Craig Smith - Hypocrisy
Hey there. Welcome to Mission Hills whether you are joining us online or in person, it is so good to have you with us this weekend. We’re in the midst of a series called “Live Free,” where we’re exploring the Book of Galatians, for some wisdom from God on how to narrow the gap between our expectation and our experience of freedom as followers of Jesus. Jesus himself said, “If the son sets you free, you’re free indeed.” And Paul, later in the Book of Galatians, says, “It is for freedom that Christ set you free.” So, clearly, freedom is a big deal. But there’s often a gap between our expectation and our experience of it. Now, for the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about things that we do that actually widen the gap for ourselves experiencing freedom.
Today, we’re going to kind of flip the page a little bit, and we’re going to talk about something that we can do that widens the gap for other people, okay? Something that widens the gap for other people. And in fact, this thing that we can do is one of the top two or three, typically when people say, you know, here’s the reason I’m not a Christian, this thing that we can do is usually in the top three list, and some people, even though they grew up in the church, they’ve left the church. And very often, this thing that we can do is listed in the top two or three reasons why they do that. The thing I’m talking about is hypocrisy.
Anybody uncomfortable, yet? Can we just be really honest with each other, how many of us…it’s not that really easy. How many of us have ever seen somebody else and thought, yeah, they’re a hypocrite? Can we be honest? Yeah. Absolutely. Make it a little less comfortable. How many of us have ever had anybody else accuse us of being a hypocrite? I have. Absolutely. How many of us have accused ourselves of being hypocrites? Yeah, hypocrisy is a big deal in the Christian faith, and as we’re going to see today, hypocrisy certainly has a negative impact on our relationship with God, especially when we’re talking about being hypocritical about sin, saying, I know that’s wrong and then doing it. Sin always gets in the way of a relationship with God. But hypocrisy actually can become a problem for other people in their relationship for God as well. So, it’s really important we kind of get a handle on this.
Why don’t you go out and grab a Bible and start making a way to Galatians Chapter 2, starting in verse 11. What we’re going to see today is some pretty clear teaching from Paul on why this hypocrisy thing is a big deal and why we need to get a handle on it in a particular kind of way, especially. Now what we need to know is that Paul has just told us that after 17 years of ministry, he went up to Jerusalem to consult with the Christian Jewish leaders there, people like Peter, and James, and Matthew, those guys, and he wanted to know that the Gospel he’d been preaching around the world was, in fact, the Gospel that they all agreed with. And the essence of the Gospel that he wanted to have them sort of fact check was, he said, this is what I’ve been teaching. He said, “Belonging to God and his people depends on believing in the Resurrection of Jesus, that when we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, we’re not only forgiven of our sins and adopted of the family of God, but we actually become brothers and sisters with a whole bunch of other people, including even if you’re Gentile, meaning not Jewish, you actually belong to the Jewish people as well. You become part of God’s family. So, it’s not just salvation, but it’s also the sense of belonging.” And that have been his message, that belonging to God and his people comes from really believing in the Resurrection itself.
And the good news was the Jewish Christian leaders listen to his message, and they said, “Dude, you’re right on.” It’s a rough translation of the Greek, I’m pretty sure actually… They said, “Yeah, that’s exactly right. That’s the essence of the Gospel”. It doesn’t depend upon anything else. It just depends on believing in the Resurrection And so, that’s kind of where we left things. But then we pick up in chapter 2, verse 11, Paul says this, he says, but, and that’s not in every translation, but it’s in the original Greek, there’s a very mild but there, he says, but when Cephas, which is another name for Peter, when Cephas or Peter came to Antioch, which is a Gentile city, he says I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned. Now, let’s just acknowledge that seems pretty like harsh language, right? I mean, it kind of raises the idea that it was a showdown between Peter and Paul, right? He said I opposed him to his face, what that means though is he did it publicly because this issue was a public problem, okay? But what was the issue? We don’t know yet but he says he stood condemned, meaning it was very clear that what he was doing wasn’t in keeping with what he’d been talking about up to this point. And so, he says, I challenged him on it. He says this. He says, for certain men came from James. James would have been the Jewish Christian leader that kind of ran things in Jerusalem. I don’t know if they were actually from James or just claiming to be from James but he said, “For before certain men came from James, he, Peter used to eat with the Gentiles.” That’s what he used to do.
Now, what we need to understand is that wasn’t done. Jews didn’t eat with Gentiles. In the ancient world, that was one of the major ways that Jews separated themselves socially from the Gentile people. Is one of the major ways they said, “We’re God’s people, and they’re not.” In the ancient world, eating with somebody was a sign of sort of intimate fellowship. And so Jews just didn’t do it. But he says Peter used to because Peter understood what we all agreed when we were back in Jerusalem, which is that believing in the Gospel is enough for belonging to God and to God’s people. So, he says what he used to do, but then some men from James came, at least claiming to be from James, Jewish Christians came. And apparently, something changed. In other words, Peter began to act like a hypocrite. What did he do? We’re told this. “But when they arrived, he began to draw back and to separate himself from the Gentiles.” In other words, he started going, yeah, you know, I know, maybe you’re saved by your belief in the Resurrection, but I don’t know that you really belong with the Jews in the same way that I do, because I’m Jewish and I follow this certain sort of Jewish social practices and regulations. And so he began to pull back, he began to stop eating with them. In other words, he was basically saying, “You and I, we really don’t belong together.”
Now, that’s exactly opposite of what he and Paul had agreed on the last time that Paul had been in Jerusalem. So, he was saying one thing, but he was doing something else with his actions. And so really, we have a word for that when somebody says, I believe this, but then they act in a way that doesn’t line up with that. And that word is hypocrisy. So, the hypocrisy, here’s why I think it’s helpful for me to define hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the gap between what we declare and what we demonstrate. It’s the gap between what we declare we believe, and what we demonstrate we believe by what we do. And you know that the old phrase goes, right? So, seeing is believing, so you can say all you want, but when I see you acting this way, that’s what I’m really going to believe about what you think. And also we have this phrase that says, “Your actions speak so loud, I can’t even hear your words.” That’s hypocrisy. It’s there’s this gap between what we declare and what we demonstrate with our actions. Now, hypocrisy is something I think we all deal with on one level or another. But the question is, why does it happen? Why do we have this gap? Why do we say and maybe we genuinely do believe, maybe it’s not fake? There are some people, I guess, who, you know, they say they believe these things, but then you kind of look at their lives, and you’re like, “I just think you’re playing a game. I don’t think you actually believe them.” But that’s not most of us, right? Most of us actually, no, no, I really do believe this, but somehow there’s a gap between what I declare and then what I demonstrate. So, why does that happen? For sincere in what we’ve said, then why do we have this gap between what we said and what we’ve demonstrated?
Well, Paul points as to a really major contributor to hypocrisy and what he says next. He says, he did this because he was afraid of those who belong to the circumcision group. That would mean the Jewish people, probably the Jewish Christian people, okay? They’re probably believers in Jesus, but they’re saying, hey, you got to behave in these ways before you can belong. So, you’re saying to the Gentiles, you can’t really be part of us until you begin to behave like one of us. And Paul says, this is the reason that Peter began to act with hypocrisy is because he was afraid. And I think that’s really important to kind of lean into for a moment.
Because again, there are those people who say, “Oh, I believe this. I’m a follower of Jesus, I believe this is a sin. And that’s a sin. And I want to do that.” But then they turn on and they just do it. But honestly, we kind of know pretty quickly that you didn’t really believe that when you said it, is just a show. But that’s not most of us. Most of us, I think more like Peter, no, when we say it, we genuinely mean it. When we declare it, we actually believe it. But then something happens to keep us from actually demonstrating it. And why does that happen? Well, here’s the reality is that hypocrisy is often a symptom of fear. It’s often a symptom of fear. It’s a fear that, well, if I live consistently between what I declare and demonstrate, then you might not like me. It’s a fear that there might be a conflict with somebody. It’s a fear that I might not get the promotion. It’s a fear that she won’t go out with me. It’s a fear that he won’t go out with me. It’s a fear that the relationship won’t develop in the way I thought it would. It’s a fear that in some way, we’re going to lose out on something that we think is really important.
And the reality is sometimes the things that we think are really important aren’t that important, but we still feel that. And so the fear of losing out on something like that can often drive us to create a gap between what we declare and what we demonstrate. Hypocrisy is often a symptom of fear. So, I think this is actually a really important question to ask.
First, we need to identify our hypocrisy. And again, I admitted I’ve been accused of being a hypocrite and I’ve accused myself because there are times that I’m absolutely hypocrite, the times that I absolutely have this gap between what I declare and demonstrate. So, let’s ask ourselves this question, where is there a gap between what I declare and what I demonstrate? I encourage you to wrestle with that question. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you and identify one of those places, well, yeah, you need to close the gap because there’s too wide a divide there. So, where is there a gap between what you declare and demonstrate?
And then the next question that you really want to lean into is this. Is there a fear driving that hypocrisy? Is there a fear driving that hypocrisy? And in Peter’s case, we don’t know exactly what the fear was, it might have been a fear that, you know, they won’t respect me anymore if I don’t separate myself from the Gentiles. It might have been a fear that the Jews were saying, oh, you know, we have certain protections from the Roman Empire as Jews, but, you know, if you’re going to eat with Gentiles, then we’re no longer separate. And so we could end up with the same kind of persecution that the Gentiles get as followers of Jesus. So, maybe it was them, maybe it’s fear of losing something like that. I don’t know what it was.
But the reality is that we’re often driven to hypocrisy by fear. And so that’s the next question, what fear might be driving this hypocrisy? I believe that Peter was authentic in what he declared back in Jerusalem with Paul. I believe that he really meant it. I believe that he was sincere, but fear got ahold of him, and fear drove hypocrisy. He says, and this is why this is such a big deal to Paul. He says, “It wasn’t just Peter,” he says, “The other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy so that by the hypocrisy, even Barnabas was led astray.” Now, he’s talking here about other Jewish followers of Jesus. So, it wasn’t just that Peter did it. He drove the other Christian Jews in Antioch to follow along with him, they joined him in his hypocrisy. Even Barnabas, he says. Barnabas is one of Paul’s closest companions. Barnabas had been with Paul traveling all over the world, telling the Gentiles, “Hey, believing in the Resurrection is enough for belonging to God and his people.” Even Barnabas, he says, join him in that. I think we need to recognize this. I don’t like it, but it’s true. Hypocrisy is contagious. Hypocrisy is contagious. It’s easy to think of hypocrisy as one of those things where it’s just me, it’s just hurting me, it’s just hurting my relationship with God. But the reality is that hypocrisy is contagious. And it often finds itself taking root in other people around us.
Even Barnabas, he says, and he uses an interesting phrase, he says, “Even Barnabas was led astray.” And the Greek word that he uses there, very unusual, very powerful word literally means something like, experienced to death together with, is even Barnabas, experienced death together with Peter. Now, that’s kind of extreme. But the point is, Paul looked at what was going on here, and he said, this is unbelievably damaging to the Gospel. This is unbelievably damaging to the good news that we’re sharing. This is unbelievably damaging to the church because it’s creating a division as we saw last week. God hates church division. He says, this is serious business. Here is the reality. The gaps of our hypocrisy can become holes that others fall into. The gaps in our hypocrisy can make them holes that other people fall into. So, it’s no longer just that there’s a gap between what I declare and what I demonstrate, sometimes that gap is so deep that other people fall into it, and they get hurt even worse than we do. Other people around us experience more substantial negative effects than we do. And so, it’s important that we get a handle on this hypocrisy because it’s not just us, it’s contagious. And it’s contagious in a way that could cause tremendous harm. He says, “So, when I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel.” And I love that, so interesting. When I saw that the way they were acting wasn’t in line with the truth of the Gospel. And here’s the thing, like typically we use that phrase, not lining up with the truth, the Gospel, we tend to use that to talk about sort of sin, right?
Somebody says, you know, “I’m a follower of Jesus, but I’m sleeping around,” or somebody says, “I’m a follower of Jesus, but I’m cheating on my wife,” or somebody says, “I’m a follower of Jesus, but I’m stealing from my company or doing these horrible things.” You go, yeah, your life doesn’t line up with the Gospel. But notice here what he says, the way that Peter’s life wasn’t lining up with the Gospel, the way that the other people that had gotten sort of infected by this weren’t lining up with the Gospel was why, it’s just because they weren’t eating. It’s just because they were separating themselves from these Gentiles, these non-Jewish followers of Jesus. And that’s the essence of the Gospel that was at stake there. Because remember the Gospel that Peter has been teaching, the Gospel that Paul’s been teaching, the Gospel they’d agreed together was the essence of the good news was that believing is enough for belonging. But he says, now you’re acting in a way that makes us sound like no belonging requires believing and behaving. He says that doesn’t line up with the Gospel. The Gospel is that Jesus died for our sins and simply by believing in his death and his Resurrection, we are adopted into the family of God and we belong as part of that family. This is separating them for other Christians. That didn’t line up with the Gospel message itself. He says, “So, I said to Cephas it’s in front of them all, you are a Jew, and yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it then that you forced Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” He says, “You’re a Jew, but you’re not living like one, you’re actually living like a Gentile.”
Okay. What does that mean? How is Peter living like a Gentile? So, to understand that we actually have to go back to an earlier event from Peter’s life. When you read about Acts, chapter 10, if you want to get all the details, but I’ll just kind of give you the summary. Early on in his ministry after Jesus had risen from the dead, and then ascended into heaven, Peter was in prayer. And while Peter was in prayer, there was another thing happening there. There was a man named Cornelius, he was a Gentile centurion, a Gentile soldier. And an angel came to Cornelius. And then the angel tell Cornelius, “Send for a man named Simon Peter and tell him to come to your house.” Now, it’s interesting to me, the angel could have just said, go to Simon’s house, but that’s not what the angel said. The angel said, no, no, you call Peter to come to your house, which means that Peter would have had to come into a Gentile house, which again, was never ever done. And so, the soldier sent his servants and as the servants are on their way, Peter is praying, and he has a vision. And in the vision, very strange thing, again, read it the details in Acts 10 if you want, there’s kind of like a big piece of linen, like a sale or something like that. And he sees it’s lowering from the heavens, and it’s got all kinds of unclean animals in it. The kind of animals that Jews didn’t eat, they weren’t considered kosher. So, probably, you know, there were shellfish and things like that. Probably also, pigs in there, it might have been the original pig in a blanket. I don’t know. Something like that.
It seems to be what happened. And Peter sees it coming down. He’s like, “Oh, you know, like, what? That’s really weird. I need to distance myself from that.” And God says or a voice says in this vision says, “Kill and eat.” In other words, and probably literally sacrifice and eat, which is a religious thing. And Peter goes, “No, no, he goes, I get it, this a test. I’m not gonna fail this test. I know, as a Jew, I never eat those things, so I would never do that. I’ve never done that God, and I’ll never do that.” And God says, very interesting. He says, “Don’t call unclean what I have made clean.” It happens three times. Each time, same thing happens, Peter goes, “No, I’m not supposed to do that.” And God says, “Stop calling unclean what I have made clean.” And as the vision ends, the servants get there and they said, “Hey, I need you to come back to this Gentile’s house.” And Peter, at that moment, recognize that what was going on was that God had been preparing him to build a relationship with a Gentile, to go to his house almost certainly to eat in that Gentile’s house, and maybe to eat some of the foods that Jews didn’t normally eat. We know for absolute certain that he was being prepared to have a relationship with a Gentile, to say to the Gentile, we can be family if you believe in Jesus. He might also have been saying, you can also when you’re with Gentiles, you can eat Gentile foods, you can eat non-kosher, non-Jewish food, unclean food, that’d be the natural interpretation. But we know at the very least, it was an invitation to go and eat with him and to be present with him.
And so that’s what Peter has been doing for the last several years probably. He has been going into Gentile homes, he’s been eating with Gentiles, maybe also eating unclean food in at least in the presence of those Gentiles, because they would have been serving him food that wouldn’t have been clean, so he’d eat with them. It almost required that. That’s how Peter has been living. He’s been living like a Gentile. And now, Paul says, but you’re changing it. You’re changing it. You’re backing away from it, you’re becoming a hypocrite. And he challenges him, he says, you know, we who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles. And I think he’s being a little kind of sarcastic there. Because it was really easy for Jews to think, well, we’re holy, we’re God’s people, we’re righteous, but the Gentiles, they’re filthy animals, almost. So, there’s a little sarcasm, he says, you know, we, who are Jews by birth we’re not sinful Gentiles. We aren’t born that way. We know that a person is not justified by the works of the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. He says we know that we’re not justified. And if you’re not familiar with the word justified, think of it this way, basically, it’s the ability to live as though we had never sinned. We use the word justified, you know when we do something wrong and somebody catches us, we try to do what? We try to justify ourselves. We try to explain why it wasn’t really wrong, okay? That’s not quite what Paul means. Paul means no, we’ve actually done wrong things. And so the question is, how do we get away from the guilt of it? How do we eliminate the guilt of the wrong that we’ve done?
And he says, it’s not by the works of the Law. What’s the law? It’s the Old Testament Law. It’s the Old Testament rules and regulations which included some social regulations for the Jewish people, but also a lot of spiritual-moral regulations. He says, we can’t get rid of our guilts by following the works of the Law, we can only do it by faith in Jesus. Jesus died on the cross to pay for sins, he rose from the dead. He says, that’s the only way that we’re justified. It’s the only way that our guilt is eliminated. That’s the Gospel, right? It’s the believing in Jesus erases the guilt of our bad behaving, right? That’s the Gospel. Believing in Jesus erases the guilt of our bad behaving, of our sin, of all the wrongs that we’ve done. We’ve all done it. We’ve all got guilt, so how do we get rid of it? He says, it’s by faith in Jesus. Jesus was the only sacrifice for it. He says, we know that, right? Even as Jews, we know that’s the only way to get rid of the guilt of our sin. He says, and so we too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus, that we, he is talking about Jews, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law because by the works of the Law, no one will be justified. He says, following all the rules and regulations, the Old Testament will never get you to guilt-free. It’s never gonna happen. Why not? Because just not sinning by following the rules doesn’t get rid of all the sin you’ve already committed.
And when we’ve all broken the law, Paul says, “We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We’ve all broken the laws of the Old Testament, some of them the social regulations, but also the spiritual and the moral commandments. He said we’ve all broken them. And the problem is, you can’t get rid of the guilt of that by just not breaking more in the future, right? By following the rules in the future. I mean, think about it like this, somebody comes and they steal your life savings. And then they go, “Yeah, I did that. I’m sorry about that, but I’m not going to do it again.” So, I’m guiltless now, right? Would you feel like that is true? Is their guilt gone just because they say I’m not gonna do it to you again? No, and that’s what Paul’s getting at. He says, you know, we haven’t followed the Law. So, even if we were able to, which we aren’t, but even if we were able to follow the Law perfectly from here on out, it wouldn’t change the fact that we’re guilty from having already broken it. So, he says, no one can be justified by the works of the Law. In other words, think of it this way, we can’t remove past guilt with present goodness. Does that make sense? We can’t remove past guilt with present goodness. It is fine to try and be better. It’s fine to try to follow God’s law and be good. That’s great. But it doesn’t take care of the past sin. We cannot remove past guilt with present goodness. He says we can’t be justified by the works of Law, it’s only by faith.
He says, “but if in seeking to be justified in Christ, to be forgiven of our sin, it be our faith in Jesus, we, Jews find ourselves also among the sinners. Doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not. And that is a confusing sentence. Anybody else is a little confused by that sentence? Man, I’ll read it again. It’s not going to help. “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not.” Okay. Let me break it down for you. Actually, probably the best thing to do is to paraphrase it. Here’s basically what Paul’s saying. It’s a paraphrase. He says, “If believing in Jesus means that we Jews now belong with the Gentiles, does that mean that Jesus promotes sin since it’s always been a sin for Jews to associate with the Gentiles? Of course not. Does that help? It had always been considered a sin on part of the Jews to associate with Gentiles, he says, so now because we’re justified in Christ, we’re associated with Gentiles. Does that mean we’re doing something sinful? Of course, not. Because Jesus’s death eliminated the barrier between Jews and Gentiles. It really eliminated the barrier between everybody in God and everybody at each other. There really aren’t any more barriers. There’s no dividing wall of hostility. He says in the Book of Ephesians, “The death of Jesus removed all of those barriers to belonging.” So, just because we’re hanging out with Gentiles now, that doesn’t mean that we’re sinning. Of course, that’s not sin. But then he says something fascinating. He says, “If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.” That is a fascinating sentence.
He says, hanging out with Gentiles doesn’t make me a sinner. In fact, that Jesus calls me to hang out with Gentiles doesn’t mean that Jesus is promoting sin, okay? Because we all bond together by faith in Jesus. But he says, you want to talk about being a lawbreaker, here’s where it is, “If I rebuild what I destroy, then I would be a lawbreaker.” What is he talking about? What could he be rebuilding that he’s destroyed? And the answer is, it’s the division between him and the Gentiles. It’s the division between him and anybody else who believes in Jesus. He says, if I distance myself, if I refuse to acknowledge that we all belong together, then I’m a real lawbreaker. What laws is he talking about? Well, later on in the Book of Galatians, he’ll talk about the law of Christ. Galatians, 6:2, he says this, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” That’s the law that he’s beginning to think about. The law that matters more than anything else, the law of Christ, okay, well, what is the law of Christ? Well, he sort of answered there, doesn’t he? Bearing each other’s burdens keeps us from breaking. In other words, the law of Christ is something about loving one another. It’s something about being part of this thing together and caring for each other. And I think ultimately, he’s referring to what Jesus himself said in the Gospel of John.
Jesus himself said, John 13:34, he said, “A new command I give you, a new law I give you. Literally, love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. And by this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” And that actually is kind of a summary of something he said earlier in his ministry, people came to him and they said, hey, you know, there’s a lot of laws in the Old Testament, you know, like, could you give me like the top couple of them? In fact, could you just give me the top one? Like, let me just start with one, and then we’ll work our way out from there, okay? What’s the most important one? And he said, oh, the most important law is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” And they were like, “Okay, good.” He’s like, “No, no, stop. Because there’s a second one that’s so close to it.” He said, there’s another one like it, it’s so closely tied to it that you really can’t just do one without the other. It’s like two sides of the same coin. And I’m like, “Okay, well, what’s the second one.” He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Now, that wasn’t even new to Jesus, some of the other Pharisees and religious teachers, said really all of the Laws of the Old Testament kind of come down to those two things, love God and love others. And so, now Jesus says, yeah, a new command I give you, let’s make this the shining example of what it means to be a law follower. This is the law, love one another, as I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you’re my disciples if you love one another.
And so, Paul says but if I stopped hanging out with Gentiles, if I stopped treating them as part of the family just because we have some differences, then I would really be a lawbreaker. Not breaking any laws by hanging out with them, but by refusing to hang out with them, by refusing to call them part of the family, that would be breaking the law of Christ. And that I can’t do. The bottom line, what he says here in this section is when we allow our differences to become divisions, we become hypocrites who reverse the work of the Gospel. That’s the essence of this passage. When we allow our differences to become divisions, we become hypocrites who reverse the work of the Gospel. Let me just make sure we understand each of those terms. What I mean by differences. Well, in Paul’s case, he’s talking about social differences. So, for the Jews, it was circumcision, it was eating kosher, some of those Jewish social regulations. But it goes a little farther than that in the modern world, we could extend that and go, it also has to do with differences of things like race and ethnicity. It also would include things like politics. If you believe in the Resurrection, but you have different politics, you still have to say, yeah, but we’re still part of the family. It’s a disagreement among the family. So, politics would be included in that. It would include things like we talked about last week, like, okay, well, you know, if it makes you want to dance, it’s from the devil. I don’t like that kind of music, it’s bad. And other people go no, like, when Tyler gets going on drums back here, and you feel like I’m starting to dance. I hope this is not from the devil. I don’t know what’s that. But you’re okay with that. That’s okay. That’s the kind of differences we’re talking about here, okay?
Sometimes it’s even theology. There are places of theology where we can have differences, places where it’s just not really clear, like, you know, some of you may consider yourselves Calvinists. And some of you may consider yourselves Arminianist. And some of you may go, what are you talking about? Some of you may believe in the pre-tribulation rapture, some of you may believe in the post-tribulation rapture. And some of you are going, what are you talking about? Yeah, because we don’t really dwell a lot on those things because there’s some gray area in scripture. And so we don’t make those major issues, we just don’t, not here at Mission Hills, because we don’t want those differences to lead to division. That’s the kind of things we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about sin. Let me be clear about that. We’re not talking about things that the Bible clearly says that’s wrong or that’s right, okay? When our differences become divisions, what kind of divisions are we talking about? Again, we’re talking about this tendency to draw smaller circles and say, well, these are the real Christians, but because you differ in the ways we just talked about, maybe you’re a second cousin or something like that, but you’re not really part of the family. There’s these lines of division, and we don’t treat each other as brothers and sisters. As we said last week, there’s 45,000 denominations of Christians in the world. And the reality is that most of those 45,000, look at the other 49,999 and go, you’re not really part of the family. That’s not healthy. More importantly, it’s breaking of the law of Christ. It’s kind of division.
We’re not saying that you can’t disagree. We’re not saying you can’t debate, we’re not saying you can’t argue about it. We’re not even saying this probably dangerous thing but I’m going to say no, we’re not even saying that you can’t go to a church where most of the people think like you do on those issues. I think that’s okay, as long as we don’t allow ourselves going yeah, but the only people who are really brothers and sisters in Christ, are the people who think like I do in this issue. That’s when it becomes not okay. That’s the kind of divisions we’re talking about. When we do that, it becomes hypocrisy. What do we mean by hypocrisy? There’s a gap between what we declare, which is the believing in the Resurrection is all it takes for belonging to God, and that it’s because of our belonging to God that our behavior begins to change. And again, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that sin doesn’t matter. I’m not saying the way that we act and the way we live doesn’t matter. It absolutely does. Maybe not in those gray areas, maybe not in those social things. But there’s a lot of behaving that actually follows from a relationship with God. The question is how you get there. Some people say, well, you got to believe in the Resurrection and behave according to these things before will let you belong. And Jesus seems to go, “No. Believe in me, and you’ll belong. And it’s that belonging that will lead to a radical transformation in your behaving.” So, again, we’re not saying behaving doesn’t matter. The question is, how does it come about? How does that transformation happen? And the Gospel seems to say it comes from a relationship with God that comes from just believing in the Resurrection. But when we reverse that, we go, oh, yeah, you need to believe but you also need to behave in this particular ways before I’m going to say that you belong. That’s widening the gap between what we declare and what we demonstrate. That’s hypocrisy.
What does hypocrisy lead to? He says it reverses the work of the Gospel. Meaning what? It means it actually drives people away. Our hypocrisy becomes a hole. It’s not just a gap between what we declare and demonstrate it becomes a hole that other people fall into, and are unable to get to God or honestly don’t think there is even an option for them to get to him. Reverses the very work of the Gospel. So, let me ask the question we’ve already asked. But let’s lean into this a little bit more. Where is there a gap between what I declare I believe and what I demonstrate I believe? Question number two, is there a fear driving my hypocrisy? Is there something I’m afraid of losing, something I’m afraid of that’s causing me to have that gap? Then the last question, what am I going to do about it? What are you going to do about that fear? We could spend a lot of time talking about that one. We’ve done a full teaching on fear here, not too long ago. In fact, if you want to dig into it a little bit more depth, a couple of summers ago, we did a series called Potholes, and there was a message called Fear. I think it was August 18 of 2019. If you’re going to go back and listen to that. We’ll talk about in that message what the Book of Proverbs says about defeating fear.
But for now, let me just say this. Fear has its greatest influence on us when we don’t understand that it’s there. It’s when we don’t realize that I’m afraid of something and that that’s driving me that we’re kind of at its mercy. And so just asking that question, you know, where’s the gap and is there a fear? If I’m really honest with myself, and I’m asked the Holy Spirit to show me, is there a fear that’s driving that gap that hypocrisy? Just being aware of that allows us to begin the most important thing, which is to say to fear, “I hear your voice. I see what you’re doing, I’m just not going to give you the final vote.” I’m not going to allow you to drive me to live in a way that widens the gap and reverses the Gospel. Would you pray with me?
God, we come as your people. And we would just confess that on some level this passage is a little hard to relate to. All this Jew-Gentile stuff, and circumcision and social laws and kosher, like, that feels distant and feels really, really separate and just disconnected from the world that we live in. But Lord, when we get down to the bottom of it and realize that this is really all about hypocrisy, that’s really all about that gap between what we declare and what we demonstrate, at that point, we recognize this as timeless truth. And as your people Lord, we confess our hypocrisy to you. We confess all the ways that we’re aware of that we create the gap between what we declare and what we demonstrate. We ask for your forgiveness. Holy Spirit, we invite you to show us places where fear is actually driving us to be hypocrites. Help us to see what that fear is so that we can say to it, “I hear your voice, but you don’t get the final vote in my life. And I’m not going to reverse the work of the Gospel because of that fear.” Because the Gospel is the invitation that all who have sinned and recognize their sin and come to Jesus are forgiven of their sin. That’s the Gospel that simply by believing in what Jesus did for us, we’re not only forgiven of our sin but we’re adopted into the family of God, God becomes our Father and we get all kinds of brothers and sisters with all kinds of differences. But we get a family that begins now and goes on forever. And that would that is good news that we want to advance the work of not reverse.
In fact, right now, if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just pray for that very thing? Would you pray that the Gospel would advance, that would reach into new lives? Specifically, maybe people are listening to this message right now, and you’ve never said yes to following Jesus, maybe you’ve never said yes to following Jesus because you’ve seen hypocrisy in the church. And I just want to say we’re sorry. We’re not perfect, but we don’t need to be in a relationship with God because of what Jesus did for us. Maybe it’s not hypocrisy, and maybe there’s something else that you felt would keep you from having a relationship with God, maybe that he wouldn’t want you and you need to hear the truth. The only thing keeping you from belonging to God and his people is your decision about whether or not to say yes to Jesus. God loves you so much, he sent his own Son to die for you. He died on the cross to pay for your sins. Three days later, God raised him from the dead. And Jesus forgives us of our sin, and brings us into a relationship with God, and makes us part of his family forever, simply by putting our trust in him. And if you’ve never done that, I want to urge you to do it right now. Wherever you are you just gonna have a conversation with God. You’re gonna say something like this. Say it right now to him, say:
God. I’ve sinned. I’ve done wrong. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for me. I believe you rose from the dead. And I’m ready to put my faith in you. Jesus, I’m trusting your death and your Resurrection. I’m accepting your gift of forgiveness. Adoption into the family of God for now and forever. Amen.