søndag 17. juli 2016

The problem of hypocrisy. Are Christians two-faced?

Hypocrisy means being two faced. Pretending to be something you’re not.

Now when I originally thought about this topic, I thought of it from the point of view of an outsider. A non-Christian saying “You Christians are such hypocrites. You pretend to be good but you’re not. You say you’re full of love but you’re just judgmental arrogant bigots. And anyway, my aunt was a Christian and was always criticising us and telling us off.”

Now those are real issues and we’ll deal with them in a bit.

But I think the real problem for us here in this room is not that other people think that we are hypocrites – but that we think it.

Ever had this thought “I’m not good enough to be a Christian.”
Or “I keep sinning. I’m not a real Christian. I’m just a hypocrite!”
“I’m giving up. I can’t do this Christian thing any more. It’s too hard.”
“People are looking at me to show them Jesus. I can’t do that. I’d better stop telling people I’m a Christian.”

If we’re honest, I think we’ve all had these or similar thoughts.

And those thoughts show one thing. We don’t understand the basics of our faith! We don’t understand the gospel!

This is the gospel:

1. You are a sinner.

2. Jesus Christ came to save sinners (not good/righteous people).

3. In Christ you are declared righteous.

4. By Christ’s power, now live like a righteous person

We often jump to the fourth point: live like a righteous person – before points 2 and 3 Jesus Christ came to save sinners and If you are in Christ you are declared righteous. (and we leave out “by Christ’s power)
If we could do it ourselves, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to come. And he wouldn’t have given us His Spirit!

Right, so this morning we’re going to look at the gospel.

1. I am a sinner

2. In Christ, I am righteous

3. By Christ, I am regenerated

1. I am a sinner.

(Can look these up & keep your finger there because we’ll go back three times)
Eph 2:1-3 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil...3 All of us used to live that way, following...our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
Rom 3:10-12 As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one. 11 No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. 12 All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.”
Gen 6:5 The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.

If you are feeling like a failure this morning. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by sin. If you’re feeling like a “bad” Christian. If you are upset because you just can’t beat sin.
Good! That means the Spirit is at work in you. John 16:8 Jesus says the work of the Spirit is to convict us of sin, of righteousness available only through Jesus, and the coming judgement.

No non-Christian is bothered by sin. In fact, that’s the worst thing about becoming a Christian: realising you’re a sinner. And if you’re a new Christian – it doesn’t get any better! The Holy Spirit keeps revealing layer after layer of sin in our lives. Ugh.
That’s the Holy Spirit’s first job: convicting us of our sin.

So if that’s how you are feeling. Good! He is at work.

The first step in becoming a Christian and staying a Christian is admitting that you are a sinner, a rebel against God.

How do we know we’re becoming aware of our sin and admitting it? Our reactions to OTHER people’s sin starts to change. As we realise what sinful, well really, evil, selfish, people we are – we start to see other people as sinners who need Jesus. Rather than people to dominate. We get angry less often. Our anger is not so big. We might respond with a kind word instead of a hurtful one. Instead of standing up and punching someone, or swearing at them in the car, or writing a vicious email, we say ah, it doesn’t matter. I forgive them.
We start to think about other people’s needs a bit more. Maybe I can help my wife here. Or I’ll just do that for them, without expecting payback. Because that’s how Jesus is treating me.
This is called humility. Humility is not beating ourselves up saying oh I’m useless. In fact, humility is not inward-looking at all – it looks out, with Jesus’ eyes. Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves, less.
The mark of a true Christian is humility.

It’s seen in loads of small changes which we might not notice which all adds up to one big sign: the Spirit is at work. Something’s changing in here.

And you know what. We often don’t see it. But other people do.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by your sin – ask people what they see in you. Ask people here. We’re small enough that I know most of you fairly well. Ask me if I’ve seen changes in you.

We also miss the changes that are happening if we’re battling the BIG SIN in our lives. It’s all we see – so we miss the grace of God at work in other areas!

So, the problem of hypocrisy is defeated by admitting that we are sinners. We’re not hypocrites, pretending to be good. That’s the whole point. We’re not good. We need a saviour. We are sinners. I am a sinner.

So if someone says “You’re not good enough to be a Christian”: Agree with them! (And you can add “neither are you. That’s why Jesus came”).
Or if you get caught in a sin – apologise, make right, and explain this is why you’re so grateful for the grace of Jesus.
By the way, this is great for disciplining your kids. As a child you get caught in sin all the time! And it’s depressing. Why do I do this, Dad? Well, you’re a sinner. Rebel against God. You want to be God. Isn’t it great that Jesus came for people like us? Isn’t it great that we don’t have to pretend that we’re good (and try and make excuses for all the bad things we do) – but can admit we’re bad? I am a sinner. Praise the Lord for Jesus.

Because in Christ Jesus, a sinner like me, and you, can say

2. In Christ, I am righteous

Eph 2:4–5 We were dead in our sins...But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)
Rom 3:21-22 No-one is righteous...But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him... 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
Gen 6:8 Everything we thought or imagined was only evil...But Noah found favour with the LORD.

God looked at this world full of sin. He looked at us shaking our little fists in his face, turning our back on him, putting crowns on our head and walking around pretending to be God. I’m God and I’m going to do what I want. He looked at us – and he loved us.
Whaat? He had compassion on us, loved us enough to shrink himself down, leave behind his glory and majesty and be born as a baby. Born right into our filthy world.
And not because we are loveable (or “worth it”) or our hearts reached out to him – we’re dead in our sins, whoever heard of dead people doing anything? - but because of His great love, of His great worth. Praise Jesus! We are sinners, yes, but we are forgiven sinners. And this is not because of anything WE have done but because of what HE has done.

Quick – what do you need to DO to become a Christian?
Go to church? Give money? Be good? No, Jesus isn’t Santa Claus (Julenissen).
Santa is Moralism. If you’re good, you get rewards. If you’re bad you get nothing (or punished).
Jesus is Grace. If you’re bad, you get rewards. (If you think you’re good, you get nothing, because you won’t turn to Jesus).

What do you need to do to become a Christian? Nothing. Nothing. NOOOOOOOTHING!
Accept what is given, and be happy.

It’s all done! As someone has said all other religions and worldviews say “do”. DO! Fast during Ramadan. Say prayers. Do good works. Be a decent human. Offer sacrifices to the gods. Be good.
But Jesus says Done. His arms stretched out on the cross, the lashes of the whip across his back, the nails driven through his hands and feet, he says done. Like a huge cosmic magnifying glass, all the sins of the world, your sin, my sin, sins in the future, sins in the past, all of it gathered from all of time and space and focussed on that one man on that one day on a hill outside Jerusalem. “It is finished” he said, as he breathed his last. Done.
His life given in exchange for yours. His righteousness swapped for your sinfulness. In Christ, you are perfect. In Christ, God does not see your sin – it is not counted against you. That’s why we can pray. Read the Bible. That’s why his Spirit can live in us and change us. If we weren’t perfect we wouldn’t even get near heaven’s gates with our prayers. But in Christ we’re right in the throne room, right on our Father’s lap. Hi Daddy, I’m here to talk to you.

That’s what Christ has done.

So if you’re feeling oh so down about your sin. Well, yes it’s right to feel like that – but don’t forget the other side. I am a sinner. But I am righteous. Rejoice! Oh, I am a sinner. But what JOY! I am forgiven.

What love!

This room is full of sinners. And praise God! The church is not a place for those who want to come and shine their halo, and have God bask in their glory – God coming down off his throne and saying oooh, well done. If you’re here thinking you’re better than everyone else – well, I’ve got news for you. Jesus met people like you. They were called the Pharisees. And they were hypocrites. Because they didn’t think they were sinners. They thought they were better than everyone else. And so they were always judging everyone, condemning everyone, waving the big finger around. And they killed Jesus. They claimed to love God – and killed Him! That’s hypocritical! So, if you’re trusting in your own efforts to impress God instead of the cross of Christ you’re a hypocritical Pharisee! If you think you’re not a sinner or if you think you don’t need forgiveness, or if the Cross doesn’t fill you with JOY. You’re a hypocritical Pharisee.

We who know we are sinners. We know the value of the Cross. Without the Cross, we are lost. Without Jesus, we are lost.

Thank you, Jesus that you came!

Maybe you’re sitting there thinking “I don’t know Jesus”. Well, no time like the present. Ask him. Remember, you don’t need to do anything to “get ready”. There is no “do”. Jesus says “done”. And so we can come just as we are. Come as you are is our tagline and is an outworking of the gospel.
In fact, Pray now. If you know Him, use this opportunity to thank him and praise him for his grace. Thank him that you are righteous because of the Cross. If not, pray this prayer after me. Dear Jesus. I am a sinner. I’ve ignored you. I’ve pretended I didn’t need you. I’ve done wrong things and made excuses. Take me as I am. I need your forgiveness. I need your grace. Amen.

I am a sinner.
In Christ, I am righteous.

3. I am regenerated by Christ.

Now this is I think where the problem of hypocrisy comes in. Because, you know, Christians ARE different. We are changed. We do become better. The Spirit works in us.
And so there is a right expectation that Christians will be different.
And in fact, we must be. If there’s no change in a person’s life, they’re not a Christian. Jesus said you will know them by their fruit.
If they’re arrogant, and refuse to admit their sin – that’s a BIG sign that they’re not a Christian but a Pharisee. They are hypocrites, and give a bad name to Christians everywhere. Because they call themselves Christians but aren’t actually Christians. So your aunt who was so horrible – maybe she wasn’t actually a Christian. There are many who call themselves Christians but aren’t, especially in this country. They’re trying to save themselves, and they end up bitter and angry and judgemental and depressed.
But you, brothers and sister. Fight your sin. Rejoice in the Cross. Let the Spirit change you!

Because we come as we are. But God does not leave us as we are. He changes us.

Ephesians: We were dead in our sins...But Eph 2:8–10 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Romans: No-one is righteous...But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him Ro 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.

2 Co 5:17–18 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

This is the work of regeneration: of changing a sinner into a righteous person. God declares us righteous and then starts making us righteous. It is a work that will only be completed after we die – when we see him face to face we will be transformed in the blink of an eye. But until then each day we become more like Jesus. (Sometimes one step forward, two steps back). But he is at work in us.

And we are regenerated not by being strong. Not by trying really hard like some spiritual superman. No. We continue how we started. By admitting our sin. By admitting that we are weak. In humility. And by throwing yourself onto Jesus and his strength and his power.

How does this work in practice? Well, let me give you an example from my life. Anyone who’s seen my wife will know that I like beautiful women. Actually, I like women. That’s why I married one. I’m attracted to women. I am designed to be attracted to a woman. And I’m designed to have sex with a woman. That’s my wife, Debby. But I’m a sinner, and so my sexual urges, like yours, are messed up. And I could quite easily want to have sex with a woman who is not my wife.
Now the Pharisee in me says “I would never do that, I am too good.” The Christian in me says “don’t be a fool. I am a sinner. I recognise my weakness. I recognise that my heart is deceitful – I think up lies, excuses to cover my sin. I could easily fall into this trap. What makes me think that *I* could succeed where so many others have fallen.” So I pray. Lord, help me not to fall into temptation.
And I take action. I don’t put myself into situations where I could be tempted. I’m not home alone with a woman. I’m not in my office with a closed door with a woman, Etc. Not that anything WILL happen. But I don’t trust myself.
I have seen a good friend fall in adultery – and it happened so slowly little bit by little bit, excuse after excuse – until he was having an affair, cheating on his wife, something he swore he would never do.
I am a sinner. And so are you.
Living as a Christian is NOT pretending you’re superhuman or better than everyone else. Living as a Christian is realising you are a rotten sinner who will lie to yourself and to everyone around you in order to sin and to cover up that sin. Don’t trust yourself. Trust Christ!

I hope you are encouraged this morning. I hope you can answer the charge of hypocrisy not with being angry and defending yourself or other Christians who’ve done things wrong – but say yes, we are sinners. What they did was wrong. They need to repent. Turn to God and ask forgiveness. And make things right. But because they messed up doesn’t mean they’re not Christian. Christian’s are sinners like everyone else. We’re not better people. We’re just forgiven people. And you can be too. We’re messed up people in a messed up world. But Christianity isn’t about saying c’mon everyone forward march, get things right. But by saying there is hope. And that hope is in the Cross of Christ.