Craig Groeschel - Hypocrisy
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I am very thankful to have you with us today at every single Life.Church location. Before we dive into this week's message, how many of you were with us last weekend? All of our churches you were with us last weekend? Did you notice last weekend felt like a really special kind of time? Anybody kind of notice that? We're going somewhere, I hope you'll know that. What I want to tell you is something that's coming up starting on Easter weekend we're gonna do a message series. I'm already working on it, it's called How Sweet The Sound, How Sweet The Sound. What we're gonna do is we're gonna take some of the classic hymns from our faith and we're gonna look at the story behind those hymns. Then I'm gonna preach from scripture along with the themes that we find in those hymns.
We're gonna design our time so that we actually can worship at the end of our time in a response to God's word like we did last week. What I hope you'll understand is that we are going somewhere as a church. I cannot wait to share that message series with you, How Sweet The Sound. Perhaps if you're new with us right now we're in another message series. Maybe you've seen the bracelets on people over the years that say WWJD. Who's ever seen a bracelet like that, WWJD? What does that stand for, it stands for what would Jesus do? What we're doing is we're trying to answer the question not what would Jesus do, but what would Jesus undo? What are the things that really grieve the heart of Jesus? What is it when Jesus sees this in our lives he says I would undo this so you could have something better? Week number one we talked about spiritual apathy. Jesus would undo a lukewarm spirit.
Last week we talked about hollow worship. Jesus wants all of our hearts. Worship isn't just the songs that we sing, but worship is the life that we live. To introduce today's theme I want to tell you a story about something Jesus would undo. This happened to me one day when I was actually driving to the office. When I drive in I have a right turn onto a four-lane highway, two lanes going one way, two lanes going the other way. One day I misjudged the speed of a vehicle that was coming in the inside lane. In other words, I thought he was going slow enough for me to pull out comfortably without him having to break or go around me. I misjudged how quickly this person who was probably significantly breaking the speed limit was actually driving. I pulled out in front of him and I realized very quickly that I'd made a mistake because he was approaching my backside really, really fast.
Unfortunately this person, instead of having grace for me, acknowledging my mistake, chose to express his disappointment in my lack of judgment with a really loud horn coming up on the back of me with tremendous velocity. Being the man of God that I am, I decided to acknowledge my mistake humbly and I gave him the international sign of apology that is translated, my bad. Head goes down, hand goes up, my bad. Sorry bro, I misjudged it. I'm not gonna bring up the fact that you were probably going 85 in a 55, but I misjudged it, my bad. Unfortunately he did not receive my signature of repentance. Instead, with the horn on, on my tail he chose to go around me and give me the international symbol for one way to God. You know what I'm talking about, peel the banana, read between the lines, whatever you want to call it. I was disappointed in his response but I chose to let it go being the man of grace that I am until, I saw on the back of his vehicle a bumper sticker. Not just any bumper sticker mind you, but a Life.Church bumper sticker.
Immediately I transformed from the repentant one back into my pastoral role deciding that God had uniquely called me to execute judgment upon this man who sinned not only against God but against his pastor. So I kicked up the speed rather rapidly. We both might have been speeding as I was trying to catch up with him only with the goal of bringing him to a place of right relationship with God and his pastor. I eventually caught up to him when he pulled into a stoplight. I pulled up beside him. He was still expressing creative dissatisfaction with my decision to pull out. I rolled down the window. He was yelling at me. I looked over at him, smiled, and I said, God is good. He looked back at me and he said, all the time, as he gave me the international symbol, my bad, Pastor. My bad. I feel like I shouldn't have to bring this up, but if you do have a Life.Church bumper sticker on your car, let the spirit of God lead you to refrain from pointing directly to heaven at people when they make driving mistakes.
What would Jesus undo? Something that Jesus would undo is a behavior or an attitude that he despised with all of his heart. Jesus would undo hypocrisy, those who claim one thing but then live in another way. Jesus would undo hypocrisy. Now I want to ease into this subject because hypocrisy's no fun to talk about. It's not easy to see in our own lives. It's very easy to see in other people's lives. In fact, how many of you would say I know a hypocrite? Raise your hand, I know a hypocrite. How many of you say I'm sitting by a hypocrite? Do not raise your hand because they could point right back at you. It's really, really easy to see hypocrisy in other people's lives, but it's not so easy to see hypocrisy in our own lives. In my opinion this is a subject that is sometimes mistakenly belittled by pastors like me.
For example, there's an old pastoral joke. One of the most common things that we'll hear from people who have objections to Christianity in the church, they'll say I'm not going to church because they're all a bunch of what? They're all a bunch of hypocrites. They say this all the time. I'm not going to go to church because they're all a bunch of hypocrites. And what the pastors will often say is, well you might as well join, we always have room for one more. We think that it's kind of funny and it kinda is. There is a little bit of truth to it. But in my opinion that really dismisses some very real pain that many people have when they are disappointed by the behavior or actions of those who claim to follow Christ.
Some of you would know this firsthand. There was someone that you looked up to spiritually. They said one thing, they did something else. It was very, very painful for you. They represented one thing, a youth pastor. Could even be your mom or dad. Your mom or dad were one thing in church, then they would come home and they would act totally different at home. It can be incredibly painful. In fact, I don't think I've every shared this publicly. I have talked about when my sister was molested by her teacher. I don't think I've ever shared this publicly. But we had a family member, very dear family member, that was actually molested by a spiritual leader in the church years and years ago. Thankfully by the grace of God we had good counsel. We were able to work through it. With lots of pain and lots of hurtful consequences we were able to forgive and to move forward. Not everybody does that.
Some people see hypocrisy, well you claim this and you did this and it devastates them. They walk away from the church. Many people walk away from God because hypocrisy is a horrible sin. What would Jesus undo? Jesus would undo hypocrisy. I like what the author and theologian Brennan Manning said about hypocrisy. He said this, he said, "The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny Him with their lifestyle. This is what the unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable". What would Jesus undo? Jesus would undo hypocrisy. Let's go ahead and build a foundation today in understanding what hypocrisy is. But to understand what it is we also have to acknowledge what it is not.
Let's start with what hypocrisy is not. If you're taking notes, hypocrisy is not the disparity between what we do and what we wish we did. It's not the difference between how we behave and how we wish we behave. Like I wish I didn't have bad thoughts, but I did. I wish I didn't say that but I did. What that is, is that's just sin, not hypocrisy. There's a difference between sinning and being hypocritical. Hypocrisy, if you're taking notes, is the gap between what we show and who we are. It's the difference between what we say and how we live. It's the difference between our public persona and our private character. What would Jesus undo? He would undo the show when the real life isn't consistent with what we show. In fact, whenever Jesus would rail against hypocrisy there was a Greek word that he used. It's the word hupokrites. It even sounds like hypocrite, hupokrites. And what this word literally means is it means and actor or a stage player. It means one who hides behind a mask.
In fact, if you've ever seen the Greek plays, the hupokrites was very literally the masks that they would wear. In fact, I had a couple arranged today. Pastor Chris, could I have, give me the angry hypocrisy mask. This is one. Now if I preached like this it would be very creepy for the rest of the day, right? But this is exactly what some so-called Christians will do. I'm actually one person but I'll show a mask. This is what I call angry hypocrite. This is the ones who hey, don't drink, don't smoke, don't you. And don't you run with girls who do. But then when the mask is off this person has secret addictions going on in the background. They're gonna show one face, but their behaviors are very, very different. This is what I call angry hypocrite. There's also kind of what I call happy hypocrite, happy hypocrite. This one's much, it's still creepy, they're all creepy. This is the one that's like praise the Lord, brother. Hallelujah, oh glory to God so great to see ya.
Putting on a show acting oh, hallelujah, glad to see you at church when they fought all the way to church with their spouse. But oh, praise the Lord we're fine. Oh we need to build each other up. Did you see what she wore to church? Who does she think, oh praise the Lord, brother. And this is what Jesus hated. It was when from the outside they would show one thing, but from the inside there was something very, very, very different. In fact, Paul has one little verse to me that best represents what hypocrisy is. He says this in Titus 1:16. He says, "They claim to know God. They claim to know God". "They show it. But by their actions, the way they live, they actually deny him". Jesus hated this. He talked very, very directly about what hypocrisy was. He said anytime you're giving to be seen. Hey, I'm gonna be generous, but I want everybody to know how generous I am, that's hypocrisy. Whenever you're praying to be heard.
The Pharisees would literally stand on the street corners. Oh dear God we glorify you, we pray for so-and-so, and they were putting on this outward spiritual pride to impress other people. Jesus said that is completely hypocrisy. It's hypocrisy whenever you fast to be noticed. Oh, I'm so holy, I'm so spiritual. I'm denying myself physical food, I want to be noticed. It's hypocrisy whenever you criticize someone for doing something Jesus would say, and you do the same thing. It's hypocrisy. It's hypocrisy Jesus would say, whenever people were taking advantage of the poor. He hated that. Jesus never spoke more harshly than he did when people put on the mask. One time, whenever he entered the temple and people were selling animals as a sacrifice he didn't just come in and say now boys I told you not to do that. You guys need to be nice, you need not to be about your personal profit. No man, Jesus came in and he said I am not going to stand for this. He took the tables and he overturned the tables and he said this is my Father's house, and it will not become a den of thieves. This is a place where we seek my Father in prayer.
He never spoke more harshly than he did when people were hupokrites, when they put the mask on. In fact, back in seminary I studied in detail what many theologians called the seven woes, the seven woes. In Matthew's gospel, Matthew 23, Jesus says again and again, woe to you who live like this. Let me show you some of the woes. He says this in verse 27. He says, "woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites". You play actors. "You are like whitewashed tombs who look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside you're full of all sorts of ungodly stuff". "You're full of bones of the dead and everything unclean". "In the same way he says on the outside you appear righteous to everybody else. You put on a show. But on the inside you're full of hypocrisy and wickedness". Now watch what Jesus calls them. He says, "You snakes. You brood of vipers". Then he asks, "How will you escape being condemned to hell"?
What is the hypocrite? It's the one who wants to look good on the outside, but on the inside we've very far from God. We want the illusion of public virtue, but inwardly we're full of private vices. What's so interesting to me is this. Jesus didn't say woe to you who say bad words. He didn't say woe to you who watch bad shows on Netflix sometimes. He didn't say woe to you who do bad things. He said woe to you who do it but act like you don't. Woe to you who put on the show. Not woe to you who are imperfect. Woe to you who are imperfect, but act like you're something different. I would argue that today perhaps more than ever social media is the perfect breeding ground for hypocrisy.
How many of you might agree with me? This is the place where you can, all day long, show what you want other people to see when in reality you're so much different from that. We see it all the time. Here's my perfect marriage. I love my husband so much, he's such a great man of God. I'm so thankful for him. Here we are lovey-dovey-dovey and in reality you're not even sleeping in the same bed. Happens all the time. Here I am doing my devotion, here's my coffee cup, 'cause it's not godly without a coffee cup in your devotion Instagram picture. Here's my coffee and here's my Bible. I'm not gonna tell you I actually spent more time getting the image just right than I did doing my Bible study. But I'm gonna show you what I want you to see. Or there's what I call the Lego life.
You remember the movie Lego? What's the song go? "Everything is awesome". That's the only line I remember. I don't remember the rest. What's the next line? "Everything is awesome". That's the only line that matters. "Everything is awesome". That's what we do on social media. "Everything is awesome. My life is awesome". I'm depressed, I'm miserable, I'm hurting, I'm doubting. "Everything is awesome". What would Jesus undo? He would undo a spirit of hypocrisy when what we show is so different than who we are. Woe to you, Jesus says. How will you escape being condemned to hell? If you're a little bit uncomfortable right now that's probably a good thing. Because that means you have some self-awareness. Because let me tell you right now some of you are going oh, I'm so glad somebody's hearing this. I'm so sending them this link, they need to see it. The hypocrite.
It's so easy to see in other people. But it's so difficult to see in yourself. If you're feeling a little bit uncomfortable because you're recognizing some inconsistencies, that's actually a good thing. That means you're self-aware. That means you're open to what the spirit of God will show you. What I want you to see is there is hope for the hypocrite in all of us. There is hope. Let me show you the hope. Jesus shows it in 25, in verse 26 of Matthew's gospel. He says this, he says, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they're full of greed and self-indulgence".
You're showing the show but you don't have the substance. What he says is this, "Blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and the dish. Then the outside will be clean". First let the spirit of God do a work internally where no one else sees. When internally you're being conformed to the image of Christ, when the spirit of God is working within you, when God's word is transforming you, then out of an overflow of who you're becoming you will display the goodness of God as a reflection of his work internally, not as an act to fool people on the outside. But borne within true spiritual work on the inside.
Let me tell you my story of how this kind of came to be. When I was in seminary I had a well-meaning seminary professor who taught us this. And quite honestly this was kind of the mindset of pastors for generations prior to mine. The seminary professor taught us this, that you have to always guard what he called the Pastor's Mystique, the Pastor's Mystique. There's an image that you must keep up. You must be slightly above the people. You must always dress the part, look the look, have the pastoral language. You can never let them know if you doubt. If you have questions you have to keep that to yourself. If you have a bad day in your marriage, don't let anybody know.
I was 23-years old in seminary and thought okay, this is who I have to be. I've got to keep up the Pastoral Mystique. Here I was as a young United Methodist pastor, would go into church, put on the external robes that we had to wear and I learned to put on a very real show. Here's what I did. I would tell people all the time, brother, I'll be praying for ya, praying for ya. I almost never did. I'm gonna be seeking God on your behalf. I'm in there with ya, and I almost never, ever was. What's God showing you in the word, Craig? Oh my goodness, too much to count. I don't even know where to start, because I wasn't really consistently and passionately in God's word. I would read it to preach, but it wasn't real in me.
Here I was, was this young guy playing a role. I'm pastor, I'm gonna impress you. It became so exhausting and so dangerous. I was so vulnerable to doing something really significantly wrong because sin grows best in the dark. Everything that was wrong with me I kept hidden behind this pastoral mask. There was one Sunday, and there might even be two or three people in our church that were there that day. I took what I considered to be a really, really big risk. I stood up before the church and essentially, metaphorically I took the mask off and I just told the church I need to come clean with you and I just repent. The language I used is this, that God had showed me I'd become a full-time pastor and a part-time follower of Christ.
Some of you, this will resonate with you. You're a full-time mom, part-time follower of Christ. Full-time business person, eh, Christian maybe, maybe not. Full-time student, not really passionate about the things of Jesus. So I just explained on that day I'd been faking some stuff, haven't been real and I just want to confess that before you. The decision I made was this. I would rather be an honest sinner than a lying and deceptive hypocrite. I'd rather just drop the mask and be honest about it. What I did on that day was a little bit like last week at church. Last week for some people was a breakthrough. It was kind of like an ahh, aha-moment spiritually. That's what happened in our little church. Other people said I can drop the mask. I've been pretending, I've been faking it. I've been showing one thing and I'm really not. I've been portraying to you that I've got it all together spiritually, but I'm kind of a mess.
What I learned as a principle that if you remember one thing I hope you'll remember this. Jesus has zero tolerance for hypocrisy. He can't stomach it, he can't stand it. It turns, he hates it with everything in. Jesus has zero tolerance for hypocrisy. But he has unlimited grace for a sinner in need of forgiveness. Jesus cannot stomach the show, but when anyone who's hurting drops the mask and says forgive me, heal me, redeem me, save me, change me, Jesus' answer is always yes. Because he did not come for those who appear to be righteous, but he came for sinners. He didn't come for those who are healthy on the outside, he came for those who knew they were sick. He has no tolerance for the show, but he has unlimited grace for a sinner in need of grace and repentance.
So I simply dropped the mask on that day. There were those of you, you're gonna drop the mask as well. But you may say what if they find out? What if they know? What if they know that I'm not perfect? What if they know that I have faults? What if they know that I'm showing one thing and I'm not? Listen to me, you have nothing to fear when you have nothing to hide. You have absolutely nothing to fear when in the community of grace you ask for help. This is what Proverbs says. Proverbs 28, verse 13, "Whoever conceals their sins doesn't prosper". Whoever lives like this behind the mask never finds the blessings of God. Whoever conceals their sins shows the false life on the outside, hiding the truth on the inside. "Whoever conceals their sins doesn't prosper. But the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy".
The one who asks for help finds mercy. Here's what I hope you'll understand. Some of you, you're gonna recognize right now you're hiding behind a mask. When you drop the mask, when you are honest there is power. You are only as strong as you are honest. You are only as strong as you are honest. And many of you as you are in life groups, and we're even forming life groups right now. This is the perfect week to step in by faith, into a community, a consistent group of other believers and join one another in open confession of our need for God. We're not perfect people living a perfect life, pleasing God in a perfect way. We're sinners, we're strugglers. We've messed up, we fall short. We have battles, we have struggles, we're afraid sometimes, we're inconsistent. We want to do one thing, then we do something else. We don't want to have those thoughts and then we do. We don't want to go back to that old life, but we do. But we come together with other people and we open up and we say I'm about to tell you something I've never told anybody before.
Suddenly in that moment of truth the truth will set you free. We're always in bondage when we hide. Whoever hides their sins, conceals their sins doesn't prosper. Whoever drops the mask and renounces it, we find mercy in the presence of God because Jesus has zero tolerance for hypocrisy. But he has unlimited grace for a sinner in need of forgiveness. David prayed this prayer in Psalm 139. I would ask you, invite you to join me in praying this prayer. It's so easy to point out hypocrisy in other people, but it's so difficult to see in ourselves. David prayed, "Search me, God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there's any offensive way in me and lead me in the way of everlasting".
Search me, God. Search me, God. In preparation for this message this is what I prayed this week, search me, God. Show me, God, show me where I'm wearing the mask and don't even know it. Because listen to me, if you wear this thing long enough, you hide behind the lie long enough you often start to believe your own lie. You don't even know you're wearing the mask. This week God showed me one very specific area of my life, a very specific area that's gonna become business before God every single day. God helped cleanse me in this, helped me drop the mask. Helped me be real. Search me, God, know my heart. Test me, see if there's any offensive way in me. Lead me in the way of everlasting.
What is hypocrisy? It is the gap between what we show and who we are. What did we do with that gap? What did we do with the gap? Here's what I hope you understand is we don't close the gap with perfection. What do we do? We close the gaps with Christ. We don't close the gap with our outward behavior. Now I'm pleasing to God. We close the gap with Christ. He is our righteousness, he is our source. He is our healing, he is our redemption. He is the one who brings forgiveness. We don't close the gap with outward behavior. We let Jesus do an inward work. Then inwardly as we're transformed over time our outward behavior is a reflection of the inward healing work of the grace of Jesus. What would Jesus undo? Listen to me church. He would absolutely undo hypocrisy and in our culture today we are ripe with it, this is who we are. We're not hurting.
There are some of you, you will have a breakthrough moment when you drop the mask. I need help, I'm addicted and I need someone to pray in strength to help me out of this addiction. My marriage is not where it should be. We need some people to support us, to pray for us, to counsel us. We're not there, we're showing that it's all good. Look at the bling, look at the life, look at the car, look at the house. And were drowning in debt. We're showing you one thing, but we're hurting on the other side. I'm looking like I'm all great today. I'm smiling, but you have no idea. I am scared to death of this medical report and I don't have faith right now. Whoever conceals their sin does not prosper. But whoever drops the mask and renounces it finds mercy. I would rather be an honest sinner than a lying hypocrite because Jesus has zero tolerance for hypocrisy. But he has unlimited grace for a sinner like me in need of forgiveness and a savior.
In all of our churches today there are those of you who walked in this way but today you drop the mask. Today you drop the mask and when you know the truth, the truth will set you free. What would Jesus undo? Jesus would undo the show. He's not asking for perfection, Jesus was perfect. The perfect one lives in us and over time conforms us, and then lives through us. Don't forget it, no tolerance for the show. But unlimited grace for the honest one who needs help. So Father today, please do a work at all of our churches. Those of you who would say I will pray it, it's a dangerous prayer. Search me, God, know my heart, test me. Show me if there's any offensive way in me. If you'll pray that, be open to what God will show you, would you lift up your hands right now? Just lift them up, put them up.
Father, I thank you today and I believe by faith that God, you're gonna do the very same thing for your other kids that you did for this one of your kids. You spoke to me, God. And rather than being hurt or afraid of what you show us, God, we thank you that on the other side there's freedom and there's healing, and there's grace, and there's mercy. I pray God, especially for those who are lacking in a real community to support them. I pray God, they have the courage to take a step forward, even if there's a fear, what if they find out? What if they know? That they recognize there is only healing in a true grace-filled Christian community. God I pray that they would have the courage to step forward and find others knowing that life is always better together. We need one another. God, I pray for the conversations that are gonna happen today. One is gonna talk to another one. I'm addicted and I need help. I can't stop, I know this is going to shock you, but I've been doing this. I'm in trouble, I'm hurting, I'm afraid. I need someone there with me. God I pray that in those conversations we recognize there are holy moments that you are with us and you will bring healing for those who confess their need. We thank you for the grace of Jesus. We understand he does not tolerate hypocrisy but we thank you that he came for sinners. We rejoice in that today.
As you keep praying at all of our churches there are those of you, you're gonna recognize right now you need Jesus, Jesus. The Son of God, the sinless one. The Lamb of God who was slain for the forgiveness of sins. I grew up the perfect hypocrite going to church, playing the part. Was president of the youth group and I did not know Jesus. I was wearing the mask and I didn't even know the mask was on, I had no idea. Some of you are going to recognize that. You've been showing the show. Other people think yeah, obviously you're a Christian, you're in church, but you're not. There is no real intimacy, you haven't been transformed. You're no different, you've never been made new by God and you're here today because today is the day that he's gonna make you new. Others of you, there ain't nobody gonna question if you're a Christian 'cause you're not even close to a Christian but something's happening right now. You're being drawn to the things of God. You recognize there must be something more. You tried it all, you're still empty. You're still hurting.
The problem is that you are a soul, you are a soul and there is no physical thing that meets the empty needs of our souls. The only thing that will ever satisfy is the grace-filled truth of the love of God for his son Jesus, and you're starting to sense that. You're not here today by accident. You're here today because God brought you here, why? Because he is reaching out to you so you can say yes to the unlimited grace of Jesus for a sinner in need of a savior. All of our churches, those that say yes, I've sinned against God, yes I need his forgiveness I'm empty on the inside. I turn away from all the things of this world. I turn away from my own sin. I call on the name of Jesus. When you call on his name he will hear your prayer. He will forgive every sin that you've ever committed. He will make you brand new. You don't become better, you become different. You're not here by accident and you know it. All of our churches, those who say yes, I need the grace of Jesus, I turn to him.
Today by faith I give my life to him, that's your prayer. Lift your hands high now all over the place lift them up. Right back here leave them up if you will. My goodness all three of you, five of you right here. Here in this middle section all three of you back here. Leave them up if you will, lift them up. Right back here in this section. Other of you today saying yes, right back over here. Praise God for you right back over here. Church, I hope somebody is a little bit more excited about what we're seeing right here. Back here in this section oh my goodness, God is working. God is working, God is working. Church online, you just click right below me. Church, we are going somewhere. The spirit of God is moving in this house. Would you pray today with those around you with great anticipation.
Heavenly Father, I surrender my whole life. I give it to you. Forgive me of all of my sins. Change me, make me new. Fill me with your spirit so I could know you, and so I could live for you every single day. My life is not my own. I give it to you. Thank you for new life, now you have mine. In Jesus name I pray.