I remember, with much embarrassment, when I was a young child, I would dress up and pretend I was one of the members in the rock group ‘Kiss’. I used to paint my face (like the members of the band did), set up a miniature stage in the family dining room, get out my guitar (a Wilson tennis racket) and spend hours in front of the record player and speakers pretending I playing to thousands of screaming fans in my house.
I didn’t realize it at the time that I was playing a hypocrite at such a young age. The Greek word for Hypocrite, in ancient Grecian times, meant an interpreter from underneath and referred to actors or stage players. Hypocrites weremen in plays who acted a part or pretended to be someone they were not. They were counterfeit, and men who assumed and spoke and acted under a feigned character, usually by disguising themselves by wearing a mask. Over the centuries this word has been used to describe people who acted morally upright, pious, and good on the outside but were just the opposite.
I’m sure many, if not all of you, have heard someone say, “Christians are a bunch of hypocrites!” Maybe you havebeen called one yourself. I remember vividly in Junior College hearing that all the time. As a Christian in a secular college, I would hear this phrase from students with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths and belching out secondhand smoke into the while wearing a Take Care of Mother Earth...Stop Pollution T-shirt (talk about hypocrisy) .
In the many conversations I had with people I would never deny that Christianity was full of hypocrites and hypocrisy. I would respond, “Yes, there are a bunch of hypocrites in Christianity, but many of us acknowledge it and try to do something to make this change.” I would also hear some Christians become defensive by responding, “Well the whole world is also full of hypocrites, not just Christians.” This is true, but this truth does not justify or give us the license to be hypocrites as well. The Christian attitude should never be since the world is full of hypocrites so I can be one as well. No, our attitude should be one of genuiness, authenticity, and uprightness. We should strive to live as people who breaks the cycle of hypocrisy in Christianity and live by the power of the Spirit an authentic Christian life.
Matthew 23:13 – 36
Jesus uses the word hypocrite seven times in this passage and not once does he use the word in a positive manner, nor does He anywhere else in the Gospels. Jesus used the word “hypocrite” to describe the inconsistent and sinful lifestyles of the religious leaders of His time. In this passage Jesus says, “Do not listen to these leaders and whatever you do, do not do as they do.” This is a harsh and bold statement made against the leaders of his time and as you can guess was not received so well by the leaders. In verses 25 - 28 Jesus compares the Pharisee’s to a cup and a bowl that are clean on the outside and filthy on the inside. These leaders acted religious, pious, and said the right words in public but inside they were sinful, decrepit, and dead. They had no relationship with God, and they didn’t intend on having one. Pharisee was their “job” it was not their calling.
Unfortunately, in the past 2,000 years things have not changed much. Christians and the Church are still battling hypocrisy in their midst. This should not be the case. Jesus calls his followers to a different life. He calls us to a life of authenticity and not hypocrisy. I believe one of the ways we can start to live authentic lives is by identifying the areas where we are failing in our hypocrisy. I have identified Five ways the church practices hypocrisy, and by identifying these practices we can commit to reversing this downward trend and start being genuine followers of Jesus Christ.
5 Ways the Church Practices Hypocrisy
The NET Bible translates “But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out – he will be blessed in what he does.” I love how it reads… “The one who peers… and fixes his attention… does not become a forgetful listener BUT one who lives it out.” I believe this is precisely what God desires from his followers. The one who hears the Word of God, applies it to his life and lives his life according to it will be blessed in all he does.
Christians all over the world today are sitting in their pews and standing behind the pulpits with a nice smile face and an “everything is alright” look to them. When on the inside they are festering with anger, jealousy, pride, lust etc. They have on, what I like to call, their Church face. What God wants from us is to come into His presence with our true faces on no matter what is going on in our lives. We must bring our problems and burdens in with us and leave them at the altar so we may leave the building free from our bondage or weakness.
Now is the time to check your own heart. Do you feel like a cup or bowl that is clean on the outside, but dirty on the inside? Do you feel as though you are living a life of hypocrisy? I know I do sometimes. I put my Church face on and act as though everything is just great! But in fact, it is not.
How can we live an authentic, genuine Christian life? We need to be honest with God and with ourselves. Nobody has his life completely together. This is the truth plain and simple. We all need help, and our help comes from God. Psalms 33:20 states, “Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.” It’s time to get real with God. Quit living the life of a hypocrite and start living out your faith as an authentic Christian.
According to Thom Rainer, Founder and CEO of Church answers, these are 25 Things Church Members Fight Over.
However, there are some appropriate reasons for church splits (i.e., heresy, unresolved sin issues of the pastor or leadership, a denomination is not holding to biblical truths, and so on). One thing for sure is, church splits or even inner church conflicts end in a healthy manner, they are almost like a divorce.
James 4:1 - 3
Quarrels and Fights
Verses 1- 3: There were struggles in this church community, there were people sowing discord among the congregations. They were starting fights and causing divisions for their selfish reasons without concern for how many congregants they hurt in the process. This was a problem, so James addresses the topic, and he asks the question, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” Unhealthy disunity, conflict, or division, especially in a church, is almost always birthed out of selfish desire and disregard for others. Just look at some churches and ministries today, there are conflicts and division over all kinds of issues, but I find it ironic that one of the most common causes for strife in the church is due to the styles of music played for worship. Congregations argue, fight, and split over something that is designed to draw believers together and into the presence of God. Some churches divide over communion, placement of the pulpit, or even if there should be a pulpit at all?
Douglas Moo writes, “The seventeenth-century Jewish philosopher Spinoza observed: ‘I have often wondered that persons make boast of professing the Christian religion – namely love, joy, peace, temperance, and charity to all men – should quarrel with such rancorous animosity and display daily towards one another such bitter hatred, that this, rather than the virtues which they profess, is the readiest criteria of their faith.’ Some battles to be sure, need to be fought. But even they must be fought without sacrificing Christian principles and virtues.”
The source of these quarrels comes from one place… The selfish desires that war within us. Maybe the individuals James was writing to felt justified in their fights? Maybe they thought they were noble in their efforts or zeal for something to happen or for change but apparently, they were not honoring God.
Now, in the second verse James expands on the nature of these sinful desires and he uses some strong language to describe their actions like envy, kill, and covet. It is uncertain as to whether these people were killing one another out of selfish desire (which isn’t entirely improbable) but we can safely assume that he is using an analogy as he described a person as a murderer or as one who hates his/her brother or sister in Christ. A person who holds animosity in his heart towards another is just as guilty as the person who commits murder. This is most likely what James is suggesting.
All this arguing essentially is fruitless because as they are seeking God’s counsel in all of this they are asking with wrong motives. They were not seeking God’s will, instead they were seeking God to bless what they were doing. They were asking for God’s stamp of approval on their selfish motives.
The Problem: Frenemies
Verse 4 – 10: “You adulterous people!” Some versions say, “Adulteresses!” These are strong words, and they have deep implications for the body of Christ. If you recall up to this point James has referred to this group, he is writing with affection by calling them “brothers” and “my dear brothers”. Now he speaks harshly to them because in all their escapades of warring and fighting with each other they are acting like the rest of the Godless world around them.
Christians and especially the Church, are called to be unique from the world because of our love towards one another. Instead of loving one another they are embracing the world’s ways of doing things thus committing spiritual adultery with the world. Spiritual adultery always ends with those involved in an adulterous affair with the world becoming an enemy of God. Being an enemy of God not only shows God’s hostility toward someone but also shows hostility of someone towards God.
The recipients of this letter have been living worldly lives up to this point. They have been showing partiality to the rich, neglecting the poor, speaking negatively to others, and starting fights in the body to fulfill their selfish desires. When the church start living as the world lives we are showing where our allegiance truly lies and God will not take a backseat to anything.
In verse 5 James cites a portion of Scripture that is not known to be a verse in the Bible. According to theologian D.A. Carson, (James) must either be citing the general sense of Scripture, or else a book he knows about, but which is now lost. This is a particularly difficult passage to translate and understand because it could have two possible ways of reading it. In a nutshell, one reading (the NIV) may refer to the human spirit and its tendency to be envious, which is true. However, the second way of looking at it (the ESV) seems to refer to God’s jealousy for his people. God has given each of us a spirit and he jealously longs for our pure worship in return.
The Solution: Repentance
God is always willing to give grace to those who humble themselves before him, but He is opposes those who are prideful and self-dependent. God will pour out as much grace needed to those who humble themselves and submit to Him. This is called repentance, and repentance is what James calls his readers to do and it is what God desires from us.
When we follow the words of James, we see that fellowship or friendship can be restored between a person and God. We must note that this portion of scripture is not a method for salvation because some key components are missing (i.e., faith in Jesus and public confession of sins) this is intended for restoring fellowship with God.
Skipping down to verse 10 James returns to the act of humbling oneself before God. When we recognize our spiritual deficiency without God is when we truly can stand in humility before Him. When we can stand humbly before God in spiritual poverty then and only then will God lift us up and exalt us thus victorious Christian living.
There is a lot packed into these 10 verses and I have merely scratched the surface, but these are very practical applications to us in these modern (or post-modern) times. We know that church fights, splits, and disunity happen. It has happened since the beginning of the Church age. Unfortunately, it will continue throughout time. However, we have the key right in front of us in knowing how to avoid disunity happening in our midst. It is important for us as a church to seek unity in Christ together, to not be divisive in our words, slanderous in our talk, and not be hypocritical in our worship. We should not seek friendship with the world, instead we should be single-minded in our devotion to God. We must submit to Him and his will (not our selfish desires), be Spirit-driven so we can resist the devil in his attacks, draw near to God in our time of worship and in our private times with Him and then be humble before the Great and Mighty King knowing our place before him. In doing this He will lift us up and bless us both individually and as a congregation.
 Moo, p. 181
 Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Jas 4:1–10). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.
According to an old story, St. Francis of Assisi longed to see his brothers. They agreed to meet in a remote monastery in the Umbrian mountains of central Italy. After arriving and enjoying their reunion, each reported what he had experienced on the road.
One Franciscan brother who had traveled on muleback said: “God protected me in a miraculous way. When I was crossing a narrow bridge over a deep mountain gorge, the mule jumped. I fell and narrowly escaped falling over the wall of the bridge into the gorge. God by his love saved my life.”
A second brother said: “I had to cross a river and I slipped and fell. The waters carried me down the river. But God in his grace provided a tree which had fallen across the river. I could grasp a branch of that tree and pull myself ashore, thanks to God’s miraculous mercy.”
Then St. Francis said: “Let us thank God for his wonderful works. I did experience the greatest miracle of all on my way. I had the smoothest, most pleasant, completely uneventful trip.”
How often do we take for granted the small blessings that God bestows upon us and neglect to give him proper credit, praise, and thanksgiving for these blessings? When was the last time that you thanked God for the air you breathe, the ability to talk, or showing his grace by giving you another day on this earth? I am guilty of this neglect. God has blessed us abundantly and I believe it is important to choose to live our lives with an attitude of gratitude.
We are continuing in our series titled Respectable Sins. The sermon topics are based around sins that many would not consider the “BIG” sins or even the ones that even though we may feel as though yes, they are sins but not really ones that are all that bad. God certainly will turn a blind eye to these sins… right? Two weeks ago, Cooper Wyatt spoke about Anxiety, last week Harry talked about loyalty and disloyalty, and today I want to talk about unthankfulness. However, I am approaching today’s topic a little differently, instead of looking at what the sin of unthankfulness looks like, I desire to talk more about what true thankfulness looks like.
A few years ago, when we lived in Spring Valley, Wisconsin, we had a wall in our house that was painted with black chalkboard paint and often each family member would write something they thankful for every day. This was a great way to reflect on the big and small blessings God gave to us regularly. It helped me keep in perspective that my family and I have so much to be thankful for. I loved reading what my wife and kids were thankful for (sometimes it was silly like “I am thankful for pickles” or other times it was thanking God for providing for us during a particularly difficult time in life. I also I loved taking the time to reflect on the things that I am thankful for as well. Giving thanks is something that Christians should do often because we have a God who has blessed us abundantly.
Psalm 138 (original intent)
The Psalms are filled with poems and prayers of praise and thanksgiving to God. Our text for today is Psalm 138 and it is a Psalm of David that it gives us a glimpse of the heart of a man who had dedicated his life to living in continual praise and thanksgiving to God. Psalm 138 is broken down into three divisions:
Vs 1a: “I will give you thanks with my whole heart” – David publicly and unreservedly proclaims that he gives God thanks with his whole heart.
Whole heart – inner part, inner man, mind, will soul… his whole being. David is not only giving ordinary or mundane gratitude; he is not just giving lip service (empty or vain words) to God. According to John Calvin, David’s heart is, “one that is sincere and not double.” It is a genuine heartfelt thankfulness.
Vs 1b: “before the gods” – These gods refer to mythological “lesser gods” in a pantheon. However, In the OT, this designation either refers to heavenly servant beings (Angels) or judges and governors appointed by God as political leaders. This is not an acknowledgment that other gods exist, it is a declaration that David makes saying he will praise His God amid those who claim other gods. David’s God is the one true God, and He will be worshiped above all things.
Vs. 2b: “I give thanks for…” – Three things David gives thanks to God for.
Above all God “exalts” or lifts on high his name (who He is) and his word (His promises). It is important for God to put above all else His reputation and His promises since the two go hand in hand. The meaning seems to be that He has not only done what He said He would do but He has done much more. More than we can ever imagine.
Vs. 3: “On the day I called you answered…” – David praises God for answered prayer. The result of answered prayer is his faith and spirit were strengthened in God. Aren’t we all encouraged or strengthened in faith when we experience an answer to prayer? When what we have prayed for comes to pass it certainly builds our faith and encourages us.
Vs 4 – 5: One day the kings of the earth and all the nations will join in singing David’s song of thanksgiving. (Psalm 22:27 – 28)
Vs 6: “For the Lord is high, he regards the low…” These are words of comfort and encouragement to David and should be for us as well. As great, magnificent, awesome, amazing, and awe-inspiring God still cares for the common person. He is a God who is for the broken, humiliated, lowly, and repentant.
We see this in Psalm 51 where David writes, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broke and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Those who are humble and know their place before the Almighty God; He will remain close to and give regard to.
Vs 7 – 8: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble…” David speaks of God’s protective hand in preserving him in times of tribulation, danger, and trouble. Even though his life is endangered by his enemies God has remained faithful in providing protection for him with his “right hand of power” – God’s almighty and divine power in physical and spiritual salvation. It is only God who saves.
Psalm 138 (For us today)
When I reflect on my life and the blessings, protection and promises God has given me I can do nothing but respond with the same amount of gratitude and praise towards God as David did. When I think back to when the Holy Spirit called me from the self-centered sin infested life I was living, and He invited to become an adopted son of the Almighty God how can I not thank God with my whole being? A casual “thanks” is not enough to express my heartfelt gratitude towards the God who reached down and calls me his child. It is not enough for me to give him lip service. I respond to God by giving him my whole being. I devote my life to serving Him as an act of thanksgiving and gratitude.
So, if God has been faithful even when we have not what should our response to Him be? Here are three ways we can show our gratitude and thankfulness for His faithfulness that are taken from this Psalm
God is faithful. He has not failed me in any way in my life. Sure, there were times when things did not go the way I had planned or hoped; but He has been faithful in fulfilling His purpose in my life. As followers of Christ, I believe we have the responsibility and pleasure of living lives of gratitude and humility. We can never say, “Thank you” to God enough and we can never be too dependent on Him. The things God has done for us are amazing and what He has in store for you and this church is just as astonishing; so, give him thanks for what He has done AND for what He is going to do. We serve a mighty God who can and will do more than we can ever imagine.
 Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed., p. 738). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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