This is a familiar word, but I am afraid that many people do not understand its meaning.
In asking my youth group what “hypocrite” means, they agreed upon the following definition: “one who says one thing and does the opposite.” This, I believe, is the common understanding of a hypocrite. Many apply this to a church. “Those Christians are a bunch of hypocrites. They say they believe in a loving God, but they are so mean.”
The problem here is that definition is inaccurate. A true hypocrite is one who behaves contrary to who they really are. The picture is one of a play-actor. When I was in high school, I performed in many musicals and plays. In those shows, I was given a character name, lines, blocking, and a costume. I had to learn my lines and make them believable to the audience when the curtain went up each night of the performance. But I am not who I am performing like. I am Greg Peterson, not Captain Von Trapp. But for the 2-hours of that performance in front of hundreds of people, Greg Peterson did not exist…at least to me.
Now it would be ridiculous for me to walk off stage and continue to say I am Captain Von Trapp, wear those clothes, and keep the Austrian accent. I would be a sham and it wouldn’t take long for people to call my bluff. But many, many people do this every day. They are one way in private and another way in public. They have a secret life and a performance life. These are the hypocrites.
Tonight, I will finish up teaching verse-by-verse through Jesus’ Sermon of the Mount (Matt 5-7) to my youth group. The overall point of the Sermon on the Mount (SM) is not on “how-to” get into the kingdom of Heaven. It is the greatest sermon by the greatest preacher on the regular-everyday life of a true Christian. Basically, Jesus is identifying kingdom people; those who are true Christians. And this overall message can be boiled down into one question:
Do you have true faith or performance faith?
This is a very important question and one we must ask ourselves regularly (2 Cor 13:5).
In ch 5, Jesus shows that true kingdom people have a righteousness that is more than skin deep, as opposed to the Pharisees (Matt 5:20). In ch. 6, Jesus says a true kingdom person is someone who desires to not show any religious deeds in front of people, but rather treasures secret holiness, all the while trusting God to provide for every need. In ch. 7:1-12, Jesus shows that kingdom people are humbly discerning and that all the deeds required of a true Christians are impossible to do without the aid of God. Therefore they characteristically ask, seek, and knock for God to make them pleasing in His sight.
This brings us to the final portion where Jesus shows clearly who are his and who are phonies.
|True Christians||Performance “Christians”|
|Walk the unpopular life||Matt 7:13-14||Walk the popular life|
|Pay close attention to who they allow to be their teachers||Matt 7:15-20||Lack discernment of good and evil teachers/teaching|
|Confess Jesus as Lord resulting in regular-daily obedience||Matt 7:21-23||Confess Jesus as Lord, but has no regard for God’s commands and desires only extraordinary, showy spiritual experiences|
|Hears Jesus’ words and builds their life upon them in obedience||Matt 7:24-27||Hears Jesus’ words, but builds their life upon their own desires.|
|Amazed with Jesus and follows||Matt 7:28-29||Amazed at Jesus skill and knowledge with no regard for personal application|
I hope this chart make clear Jesus’ point. D. A. Carson sums it up well: “Entrance into the kingdom, then, does turn on obedience after all–not the obedience which earns merit points, but which bows to Jesus’ lordship in everything and without reservation. Such obedience necessarily blends with genuine repentance, making the two almost one. Within this framework, the issue of obedience is everything.” (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987], 140)