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2-17 Hypocrisy

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MBC - 10/23/2004 - Pastor Doug Thompson


Romans 2:17-29

ROM 2:17 But if you bear the name "Jew" and rely upon the Law and boast in God,

ROM 2:18 and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law,

ROM 2:19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,

ROM 2:20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth,

ROM 2:21 you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal?

ROM 2:22 You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?

ROM 2:23 You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?

ROM 2:24 For "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you," just as it is written.

ROM 2:25  For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.

ROM 2:26 So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?

ROM 2:27 And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law?

ROM 2:28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.

ROM 2:29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

“Got sieht hinter deine Maske.”

Most of you probably know that down in New Orleans, the Day before Lent begins is called “Mardi Gras,” Fat Tuesday. And on this day before people supposedly make a sacrifice of giving up something important to them out of devotion to God, the same people indulge their flesh in every way imaginable. The stuff that goes on reminds you of Aaron and the Israelites partying around the golden calf, or Sodom and Gomorrah, or SF during Gay Pride Week. People dress (and undress) in wild costumes and wear masks to hide their identities.

In Basel, Switzerland, they have the same celebration of Mardi Gras, which they call “Faschnacht.” But in this city, every year, the evangelical Christian groups put ads on the billboards around the city that say: “Got sieht hinter deine Maske”--God sees behind your mask!

A hypocrite is a person who wears a mask--before people--but not before God.

Ø      PRO 15:11 Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord, How much more the hearts of men!

God can see behind any mask, no matter how elaborate or lifelike--yours--and mine. And Paul was exposing the hypocrisy of self-righteous Jews who thought that because men were impressed with them, God must be also. They were wrong.

The dictionary defines a hypocrite as someone who “pretends to be better than he really is or to be pious, virtuous without really being so.” A hypocrite is a pretender, an actor. He is someone who says one thing but does the opposite. Hypocrites wants the best of both worlds: to have the respect and admiration of people, but also indulge their own flesh and do whatever they want. And hypocrites don’t just say one thing and do another, they go out of their way to criticize and judge other people for doing the same things they do in secret. But it’s all about appearance--the hypocrite is consumed with how or she appears to others. Reality is secondary to appearance.

Ø      I read a great article awhile back that was discussing the difference between character and personality in our leaders and politicians, and how personality is so much more important nowadays than character. But personality is just what you project to others, it is the way you appear to others, and it might have little or nothing to do with the reality. Character is who you really are.

Of course, God knows who you are, right? And Scripture exhorts us to put a premium on godly character--who we are on the inside--not on appearance and personality. Man looks on the outside, but God sees the heart. And we can’t hide from God, and if we live with a clear conscience before Him, we have nothing to hide from men--right? And if we truly grasp the grace of God, we don’t need to mask the fact that we are sinners before other people. My friends, God doesn’t want people to look at you and I and see some phony, pious, holier-than-thou smiley face mask. He wants people to look at you and I and see real people, sinners just like them, who have been saved by the grace of God, and who, by that same grace, are being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ!

Ø      I want you to get this, this morning, if you get nothing else: hypocrisy is due to a lack of a grasp of God’s grace. Hypocrites aren’t gripped by God’s grace! When you grasp God’s grace toward you in Christ, it teaches you that God brings more pleasure and satisfaction than sin ever could. If you are hiding your sinful indulgences behind a mask of hypocrisy, grace hasn’t gripped you yet. And then grace teaches us that when we do sin, we have forgiveness and peace with God through Jesus Christ. Why would we hide behind some super-saint mask and deny that grace? God is telling us this morning to take off our masks and live in the light and mercy of His grace!

Paul exposed hypocrisy in the Jews in this passage, and we are going to do the same this morning, and it might get uncomfortable, but I’m going to be specific so that you and I can spot hypocrisy in ourselves. We have seen the very same kind of hypocrisy in our generation that Paul say in his--the worst kind of all--religious hypocrisy:

Jim Bakker - He was once the head of the "Praise The Lord" network. In the late '80s, Bakker’s mask was ripped off, and his TV viewers who had sent him millions of dollars were shocked: He had been having an affair with a young girl in his ministry, then he had used $265,000 of donation money to keep her quiet.

But that wasn’t all. People found out what else he had been doing with their money: he and Tammy Faye bought expensive cars and six mansions. They equipped a dog house with air-conditioning, and spent $60,000 on gold-plated bathroom fixtures. They once spent $100 on cinnamon buns just to scent the air of their hotel suite.

Jimmy Swaggart –In the late 1980s, Jimmy Swaggart Ministries was the largest televangelism operation in the world. He raked in more than $150 million annually. He was watched by over 8 million viewers. And Swaggart was militant against hypocrites in his own denomination. When the PTL scandal erupted in 1987, Swaggart went on CNN and told Larry King that Bakker was a "cancer in the body of Christ."

But even as he was preaching a sermon series on Rahab the harlot, it was discovered that Swaggart himself was a regular customer of a prostitute. He was out of the ministry for a few months, but he’s making a big comeback.

Pat Robertson –the founder of the Christian Coalition. A reporter for the New York Times discovered that Robertson owned a racehorse named "Mr. Pat.” The paper detailed financial involvement in racing to the tune of more than $500,000. Robertson defended himself by saying that he saw no contradiction between his condemnation of gambling and his ownership of a racehorse. “I don't bet, and I don't gamble, I just enjoy watching horses running and performing. I’m sorry that my fondness for the performance of equine athletes has caused you an offense."

Jesse Jackson - During the Clinton/ Lewinsky scandal, Jackson paid a personal visit to offer his moral and spiritual counsel to the President. He brought along staffer Karin Stanford, who was pregnant at the time with his child. The good reverend used organizational money to arrange for his playmate to live in a home worth $345,000 and to receive $10,000 per month.

I’ll tell you the hypocrite that really ticks me off--it’s not the one on TV, it’s that guy in my mirror. It’s so easy to spot hypocrisy in others, and it is so hard to recognize it in ourselves. And I want to talk about how we can do that in a minute, but we need to review what it is that Paul is getting at here and why he is being so hard on the Jews.

I. The essence of sin and the need for grace.

Before Paul spells out the good news of the gospel, he painstakingly, methodically diagnoses the disease of sin. He begins in ch.1 with pagan Gentiles, people who either don’t have or don’t acknowledge the Word of God and the God of the Word. They are condemned for their sins. They have enough revelation of God in nature to know better. Paul says that they are without excuse. As we said, the bad people really are--bad!

Then he turns to the so-called good people--people who have the Word of God and believe it. Paul is shocking when he says that they are just as bad! We saw that at the beginning of ch.2. But they are not just as bad--they are worse, because they have more light. The standard is even higher for them because they know better, and yet they do the same things. They are doubly guilty.

The essence of sin

And the essence of sin for both groups is the same. Look with me at:

Ø      ROM 1:21 [speaking of pagan Gentiles] For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks. . .

Ø      ROM 2:23 [and speaking of the Jews who condemned the pagan Gentiles] You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? [rhetorical question--they did:]

Ø      ROM 2:24 For "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you," just as it is written.

God deserves glory and honor. God deserves first place in all the universe! From every creature--and especially from the creatures that bear His image. But unredeemed mankind not only robs glory and respect and honor from God, but it turns around and gives it to other creatures--even sinful men! This is the essence of evil.

Ø      Our sign says that everyone driving by qualifies for salvation because they are sinners. But most of those who drive by would say, “I’m sure that applies to some people, but not me. I try to do my best, and I never intentionally hurt other people.” And that’s because they see sin as an offense against other people. Evil is when people are hurt, not when God is hurt. Evil is when I am threatened, not when God is threatened.

But we need a God-centered idea of sin and righteousness. The Bible is relentless in holding up the glory and honor of God as the greatest thing in the universe, and showing that evil is any feeling and thinking and acting that treats God as less than infinitely glorious and worthy of supreme honor. “All have sinned and fallen short of--the glory of God!” And when we put sin in those terms, everyone driving by the sign qualifies: “They don’t honor Him as God or give Him thanks. Through their breaking of His laws they dishonor Him as God.”

And what about you and I? Have you ever acted or spoken in such a way that instead of people seeing your good works and glorifying your Father who is in heaven, instead, because of you, they mocked God? They thought less of God because of you--has that ever happened? Instead of the name of God being exalted and praised, it was belittled and contaminated--because of you?

Ø      I remember as a brand new Christian, my senior year in high school, I was on fire for Jesus, and everyone knew it. One day in my psychology class someone said something less than profound and I let fly with a witty but sarcastic zinger. The class howled, and then I heard someone say, “Hey Thompson, I thought you were supposed to be a Jesus freak!” God, the God that I now loved, was dishonored because of my big mouth.

Beloved, the essence of sin is dishonoring God. And Jesus came to reverse this dishonoring of God in the gospel. Let me give you 3 ways:

1.) Jesus showed that supreme value of God’s glory by living for the glory of God with all His might--“Not My will, but Your will be done, O Lord!” To the point of dying on a cross rather than doing anything to diminish the name or glory of God.

2.) Jesus came to rescue us from the wrath of God against all of our dishonoring of God. He did this by dying in our place--because dishonoring God deserves death--and by giving us His own perfect righteousness so that we could be seen as holy and blameless before God.

3.) Jesus came to change us into people who honor God and love His glory. That happens when you are born again--as we saw last week--you become a lover of God and you value His glory and treasure His honor.

I want you to get this: Sin, in whatever form it take, is always a dishonoring of God and a failure to bring Him the glory He deserves. And unless this is remedied, it will send a person to hell. But the good news of the gospel is that God Himself has provided the rescue through His own Son, and puts all who believe in Him in a right relationship to God and His name and His glory.

II. The heart of a hypocrite.

            A. A hypocrite boast of his values, but doesn’t live them..

Look at how Paul describes self-righteous Jews vv.17,18:

1. You bear the name “Jew.” This was a great source of pride.

2. You rely upon the Law. They didn’t see the law as their accuser, it was the sign that God’s favor rested upon them. It didn’t matter that they didn’t keep it--they possessed it, and the other nations didn’t, that’s what mattered to them.

3. You boast in God, you know His will. But instead of sharing that with other peoples, they took selfish pride in it. “Look what we have and you don’t!” They hoarded their knowledge of God, they didn’t want to share it with anyone else--remember Jonah and how irritated he was that the Ninevites were offered the chance to repent? They were un-missionaries.

4. You approve (or discern) the things that are essential, because you are instructed out of the Law. They were experts in making fine moral distinctions. They were like the experts that the talk show hosts always bring in to shed light on a topic. But they were experts in what pleases God--or so they thought.

So what is Paul saying about his fellow Jews? There wasn’t anything wrong with these things--they were all good and true, but the Jews wore their privileges like a mask to hide their hypocrisy. “Don’t talk about how I actually live, look at what I believe!”

But do you and I do the same thing? Do we understand what God says to us in--

Ø      ROM 2:13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.

Ø      JAM 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.

That verse has given me many a sleepless night! We are so prone to take pride in our values and beliefs as though there is some merit in simply valuing and believing, apart from living them out. Let me stomp some toes here: We see this with conservative icons who brag about being the torch-bearers for truth, morality, and family values, but don’t live what they preach:


Rush Limbaugh - Called himself “a man so virtuous you could trust me with your wife in a Motel 6, overnight, while you’re away on business.” In Oct., 1995, he said this on his radio show:

"Too many whites are getting away with drug use, too many whites are getting away with drug sales, too many whites are getting away with trafficking in this stuff. The answer to this disparity is not to start letting people out of jail because we're not putting others in jail who are breaking the law. The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river, too"

And then a couple of years ago, he began to lose his hearing--remember. It wasn’t until Oct. of 2003, that he announced what the problem was--massive doses of painkillers that he was addicted to, and which he was obtaining illegally, or at least unethically. Rush denied that his actions were hypocritical, saying, "My behavior doesn't change right and wrong. And just because I may have been doing something that appeared to be contradictory to what I was suggesting others do doesn't mean that what I was suggesting others do is wrong." What?

William Bennett - The former Secretary of Education and Drug Czar, and author of The Book of Virtues admitted losing more than $8 million in casino gambling. He said, “Nothing wrong with it, it’s my money, I never claimed to be a role model.” But at least he wrote a book on virtues.

Bill O’Reilly - And now, mister no-spin zone, fair and balanced himself, is accused of some gross indiscretions, and his only response so far is that he has never done anything that wasn’t consensual. I’ll bet that is a real comfort to his wife! He’s even come out with a new book in which he passes along his morality and values for kids: "The O'Reilly Factor for Kids," Here is his advice for young men: Guys, if you exploit a girl, it will come back to get you. That's called 'karma.'"

But back to the man--or woman--in the mirror--Each of us needs to ask that person: Do I ever find myself, after sinning, consoling myself by telling myself, “Well sure I sinned, but at least I know it’s wrong, I know it’s sin. Why, many people do the same thing, but they don’t even believe it’s wrong! I might do it, but at least I know better!”

Precisely. So you are doubly condemned, then, aren’t you? Beloved, there’s no virtue in simply believing in virtue! Proclaiming morality doesn’t make you moral! When you and I, as sinners, take pride in our unkept virtues and our broken standards, we are dishonoring God. The only consolation we should take after sinning is that if we confess our sins we have a Savior, Jesus Christ the righteous, who will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

There is something else we learn about the heart of a hypocrite in this passage:

            B. A hypocrite judges others rather than teach himself.

After Paul lists their privileges, he gives a list of what they do with their spiritual  privileges:

Ø      ROM 2:19 [You] are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,

Ø      ROM 2:20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth,

Now we need to stop and say something important here: It’s not wrong to be spiritually privileged, and it’s not wrong to want to teach others what is good and right. That’s what Paul himself is doing in this epistle! But look at what he says--

Ø      ROM 2:21 you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?

What should be our first priority when we hear the Word? To prayerfully consider how it applies to us--not others. It’s good to help others with their specks, but only after you have dealt with your own logs. Too many Christians are busy playing church basketball while the preaching is going on. What’s church basketball? The pastor says something convicting and you say to yourself, “Well this really fits Sally better than me!” You pass the ball to Sally. Another one lands in your lap and you say, “Boy, I sure hope Sam is hearing this sermon!” You pass it off.

And when you do this, you misuse of truth. Truth becomes a means of boasting in yourself and judging others. But truth should humble you and help others.

One way to avoid hypocrisy is this: whatever you learn, teach it to yourself first before you teach it to others. Pray on it, meditate on, grill yourself--Is this me--what about my own heart, Lord? What about my actions? My words? My thoughts--what about me? Old John Owen said this--

A man preaches that sermon only well unto others which preaches it to his own soul. And he that does not feed on and thrive in the digestion of the food which he provides for others will scarce make it appetizing unto them; yea, he knows not but the food he has provided may be poison, unless he has really tasted of it himself. If the word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.

Paul went on to nail the Jewish hypocrites. They were blind to their own sins:

Ø      v.21: You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal?

Ø      ROM 2:22 You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?

Ø      ROM 2:23 You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?

Ø      ROM 2:24 For "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you," just as it is written.

What does he mean when he talks about robbing temples? It could be that they robbed pagan temples and justified it because they were just idols anyway. But Paul might have been thinking of a well-known incident that had happened about 40 years earlier:

Ø      There was a charismatic Jewish evangelist whose specialty was proselytizing Gentiles--sort of an early version of our sleazy televangelists. This guy along with 4 other Jews succeeded in making a convert out of a wealthy Gentile woman. Then they proceeded to con her into making a huge contribution toward the construction of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem, but they pocketed the money. My, how history repeats itself. When the emperor Tiberius heard about this, his response was to banish all Jews from Rome, and “The name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles because of them.”

            C. A hypocrite boasts of externals and past experiences.

Now even after all that Paul has said, even after the light of God’s Word has exposed their hypocrisy and ripped off their masks, some of them still--still--wouldn’t concede. Some of them would still have one last card to play--one more argument: They had been circumcised. “Say what you will, Paul, but I have the mark in my body, the very sign of the covenant, and nothing you say can change that.” Listen to what the Rabbis said:

Ø      “Our Rabbins have said that no circumcised man will see hell. . .Circumcision saves from hell. . . God swore to Abraham that no one who was circumcised should be sent to hell . . . .Abraham sits before the gate of hell, and does not allow that any circumcised Israelite should enter there.” (Of course none of this applied to women, only men.)

But haven’t you heard people say the same thing about their baptism or church membership?

Ø      I can think of several folks in town I have run into who have given me that line: I remember bumping into one of the local barflys who said, “Hi pastor.” I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t think we’ve met.” She said--with her cigarette hanging from the side of her mouth, “Oh I was baptized at your church years ago, you’re my pastor!”

Ø      I thought, “God forbid.” I met another man one day in town who talked my ear off about how his wife used to play organ at our church and sing solos--she was so involved, and on and on--hasn’t been to church in over 15 years, but boy, she used to be there.” And this is where their spiritual security lie.

Ø      And then there is the man who cheated on his wife for most of their married life, but he liked to remind me, “But I am an ordained Presbyterian minister. I know other adulterers who still have ministries.” He had a little pin he would wear on his lapel: “minister.”

These folks think just like the legalistic Jews of Paul’s day: “God won’t take my heart into account, He will only see the externals, my resume, my Sunday School pins, what I did 20 years ago--i.e., my mask.” But what did Paul say to these hypocrites?

Ø      ROM 2:28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.

Ø      ROM 2:29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

Paul isn’t saying that you have to be a Jew to be saved--he is speaking figuratively: You must be a true spiritual child of Abraham, with his faith to be saved. And Gen.15:6 says that “Abraham believed God, and God reckoned it to him as rtnss.” But Abraham wasn’t circumcised until ch.17--Abe was a child of God by faith before he received the sign.

Man looks on the outside, but God looks at the heart, He sees behind the mask.

III. Guarding against hypocrisy.

So how do we guard against hypocrisy? None of us want to wear a mask, none of us want to be phony before men or God, but hypocrisy creeps into our lives, quietly and imperceptibly. I asked myself the very same question this week, and this is what I came up with for the man in my mirror--

1.) I need to examine myself for inverted hypocrisy.

What do I mean, wearing a mask backwards? I mean the hypocrisy which says, “Well, I’m not perfect, I sin, but at least I don’t hide it, I’m honest about it.” Have you heard people say that? “I’m not like those church hypocrites, I do my share of sinning (fill in the blanks), and I don’t make any excuses or apologies for it. You know where I stand, brother.” And there is always pride in that voice, isn’t there? But it’s still shameless hypocrisy. It’s still trying to have your sin but appear--in this case--hones-- before men. There is no virtue in that. It doesn’t change your sin, it just masks it with arrogance. I need to be on guard for that.

Ø      There is another kind of mask that unbelievers wear. It’s the one that says, “You’ll never find me in church, it’s full of hypocrites.” When I hear a person say that, I always tell them, “Join us, we have room for one more!” That is a mask--an excuse. A world full of hypocrites won’t save your eternal soul. You have to face the man in your own mirror.

2.) I need to ask myself if knowledge is making me more humble or more proud.

Paul said, “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” If my heart is right before God, when I study my Bible, when I hear a sermon, I won’t be playing church basketball, but I will be asking if I am the blind one, the one in darkness, the foolish, the immature. I need to teach myself first--always. And I try--and it is a constant pursuit--to make sure that I don’t pass anything along to others that I’m not making a strenuous effort to apply to myself.

if you are saying, “You are so right, you need to do that,” you are not getting the point!

3.) I need to ask God to reveal sin and hypocrisy to me.

Ø      PSA 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;

Ø      PSA 139:24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.

Ø      PSA 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

4.) I need to grasp God’s grace more and more.

When I grasp God’s grace, and see in my soul how satisfying He is, I won’t want to interrupt that fellowship with sin, I won’t want to dishonor the God I love with sin--and then hide it behind some mask--

Ø      TIT 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared . . . instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires.

And the more I grasp God’s love and grace, the more I will be know that I am forgiven in Christ, and I am accepted by my heavenly Father. And I can take off my mask before men, and let them see me for what I am: a saint, who is still a sinner, but one who is forgiven by my heavenly Father! I have nothing to hide, but much to proclaim: Jesus came to save sinners, and I qualify! And so do you! Take off your mask, turn to Jesus Christ for grace and mercy. You say, “I’m afraid.” The Bible says “Perfect love casts out fear.” Do you see Him? Do you see His pierced hands and feet and side? He did that for sinners. Do you love Him? Then take off your mask, and say, “Lord, do not pass me by.”

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