We’re in week 3 of our series called What Would Jesus Undo. And it’s kind of a play on words from the popular bracelet from the 90s that say WWJD, which stands for What Would Jesus Do. But instead of asking what Jesus would do in any given situation in our lives, we’re asking ourselves, what in our lives would Jesus Undo. In week 1 we discovered that spiritual indifference turns Jesus’ stomach, in week 2 we unpacked how Jesus would undo hollow worship… and today we’re going to see something else Jesus would undo…
So, about a year ago I was driving over to State College to drop my wife’s sister off at the wal mart parking lot to catch a bus to JFK to fly back home to Thailand. Now, I think it’s important you know that on this particular day, I was so full of grace and love… I was connected with God in a special way and my pastoral qualities were beaming from me and shining light on all around… I was letting people in when I didn’t have to, I was honoring them with friendly smiles and special blessings… And we were over by Olive Garden. And my lane was ending, so I zipper merged myself into the other lane… now, did I see that the car in the next lane didn’t want me to zipper merge? Yes. But nevertheless I zippered on over there and I hoped that the driver in the other car would have grace on me as I was having grace on her for not letting me in at the merge point.
When I merged into the proper lane, she let me know that grace was not overflowing from her heart by laying on her horn for a very long time and giving me the universal, “Im unhappy with the decision you just made” symbol. You know the one. One finger salute. Read between the lines. Flipping me the bird.
In a very pastoral manner, I kept my cool… I remained calm. I remained respectful. And for the next few blocks, I kept seeing the bird flying. And I pull into the bus station at the Walmart parking lot and I notice she’s still right behind me, so I do a loop around the parking lot and she follows me the whole way. I’m like… okay. So I pull into my spot, and I decide I’m going to just ignore her. Nothing good will come from going back to her car. I get out of the car, she sees my face… I see her jaw drop and her eyes widen, and she pulls out and drives away, and as she’s pulling out of her spot, I notice a t-shirt she’s wearing is from a local church… But not just any church… Faith Church.
The number 1 complaint from non-Christians about Christians… is hypocrisy. How many of you would say you know a hypocrite? How many of you are sitting next to one? Don’t you point your finger cause when you do that you have 4 fingers pointing back at yourself! Isn’t that the truth though? It’s so easy to see hypocrisy is other people, but sometimes it’s difficult to see it in our own lives. We all probably know people who have said “I don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites. And to have a little fun, we might think or respond back to the person by light heartedly saying, “well you should come, we still have room for one more!”
We think that’s kinda of funny, and to be honest it kinda is, but in that one little saying, sometimes we miss the real impact of when someone was disappointed or hurt by the words or actions of someone who claimed to be a Christian. Some of you experienced this first hand. There was someone you looked up to spiritually who said one thing, but did something else. And it was very very painful for you. It could’ve been a pastor or a youth pastor. Maybe it was your mom or dad. They’d be one person at church, but when they’d come home they would act totally different, maybe in a way the church people wouldn’t believe. And that can be incredibly painful.
I have a good friend who’s dad was a pastor. My friend was skeptical of the faith already and then his dad had an affair with someone one of the leaders in the church. When his parents split up, he had enough with the church.
Thankfully, by God’s grace, my friend was introduced to Jesus later in life and has a strong and vibrant faith. But for many people, they never turn back to God because hypocrisy is a horrible sin. What would Jesus undo? Jesus would undo hypocrisy.
Author and theologian Brenden Manning said this about hypocrisy… “The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny him with their lifestyle. This is what the unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
Jesus would undo hypocrisy.
In order to understand what hypocrisy is, let’s begin by understanding what hypocrisy isn’t. Hypocrisy is not the difference between what we do and what we wish we did. It’s not the difference between how we behave and how we wish we behaved… like I wish I didn’t have bad thoughts, but sometimes I do… or I wish I didn’t lie, but sometimes I do. That’s not hypocrisy, that’s just sin. And that’s something that God is going to continue to work to transform in our lives as we continue to pursue him.
Hypocrisy is the gap between what we show and who we are. It’s the gap between what we say and how we live. The difference between our public persona and our private character. What would Jesus undo? He would undo the show we put on to impress other people when really, we’re falling apart.
Now, I have to confess… the story I told about the driver… that story is 100% true up until the Faith Church shirt part… that’s not how the story really ended, but here’s why that story is important… if that story wouldn’t have ended with a Faith Church shirt, or a Jesus Fish bumper sticker… the driver would’ve just been a jerk. But when you thought they were wearing a shirt that proclaimed their relationship with Jesus, we were all shouting “hypocrite!”
We all have a special place of disdain in our hearts for hypocrites.
It’s interesting, when Jesus would have some harsh words about hypocrisy, he used the Greek word hupakrites, which was associated with actors or a stage play. To demonstrate different emotions these actors would wear masks to portray how they were supposed to be feeling. I actually had some of my own masks made to give you a demonstration. And it’s okay if you get a little weirded out.
This is my angry mask. Grrr… I’m so angry right now! This is like the angry hypocrite. They talk like this, “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t chew… and don’t hang out with girls who do!” But then when the mask comes off and they go home and maybe no one else is around, they have secret addictions that no one else knows about. In public they’re showing one person, but in private, it’s a very different experience.
Maybe you’ve seen an angry hypocrite. Or maybe you’ve see the happy hypocrite. I think we see more of the happy hypocrite in our lives. I’m so happy right now! Everything is fine! Everything is awesome! Life is great!
Happy hypocrites walk around and they act like everything is good… they act like they’re living the life they’ve always wanted. “Praise the Lord!” “God is good.” “#blessed” But then the whole way to church they were yelling at their kids and belittling their spouse. But oh, “praise the Lord!” “We’re all good here!” “We’re so happy! So much to be thankful for!”
The apostle Paul defined hypocrisy like this, in Titus 1:16 – “ They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.”
Jesus hated this and he spoke about it A LOT throughout his ministry. He said if you’re giving so that everyone knows how generous you are, that’s hypocrisy. He says that if you pray so that everyone knows how spiritual you are, that’s hypocrisy.
Jesus hated hypocrisy. In fact, there are these seven “woe to you” statements that Jesus makes in Matthew 23, and in 6 out of the 7, Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites. He starts the seven statements by telling the disciples to do whatever the scribes and pharisees say, but don’t do what they do. Why? Because they were putting on a show, but their lives didn’t match what they were saying. They were hypocrites.
One of the woe statements is incredibly profound to me and it paints a great picture of hypocrisy… He says this in Matthew 23:27-28:
27 “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 the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
What’s a hypocrite? A hypocrite is a person who dresses up to look all good and spiritual on the outside, but on the inside they’re very far from God. They’ve learned the right words, the right phrases, the right social media posts, the right questions, the right ways to hide their doubts… but inside they’re very far from God.
It’s like Aladdin.
If you read through these woe statements you’ll notice he doesn’t say “Woe to you who watch bad shows on Netflix sometimes…” He doesn’t say “woe to you who lose your temper sometimes” He doesn’t say “woe to you who is inconsistent with their Bible reading sometimes…” And he doesn’t say “woe to you who are imperfect.” He says woe to you who are imperfect, but you put on a show to look perfect. We want the appearance of goodness, but inside we’re dead or dying.
What would Jesus undo? He’d undo hypocrisy.
I think one of the easiest places for hypocrisy to run rampant is in our online presence. It’s so easy to take a beautiful picture and give it a nice little caption… but then the reality is something very different. A person posts a picture of her spouse and it says, “I love this man so much. He’s the man of my dreams and I can’t wait to see what adventure is next! #10years and counting.” But then they’re sleeping in separate bedrooms, they don’t even talk anymore…
Or you post a picture of your Bible in the morning and you caption it, “spending time with my Jesus…” but you spent more time getting the perfect picture than you did actually engaging with God.
Or you comment on a post of someone who’s going through something tough and you say, “I’m praying for you!” But you’re not praying… but you look good.
I hope you’re catching the important distinction… it’s not hypocrisy to not do your devotions… it’s hypocrisy to ACT like you spend time with God when you actually don’t. It’s about the show.
What would Jesus undo? He’d undo hypocrisy… he’d undo when we portray that everything is great… but in reality it isn’t great at all.
Although hypocrisy is far easier to see in other people than it is in ourselves, my guess is we can all think about a time when we were holding up a mask. And maybe you’re feeling a little uncomfortable right now because you realized some hypocrisy in your life… some mask you’ve been wearing… and that’s okay. It means you have awareness in your life and that God is doing a work in you right here and now. And I’ll be honest, this week as I was preparing there was something that God showed me was inconsistent in my life that I need to repent from… But the question we have to ask ourselves in response to Jesus’ words is, so what do we do?
If hypocrisy is pretending like we’re great spiritually when in reality we’re blowing it big time… are we supposed to just let our junk be exposed for everyone to see? We feel like garbage so we’re going to act like garbage? Instead of posting on social media and saying “Praying for you” do we say, “I’m not praying for you!” Obviously not.
First, we remember that our God is a good and forgiving God, a God who always offers us another chance, because while Jesus has zero tolerance for hypocrisy, he has unlimited grace for a sinner in need of forgiveness.
And right in one of the woe to you statements, God offers a path forward.. to move from hypocrisy into the life he has for us.
Jesus shows it in Matthew 23:25-26. He says this, ““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. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”
If hypocrisy is putting on a show to demonstrate that we’re all good, but on the inside we are experiencing something far from all good, we just need to change our attention. Instead of spending all our time cleaning the outside of our dish and leaving the inside all nasty in moldy, here’s all we have to do… focus our attention on the inside of the cup, and Jesus says if you do that, the outside of the cup will just follow on its own.
It’s pretty simple, right? The things we do and think are motivated by our hearts… it’s motivated by our inner lives… Jesus says it like this in Matthew 12:34 – “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” And so if we tend to our hearts, our actions will follow. That’s the problem with the hypocrite, right? They’ve spent all their time focusing on and improving what other people see, but to tend to our inner lives we need to allow God to begin a work in us that no one else is able to see. And as you tend to your inner life, God will transform it and as he transforms it, God will transform your public life, as well.
The first thing we need do is to tend to our hearts is Open ourselves up to God. In Psalm 139, King David prayed a prayer that you may be familiar with. He prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there’s any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Hypocrites focus all their attention on what other people think of them, so if we want to avoid hypocrisy or get rid of hypocrisy, we ask God what he sees in us.
God, what part of my spiritual life am I neglecting? What part of my life have I been hiding from my friends and family? In what way do you want to work in me?
When we ask God to search our hearts and test our thoughts with a real openness to how God wants to move in our lives, he’s going to show us stuff.
Maybe he’ll show us an aspect of engaging with him that we’ve been neglecting. Maybe he’ll show us a thought process that we’ve allowed to fester. Maybe he’ll reveal to us that we’ve been missing the truth that his love and forgiveness can reach even someone as lost and hurt as we feel sometimes…
After we’ve asked God to search our hearts, we put down the mask and Open up to a Christian friend. Hypocrisy starts by hiding behind a façade, a mask, and so after we realize we’ve been hiding, we need to put down the mask and show what’s underneath to someone.
I know that letting down our masks and showing someone what’s really on the other side can be hard and it can be scary… but it’s where we’re going to find life. Think about what grows in the dark… Mold. Fungus. Mildew. When it’s exposed to the light, those things die and plants that sustain life grow.
Proverbs 28:13 says it like this – “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
I remember in my life when hypocrisy was really present. I was showing a super spiritual life to some people, but there was this one area of my life where I was living very inconsistently. It didn’t honor God. It didn’t honor my relationships. And one day I felt an overwhelming conviction that I needed to get it out of the dark and confess it. And so I did. And what I learned is that hidden things are far harder to overcome because we’re spending so much time and energy invested in hiding them that we’re too exhausted to deal with them.
For some of us today, you’re exhausted from holding up the mask and you know it’s time to let it down… and when you take off the mask that you’ve been hiding from, you’re going to experience a newness in life. You’re going to experience hope and freedom in a way we haven’t seen for a long time.
I need help. I’m addicted and I need someone to pray with me to walk with me as I find freedom. My marriage is not where it should be… we need someone to support us and pray for us and encourage us to move forward cause we feel like giving up… We need help, I know we have a nice house and car and fancy clothes, but we’re drowning in debt, and we have no clue how to get out of it. We’re too far gone. I’m smiling, but you have no idea how afraid I am about this medical report… or about my child’s development… or about my kid’s behavior at school… I’m always at church, and I sing and I pray and I give, but I’ve never felt more far from God and I’m spending so much energy holding up this mask, I don’t even know how to engage God anymore.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be an honest sinner than a deceiving hypocrite. That life is too much of a burden.
Because whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
Because Jesus has zero for hypocrisy, but he has unlimited grace for a sinner in need of forgiveness. Open yourself up to God. Open yourself up to a Christian friend. And experience the freedom found in the fullness of life that is offered to us through Christ.
“Hypocrisy” – Small Group Guide
- Summarize what the sermon content was about. What was the main point?
- What stories and illustrations were used during the sermon? Why were these used?
- What Scripture was used? Why was this Scripture chosen for this sermon?
- What was your first thought when you heard this sermon on “hypocrisy”?
- Describe the type of person that could benefit most from it.
Read Matthew 23:25-28, Titus 1:16, and Matthew 12:34 out loud as a group.
- What is the context of these verses?
- Is there a command to follow in these verses? What is it?
- Is there a promise to claim in the verses? What is it?
- Is there a warning to heed in the verses? What is it?
- What other observations do you have from these verses?
- How did Pastor David link the passage to real life?
- Name another Bible character that was called out for hypocrisy. What did they do?
- Summarize in one sentence what a typical person should do based on this sermon.
- What might happen if a person fails to apply this lesson or these verses?
Living it Out
- What is the Holy Spirit saying to you right now as you reflect on the sermon and Matthew 23:25-28, Titus 1:16, and Matthew 12:34?
- What is one thing you want to do in the next week as a result of this sermon/discussion?
Close in Prayer