The Hypocritic creed
Devotion in Motion
The two thousand member church was filled to overflowing capacity one Sunday morning. The preacher was ready to start the sermon when two men, dressed in long black coats and black hats entered thru the rear of the church. One of the two men walked to the middle of the church while the other stayed at the back of the church. They both then reached under their coats and withdrew automatic weapons. The one in the middle announced, “Everyone willing to take a bullet for Jesus stay in your seats!”
Naturally, the pews emptied, followed by the choir. The deacons ran out the door, followed by the choir director and the assistant pastor.
After a few moments, there were about twenty people left sitting in the church. The preacher was holding steady in the pulpit.
The men put their weapons away and said, gently, to the preacher, “All right, pastor, the hypocrites are gone now. You may begin the service.”
What is a hypocrite?
Well in Chapter 2 Paul begins to explain just what or who a hypocrite is or can be. To put it simply, a hypocrite is just an actor in a play. Someone who wears a mask and pretends to be someone he isn’t.
In Romans 1 Paul analyzed the sins of the heathen, and while he did, most of us nodded in approval as Paul picked apart their perversity. Some of us might’ve even felt a little smug – or a bit of moral superiority! Paul senses our spiritual snobbishness. Our sin may be more sophisticated, our wickedness more well-bred, but we’re just as guilty. Respectable sinners are just as culpable as reprobate sinners. In the book of Romans, Paul sets up court, God is the judge and he’s the prosecutor. In chapter 1 the heathen gets sentenced. In chapter 2 it’s the hypocrite’s turn.
In chapter 3 the Hebrew and all humanity are put on trial. Both the unrighteous and self-righteous end up guilty as charged… Romans 2 begins, “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” A woman racing to catch her flight, had no time for lunch. She grabbed a pack of cookies on the way to the plane. She was sitting in the aisle seat. A man was by the window. An empty seat was between them. After the plane took off she reached over in the empty seat and opened the package of cookies to eat one. But to her shock the man also ate a cookie. She thought, “How dare that guy eat one of my cookies.” A few minutes later she ate another cookie. The man also took a cookie. She took one. He took one. Finally, there was just one cookie left. The man reached for it, broke it in two, and gave it to the lady. She was furious! As they exited the plane she was rummaging through her purse looking for the claim ticket for her baggage. But guess what she found? Her cookies! The whole time she was condemning the man for eating her cookies she was guilty of the exact same crime!
Paul says to the hypocrite in all of us – who are you to judge another when you “practice the same things?” In chapter 1 Paul took us on a tour of Skid Rome… The street is lit with neon signs and littered with broken glass. Police sirens scream in the night. Windows and doors are screened with burglar bars. Prostitutes walk the streets, while derelicts lie in the gutter. Skid Rome is an awful place to be. But in chapter 2 we realize all of us live closer to Skid Rome than we would like to think. For the same seed that blooms there, lies just under the surface of our hearts. The anger that causes you to shout a four-letter word, if nurtured and cultivated, can pull a trigger and end a life. Lust that’s allowed to inflame can throw you in bed with your secretary, or make you a customer on skid row.
Paul’s point is that we have no right to condemn the adulterer unless we’ve never lusted in our heart… 2 Corinthians 7:1 reads, “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit…” Notice, both the flesh and spirit can get filthy. You can become dirty on the inside or outside – attitude or action. The consequences of a spiritual sin may not be as immediate as a sin of the flesh. You avoid the risk of AIDS, you keep your family intact – but, though the fallout is lesser, the kernel is the same. Before God the seed and deed are one in the same. This means don’t judge the deed, while the seed grows in your own heart. Notice three times in verse 1 Paul uses the term “judge.” The Greek word “krino” means “to condemn, or damn to hell.” We should never condemn a person to hell – that’s not our call. But not all judgments are wrong.
In Matthew 7 Jesus commands us to make certain judgments. He says, “Beware of false prophets… You will know them by their fruits” Apparently, it’s okay to make judgments for identification – just not condemnation. Look Parents, imagine a young man on your doorstep wanting to take your daughter on a date. Beer cans are in the bed of his pick-up truck – there’s a cigar hanging out of his mouth – and a Playboy magazine stuck in his back pocket. It’s a dad’s job to size this guy up. Dad, you don’t need to condemn him, or send him to hell. In fact, you can try to love him, and share the Lord with this young man. But don’t you dare let your daughter anywhere near him. You’re not being judgmental, you’re being discerning!
What Paul forbids in verse 1 is a “holier-than-thou attitude.” The idea that I’m better, or more spiritual, or more righteous than another person. If a self righteous person truly had his or her eyes on God they’d realize how far short they really fall – so to justify himself in his own eyes, he focuses on the other person he thinks is worse off than he. She compares and condemns. Her goal is to make other people look so bad so she can look good! It’s amazing how harsh I can be with other people, and at the same time, how lenient I can be with myself. There’s a double standard. My rage is always more intense than my repentance. It’s been said, “Faults are like headlights: the other car’s headlights always seem more glaring than your own.” Verse 2, “But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.”
One of the reasons God forbids us from making judgments is that you and I seldom know the whole story. Things are not always what they seem. So, whenever we make a judgment from our limited perspective we’re capable of making huge mistakes. Psalm 19:9 tells us, “The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” Only God sees enough of a situation to make the proper call. When it comes to people, we need to do the loving and let God do the judging. Verse 3, “And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?”
Sometimes we think we’re the exception to the rule. God will judge everyone else, but me. At least, He grades me on the curse. Don’t be foolish. “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Here’s a great verse! Remember this when you share your faith. A person is prone to repent and turn to God when they discover how much He loves them. 1 John 4:19 tells us, “We love Him, because He first loved us.”
More people are saved by Love than by fear. Fear prompts us to do just enough to avoid hell, but it never causes us to cling to God. That’s why after a disaster people seem to forget about God. I’ve discovered love is a far greater motivator. What causes a desire for God isn’t the horrors of hell, as much as the attractiveness of God.
Verse 5, “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God…” The word translated “hardness” is the Greek word “sclerosis.” We call the hardening of the arteries, “arteriosclerosis.” And this can happen to us spiritually. We can get a hard heart.
I read that in the 1880s a Wells Fargo clerk figured out a way to steal one silver dollar every day without getting caught. He’d bring the coins home and place them in a trunk in his attic. This went on year after year after year. Every day for 30 years the man put one more silver dollar in his attic trunk. Finally, the trunk became so heavy that one night it broke through the boards of his ceiling and fell on the man while he was lying in bed asleep. This is what Paul is saying can happen to us. A hard heart stores up God’s wrath until one day the ceiling breaks and it all comes crashing down on you. Verse 6, “Who will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness – indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
God’s judgments are based on obedience – not good intentions, or favoritism. It’s not who you are that matters, it’s what you do. God will “render to each one according to his deeds…” It doesn’t matter if you’re Jew or Greek, obey God and you can expect glory, honor, and peace… Disobey, and expect wrath and tribulation… Verse 11, “For there is no partiality with God.” “For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law…” In other words, God also judges based on opportunity – the light that you’ve received.
Those who have the Bible will be judged according to the Bible. But those without God’s Word won’t be held responsible for what they never received. That doesn’t mean the pygmy in New Zealand, who lives and dies having never heard the Word of God, won’t die in his sins and be judged by God – he will – but the judgment will be different than for the person who lived his whole life listening to the Gospel, while never embracing it’s truths in his own life. Verses 13 explains, “(For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)…”
Some people lack access to the Word of God, but that doesn’t mean they’re blind to the Will of God. God has declared enough of His will to hold all sinners accountable. Paul is instructing us that God has revealed Himself in two ways – through divine law and natural law. Verse 15 lists three components to natural law… First, is an innate sense of right and wrong – “the law written in their hearts” Second, is “their conscience also bearing witness...” And third, all societies develop a moral consensus “between themselves…” It’s an agreed upon morality that’s formed through reason and logic…
The founders of America spoke often of “natural law” and “inalienable rights.” They understood that man was created a moral being. And that even without the Scripture we all possess an innate knowledge of good and evil. The Roman philosopher Plutarch was once asked, “Who shall govern the governor?” Plutarch answered, “The Law… not written on papyrus rolls or wooden tablets, but his own reason within the soul, which perpetually dwells with him and guards him and never leaves his soul void of leadership.” There’s a law within every human, and tragically all men have broken that law.
Following a great sermon on lifestyle evangelism one family thought they had better do something to witness to Jesus. So they invited their neighbours to dinner the following Friday night.
When it came to the meal, the hostess was keen to show their neighbours that they upheld Christian standards in their home.
So she asked little 5 year old Johnny to say grace.
Little Johnny was a bit shy. “I don’t know what to say” There was an awkward pause, followed by a reassuring smile from the boy’s mother.
“Well darling,” she said, ” just say what Daddy said at breakfast this morning. “Obediently, the boy repeated, “Oh God, we’ve got those awful people coming to dinner tonight”
Who has always done what they know to be right in every situation? None of us, no not one. That’s why every man needs the Gospel! No one can stand on their own.
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