Why a Sermon Series on Hypocrisy?
I am writing this article this morning to help explain the reason why our next sermon series will be a study of Matthew 23. The sermon series is called Hypocrisy & Grace. Matthew 23 records seven woes that Jesus pronounces upon the hypocritical Pharisees. This message was the last public message that Jesus would speak and it is the most serious and severe sermon he ever preached.
I understand that a sermon series like this could easily be misconstrued as the preacher using the pulpit to try and attack certain individuals. This is NOT my intention! In a spirit of transparency, I have to confess that there is ONE person that has been on my mind while I have been preparing this sermon. That person is me!
G.K. Chesterton, an English theologian who died in 1936 once said; “No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be … till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees.”
The truth is this sermon series is for all of us, because all of us have at least one drop of hypocrisy in our lives that with the help of the Holy Spirit, needs to be squeezed out. There is a great danger that we can sometimes simply go through the motions in our walk with the Lord, which can be demonstrated in our corporate worship services. If we don’t take the worship of Jehovah God seriously our worship can become insincere and absent of righteousness. We can sing Christian songs without considering the Person to whom and about whom we are singing. The Lord spoke against the insincere and hypocritical worship of the Jews during the ministry of the prophet Amos:
"I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:21-24
If we are not filled with the righteousness of Christ we can so easily lose sight of who God is – that He is the Creator of this universe who is present in this world even now. We forget that God knows the thoughts of our hearts and the attitudes of our minds. When we purpose to devote our lives to God’s glory, we cannot possibly seek our own glory. It is impossible to live hypocritically when you take God seriously. Living for God’s glory eliminates the possibility of hypocrisy.
Recently we finished our sermon series in ‘The Letters of John’. We finished by looking at the bad example of Diotrephes and the good example of Demetrius. In many ways Diotrephes was a HYPOCRITE. He claimed to be a lover of God but his actions proved that he was indeed a liar. Diotrephes lived for his own glory. He wanted the pre-eminence for himself, while claiming to be a spiritual man of God. And as the apostle John taught us, there is much we can learn from the bad example of this hypocrite.
Whatever we do in the Lord’s work—whether we teach a Bible class, witness, pray, give money, serve in the Children’s ministry or Music ministry, rebuke sin, or any other good work—if our motive is to impress men or get personal adulation, God cannot truly bless our efforts. If we try to steal a little glory for ourselves, we have stolen the blessing and joy that comes from God. Augustine, the early church father, said, “The love of honour is the deadly bane of true piety. Other vices bring forth evil works, but this brings forth good works in an evil way.”
Hypocrisy is a horrible sin. Christ is the head of the Church; He is the preeminent one, who deserves all the glory. Paul’s words to the Corinthians ring as true today as ever:
“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:11-12
The bad example of Diotrephes and the Pharisees in Matthew 23, have been recorded in scripture for our instruction, so that we will find our victory in Christ and confidence in God. Self confidence leads to disaster, God confidence to joy and security. Will you stand out and be counted among those who name and live Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour? Will you obey God and His Word? Perhaps in His kindness He will use you to transform your unsaved family, and those around you, for His honour and glory.
My prayer is that as we journey together through Matthew 23, we would humble ourselves before God and allow the Spirit of God to examine our hearts in light of His Word. Remember the series is called Hypocrisy AND GRACE. Thank God for His grace. Thank God that even though we will find this oil of the Pharisees in our hearts, we can find forgiveness and healing in Christ, if we humble ourselves and repent!