Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Avoiding Hypocrisy

God hates hypocrisy. This is clear throughout Scripture (Matthew 23:25-28; Malachi 1:6-8; Isaiah 65:2-5). And our immediate response may be, “I am not like that; I am a better person than that.” Or I admit I have some places that I fall short, but give me a little while and I can fix them. But Scripture says we are all sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9). Also, it affirms we have not arrived yet, even as believers (Philippians 3:12-16; 1 John 1:8-10; Galatians 5:17). The solution, then, is to honestly admit our sin and bring it to Christ for forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 3:24-25; 1 John 1:9). This does not mean simply condoning sin and not responding in obedience based on God’s love for us (1 John 4:19; Romans 12:1,2; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15), trusting His power to work in us to change us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Galatians 5:16). But I do think it must mean not pretending we are something we are not or trying to fake a level of holiness we have not yet attained. There is a careful balance here. Martin Luther spoke of the necessary balance between law (God’s commandments) and gospel (God’s promises of grace). Go too far one way, and we end up following our sinful desires; go too far the other, and we end up in self-righteousness and hypocrisy. 

There are a few things that help me to find that balance. The first is to remember the full content of God’s law (Matthew 5:17-48; Romans 7:7,8; James 2:10). God is interested in not just external observance, but perfect obedience from the heart. None of us has achieved that yet. Also, I need to remember that I have right standing before God not on the basis of what I have, but of what Christ has done (1 John 2:1,2; Galatians 2:21; 2 Corinthians 5:21). We need also to remember that the Christian life is a journey from the person we are to the person God is making us into, and we are not there yet (Hebrews 12:1,2; Colossians 2:19; 1 Timothy 4:8). If we do this, it will help us to be serious about changing our lives, without needing to fake that we have arrived.

This will also affect the way we deal not only with ourselves, but with other people. We will be more willing to reach out to those who need Christ, without having our own self-righteousness get in the way (Matthew 9:11-13; Luke 19:10). It will also affect how we deal with other believers who have fallen into disobedience (Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 12:12,13). For it is only when we realize that we are guilty of the same kind of things we want to judge in others (Romans 2:1,2) that we will have humility to deal with sin rightly, whether in ourselves or them.

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