CHOOSING A GENUINE LIFE BEFORE GOD – Pete Bauer
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on September 28th, 2014. To listen to the audio, click on this link – Hypocrisy 3.
Conflict: “When he left there (the dinner), the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say.” Jesus’ confrontation of the Pharisees and the Lawyers caused a stir. He began a confrontation with religious people who wanted to use God as a way to promote themselves, and it would eventually lead to his death.
This morning, we want to look at the warning Jesus gave his disciples about this conflict because, if we are to turn away from hypocrisy ourselves and to live genuinely before God, it will cause trouble. By turning away from hypocrisy we put ourselves into conflict with what often passes for respectable religion: outward conformity–injustice by those who should be displaying God’s compassion–spiritual pride–legalism–and posturing. Jesus’ words here are not easy. He does not tell his disciples that they can avoid trouble. Instead he prepares them to be willing and ready to suffer for living genuine lives before God.
Live Genuinely as Those Who Will See God.
“There is nothing concealed that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” Jesus begins by speaking metaphorically–that which you think you are hiding will be made known–it will be seen. He paints a picture of the town crier shouting out personal information and secrets from the roof tops. What does it mean?
Hypocrisy is Already Evident: First, on a human level, Jesus is exposing what is already exposed–that, to some extent, hypocrisy is evident–we see it. We can tell when a person is being hypocritical. How? Though people hide behind their public actions, words, statements, postures–the attitude is always on display, and it is always revealed in many ways.
A person who is prideful can pretend to be humble, but over time you can see the attitude of pride even through their play acting. Over time their real desires, goals, motives become plain by their actions. Play-acting, like the over-large, fake looking masks the Greek actors wore, has an appearance of unreality about it. (Mrs. Soames & Halloween).
Hypocrisy Will Be Unmasked: However, on the ultimate stage, we will stand before God maskless! God will look on the heart and be aware of the meaning of every action, word, motive and thought. We will be judged by the intentions of the heart–our play-acting will be completely seen through.
This does not mean that God will play our own personal video of shame for the entertainment of all. Nor does it mean that God is going to punish and shame those who trusted in Christ for forgiveness, or put them on trial to determine their worthiness. Rather, Jesus is saying to his followers, all people will stand before God who sees the motives of the heart. Live in that knowledge and do not, like the hypocrites, think that you can hide your true self from God.
Honor the Father as the True Judge – Rather Than Fearing People.
“I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Jesus sounds as though he is saying that God is just waiting–just looking for an excuse–to throw us into hell–and that we should be always fearfully groveling before him.
However, a Jewish first century audience would have thought of God in this way–as a judge to be feared and honored. His words reflect first century reverence. Jesus is speaking, here, in a way that would make sense–but that would also emphasize the contrast he was making.
Honoring God the Father Creates Genuine Life in Us: Jesus is telling his disciples something important here (not threatening them). He is showing them the source of his own genuine living, which is that he is always focused on honoring the Father. Jesus says, in several places, that he can only do what he sees his Father doing. Here, he says to his disciples, you fix your eyes on pleasing the Father. This is the way to live genuine lives before God and men.
Fearing People is the Way to Become a Hypocrite: By contrast, Jesus tells the disciples not to be afraid of people who can only kill the body. There is a way to think of this as all in the future. Jesus’ disciples may face martyrdom. Those who live as hypocrites will one day be thrown into hell.
Yet at the same time, there is something very present about what Jesus is saying. The fear of people kills the soul now, deadening our awareness of God, drawing our eyes away from him, making us something unreal, plastic and lifeless.
Do Not Be Afraid to Be Genuine–The Father Loves You: Sparrows cost about 1/2 cent. You could get two for a penny, or five for two pennies. This meant that the fifth sparrow was a throw away–thrown into the bargain–basically having no worth. Yet, Jesus says, “… not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
This statement counterbalances the “Fear God” statement made earlier, and makes it clear that Jesus meant, “Reverence God” or “Honor God,” rather than, “Always live in fear that God may throw you into hell.” It also highlights the reason that Jesus is making these statements.
People are valuable to God. We carry within ourselves God’s very image. That image is distorted and ruined by hypocrisy–but it is beautified and glorious as we become more genuinely who God made us to be. People are things of glory. Jesus wants the disciples to be sure to see this and not to live in fear–which would only distort their lives.
Genuine Does Not Mean Sinless: As a side note, and to avoid misunderstanding, it is clear from Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees and from what he says here, that genuine living before God makes one free–but not sinless. Our calling to live genuine lives before God does not mean that we must be sinless. In fact, Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees and Lawyers was in reaction to their false claim of being better than others. Jesus exposed them and called them to honest confession and repentance. Honesty, repentance and a desire to please God reflect a truly genuine life–whereas the claim to be sinless must always be viewed with suspicion.
Acknowledge the Son as Lord – Rather Than Disowning Him.
“I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.“
Genuine Life Will Create Conflict with Those Who Are Hypocrites: It is clear that Jesus expected the genuine living of the disciples to bring them into conflict with the Pharisees. This is in fact, what happened. Not only did the Pharisees not like their teaching about Jesus, whom they had put to death, but also the Pharisees were deeply upset by the powerful effect the message of Jesus’ disciples had on people – just as they had been upset by the powerful effect of Jesus’ life and message. Consequently, he speaks to them about the pressure they will face to disown him and his message.
Acknowledging Jesus: What we see in the NT, when the disciples acknowledged Jesus, is not just an admission that they were his followers, but explanations of the Gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the forgiveness given to sinners so that they could become the dearly loved children of God.
To acknowledge Jesus, then, means more than admitting we are Christian–it is the acknowledgment of a way of life that is free to be genuine. It is a rejection of the notion that we are just “good people.” It is an acknowledgement that we are needy people–broken people–that we need the grace and friendship of Jesus to become genuine people. Consequently, acknowledging Jesus and his message is at the core of what it means to live a genuine life.
Trust The Spirit in Conflict – Rather Than Preparing for Battle.
Defensiveness in the Face of Conviction Creates Hypocrisy: ”And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”
The most hypocritical behavior of the Pharisees happened in reaction to Jesus’ healings. They were so determined to be against Jesus that, when they saw miraculous healing take place, they pushed down the conviction that they were experiencing, and attributed the healing to Satan. This hard hearted reaction so sealed them in their opposition to Jesus that they were unable to receive him. [Consequently, anyone who worries that they may have committed this sin, by definition, hasn’t].
Trusting and Listening to God in Conflict Creates Genuine Life: “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say. for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
As previously mentioned, Jesus knew that genuine living before God brings people into conflict. The real danger in conflict is reaction and defensiveness that leads us away from honoring God and loving people. Consequently, he tells his disciples not to prepare to react or to create a defense, but to trust that the Spirit of God will teach them, in the moment, what to say.