Sunday, January 1, 2017

What Jesus Hates Most

As I write, it just became 2017. It's New Year’s Day. Besides bowl games and hangovers, the most common ritual of this holiday is “making resolutions.”  A resolution is basically a vow to change in a specific way. Usually people resolve to stop or start doing something. Stop eating junk food. Stop drinking alcohol. Start working out. Start managing money better. Start having a daily quiet time. It’s a good custom! New starts—whether a new semester in school, moving to a new city, a new relationship, or a New Year—are all opportunities for us to consider the direction and/or habits of our lives and chart a course ahead. It’s good to evaluate and improve. I hope you’ll make meaningful resolutions! 

Question: have you kept the ones you made in previous years? I confess, some I haven’t, but many I have. The most successful are those I privately asked God to help me with and dedicated myself to him. The biggest failures are those I made for the wrong reasons—lose weight to impress people or rashly announce that I would run a marathon or something. Here’s what not to do: follow the crowd, seek others’ approval, do something for attention, or try to make yourself enviable in the eyes of others. It’s what is SO tempting in this Facebook/Twitter/Instagram era. But even before social media, it’s always been tempting to compare ourselves with others and seek to “one up” everyone else. What’s Jesus think about that? That’s what we see today. 
Jesus is headed to Jerusalem where he knows he’ll die, so he’s taken the gloves off. If your idea of Jesus is a soft, unoffensive, politically correct, nice guy, you’re in for a surprise. Luke 11: 37While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Ew, Jesus forgot to wash. Just an accident? “Oh, my bad, I guess I should, after hanging around crowds and shaking hands and such.” No, first, this isn’t washing for hygiene but is the Greek word, baptizein = “to dip or immerse” a ceremonial washing Pharisees practiced (as they did everything) to SHOW that they were serious about following all aspects of OT law—and more. Second, he didn’t forget. He deliberately didn’t do this hand-dip ceremony in order to pick a fight and make a point. Look: 39And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. Whoa! There’s some nice dinner conversation! I’m sure THAT wasn’t awkward! What Jesus is saying here is this: Be sincere. Follow God from the heart. He sees the inside and the outside. If you just care about the outside—what people see—you are a fool, a hypocrite. What you should be most concerned about is the inside: your true self. That’s what really matters. Give God your motives—your heart—and your deeds will follow. If you’re clean on the inside, you’ll end up clean on the outside. 

Painting by Tintoretto, an Italian painter and a notable exponent
of the Renaissance.

We do this, don’t we? We care about what others see. Church can be a notorious place for this! Especially in the South! One of the things that disgusted me about some churches I’ve been in is the discrepancy between the way people act, talk, and look on Sunday mornings and the way they live the rest of the week! Another problem is that churches tend to want to “clean up” the outsides of people new to the faith. Yes, new believers are messy. They may say a cussword accidentally. They may not know what to wear (or NOT). I’ve been in churches that had unwritten codes of behavior. That’s one reason why we try to focus on the inside. Being real. Are we perfect? No. Truth is, it’s a temptation for all of us to present a front that hides the truth. There are 7 things Jesus hates about hypocrisy that we see in Luke 11:37-12:3.  
1. Hypocrisy cares about the outside—what people see rather than what God sees. 
Jesus didn’t let up, in fact he starts using Old Testament prophet language—and in particular a word we don’t often use: Woe. He’s says, “Do you like the Old Testament? Let me speak your language.” 
42“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. What does Jesus hate? 2. Hypocrisy focuses on minor matters and forgets the major ones. Yes it is important to tithe—He makes that clear! But even more important is caring about those who are mistreated and overlooked. More important is loving others! These pharisees were going in their spice cabinets and measuring out a tenth of their cinnamon, oregano, cayenne; and gave it at the temple (because that looked super spiritual to all the important people), while treating less-important people with contempt—even cheating them! 
43Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. What does Jesus hate? 3. Hypocrisy desperately wants to promote self. This, too, is something we need to be aware of. We want to be seen as wealthy or cool or being in the in crowd. Jesus (obviously in Luke) cared about being with the nobodies! A pet-peeve of mine is Pastors who want to be called “Reverend” or “Doctor” or want a special parking place—the BEST place. There’s a church I know that has a young pastor with portraits of that pastor hung throughout the building. Is that like Christ? No. And the whole world knows it except him. I know pastors who at gatherings try to hobnob with the important/wealthy/famous people. That’s just vain. 
44Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.” This is a funny idiom. Jews believe it ceremonially defiles a person who is in contact with a dead body. Of course, the Pharisees, as was their habit, took this OT guideline too far and said that even the graves were unclean and by touching them a person was unclean. Jesus uses this belief as an analogy: “You guys contaminate people who don’t even realize it!” 
What does Jesus hate? 4. Hypocrisy is highly contaminating of others. Something I’ve noticed. When hypocrisy gets rooted in a church or a family or organization, it becomes a part of a culture that reproduces itself. I remember going to CN as a freshman and being shocked by the way the popular Christians who lived on my hall weren’t who they seemed to be in public. These were leaders, who spoke in chapel and could pray and sing so well. But when they were in the dorm they talked about girls and sex more than any locker room or construction site I’d been in! Some were as racist as anyone I’d ever known. They would lie, gamble, drink, and cuss with the best of ‘em. Don’t get me wrong. I’m only naming those things because they’d never do them around their parents or pastors. And they’d even preach against them! Problem is, I called them out on it (probably not with the right tone) and they didn’t like me because of it. As time went on, I noticed the younger guys started doing the same things. Hypocrisy is contagious! It can infect a church and a family! Those uninfected must beware lest they become unclean, too!
45One of the lawyers (yes, lawyers like today who prosecute or defend people in court—but these were more because their law was the Old Testament. Under Roman rule, Israel was still a theocracy. So these lawyers were very prestigious and educated in religion.) answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” And Jesus’ reply is basically, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply…let me be more specific and inclusive, just so you won’t miss it. 46And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. These men, like our politicians (lawyers) added to the law even more regulations making it harder on people what was already not easy! What does Jesus hate about hypocrisy? 5. It makes following God a real burden. Hypocrisy loves legalism. Jesus continues: 47Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs.49Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. Whoa! Like the U.S. government in the 1960s that worked to subfert MLK Jr. but then established a holiday after his death, these lawyers raised money to honor the very prophets their ancestors killed! What does Jesus hate? 6. Hypocrisy prentends to honor whom it really opposes.  6. Hypocrisy pretends to honor whom it really opposes. We do this, don't we? We say glowing things to important people we don't like because we don't want to be rude. We sometimes drop names of popu.ar people we don't like because we don't want to be rude. Se sometimes drop names of popular people past and present because it makes us look better. Problem: those who do this to Jesus–who's MUCH MORE than a prophet–will pay for all of humanity's hypocrisies. Not just their generation, ours! Because only Jesus takes away sin. Reject him and you miss your chance of forgiveness and face judgment for sinning against an infinitely holy God. You reject the offer made available by Christ–the ultimate prophet, priest, and king–when he died on the cross in your place. That's not good.

 52Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” By “key of knowledge” he means their place as the doorkeepers to God’s word. They were the experts. They alone claimed to have a corner on the right interpretation. Problem is, they were wrong. Worse than anything, they were wrong about Jesus and missed him. And they caused others to also. What does Jesus hate about hypocrisy? 7. It makes dangerous doorkeepers out of fools. Application? We must be careful about who we allow to lead and who we listen to! Especially regarding spiritual things. Should you examine my teaching, my lifestyle, my family, my habits and judge whether I'm worthy to listen to? According to the Bible, Yes. And every other spiritual leader. Shouldn’t you be a part of a church with a plurality of leaders where accountability is institutionalized? Yes. Should we speak truth to those claiming to be spiritual leaders who refuse accountability and have questionable doctrine or practices? Yes. Should we root out hypocrites? Yes. Because the WORST hypocrites are those who claim to love and speak for God! The two local “ministers” who were caught trying to have sex with underaged girls. Ted Haggard, at the time President of National Association of Evangelicals, a few years ago admitted to buying meth and having a 3-yr affair with a gay prostitute. Oh, he’s pastoring again. More recently (last month) stories came out about Clayton Jennings, an up-and-coming evangelist/author/poet who has apparently had numerous accusers come forward. Of course, I could name many more. How does the world react? Here’s a quote from Jay Michaelson of The Daily Beast entitled, It’s A Sin: The Real Christian Preacher Sex Scandal Is How Many There Are. It begins: "Another week, another bumper crop of Christian sex scandals. And it's not going to stop any time soon. Exposing religious sexual hypocrisy is, as the cliché goes, like shooting fish in a barrel. ...Literally every day there's a new story of religious conservative leaders philandering, downloading illegal pornography, cruising for gay sex on the down low, or, by far worst of all, sexually abusing minors or other vulnerable people."
Of course he exaggerates—a little. What he doesn’t say is that sex isn’t the only thing. Financial impropriety, lying, dictatorial leadership, manipulation, dangerous heresies, plagiarism, and more are not uncommon. It makes me sick and it makes God angry. Jesus called out these religious leaders and he wants us to do the same. Yes, it goes against our feel-good culture. But ignoring it is killing us. And Christ hates it. When a pastor/preacher/spiritual leader has a moral failure or brings a scandal on himself, he should be removed from leadership. Period. Of course he can be restored in fellowship to the church and of course he can find God's forgiveness, but serving as a leader in Christ's church is a privilege not a right, and we can disqualify ourselves by (among other things) having sex outside our marriage or even simply losing our status of being "above reproach." We must start holding these leaders accountable or these incidences will continue unabated. 

 53As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say. I have to think Jesus was ready for the challenge!
Luke 12:1In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, (here’s the conclusive statement:) “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3Therefore 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.
Did you catch that? Everything will one day be revealed. Scary, huh?

So what?
• Be real. That’s what God wants. That’s not an excuse to be proud about your shortcomings. No. That’s an invitation to live an honest life. When your spouse or kids point out something in your life that’s not Christlike, embrace it humbly and determine that you will change! Hypocrisy is living a lie. Pride is the root of hypocrisy! Confess when you mess up. It does not make you look smaller, it honors God and is admirable. And it pushes us toward holiness. I’ve had people in sm grps or MANday who confessed hiding a secret porn addiction—and the guilt was eating them up! They were free. The only thing worse than living in sin is living in sin secretly—because now you are a hypocrite. That’s misery. Start being real by confessing sin. To God, and then to someone who will pray for you. So be real. It's all going to be known one day anyway. Why not find freedom?

• Make wise resolutions. If you make a resolution this year, make it between you and God, not to impress others. Do it because you know It pleases God and makes you more like Christ. As you do this, others will see the results and God will be glorified, not you. Here’s the truth: If you aim for glorifying self, you will only find dissatisfaction and others will resent you. But if you aim for glorifying God, you will share in his glory.

• Remember Christ’s sacrifice for you. The Lord's supper is a vivid picture that Christ gave us to illustrate how he is the Lamb of God who shed his blood that we might live and how he is the UNleavened bread—NOT tainted by hypocrisy or sin—who was broken for us that we might have life. THAT's how we find forgiveness. Believe in him (if you have not) so that you may be made clean from the inside out.

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