True or False Faith? Jesus Makes it Clear!


The past few weeks in my youth group I have had a few young men in their 20s who gave their first sermon. They had been taking a class our pastor offered on “How to Study the Bible So As To Teach” for the weeks previous and I wanted to give them real world experience. I assigned them texts from 1 John & Matthew 7. They did a great job (especially for it being their first time to teach), and I was once again struck by the truth in these two texts. Both Jesus & the apostle John are harping on the same truth: is your faith a true faith or are you a false “believer”?

Over 3 years ago, I wrote a blog post on this very issue in which I asked the question: “Do you have a true faith or a performance faith?” I would like to revisit that blog post for your consideration today.

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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 nor Lord Capulet. 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 or the father of Juliet, wear the clothes I wore on stage, and keep the Austrian or British 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.

Jesus hits on this very point in His longest sermon, the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7). The overall point of the Sermon on the Mount (SM) is not on “how-to” get into the kingdom of Heaven. Rather, 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).


Do you have true faith or performance faith?

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.

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)

How is your faith? True or just a mere Shakespearean performance that the world (and maybe the church) applauds, but Jesus says, “I never knew you”?