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Christ Exposes Spiritual Hypocrites, Part 1 (Matthew Sermon 117 of 151)

Christ Exposes Spiritual Hypocrites, Part 1 (Matthew Sermon 117 of 151)

March 14, 2010 | Andrew Davis
Matthew 23:13-22
Sanctification, Works of the Flesh, False Teaching & False Teachers

Introduction

Hypocrisy, that's the word that's in front of me and in front of us this morning, hypocrisy, the wearing of the spiritual mask. It starts with pride, it starts with the desire to be praised and honored by other people. And it gives little thought to what God really thinks. Hypocrisy is concerned with external appearances, with a show of righteousness. Hypocrisy wears a mask and a costume, having learned religious jargon, having learned religious facial expressions, religious tones of voice and religious body language, it's able to appear to most any audience as righteous.

Hypocrisy gets dressed for church every Sunday, polishes up the image and walks out on stage, and puts on a show. Conversations in the parking lot, in the church foyer, over coffee during Bible for Life. All of these handled with skill to hide the reality.

And what is the reality? Spiritual death, spiritual decay, enslavement to sin, to pride, and lust, and materialism, and pleasure. That's the truth. And though that person knows the language of Christ and of the gospel, the reality, the power of godliness is starkly absent to the only audience it really matters, and that's God. It's one of the most painful works of a pastor, to expose a gospel hypocrite. Maybe one of the most difficult as well. But that's a labor that's in front of us, not just this week, but next week, for two weeks. We're going to look at the issue of hypocrisy.

And the issue of spiritual hypocrisy, I think is one of the most deadly in the Christian life. It's a counterfeit righteousness, that effectively blocks the sinner from receiving the true righteousness that Christ offers freely by faith. Contrasted with the actor is the true Christian, the true Christian cannot stand the sham, is deeply aware of the sin within, and wants the genuine remedy. Wants a genuine walk with Christ. And the greatest grief in the life of a true Christian is the gap between their life, and the true standard taught in the gospel, that's the greatest grief in the heart of a true Christian. True Christians aren't perfect, they don't live the perfect standard that's not the case at all. But they yearn for it, they hunger and thirst for it. But not so the hypocrite.

A true Christian is spiritually humble, broken-hearted meek and lowly, concerning his own condition and his own situation. The Beatitudes describe the true Christian well, “Blessed are the spiritual beggars, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. And blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

So this morning, we're gonna take a painful walk through Matthew 23, one of the most devastating chapters in the Bible. You have Christ, the gentle Savior, launching missiles of judgment on the Scribes and Pharisees. We hear this repeated refrain, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.” And as I mentioned last week, and I'll keep reminding, the biggest mistake you can ever make when you come to a passage like this, is to assume that Christ is talking about someone else and aren't you glad it isn't you? That's a big mistake you can ever make. No, a genuine Christian, is deeply concerned about hypocrisy.

One of the marks of true Christianity, is you take warning passages very seriously. You never blow them off, because you're well aware of the sin within. You feel it, you know it, you're wrestling, you're fighting it every day by the power of the Spirit. And the warnings help you in your fight. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the warnings give you that strength to fight. So we don't run from the warnings, we embrace them. We say, “You must be speaking to me, Lord.” And so as we hear Christ verbally undress the scribes and Pharisees and their wretched hypocrisy, if this passage should make us feel smug, and righteous, and say, “I'm sure glad I'm not like them,” then I do believe you've missed the point. Rather we should be taking our hearts to Christ and saying, “I want a genuine work of grace in my heart. I want a genuine walk with Christ, change me dear Jesus.”

Blackest Darkness Reserved for Them

Now also, as we come to Matthew 23, we're not just coming to any kind of hypocrisy, we're coming to a specific kind of hypocrisy, and that's hypocrisy in spiritual leaders of the people of God. It's a deadly dangerous form of hypocrisy, when spiritual leaders are hypocrites, and that's what we're dealing with here with the Scribes and Pharisees.

Satan’s Three Deadly Attacks

Now, I've said before, we need to be aware that Satan has three great, categorically, three great weapons that he uses on the people of God. Worldliness which is the allure of the world. Its enticements, its appeal, its sensual pleasures, its excitements, visual pleasures. Vanity Fair, and all of its enticements, the allure of the world that's worldliness.

Secondly, there's persecution, that's the attack of the world. Rejections, insults, missed promotions, gossip, slander, shunning by cliques, all the way up to bitter pounding by hate-filled governments and religious zealots, imprisonment, riots, confiscation of property, torture and death, that's persecution.

And then the third, false doctrine, false teaching. The perversion of right doctrine, by a subtle convincing counterfeit. An overemphasis of some truth until it becomes a falsehood. The infiltration of strange ideas, strange worship patterns, things that are contrary to the biblical conception of God, legalism on one side, license on the other. False doctrine.

The Greatest Danger: False Teaching

And of the three, the greatest as I've said before, is false teaching, Because it lingers to attack that thing which is said to be the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, to the gospel. The gospel is doctrine, and false teaching attacks the doctrine and therefore cuts the tap root of spiritual life and the people. 

The Greatest Condemnation: False Spiritual Leaders

And the greatest condemnation there is in the Bible, is for spiritual leaders, hypocritical spiritual leaders who are teaching false doctrine. 2 Peter 2:17, Peter says of them, “These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them.” The Bible hints at the fact that there's not all equal punishments in how there are different levels of condemnation. There are different levels of judgment and it seems that blackest darkness is reserved for false teachers. Hypocrites.

Scribes and Pharisees: A Hellish Combination of All Three Attacks

Now, as we're looking at Matthew 23, we're looking at the Scribes and Pharisees, or the teachers of law and the Pharisees. We see a hellish combination of all three attacks. We see worldliness in these men, worldliness, because they're consumed with their earthly situation, they do spiritual things for earthly benefits, they're very worldly. They're concerned with earthly prestige and power and greetings, and marketplaces and titles of honor. Most important seats in the banquets and they're materialistic too, in terms of they devour widows' houses it says in Luke 20, they gobble them up and so they use their position to get money. I think they're in charge of the sacrificial system in there and the money is just rolling in. And so there's that materialism, worldliness.

Persecution, we see that absolutely, they savagely attacked true religion. They fought Jesus every step of the way. Persecuted him on every step of the way, and they are the ones at this point, who are secretly plotting to have Jesus killed. And Jesus says, “This is what your future holds.” Right here in this chapter, verse 34. I won't cover it today, but he says, “I'm sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. And some of them you will kill and crucify and others, you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.” Persecution.

And then thirdly, false teaching, they taught a false teaching, false gospel of legalism and self-righteousness. Legalism is thinking that you can be in right standing with God by your obedience to God. That's what legalism is. And so as you try to have a right standing with God, you look to your own obedience to God's rules and God's commands, that's the essence of legalism. That's what they taught. They had a meticulously careful system of reinterpretation of Moses's laws, human traditions and all that, and they taught that you could be saved, by following their approach to religion.

And so these are the deadliest enemies of the gospel that the early church faced. The triple threat of worldliness, persecution and false doctrine. More than that Jesus's denunciation of them in Matthew 23, exposes the hypocrisy of our own hearts. The fact that we ourselves are not what we ought to be, and we have our own outward shows of righteousness and our inward corruptions, and so that's the work that's in front of us here. 

Overview of Christ’s Condemnation

The Bitterest of all Christ’s Teachings

Now, as we look at Matthew 23, we're looking, as I said, at the bitterest of all of Christ's teachings. He pulls no punches and therefore he's hard to listen to in our tolerant age. 

Our Day and Age: Toleration

This post-modern age of ours is an age of toleration. And we embrace that kind of toleration. Live and let live. So clear denunciation of other people for their spiritual lives and their doctrines is considered extremely rude and harsh and divisive and judgmental. But let's never forget, the one who's speaking these words here in Matthew 23 actually is the judge of all the earth. And so, if it seems judgemental, understand the one giving it has the right to judge. It says in John chapter 5 that “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” 

And later in the same Gospel, in Matthew 25, Jesus said this, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory, and all the nations will be gathered before him. And he will separate the nations one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” He's gonna put the sheep on his right and he's gonna put the goats on his left. And then, he's going to pronounce over some eternal blessedness. And he's gonna pronounce over others eternal condemnation. And he has the right to do it. That's the one who's speaking here in Matthew 23.

So what should happen in the hearts of some people, the Scribes and Pharisees, to hear the judge of all the earth say this, “You snakes, you brood of vipers, how will you escape being condemned to Hell?” That's one of the most terrifying verses in the entire Bible. Think of who's saying it. Asking what are you gonna do to get out of Hell? How are you going to escape?

Context

Now, the Gospel of Matthew, the context for this, the unifying theme of the Gospel of Matthew is the Kingdom of Heaven. And really, more specifically, if I can say it this way, Jesus as the King of the Kingdom of Heaven, that's the unifying theme of the whole 28 chapters, the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus as its King.

And so, from the very beginning, it starts with the genealogy proving Jesus' right to be king. And then after the birth narratives, we have John the Baptist who is coming and saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” And he testified that someone was coming after him, whose sandals he wasn't worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire and his winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, he'll gather up the wheat into his barn, but he'll burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. That's Jesus, the judge of all the earth coming in the name of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Then after Jesus faces Satan in the desert, fasting 40 days and 40 nights, and defeating him, he then begins to preach the exact same message that John the Baptist had been preaching: “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

And then in the Sermon on the Mount, as I have already quoted the Beatitudes, we have an unfolding of the nature of the hearts of those that are in that kingdom, starting with the Beatitudes, but just going on beyond that. The nature of the kingdom is a kingdom of true heart righteousness, of heart religion, in which the righteousness of those who dwell there must surpass that of the Pharisees and scribes. It's a true heart righteousness, in which we fight not only external crimes like murder, but the root of it, which is anger. Not just external sins like adultery, but the root of it, which is lust. 

It looks right down into the heart, in which Jesus warns us, be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men to be seen by them. Don't put on a show, but do your acts of righteousness secretly, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so you're giving may be in secret. And when you pray, go into your rooms and close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. And when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, so that nobody knows you're fasting, live secretly unto God. He's the one who sees everything, have a heart religion. Have a heart righteousness.

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all of these other things, food, clothing and shelter will be given to you. Don't judge other people. Take the plank out of your eye, see your own sin first. See how plain it is, should be there, it's right in front of your face, you should see it. And if you're able to deal with that and honestly deal in a broken-hearted way, with your own sin, then you'll be able to see clearly to help a speck out of a brother or sister's eye. And beware of false prophets. Beware of false teachers. They come to you and sheep's clothing, but inwardly, they are ferocious wolves.

The Sermon on the Mount, describes the Kingdom of Heaven, and from that point on, Jesus goes on to display the power of the Kingdom of Heaven. It's not a matter of word only, but of power of transformation, of the forgiveness of sins of miracles done, sins to a paralyzed man. “Your sins are forgiven,” because he sees his faith. He can look right into the man's heart and he can say, “Your sins are forgiven you.” Jesus read the minds of his enemies, the Scribes and Pharisees standing around, “This is blasphemy. Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus knew their thoughts and said, “Which is easier to say: ‘your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘rise, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins.” And then he said to the paralyzed man, “Rise and walk,” and he got up and walked. That's the power of the Kingdom of Heaven, forgiveness of sins, a genuine heart transformation.

We come at the end of Matthew's gospel, the final week of Jesus' life, Jesus makes his triumphal entry. They're proclaiming him the Son of David, but they don't understand who he is. They don't know what he's come to do. His enemies are angry at him. Jesus gets into one conflict with them after another, they demand to know by what right he cleanses the temple, and they deal with him at that level. And then Jesus tells parables concerning their wickedness and their sin, and then they come at him in chapter 22 with one tough question after another, and Jesus deals with them all.

And after all of that, this is Jesus' final formal word to the Jewish nation, Matthew 23. That's the context of these woes.

Overview

Who were the Scribes and Pharisees? We talked about them last time, the Pharisees were members of a religious sect, it was legalistic and he had worked its way into a position of power and authority and influence in Israel. Who thought that they were righteous because of how well they obeyed their version of the laws of Moses. And the scribes were professional copyists of the law, who therefore knew the law better than others, and were arrogant because of that and taught the same kinds of things that the Pharisees taught.

And in this chapter, we have a seven-fold woe. Seven times Jesus says, “Woe to you.” Seven times. Now, this is Jesus is taking on the office of a prophet here. There are three great offices in the Old Testament: prophet, priest and king, Jesus is the consummation of all three. And here he is the ultimate final prophet of God. The ultimate prophet of God. And he's standing over Israel and Israel's leaders pronouncing a seven-fold woe. The word woe is danger from a prophet. You're in danger of condemnation. You're in danger of judgment. It's a prophetic word.

Isaiah used it frequently. Isaiah 3:11, “Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They'll be paid back for what their hands have done.” In Isaiah 5, six times he uses the word “woe.” And then in chapter 6, he turns it on himself. “Woe is me” says Isaiah “I am ruined, for I'm a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” He turns the word of woe in on himself. If you do that, in truth, you're safe dear friends. You're safe in Christ, because you realize you need a Savior and you run to the cross. You run to the blood shed on the cross for you. If you can say, “Woe is me” and then run to the cross, dear friends you're safe.

So that's what Jesus is doing, He's proclaiming woe to them. And I really do believe it's one final effort to save them. I think he's reaching out, he's just speaking words at this point. It's just words, friends, it's just words. But it's not just words, is it? Those words held out the only hope of life for them, if they would just listen.

And we see Jesus probing their hearts, astonishing perceptiveness in this chapter. He knows what their motives are, he knows why they do what they do. How can he know us so well? Well, he is the one who searches hearts and minds, Revelations chapter 2. He reads your thoughts. I already talked to you about when they said this fellow is blaspheming.

I love that passage in Luke, where a Pharisee had him over and he's eating and this sinful woman comes and touches him, and the man says in his heart, “If this man really were a prophet, he'd know what kind of woman is touching him, that she's a sinner,” he was just thinking that thought. And the text says, “Jesus answered him and said, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’” That's a bit eerie when you think about it. Jesus answered him, answered what? His thoughts, the thoughts of his heart.

Does Jesus know your heart? Yes. Does Jesus study your heart? Yes, he does. Is Jesus concerned with hypocrisy? Yes, he is. And the judgment, the Judgment Day, it says in 1 Corinthians 4:5, “He's going to bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts.” That's what he does on Judgment Day. Romans 2:16 speaks of Judgment Day, as the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight, everything's uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.” The safest thing you can do dear friends is just lay under that gaze of God now. Say, “Search me, know me, search my heart. Find if there's anything wicked in me,” Psalm 139, “Lead me in the way everlasting.” That's the safest thing you can do.

The Seven Woes

Woe for Shutting Seekers Out of Heaven

So let's look at the first of these seven woes. We're gonna finish next week, but let's start with this one in verse 13. “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the Kingdom of Heaven in men's faces, you yourselves do not enter nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Simply put, these men were spiritual leaders who led to hell. That's really what Jesus is saying. “You yourselves do not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, you're not going to Heaven, not as you are.” He calls them blind guides in verse 14. “If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

In another place again in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:20, he makes it plain that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven. You must have a perfect righteousness, and that can only be given to you as a gift by faith, if you just trust in Jesus, He just gives you that righteousness as a gift.

But these men, they reduce the laws of God to a system of works established by the traditions of men. This system was overwhelming, it was comprehensive, but it was doable, just as long as you were a hypocrite. You can actually claim, “I've kept all of the laws of God from my youth, all of them.” And they missed the point of the law of God, the point of Sinai was to crush our self-confidence and get us to flee to Christ. That's what the law is for, to crush our self-confidence and enable us to flee to Christ.

But these men were legalists, and they thought that if they could just keep their own traditions of the law, keep them as far as the outward human audience went anyway, then they would be right with God. Legalism fails before God, and that's the only place that matters, isn't it? Isn't that the only thing that matters, whether God thinks you're righteous or not, whether God accepts you or not? That's the only thing that matters.

Legalism may soothe your conscience if you do well, it may make you feel proud, it might make you feel religious, might make you feel better than other people, it might be a little bit of a religious bump or high or something like that. May bring order to your life. It may enable you to achieve showy outward results, but inevitably, it will damn your soul. Because your righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, it must be perfect righteousness.

Now, there's another way to understand this saying, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the Kingdom of Heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you allow those to enter who are trying to.” These men had in effect made themselves judges of who was going to Heaven or not. And they were essentially dispensers of despair.

They shut the Kingdom of Heaven in men's faces saying, “You will never go to Heaven, you have no hope.” They offered no hope to a prostitute. There's no grace or mercy in their system. They offered no hope to a tax collector. They also offered no hope to an adulterer or adulteress. Disqualified, you’re out of the race. And I think for them, they're probably happy about it, they're in competition with these people, and the more unrighteous people that were around them, the more righteous they felt. They shut the Kingdom of Heaven in men's faces. For people that were trying to enter, the scribes and Pharisees just ministered hopelessness, and they were bitter enemies of Christianity.

This is another way to look at it as well, when the true gospel started going forth, they got in the way of it, they impeded it, they tried to prevent people from coming to faith in Christ. You read the book of Acts, and we'll talk more about this next week, but everywhere Paul went, there were these zealous Jews that were there trying to hinder the gospel, everywhere. They would travel to do it. It's like, didn't they have jobs, didn't they have something to do with their time? Where is Paul going next, we'll be there. Just to make trouble for him.

Paul talks about them in 1 Thessalonians 2, speaks of the Jews, I think he means people like the scribes and Pharisees, “who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displeased God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles, so that they may be saved. And in this way, they heap up their sins to the limit the wrath of God has come upon them at last.” Shut the Kingdom of Heaven in men's faces.

You know what I wanna do, I wanna open it wide. I wanna say what Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I'll give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, said Jesus, for I'm humble and lowly in heart, and you'll find rest for your souls.” Come to Jesus, Kingdom's open wide. The curtain of the temple has been torn in two from top to bottom. The way is open. Come. And if today you hear his voice, don't harden your heart, but just come to Jesus, Let him forgive your sins. It's wide open.

Woe for Making Hellish Disciples

Second woe, verse 15, “Woe to you teachers of law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert. And when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of Hell as you are.” Continuing the previous themes, he just addresses their zeal here. Here it’s their zeal for converts. They exert themselves with great zeal to gather disciples after themselves.

I think it's all a matter of pride. If you can have 20 disciples who follow your ways it makes you feel proud. And that was what was motivating them. A yearning for pride. And notice the level of their zeal, they travel over land and sea for a single convert. Back then travel was very difficult, laborious, dangerous. Getting on the Mediterranean Sea in a boat, you might have a shipwreck like Paul did. Very dangerous. But they're willing to do anything, they're willing to travel over land and sea, tremendous zeal.

So it is today, we're surrounded by religionists who are more zealous than we are. Twenty-first century Islamic jihadists who will train body and mind for one thing, and that is death, for suicide, all for the glory of Allah. And their zeal greatly outstrips ours. But if any should follow their teachings, they will lead them to Hell. For it's just yet another legalistic system is all it is, just another work system, a system of works righteousness, but their zeal is great.

Or how about the Mormons, many young Mormon people, young men and women, travel over land and sea, they get on airplanes, they go into dangerous and difficult places. I remember seeing them in Japan, they look the same in Japan that they do here. It's always the same. I mean, the white shirt, the tie, you know, bike helmets, the backpacks. There's a couple of Mormons. And they are there, they're all over the world. 53,000 Mormon missionaries on the field right now, 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries. Travel over land and sea to win a single convert. And then if they should make one, they make them twice as much a son of Hell as they are.

Or what about the Jehovah's Witnesses? They go from door to door, knocking on doors, trying to win converts. And if they should ever win them to that false system, they would make them twice as much sons of Hell as they are. What this means is, under condemnation, they've not come to the true gospel.

So I say to you, zeal for evangelism is a good thing, it's good to be a soul winner, amen. It's good to sacrifice so that others can come to faith in Christ, but it won't save your soul. The only thing that's gonna save your soul is if you yourself come to Christ. And having been saved, then you can invite others.

Woe for Being Blind Guides

Thirdly, woe for being blind guides, look at Verses 16-22. “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing. But if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater, the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by Heaven swears by God's throne, and by the one who sits on it.”

These men were blind guides, they had no idea where they were going. In John 9, Jesus speaks to the Pharisees after the healing of the man born physically blind. And he made this statement: “For judgment I have come into the world so that those who are blind may be able to see, and that those who see may become blind.” And the Pharisees said, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin, but now that you claim we can see, your guilt remains.” And so, they were spiritually blind.

Now, how is it displayed? Well, here it has to do with the issue of the swearing of oaths. This is very big in Judaism. Swearing of the oaths. “I swear by the temple of God that I'll be in Jerusalem by the Passover, I swear by the temple of God.” Well, it turns out, if he said that, his oath meant nothing. You have to read the fine print here, it's gotta do with fine print. These folks were lawyers, remember? They were legally-minded. You have to read the fine print. Such an oath is invalid. Now, if he had sworn by the gold of the temple to be in Jerusalem by the Passover, now that would be binding. Playing games, playing games. “If you swear by the altar, now it means nothing, but if you should happen to swear by the gift on the altar, now that oath is binding.”

Now Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, do not swear at all: either by Heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’; or else you'll be condemned.”

So at core, a dishonest heart makes a read-the-fine-print oath, you know, crossing the fingers. I always wonder, where’d that come from? If you say something but you're crossing your fingers behind your back, it really doesn't count. Do you not understand? God created Heaven and earth by the word of his power, when God speaks it's true. God is incapable of lying. There is a God in the universe, that's Jesus' point here. And he holds you to what you say, and if you start playing tricky games with your words and try to evade your promises, woe to you.

And so, Jesus reminds them of the temple and the one who dwells in it, that's God. And he who swears by Heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it. A true spiritual guide has eyes of faith, and everything he does is in the presence of God. And when you say something, God is listening to you, he hears what you say. And so, Jesus just sweeps away these tricky little word games that they were playing.

And next week, we're gonna look at the last woes, the tithing of mint leaves, and neglecting justice, mercy and faithfulness. The fact that they externally look clean and actually inward, they're full of corruption. And for honoring dead prophets while murdering the live ones. We'll talk about that next week.

Applications

Assess Your Own Heart

What application can we take from this? Well, start with this, just say, “Lord, I acknowledge that there is hypocrisy in my heart.” Now let me say something to you about this. There are two kinds of hypocrisy.

One is the hypocrisy that every single Christian feels when there's this difference between what you espouse as a standard in the way you're really living. Do you not feel that in your heart? And if you think you're entirely free from that, you don't know yourself and you don't know the Word of God. But if you look at the word of God, and then you see your life and you see there's a gap between him, that's the hypocrisy that sanctification seeks to address. You're trying to make that as small a gap as possible. The answer to that hypocrisy has come back again to the cross and say, “Lord, I am not living as I should. I want you to purge me, I want you to clean me, I want you to change me.”

But then there's a different kind of hypocrisy, in which you present yourself to be a Christian and you really aren't. And that one will condemn your soul to Hell. Now, next week I'm gonna talk about how can you tell the difference? We all see sin in our lives. How can I know whether I'm a gospel hypocrite? I'm gonna talk about that.

But let me say this one thing in closing. The mark of a genuine Christian is a yearning after righteousness inward and out, and the yearning to make your life conform to what Christ commands, whether anyone sees it or not. And so, Thomas Brooks said this, make this your prayer and let this all close. A genuine Christian says this, “Oh, that this ignorant heart were more enlightened! Oh, that this proud heart were just more humble! Oh, that this profane heart were just more holy! Oh, that this earthly heart were more heavenly! Oh, that this unbelieving heart was just more believing! Oh, that this angry heart was more humble! Oh, that this carnal heart was more spiritual! That this vain heart was more serious-minded! That this dull heart was more quickened! that this dead heart was more enlightened! Oh, that this lukewarm heart was more zealous for God and for Christ in the Gospel, and the great concerns of eternity!

Other Sermons in This Series

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