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Chapter 16 - Summary
God has given you one face, and you make yourself another. – William Shakespeare
Hypocrisy is not so much something we do, it is what happens to us when we 'fall asleep at the wheel' of our Christian life.
One of our biggest problems is that we think of Jesus, the bible, church, and all things religious as something we have allocated for an hour or two once a week. Thinking that Christianity is something that is simply done and then only briefly and infrequently allows our lives to be directed according to other forces. When we think we have satisfied religious requirements we risk the same thinking that infested the Pharisees.
The word 'leaven' was also used of the Herodians and Sadducees. One can see the faith of the Sadducees as based on their position and birth. The faith of the Herodians seems to have been based on their political and economic connections. While the Pharisees deluded themselves into thinking they were religiously superior by their own merit, the others had faith just as strong. Unfortunately none had faith in God.
We come to play-acting (hypocrisy) by becoming distant from God. The solution is to come closer;
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.- James 4:6-10
James gives us a process that begins and ends with humility. Humility begins when we understand who we are and what we bring to the table.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. - Romans 7:18
Humility continues when we begin to glimpse how great God is;
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; - Psalm 8:3
Humility grows as this understanding expands to be present in all of our activities and not just the church ones. For example, a man in casual conversation with some friends when tempted to share his excitement at getting a new boat refrains because he remembers that a friend just lost his job and he wants to not cause his friend anguish. It is when humility grows that we are better able to fulfill biblical admonitions;
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. - Philippians 2:4
Humility is the first step in the subordination of the flesh (self). It progresses as control of things and even people are transfered to the Lord even to the point of our own life.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. - Revelation 12:11
Satan has gone to great lengths to create a society where even the idea God seems laughably primitive. Those who seek to draw nearer their Savior face a difficult time. Faith is made to look irresponsible. Humility is seen as weakness, unless it is the false humility used to manipulate others. Chastity is ridiculed. Having children is seen as not only unwise, but even harmful. The traditional family is seen as toxic.
If we are to heed the warning of Jesus to beware the leaven of the Pharisees, we need to be vigilant of all the snares Satan has prepared to subvert us, the weakness of our own flesh, our own lack of maturity in Christ, and a 'Christian' life marginalized to an hour or two once a week. There are many forces that combine to lead us to think we have completed the Christian life and have satisfied all the Christian requirements.
Have we matured to the 'full measure of Christ'?
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: - Ephesians 4:13
Are we friends with the world?
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. - 1 John 2:16
Have we ignored the imitation of Christ?
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. - Luke 14:27
Is our life too comfortable?
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. - 2 Timothy 3:12
Is Christ the center of our life?
And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.- 2 Corinthians 5:15
The leaven of the Pharisees grew until they were only acting religious. They did not even know they had ended so far from God. Trapped by the combination of their own self focus and convinced they were godly, there was little chance of escape from such a dark prison.
The only hope we have of avoiding a similar fate is to cling to our Savior in gratitude and humility. We need to cry out for wisdom. We need to seek truth and walk by the power of the Spirit of truth. We need to reject entanglement with the world. We need to grow in love (selflessness). We need to see our brothers in Christ with less criticism and more compassion. Mockery and smugness should be far from us. Most of all fervent prayer is needed to both focus ourselves on our Savior as well as turn our attention from those things which divert us.
We get a picture of a life in constant dependence upon our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; - 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
This requires vigilance in preventing the leaven of the Pharisees from gaining traction with us. Since it is almost impossible to remedy once it gains purchase, prevention is about the only way to be free from its corruptive contamination.
Prevention depends on detecting the presence of 'leaven'. Just like a smoke detector identifies the first indication of combustion, we need to construct a mechanism for detecting the early indicators that we are going in the wrong direction. One of the best ways to do this is establishing a process of self-examination.
So whoever cleanses himself [from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences] will [then himself] be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work. - 2 Timothy 2:21 (AMP)
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. - Romans 12:3
But let a man examine himself, - 1 Corinthians 11:28a
Walking in truth is a requirement to see ourselves in truth. This means we need to be honest about all of our sins, motives, desires, acts, and thoughts. When we are honest, we clearly see how petty, vain, ambitious, vengeful, greedy, and generally sinful we really are. It is this clarity of vision that keeps us from the 'leaven' that our natural man so eagerly seeks to use to insulate himself from the discomfort of truth.
No one likes to live with discomfort. It is like a man who places his hand on the hot burner of a stove. He may chose to instantly give himself a shot of anesthetic to numb the pain, or he may chose to remove his hand so that healing can begin. The pain caused by seeing ourselves in truth can be intense. However, rather than starting to alter our perception of truth to provide ourselves a comfortable delusion (which is how we come to be hypocrites), we need to apply an appreciation for the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus that cleanses us from all our sins.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8
Seeing ourselves in truth brings a painful realization of how far we are from what God desires for us. Rather than trying to sooth our discomfort by thinking that we really aren’t so bad, we need to find solace in the all pervading love of God through Christ for us.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 2:4-7
The Pharisees demonstrated the opposite of humility.
Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. - Romans 2:17-20
Humility is a sort of gate through which God is able to pour out grace.
But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. - James 4:6
It is also from the point of humility that gratitude flows.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. - Psalm 100:4
Satan has conspired for centuries to craft a world hostile to all things godly. If he cannot prevent people from becoming Christian, he desires to divert them into inactivity or even to subvert them to advance his plans. To resist this we need to arise from our slumber and seek truth.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. - Psalm 51:6
Like David, we need to awake from an inert and dormant faith that we might be of use to him who has given us eternal life.
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. - Psalm 51:9-10
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