The Problem Of God, Week 3 — The “The Problem Of Hypocrisy” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s message …

  • Began with an anecdote from my father’s early years in Akron, Ohio;
  • Depended on the building block of “when it’s your time at the judgment seat, no one will ask you what SOMEONE ELSE did with Jesus”;
  • Used “Checkpoint Charlie” at the former Berlin Wall as an example of what a world with ‘no religion, too’ gets you.  Unknown to me, a man from Romania was in the 10 a.m. service at Moss and he affirmed and emphasized my point of what a “godless” life was like behind the Iron Curtain;
  • Landed at an inquisitive bottom line:  Do you ACCUSE others of hypocrisy as a way of AVOIDING your own? 
  • Concluded with an opportunity for people to name, from their seats, those people in their lives whose Christian integrity made it so they “MUST believe” in Christ.



Some of you know that my dad, who died 13 years ago when he was 95, was never a church person. It was sort of a miracle that he came here a couple of times and more of a miracle that he LIKED it. But his objection to church all stemmed from an incident when, as a young boy in Akron Ohio in the 20s (the 1920!) he wandered into church wearing sneaker. And the other kids told him that his shoes were completely inappropriate for church. They ridiculed him. And so he left that day and for all practical purposes never went back. “If they’re gonna act like THAT,” he thought, “I can’t believe.”

It’s HYPOCRISY, an ancient word that literally comes from the world of the stage and refers to putting on an act. Pretending. And when kids put on an “act” of Jesus but then treated him that way, my dad couldn’t believe. And I daresay he is not the last one to be turned away from church & faith by hypocrites within.   Because the reality of hypocrites in the church has led to some really painful reflection on the part of a whole lot of people. Why should I believe in a religion’s FOUNDER when its followers went on the Crusades? Why should I follow Scripture whent that preacher scammed that little old lady out of her retirement? Why should I become a Xn when Xns are so unbecoming?! Those are questions some of you are asking, and those are questions that a lot of people you love and/or live with are asking as well. People who yell the loudest, it turns out, really do have the most to hide.

And this is heavy stuff. I have some things to say to those of you who consider yourselves Xns and I have some things for those who of you who have heard about Xns and thus decided you want nothing to do with it. But before I say any of that, I have a couple of things to say to ALL GROUPS & it starts with this: no one is more distressed or less surprised by the presence of hypocrites in the church as Jesus. Hypocrites are on his mind as he winds up the sermon de SERMONS, the Sermon On The Mount. Just AFTER warning his congregation about false teachers (doh!) he says this; READ Matthew 7:21-23.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Gulp. Is there anything more dangerous than a misplaced confidence in your ability and your achievements? Is there anything worse than a FALSE confidence in your eternity?

And whatever else Jesus is saying here, one thing is painfully clear: he does judge (you may not believe in him yet, but please know that even the deepest skeptic believes that Jesus REALLY lived and he REALLY said all these things). There is a judgment seat upon which all of us will sit, and in that moment Jesus is judge, jury, and, if necessary executioner. And ACTORS don’t fare well at the judgment. Ppl with a gap between their SAY-ing and their DO-ing are in for a shock. Because spectacle is never a substitute for surrender and display should never be mistaken for obedience.

So whether you trust Jesus or not, whether you follow him or not, whether you’re giving it and him serious thought, please know this: he is more bothered by hypocritical Xns than you are. When it happens that “because they live THAT, I can’t believe” makes him more angry than you could ever dream of being.

And if may continue with another thought and this is for both skeptics and followers alike. Check Heb 9:27:

It is appointed for man once to die and then to face judgment. 

Kind of reinforcing the vignette Jesus just told. But here’s what’s NOT gonna happen at the judgment seat. You die (or he comes back, but let’s leave it at you die.) And you face Jesus (stay with me if you don’t believe yet; suspend your disbelief). At that moment he is NOT gonna put his arm around your shoulder and say, “Can we talk, just you and me, about Talbot? Whew! That guy, let me tell you about him!” Nope, not gonna happen. It’s not going to be “I’ve brought you here to talk about the President.” It won’t be “Let’s hear about your mom.” Not “let me tell you about how Mother Teresa REALLY treated me!” I’m even pretty sure that when it was my dad it wasn’t, “tell me about those kids at that church and what they did to my reputation.” Nope, not like that for any of the above.

See for those of you – whether you’ve given Jesus your life or you’re thinking about it or you’ve decided not to because of the Xns in your life, I’ve got great news: At your judgment seat you won’t be asked about what someone ELSE did with Jesus. Yippeee! Isn’t that great! Not once, not a single time.

Because I just have a  question for wherever you are on this spectrum, but especially if you’ve written the FOUNDER off because of the behavior of his FOLLOWERS: Do you ACCUSE others of hypocrisy as a way of AVOIDING your own? For believer and skeptic alike, I believe SO MANY of us are master deflectors. But he … ! When she …. ! Did you hear ….! For me, it’s like, Lord, could you please hold that preacher’s feet to the fire? Father, why are you blessing them more than us? Why him, God, why him? And I have a suspicion that God is like, Hey, don’t worry so much about the others; let’s chat about the ways you messed up this week. I just think of all the energy and focus not directed at … ME. It’s true of Xns and non-Xns alike. It’s funny – Julie and I took a walking tour of Communist sights during our recent Prague trip. And the group posed for a photo before the walk. But the guide warned: “if you are here with a secret lover, do not be in the picture. We’ve had people busted.” Doh! And Prague isn’t exactly crawling with Xns, so the SAY-er and DO-er gap is the same.

But are you the same? So riled up over that offense rather than dealing with the brokenness that is you. Is that you? Honestly? SO MAD as a way of delaying or deflecting from addressing your own hypocrisy? Your own gap, in the language of Matthew 7, between what you SAY and what you DO? When I say the people who yell the loudest have the most to hide, do you suddenly realize it’s talking about YOU? The problem of hypocrisy is the problem of me? Do you ACCUSE others of hypocrisy as a way of AVOIDING your own?

So I told you earlier that I wanted a word for those in this place who have written off Xnty because of the actions and attitudes of Xns. Now’s that time. So like for some of you, it’s please don’t discount the FOUNDER because of the foul ups of his FOLLOWERS. The founder is PERFECT … so perfect, in fact, that he knew his followers might well bring his name some embarrassment and he went through with the whole operation anyway. He trusted us anyway. He died for us anyway. He rose within us anyway. Please: don’t dwell on what scientists call Inconsequential Data (minor points) so that you miss the heart of the matter.

And then for others of you, be suspicious of the narratives you’re being told. Like yesterday’s Crusades, for example. While it’s not something Xns are proud of, there were historical and religious realities at the time that made sense to the people of that time. Or today when you hear that Xns have what sound like old fashioned ideas about sex, it’s not because we’re full of hate. It’s not because we want to stop your fun. It’s because we know the beauty of God’s plan and we’re not swayed by the notion that newer is better and younger is smarter. Do you ACCUSE others of hypocrisy as a way of AVOIDING your own?

And then if your disgust with hypocrisy has made you long for a John Lennon (AV) world – what did he say? Imagine Imagine there’s no countries It isn’t hard to do Nothing to kill or die for And no religion, too. The thing is, we don’t have to IMAGINE a world with no religion. We’ve seen it. You know what this is? (AV) Checkpoint Charlie in East Berlin. Communist, ATHEIST East Berlin back in the days of the wall. What were the towers for? To shoot people trying to ESCAPE. They built a wall to CONTAIN people, to imprison them, and they’d kill them if they tried to escape. Hello! That’s what you get in a world with no religion. Or, today, if you’d like you can go to North Korea, where the same atheism leads to the same imprisonment. That’s where no religion leads … where they have to keep you in and are just demonic enough to kill you if you try to get out. Sounds a lot … like … hell. I think a few hypocrites is a pretty good trade-off to avoid that, TYVM. Do you ACCUSE others of hypocrisy as a way of AVOIDING your own?

Now: to those of you who believe. Don’t worry: I’m not going to go all shrill with you. Not a DON’T BE HYPOCRITES! In your future. No HAVE INTEGRITY! for you. Instead, I guess I simply want to give you an invitation to live in such a way as that you won’t be embarrassed to sell you pet parrot to the town gossip. Wouldn’t that be nice?

More than that, do you know how exhausting hypocrisy is? It’s awful. It takes so much energy – mental and physical – to feint, to juke, to jive. It’s awful. You’re trying to be two people at once and neither one of them works. Hey! This is why so few Hollywood marriages work (except Tom Hanks). The mental energy to play those roles spills over into the self to the point that THAT’S a role. And it’s so exhausting, so hard to keep up, that relationships crumble from the strain. It makes perfect sense. REFRAIN.

I really, really want you to have the kind of life where at the end of a day, you can do what they call a searching and fearless moreal inventory before you settle into bed. You go over what you’ve done: you started the day away from people & alone with the Lord. Not in the world but in the Word. That set your direction for what came next. You then reacted with serenity to the challenges. You held your tongue. When you could have gotten the last word in, you didn’t. You didn’t kick your dogs or yell at your kids. You honored your mate. You aren’t hiding anything … or anyone. And as you prepare for bed, you can’t wait to get up the next morning and do it all over again. That’s what I want. It’s called integrity, it’s called holiness, and it takes a lot less energy and drive than does hypocrisy.

And in my time, I’ve seen them. I’ve seen people out there who live like this. Remember how I talked at the beginning about Xns who live in such a way that you can’t believe? Well, have you thought of it this way … that there are Xns out there who live in such a way that you MUST believe? People for whom the only possible explanation for their life is Jesus? And they help you believe in God more? Yeah, I’ve seen them. Like her: (AV Barbara Wingate) who never let the polio that crippled her legs hobble her spirit. Who brings spunk into whatever care facility she is in, seeing it as a mission field. Yeah, her. Or him (AV Chuch Swindoll) a Texan pastor of remarkable integrity who radiates such joy in his own life that it’s part of the church’s mission. Or even this guy (AV RTD) giving his life away for the gospel and doing it with relational gifts I could never match?
Those are mine. Who has a name, just a name of one whose life makes you believe more?