Removing Masks (1): The Skeletons Are Coming Out
May 17, 2015
Intro – (Read Lu 12:1-3). A mother was irate to find her daughter playing doctor with the neighbor boy one day. The boy’s mother advised, “Oh, don’t take it so seriously. It’s only natural for children to want to satisfy their curiosity.” The girl’s mother fumed, “Curiosity? Curiosity, my foot. He removed her appendix!” The moral to the story? Playacting is destructive. That’s the moral to that story and it’s the theme of Lu 12:1-12.
Jesus’ lunch with a Pharisee was a disaster from the start when He failed the man-made ritual of ceremonial washing. Jesus literally lit up his host and the others present over their hypocritical lifestyles. Now with lunch over, Lu 12:1, “In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another.” The crowd has gathered for teaching. But first, Jesus, interestingly, began to say to his disciples first.
What was so urgent that it could not wait? Hypocrisy! Hypocrisy was still on Jesus’ mind. He’s concerned that those who will eventually found the first church, write the NT, take the gospel to the far corners of the known world not become infected with the Pharisees’ disease – hypocrisy!
So, He treats the issue of hypocrisy to His followers in 2 sections – a Warning Against (vv. 1-3) and a Way to Avoid (4-12). This morning -- the Warning. Someone has said “Many a man’s reputation would not know his character if they met on the street.” That must not be true of Jesus’ followers. Playacting destroys. What we do must be consistent with who we are in Christ. So let’s look at the falseness, folly and the future of hypocrisy.
I. The Falseness of Hypocrisy (1)
V. 1, “Beware (look out. This happened to those Pharisees you revered all your life, and it could happen to you!) Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” In ancient Greek theater, an actor would often wear a large, grinning mask in front of his face as he left his audience roaring with laughter at his comedy lines. But the same actor would soon appear onstage with a large frowning mask as he performed a tragic scene. Know what he was called? A hypocrite – one who wears a mask. A play actor. You never know what’s going on behind the mask. That’s a hypocrite. He only shows you what he wants you to see. That was the Pharisees. They looked super spiritual – giving with great ceremony while robbing from their parents, fasting with faces painted white to look tired, praying ostentatiously on the street corners. But inside, loving neither God nor man.
Hypocrisy is a disconnect between the inward reality and the outward show. Hypocrites are to a degree out of touch with reality. Showing themselves to be something they are not. Scribes and Pharisees convinced people they were spiritual when in reality they were spiritually dead. Fake reality. But in the end, they most deceived – themselves! Like the little girl -- always the butt of her brother’s practical jokes. She came crying to Dad and he suggested that perhaps she could get back at him. “Tell him there’s an elephant in the backyard,” he said. Off she ran toward her brother’s room happily calling out, “Michael! Michael.” But suddenly she stopped, turned around, grabbed Dad and pulled him toward the window. “I want to see him first,” she cried. And that’s just hypocrisy works. It deceives the deceiver most of all.
The leaven of deceit spreads everywhere. The Pharisees should have known their traditions were inconsistent with God’s Law. They could have discerned they loved men’s approval. They should have seen their hearts were not right. But they had long ago decided what they did outwardly was the only thing that mattered. They had destroyed themselves. And in Mt 23:15 Jesus says not only were they children of hell, but they were taking others with them.
Jesus is warning His disciples, “Don’t go there! It can happen to you, too!” There is a little hypocrisy in all of us. Sometimes church encourages it when we look down on those experiencing doubt, depression, despair, or emotional trauma. We encourage each other to act spiritual rather than be spiritual.
This is why the first of Luther’s 95 Theses argued that the Christian life is a “life of repentance” – not a one-time event. Rather than mask our failures, we face reality. That clears the way to grow so our conduct matches our calling. Outward deeds count, but only as they reflect a heart that loves God.
In the OT Israel clambered for a king “like the other nations”. God gave them one to their specifications! I Sam 9:2, “There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.” Saul looked the part. Steven Dempster points out in Dominion and Dynasty there is a play on Hebrew words with Saul. He comes from Gibeah (hill or elevation). He is tall or gigantic (geboha). But alas, Saul is all show. He fails God’s obedience test and eventually, the giant (geboha) from the town (Gibeah) dies on the mountain (Gilboa). His “tallness” was outward, God only saw small. Saul’s tallness was his downfall because it was all outward. Outward greatness; inward poverty. God tells him in I Sam 13:14, “But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart.” Saul was all outward – a man after his own heart. David, failure and all, was a man after God’s own heart – grounded in reality. Like him, we must exhibit outward greatness driven by “a broken and contrite heart” (Ps 51:7).
II. The Folly of Hypocrisy (2)
What is the first reaction when we do something wrong? Cover up. It comes as naturally to us as eating. It’s part of who we are – inherited from the Garden of Eden. It’s one of the signs that God exists and created us. We feel shame. So, where does that come from? Animals don’t feel shame. Nothing in the evolutionary process can explain shame. Shame is the result of knowing we have violated God’s character written in our heart. Shame is God’s law written within. And so, like Adam and Eve, we cover up.
But here’s the folly of hypocrisy. It won’t work, Beloved. It’s based on the flawed premise that we can hide our true person. That’s a fool’s errand. V. 2 reminds us, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” There are no secrets from Him. I Sam 16:7, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” I Cor 4:5 reminds us that God “will disclose the purposes of the heart.” Secrets are for humans. God sees it all, and it’s all coming out. Hebrews 4:13 says, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
A door-to-door salesman rang the bell. An 11-year-old boy answered. He was smoking the biggest cigar the man had ever seen. The guy asks: “Is your mother home?” The boy takes a puff, blows smoke in the man’s face and asks, “What do you think?” Mom was gone. But God is always home. He is never missing and He misses nothing. We think we can hide. Like the hillbilly who showed up in Vegas and signed his name with a big X. Then he circled the X. The clerk said, “Why’d you circle your X?” The guy replied, “Well, you know how it is. Sometimes you don’t want to use your real name.” We’ve been brainwashed to believe what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but God makes sure it eventually shows up in Eaton, and if not there, then at the judgment. I Tim 5:24, “The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later.” It’s all coming out, Beloved.
With God there are no secrets and no hiding places. We know that, but the folly of hypocrisy is it gets us to ignore what we know – and soon we are self-deceived. Adam and Even thought they could hide. But God ran them down and said, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9) Cain thought he could kill Abel in the privacy of the open field, but the next thing he heard was God asking, “Where is Abel your brother?” (Gen 4:9). Ninety-year-old Sarah thought she could laugh in the privacy of her tent at God’s promise of a son, but the next thing she heard was God asking her husband, “Why did Sarah laugh?” (Gen 18:13). Achan thought he could confiscate a little gold and silver for himself at Ai, but the whole nation was defeated: God said, “Israel has sinned,” and led Joshua straight to Achan. David thought he could cover adultery with murder. God sent Nathan to say, “You are the man.” There are no secrets, Beloved. God will not be mocked! Whatever a person sows, he/she will also reap.
As he scans our congregation this morning, God knows the heart set on revenge. He knows the secret fantasy life. He knows the habit that not even your spouse knows about. He sees the joy you take in another’s failure. He sees the harsh attitudes exhibited toward family, the character assassination of gossip, the generous donation selfishly given. God knows. He sees the income under the table, the burning ambition to advance at any price, the unfinished mission. There are no secrets from Him here today. No today and not ever.
So how do we deal with hypocrisy? Repentance. That’s the only way it can be covered. A serviceman found a gold mechanical pencil on the floor of a room where he was giving a briefing. After everyone assembled, he approached four generals and said, “I believe one of you gentlemen lost his pencil.” “Why, yes,” answered one of the generals happily. “That’s mine. But what made you so certain it belonged to one of us generals? Just because it’s gold?” “No,” replied the man. “Because the eraser has never been used.” What is the eraser for hypocrisy? Confession. Repentance. That’s the only option friends. It can’t be covered any other way. Folly is thinking we’ve gotten away with it. The folly of hypocrisy thinking we can cover it on our own.
III. The Future of Hypocrisy (3)
The future of hypocrisy is simple. All the skeletons are coming out. All! V. 3, “Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” Darkness gives the illusion of privacy. But they are coming out, folks. Private rooms were storerooms (v. 24) built in the middle of houses to make them harder to get into. Secret conversations were often held there. But they were not hidden from God. They will be shouted from the housetops – the best means of broadcasting news prior to radio and TV. The secrets are coming out and “what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops” (Mt 10:27). Whispered secrets? Coming out!
I was in the 6th grade when someone first quoted these words to me. I got caught sending notes to a girl I liked. We were too shy to talk to each other. Those notes would not even cause comment these days, but then, the secrecy of the thing landed me in the principal’s office, and somewhere someone quoted this verse to me. It scared the living daylights out of me. And well it should, Beloved. It reminds us there are no secrets – not from God. In the end, all will be revealed. Ecc 12:14 reminds us: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Rev 20:12, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” This is a fearsome thought even if it were only outward deeds. But God sees clear to the heart, imagine standing alone before God trying to justify every thought. Like righteous Isaiah when he met God face-to-face, you will be on your face begging for mercy – but it will be too late.
But mercy is available, Beloved. What God demands, God provides through the death of His own Son. The instinct to cover sin is the right instinct. No sin can enter God’s presence. But hypocrisy denies; it doesn’t cover. That’s why, Adam and Eve’s fig leaves wouldn’t do. God sacrificed an animal and covered them with a blood sacrifice provided by Him. Later, on atonement day, the priest entered God’s presence in the Holy of Holies carrying the blood of an innocent lamb. Inside was the Ark of the Covenant which contained the Ten Commandments inside, the mercy seat on top of it, and the presence of God above that. The priest sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat and thus the blood came between a holy God and a people who had broken the commandments, thus picturing the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
Sin can only be covered by the blood of Christ, never by our trickery. God will unveil every sin we cover. But He promises those who believe in I John 1:7, “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Heb 9:22 tells us, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” But it goes on to tell us in 9:26, “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” The only sufficient cover for sin is the blood of Jesus Christ. It’s the only cover that counts.
Thus salvation comes when we once-for-all repent our sin and ask God to cover it with Jesus’ blood. But Jesus is talking to His own disciples here. The crowd is listening in and this is aimed at them too, but the primary audience is His believing disciples. They will never be judged for entrance to heaven. Their eternal destiny is settled once and for all on the basis of their acceptance of Jesus as Lord. But there will be a judgment for believers to determine reward for faithfulness. Paul says, writing to believers, in II Cor 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” Please note that both good and evil deeds, thoughts and words will be judged. Nothing will be hidden. All the secret places will be unveiled. You say, “I thought my sins were as far as the east is from the west.” And they are, Beloved, as far as your condemnation is concerned. They will never be held against you judicially. But they will show up at this Bema seat judgment before Christ to determine eternal reward.
Paul details this in I Cor 3:11, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw (that is, good works, works of faith, deeds on Jesus’ agenda) — 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” How we will wish on that day we had been fully dedicated to Jesus every minute of every day. Hypocrisy will be weeded out on that day and the loss will be severely felt. Better to weed it out now.
Conc – I’m afraid we’re all going to have a lot to answer for one day. We will deeply regret then that we have rationalized away eternal privilege. Too many of us are playacting. There’s a famous story about the time Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, was recruiting John Scully who was the 38-year-old President of Pepsi Cola. Nothing was working until he finally asked: "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?" Let me ask you – if you made no changes, how will you feel about your life in 1,000 years? Are you just going through the motions of being a Christian? Putting on a show with no reality? Like the pilot who came on and said, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is we’re lost. The good news, we’ve got a strong tailwind.” That’s like some of us – going nowhere fast – on the road to oblivion – fooling everyone, including ourselves. But the skeletons are coming out one day, Beloved. Join reality. Live for Jesus. Let’s pray.