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(Mark 7:1-13) Hypocrisy in the Church

(Mark 7:1-13) Hypocrisy in the Church

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in Mark
Ref: Mark 7:1–13

Hypocrisy can be defined as a showy, empty display of religion. Not only does it deceive others, but deceives the individual as well. Left unchecked, hypocrisy can lead to some very dangerous consequences. Stephen's warnings from Mark 7:1-13 serve as a description of what hypocrisy looks like, its motivation, its consequences, and its cure.




(Mark 7:1-13)


I want to turn your attention, this morning again, to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 7, as we continue our expositional tour through this dynamic gospel of action.  Mark, chapter 7, and we are going to touch on a subject, this morning, that is a very difficult one to preach about.  And I want you to know that I stand before you with bruised feet.  I’ve had them walked on all week.  We’re going to talk about hypocrites and hypocrisy in the church.  Now, you may think, “Well great, Pastor, it’s about time you preached on that subject.  There are a lot of hypocrites in the world and there are a lot of hypocrites in this church.  Go get them!  Sock it to them!”  Yet, I am afraid that if there is one sin we are all guilty of at times, it is the sin of hypocrisy.  And, I think, this message comes at a time when we need to ask ourselves some questions, again, not only personally but, as a church body.  Do we manifest some of the characteristics that Jesus Christ will point His finger at in the lives of these Pharisees?  If so, let’s clean up this morning.

Mark, chapter 7, I want us to begin with verse 1.  “Then came together unto Him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.  And when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen hands, they found fault.  For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.”  The elders here referring to ancients, not necessarily elders in church polity.  Verse 4, “And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not.  And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.”  I think, the first of three characteristics that Jesus Christ will reveal, as he rips the mask off the hypocrites, first of all, is that their attitudes emphasized external performance rather than inward purity.  He gives reference here to hand washing.  They were so upset, in fact, if you’ve been with us as we’ve studied through the Gospel of Mark, He has had confrontation with the Pharisees time and time again.  And it’s usually the same problem, Jesus Christ is not obeying their traditions.  He’s different.  He’s a maverick.  He isn’t coming along and fulfilling the status quo that we know should be part of the church worship.  And this is probably the most bitter confrontation that He will have with these men, as we look here in Mark and, later, in the book of Luke.

Now, we need to understand what this hand washing was all about.  You see, Jews could be defiled just by touching something that was unceremonial or unclean by the standards of ceremony.  So what these Pharisees would do before they ever ate, in fact, a lot of times before they would even enter their homes, is they would go through a ritual.  This isn’t to do with hygienic cleanliness, this is traditional observance.  They would get a basin of water, or perhaps in a pitcher, and they would hold one arm, first of all, something like this, as I studied, and they would pour water so it would run down their hand and drip off their elbow.  They’d roll up their sleeves, you know, so they wouldn’t get wet.  They’d hold their hand up and then they would pour water down so it would run this way, dripping off the elbow.  And then they would clench this hand and they would wash the palm of the other hand, like this, because, you see, this is already clean, they didn’t want to get this dirty again so they would clench it and wash the other hand.  And then, they would rinse this way so that now the water would run off the fingertips and this hand would be clean.  Then they would, of course, do the same by rinsing this hand.  It was a very detailed observance but they had to make sure, before they ever ate.  In fact, when they came from market, many times these men would disrobe and take an entire bath.  Perhaps they had brushed up against a Gentile.  Perhaps they had touched a dead animal.  Perhaps they had done something that all of the hundreds of traditions would declare them unclean and they wanted to make sure it was all right.  You see, these men were so concerned with outward things that they had forgotten that cleanliness begins on the inside.  And Jesus Christ points His finger at them and, I think, there is no greater danger, as He points out, between attaching some kind of symbol to religion and then attaching to that symbol the same amount of care as you do that religion.  The tradition is as important as scripture.  We will find He begins to become even more specific.

I want you to notice, secondly, in your notes, that their loyalty was to traditional practices rather than Biblical principles.  Let’s read the next few verses.  “Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him,” - here it is - “‘Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?’  He answered and said unto them, ‘Well hath Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites,’” - and there is the word that you ought to underline - “as it is written, ‘This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.’”  The word “hypocrite,” is from the Greek ‘hupokrites,” it’s just a transliteration, we’re not told what it means.  It, literally, refers to one who wears a mask.  That’s what the Greek word is defined as, “one who wears a mask.”  Greek actors were called by this term “hupokrites,” it wasn’t a bad term.  Jesus Christ uses the word now in a totally different context.  He says, “Look, you Pharisees, you are wearing a mask and it’s smiling but, on the inside, there is despair.  You are wearing a mask and that mask is pure and clean before all those who observe you but, behind the mask, is sin and an evil character.”  So He says, “You actors, you who are pretending to be something that you are not, well hath Isaiah said that you will honor Me with your lips but your heart is far from me.”  Verse 7, “Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.  For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.”  You know, it is so fascinating that these men were so concerned with the outward performance, yet the heart being dirty, that Jesus Christ could come along and in just one fell swoop, just rip it away.

I read of a devout Mohammedin, the story goes.  As you know, Mohammedins have to pray at certain times of the day, whenever the call to prayer is issued out.  And there was a Mohammedin who was very devout and he had his prayer mat with him.  But he had a knife in the other hand and he was chasing down someone he wanted to kill.  And just as he had the knife raised, he was about to slay this individual, the call to prayer came out.  He dropped his knife, unrolled his mat, got down on his knees, said his prayers as quick as he could, got his mat back up underneath his arm, picked up his knife and went back after that individual to kill him.  Exaggerated?  Yes.  And yet, Jesus Christ is saying that these people are basically doing the same thing.  They are so concerned that when prayer time comes that they pray, as He’ll say in just a little bit.  They’re so concerned that people observe them as being pure and right and yet, in their heart, they’re evil and murderous.

I want you to note, though, the progression that is very dangerous, even in the twentieth century.  Go back to verse 7 and notice what happens.  “In vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines” - notice that, they teach as doctrine - “the commandments of men.”  They equate their tradition with scripture.  But that begins a progression downhill.  Verse 8, it says they, “lay aside the commandment of God”.  Verse 9, they reject the word of God, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God”.  And notice verse 13, “Making the word of God of none effect”.  You see, the first thing that they do is the put it aside.  And then, ultimately, they will reject it.  And, finally, they will prevent the word from entering the hearts of other people to make an impact on their lives.  A dangerous thing to be a religious hypocrite.  To place the traditions of man, of church, or whatever on an equation with the word of God and teach them as if they are both as important.  How wrong.

You notice, at the bottom of your notes, I’ve given you just a difference between God’s truth and man’s tradition?  God’s truth will produce an inward faith.  That is, God will work from the inside out.  Man will produce outward forms.  That is, they work from the outside in.  “If we can just get you to do certain things, if we can just get you to look a certain way, then we can know that the person is becoming clean.”  That’s totally false.  You have to begin from the inside out.  As Proverbs says, “for out of . . . the heart . . . are” - all of - “ the issues of life.”  God’s truth provides principles and liberty.  God has a unique curriculum in developing you spiritually.  But man, however, has rules.  That is, they have a standard mold and they want a carbon copy.  You find a standard, “Yep, that’s the standard.  Now, I want everyone to become like that person.”  It’s a mold mentality and so wrong.  God’s truth will provide or produce inward holiness. Man’s tradition, outward piety.  And these Pharisees were classic examples of outward piety.  Praying on the street corners.  Whenever they fasted, they would wear a particular kind of old clothing.  They put dust and ashes on their head.  They’d wear a long face so that everyone would know, “Hey, he’s fasting and praying.  Hey, what a spiritual giant.”  And Jesus exposed them as being nothing more than outwardly pious.  God’s truth exalts the word above any tradition.  And yet, man’s tradition neglects the word.

Now, I want you to notice, in the next few verses, that their traditions are motivated by stubbornness and greed.  Jesus Christ now will begin to get behind the closed doors of their hearts and He’ll expose their motivation, as only the Son of God can do.  Notice verse 10, “Moses said, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother’” - that, by the way, is the fifth commandment - “and, whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death” - they would be stoned outside the city gates - “But ye say, ‘ If a man shall say to his father or mother, ‘It is Corban,’ that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.’  And ye suffer him no more to do aught for his father or his mother; making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”  We need to understand that, what Jesus is referring to is a good idea that began, perhaps centuries earlier, and yet, became an empty and then, finally, a selfish ritual.  It happened like this.  As children grew, they, ultimately, would take care of Mom and Dad, which is a biblical principle.  However, these Pharisees were so greedy, so materialistic that they had a problem on their hands.  “If we have to support Mom and Dad, we’re going to have to take out of our coffers and give to them.  We need a way around this.”  And so, they came up with this idea of Corban.  That is to say, “Mom, Dad, you see this money that is left over from my salary?  I’ve dedicated it to God.  I’m sorry, I can’t support you.  You wouldn’t want to touch what belongs to God, would you?”  And these Moms and Dads would, you know, “Well, of course not.  I can’t do that.”  So they began this practice which really stole from their parents.  They got around what was biblical.  The fifth commandment was to honor Moms and Dads and because they wouldn’t do it, they would dedicate whatever their parents needed to survive to God.  “Oh, that belongs to God.  You can’t touch it.”  And they couldn’t argue with that.  So, their motivations were selfish and, I think, motivated by greed.

You know, when it refers to, earlier in the chapter, these individuals washing the cups and the pots.  I have to share this with you, and I apologize for reading a paragraph.  But it was amazing to me, as I discovered how detailed their traditions had become.  What began, in the Old Testament, as principles of cleanliness, now became regulation upon regulation.  Here’s how they were so bound.  Listen to this.  “Obviously vessels could easily become unclean.  They might be touched by an unclean person or by unclean food.  This is what our passage means by the washing of cups and pitchers and vessels of bronze.  Now, in the Mishnah,” - and that, by the way, was a compilation of all the traditions of the elders and the Pharisees - “there are no fewer than twelve treaties on this kind of uncleanness.  If we take some actual examples, we’ll see how far they went.”  Here’s how it goes.  “A hollow vessel, made of pottery, could contract uncleanness inside but not outside.  That is to say, it did not matter who or what touched it outside but it did matter what touched it on the inside.  If it became unclean, it must be broken.  And no unbroken piece must remain which was big enough to hold enough oil to anoint the little toe.”  Now, these are all specifically given in the Mishnah.  “A flat plate, without a rim, could not become unclean but a plate, with a rim, could.  If vessels made with leather, bone or glass were flat, they could not contract uncleanness.  If they were hollow, they could become unclean outside and on the inside.  If they were unclean, they must be broken and the break must be a hole, at least big enough for a medium sized pomegranate to pass through.  To cure uncleanness, earthen vessels must be broken, other vessels must be immersed, boiled, purged with fire, or polished.  A three legged table could contract uncleanness.  If it lost one or two legs, it could not.  If it lost three legs, it could for then it could be used as a board and the board could become unclean.  Things made of metal could become unclean except a door, a bolt, a lock, a hinge, a knocker, and a gutter.  Wood used in metal utensils could become unclean.  But metal used in wood utensils could not.  Thus, a wooden key with metal teeth could become unclean but a metal key with wooden teeth could not.”  Did you catch that?  Now live that way!  Follow that, to the letter.  Amazing how all of these regulations were added one upon another until, finally, people are bound.  And Jesus exposes them.

I want you to notice, and this is why I think it’s important to preach from this text, the results of hypocrisy.  Turn ahead to Luke, chapter 11.  Mark leaves out this very important passage, as he races through in his own style.  But Luke adds it.  The same confrontation and Jesus will then look at these Pharisees and these religious traditionalists, these religious hypocrites, who were so bound by the traditions of men, and He will give several “woes.”  Notice verse 42, you could underline the word “woe” there.  Verse 43, of chapter 11, underline the word “woe.”  Verse 44, there’s one.  Verse 46, there’s another.  Verse 47, another.  And the last one is in verse 52, of Luke, chapter 11.  Let’s look just briefly at these woes and see what Jesus is revealing to, not only them but, us.  Now the word “woe,” is not the word translated, “Hold it just a second there, you hypocrite.”  That wasn’t it.  “Woe,” was literally translated, “great grief.”  You know what’s fascinating, in the life of Jesus Christ, as He exposes the hypocrisy of these men, is He does not excoriate them, He doesn’t pull out a whip.  He has compassion in His heart.  You see, ladies and gentlemen, it is just as wrong for someone bound by tradition to point a finger at you and say, “Oh, you are so ridiculous.”  It is just as wrong for that person to point a finger back to this one who is bound and say, “You are ridiculous.”  Both are wrong.  Jesus Christ looks at these men and, I think, there is a tear in His heart.  There is compassion.  I think His tone of voice is perhaps, “Woe unto you, Pharisees!” - “How tragic that you live like this.  How sad.”

Notice what the first woe is, verse 42.  You could jot into your notes that their priorities are wrong.  “But woe unto you, Pharisees!  For ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”  Now, we don’t know why rue is mentioned here.  In fact, all of the commentators never really give a whole lot of mention to this but we do know that rue was a type of plant used in medicine and in cooking.  We also know that the Mishnah said that the rue was exempt from the tithe.  Now, don’t miss that.  The rue was exempt from tithing.  If you tithe, as they were obligated to do, you didn’t have to tithe the rue or give a portion of that.  You see, what Jesus is saying?  He is saying, “You are so concerned with being outwardly pure, you are so concerned with performance, you are so concerned with how others observe you that you tithe what you should and, just to make sure you’re right, you take a little bit of the rue and you give that to God.  Just to make sure, you go one more step.”  And, as a result, He says, “You pass over justice and the love of God.  You are so concerned with this little plant, giving some to God, and yet, you have no love in your hearts for others.  You pass over the greater things.  You major on the minors.  You are concerned with trivialities and you miss the important things that you ought to be doing.”

The second woe, in verse 43, you could jot in, their desires were selfish.  Their desires were selfish.  Look at verse 43, “Woe unto you, Pharisees!  For you love the uppermost seats in the synagogues”.  Now, I hate to do this but, you need to understand that the translation of this is literally, “the front row.”  Now we know why all of these people are here!  I’m teasing.  Look, if you want to get a back row, which is really the best seat, you’ve got to come here at 7-o-clock in the morning.  And, as soon as the chairs set out, sit down.  No.  This is exactly how it was translated, though, the very front seat.  In fact, usually in the way that they designed their auditoriums, it would be seats that would face the congregation.  They would be sitting up in the front, where everybody could observe.  And, it was a high thing to be a Pharisee, or a scribe, or a lawyer, someone revered, a doctor of the law, or whatever it might be because you were given that seat.  You could come in late and it would be reserved.  And you’d come in with all the pomp and dignity and all of the robes flowing and you would sit down and look out over these people and they’d be thinking, “Wow!  If only I could be like that.  How spiritual.”  He says, “ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.”  This isn’t a handshake, “Hi!  How are you doing?  Great to see you today.”  And then you go along the market.  No.  The greetings in the synagogues were bowing, kissing the hand, showing tremendous reverence.  You see, the Pharisees were the heroes of the day.  It’s kind of like, I guess, today, you’d get your Bible and you’d have them sign in the front, give their life verse, you know.  Now, I’m not saying anything because I’ve got some signatures right here.  But, all of the apostles were becoming heroes and, I think that, Jesus was, in fact, implying to them, “Stay off the pedestal.  Don’t get to the point where people are going to say, ‘Ah, he’s an apostle and I shook his hand.  I saw him today.  He looked at me and said, ‘Hi.’’”  They loved these greetings where the common people would come and almost bow before their throne and they were eating it up.  There desires were so selfish.

Look at verse 44, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” - there’s the word again - “For ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.”  Now, this points us back to the Passover time when they would whitewash all of the tombstones.  It was kind of a “clean up Jerusalem” act and it was to beautify everything.  And the problem, though, was that sometimes people would not be aware because this stone was not so observable as a whitewash.  Perhaps it could be taken for something else.  And they would walk over the grave, not knowing that, according to the law, they would be defiled by walking over the grave.  So Jesus says, “You Pharisees, you are like whitewashed tombstones.  You know, it’s part of the clean up act.  You look great but, as a result, people don’t realize that, by your influence, by walking over your life, by rubbing shoulders with you, they are touching death, they are being defiled.”  Man, that’s severe.  “And men walk over you and they are not aware that you are filled with the bones of dead men.”

“Then answered one of the lawyers” - verse 45 - “and said unto Him, ‘Master, thus saying Thou reproachest us also.’”  Now, you need to understand that the lawyers, in that day, were kind of like the scribes.  In fact, many times scribes would be lawyers.  The lawyers job was to interpret the interpretations.  You see, the Pharisees studied and they would give their interpretations of the law.  The lawyers then would come along and they would interpret the interpretations to the people.  It sounds complicated, I know.   But these things would compile, one on top of the other, so by the time Jesus comes along, there are more regulations than people could ever hold to.  And so, the lawyer, he’s pretty perceptive, he says, “Hey, Master, the things that you’re teaching, I guess you’re pointing Your finger at us, aren’t you?”  And Jesus says, in verse 46, “And He said, ‘Woe unto you also, ye lawyers!  For ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.’”  That is, “You load on the people traditions, you load on them legalistic rules and then you step back and say, ‘Okay, you live like that and I’m not going to help you.’”  You see, it is impossible to be bound by the outward form and yet, have in your heart compassion for people.  It is impossible to impose rules on individuals and, at the same time, lovingly care about that individual.  It doesn’t happen.  And you see, the problem with the law, even as today, the law cannot take away from the individual the desire to break it.  You can say, “I don’t want you to do that and so here’s a law, abide by it.”  The problem is, that law didn’t take from your emotions the desire to do it.

Let me illustrate.  I’m not so old that I cannot remember those years of dating as a high school student.  And my parents would give the law, “You’re home at 11-o-clock.  That’s the law.”  Now that didn’t take from me the desire to stay out until 11:01.  In fact, I hold the record in Tidewater for making it from Virginia Beach to Norfolk in the shortest amount of time.  Now, if you tell your child, “This is the law.  You be home at eleven.”  You know what’s going to happen?  You’re going to get a call at 11-o-clock, “Mom, Dad, you’ll never believe what happened.  All of these things happened and this is the reason that I can’t make it home.  Let’s make it 11:30.”  You see, your child isn’t sitting over there with his friends thinking, “I’m going to show up at 10:00, just to show Mom and Dad how much I love them.”  Not a chance.  He’s probably going to spend the last hour figuring out a way to stay out another half hour, you see.  And that was the problem with the lawyers.  They were giving all of these laws and yet, there wasn’t any help.  You see, God works in a totally different way.  He gives us His Holy Spirit to control our emotions, to give us the power to say, “No.”  And He says, “Woe unto you lawyers because you burden people and then you step back and say, ‘Okay, now live it and don’t expect any help from us.’”

You know, one of the classic examples of their unconcern, look at verse 11, of chapter 13.  Turn over there in Luke, chapter 13, verse 11.  Luke 13:11, “And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years,” - she was sick - “ and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.” - or straighten herself - “And when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him, and said unto her, ‘Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.’  And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.” - now, note what happens next, classic - “And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people,” - this is unbelievable - “There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed”.  That is, “There are six days for you to be healed and, if you can’t come on Friday and get healed, you’ve got to wait until Sunday.”  Absolutely no concern.  There was the law.  “You’re sick and you’re going to die and it happens to be Saturday.  Tough!  Die!  We won’t help you until the next day.”  Jesus answered them, in verse 15, “Thou hypocrite” - there’s the word again - “doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?  And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?”  Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of such an answer.

Notice the next woe, their reverence was deceitful, in verse 47.  Their reverence was deceitful.  “Woe unto you!  For ye build the sepulchres of the prophets,” - that is, the tombs of the prophets - “ and your fathers killed them.”  Now, this is interesting because he is referring to a lawyer, who is to uphold the law.  And He’s pointing out to them that they were, literally, covering murder.  And He said, “You build up the tombs” - “Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their” - tombs.  Now, this is interesting.  They knew that their fathers had killed the prophets.  They knew that they were involved with murderous deeds.  And yet, to show to the people that they were, kind of, good men, they would build beautiful tombs, these little sanctuaries, and they would speak of the prophets with reverence.  And yet, Jesus Christ says, “You’ve never admitted that, not only your fathers but, in your teaching, you are guilty of killing them.  You see, your reverence is deceitful.”  “Therefore also said the wisdom of God,” - verse 49 - “I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation: from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias”.  Now, this is interesting because, in the Hebrew Bible, Zechariah was the last prophet in the order so, from the very first murder unto the very last murder, the prophet whom they slaughtered.  “The entire Old Testament bears witness that you are murderous, you are deceiving, though you are so polished.  And on the outside, everything is SO right.  Yet on the inside, there’s death and sin.”  “Verily I say unto you, ‘It shall be required of this generation.’” - verse 51.  It’s interesting that, in AD 70, Jerusalem was leveled.  Perhaps, the judgment referred to by Jesus Christ in this passage.

Look at verse 52, the final woe.  Their teaching lacked discernment.  This is probably the most tragic of all.  And, I imagine, that Jesus, perhaps, had tears in His eyes when He said this.  “Woe unto you, lawyers!  For ye have taken away the key of knowledge”.  In the original that is, “the key of THE knowledge.”  “You have taken away the key of the knowledge.”  “Ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.”  Jesus Christ, in His Messianic kingdom program, His offering to the people, He, in Himself, being the key to all of the prophesies of the One who would come.  He was the KEY!  And they had ignored it.  They had rejected it.  And now, they were holding the key away from the people so that they wouldn’t know.  And the things that they had taught blinded the people so that they, in fact, never saw.  The people who rejoiced and said, “Hosanna,” would later say, “Crucify Him.”  Why?  Because He was the key that they had rejected.  Because He had rejected their traditions.

You know what we need, ladies and gentlemen?  As you look at this list, and let me go over it quickly.  The hypocrites have wrong priorities, have selfish desires, have a defiling influence, have concern that is literally absent, they have reverence that is deceitful, and they have teaching that lacks true biblical discernment.  You know, I find myself in this list.  Can you spot yourself anywhere at times, perhaps, playing the roll of an actor, the mask up.  And, as far as everyone else in this body is concerned, as far as anybody else in your family is concerned, everything is okay, everything is right.  And yet, it’s hypocrisy.  Could we as a church body collectively become so bound to traditions that we lose the objectives that God has given us?  Absolutely.  And though, on the surface, everything seems okay and God may be blessing, whatever that means, and yet, on the inside, there is a heart that is without compassion and without concern.

Ladies and gentlemen, what we need is a fresh awakening.  Turn to I Peter, chapter 2, where you’ll find this word again.  I Peter, chapter 2, verses 1 to 3.  I Peter, chapter 2, verse 1, “Wherefore laying aside all malice,” - or deceit - “ and all guile, and hypocrisies,” - there it is - “and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”  How can I take hypocrisy and rid myself of it?  How can I shield myself from malice and envy and hypocrisy, the mask?  Desire this book as a baby does milk.  Now, in another passage, milk is referred to that which is for young believers or new believers but here it’s not, it’s referring to an attitude.  There is an intensity of desire, there is something about this word, this milk, that I must have and I will pursue it.  Nothing can stop me from gaining it.  And you notice verse 3, “if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”  Hey, if you’ve come to a point, in your life, where you have seen that the hand of God is so gracious, you have experienced salvation, you have trusted Him and you have sensed that your sins, as He’s promised, have been forgiven, you’ve been born again, you’re new, and you’ve experienced the graciousness of God, why, in the world, go back into law?  Because you’ve left all of that, because He is so gracious, begin to grow by desiring the milk of the word.

Let me summarize our thoughts.  I’ve jotted down some questions for me to answer.  And I want to give them to you.  And I want to ask you, in your heart, to answer these questions, as well.  First of all, I am guilty of hypocrisy when I am more interested in religious tradition than biblical teaching.  I’m guilty.  I am guilty when I am so concerned that my life matches some kind of mode, that my church fits some kind of mode.  The favorite saying of a church bound by tradition is, “We will ALWAYS do it because we have ALWAYS done it.”  We are equating traditional practices with biblical teaching and I am guilty if I do that.

Secondly, I am guilty of hypocrisy when I am more concerned with the operations of a church than the objectives of a church.  I am more concerned with the day to day, in fact, when Sunday comes, man, things had better be like they ought to be.  You know, we ought to do something different around here.  I don’t have anything particularly in mind but maybe, next Sunday, I could put the pulpit in the back of the room and you could face this way.  I’ve got an idea, I could sit down and preach and you could stand up.  That would be wonderful!  You see, I’m afraid that we have equated different things that we do, didn’t Hezekiah mention that the musical instruments are piano and organ?  I guess we’re falling short on that one.  Didn’t he say that church begins at eleven, ends at twelve?  Sunday school comes first and then the service.  That you are to wear what you are wearing.  You see, I’m afraid, ladies and gentlemen, that many times we overlook the objectives of a church that are primarily two-fold.  Evangelizing the world for Jesus Christ.  Do you realize that we’ve been placed on planet earth, that God has designed for us to form a fellowship, to evangelize, not only this area but, the world?  That’s an objective that ought to be in the front of our minds.  The second one is to equip the saints.  You see, those are explicit commands, given by God.  In fact, go to the word of God and try to find how many specific commands He has given for us to do, when we meet together, and you’ll find very few.  In fact, I can only come up with four: praying, communion, fellowship, and teaching.  All of the other things are practices that we dare not chain ourselves to, lest we lose and miss the objectives of evangelizing and equipping.                                                 

Number three, I am guilty of hypocrisy when I am more demanding of outward ceremony than heart commitment.  Guilty.

Last of all, I am guilty of hypocrisy when I am more diligent in my appearance before men than my approval before God.  Guilty.

The solution is not hypocrisy, it is true holiness.  Holiness that is generated by the Spirit of God and that work is begun at salvation.  You are holy, not because of what you do or what you do not do, you are holy because of what you are in Jesus Christ.  Holiness will be evidenced to others as they see in you the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Not practices, not traditions but love, faith, long-suffering.  Holiness will be completely fulfilled when we see Jesus Christ face to face.




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