come to my mind for us to freshly consider this subject.

1. Matthew 7:1-5 "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye".

This is not a call to lay aside good discernment with the phrase "do not judge", but rather it is a call to examine oneself against hypocrisy. What is remarkable is that hypocrites are able to talk of this subject, while living in hypocrisy. Spiritual blindness hinders our spiritual vision and pride is the root of this problem.

2. Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness' ".

An evangelical Christian religion that refuses to exhort all professing Christians to self-examination is failing the people of God. Here, the Lord Jesus teaches that is absolutely possible to outwardly teach, preach and do mighty works, and yet to not be one of the Lord's people. It is not by might, gifts, eloquence or outward success that we know who are Christians, but by their fruits, we shall know them.

3. Matthew 15:7-9 "You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

In musing on this blog post, let me put forward a number of signposts that may identify a Christian hypocrite. Someone who believes themselves to be a Christian, and yet they may not be the Lord's.

* Pride is the most obvious. When trials come, do such people respond in pride or in humility and teachability? If there is one mark of true Christianity, it is the willingness to be corrected and to be taught (Matthew 28:18-20).
* Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Religious hypocrites never talk of their personal spiritual struggles, instead they want to keep up false religious appearances. This is the result of pride and deception.
* Over the years, I have noticed some people after worship services, they never talk of the Lord, or of how the Lord has blessed them through the sermon, or of what the Lord has been teaching them in their personal devotions. Why is this?
Enjoying communion with the Lord in public worship and through our personal communion and prayer is an important means of grace and sign of being sanctified. There needs to be more than a burst of enthusiasm for these things but sustained long term, growth in knowing the Lord. Those who hear from Christ "I never knew you" could say the same of themselves of their knowing Christ, if they were honest they would acknowledge "I do not know Christ". They could then ask the church "will you please help me to know Christ Jesus personally?". Does this describe you as you read this blog? Be honest with yourself, because the gospel calls you to submit to Christ and to plead for mercy that you may be born again (John 3:1-8).
* A mark of some hypocrites is that they thrive on gossip, division, controversy and problems.
* The primary aim of this blog is pastoral. I want to win people to Christ for those who may not really know Him and yet think that they do. Also, I hope that this article is pastorally helpful, because it is perplexing when people profess to know Christ and yet their heart is in reality, far from Him.

We all need a fresh return to Paul's exhortation in 2 Corinthians Chapter 13. Why? The last thing we want is for people to falsely assume they have a good confession of the Christian faith, only to find out on the day of judgement that they have been kidding themselves and then to hear the words of the Lord Jesus "Depart from me, I never knew you".

"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for (2 Cor 13:5-6)".

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