All posts by Philip

Evening Thoughts (What About Those Hypocrites?)

What About Those Hypocrites?

Today’s cynical society and culture presents a myriad of problems. One of the many problems comes into focus whenever a diligent disciple tries to do their duty in inviting someone to “Come and see” how we worship and observe the house of the Master’s brethren. “Oh yeah? I don’t want to go be around a bunch of hypocrites.” Depending on my mood, I may say something like, “We’ve got room for one more.” But, I readily admit that this is not an ideal reply to such a statement. But, it does remain a problem. So, what is to be done? Something? Nothing? Doubtless, many of us have experienced frustrations when trying to do our duty with the joy it deserves.

The word “hypocrite” is an interesting word, but its application is probably slung about today by some too broadly. Without going into a long etymology of the word, it comes from a word associated in its past to describe stage actors and thespians. When someone pretended to be something they weren’t, this word came into play. When Christ condemned the Pharisees, scribes, and others repeatedly in Matthew 23, He employed this word multiple times. Those religious leaders were pretending to be many things they were not by not doing things that they commanded others to do. I also submit that they had no intention of doing those things from the start. Enjoyment was had by them in commanding others, but they themselves felt free to do as they pleased.

Thinking about this word, are churches full of hypocrites today? While I would not discount the fact that actors of various kinds have inhabited houses of worship down through the centuries, observation seems to indicate that this word is wielded from the hip like a six shooter to fire at any stumbling that people see. For example, I know that church members have struggled at times with various sins that others see. Perhaps it is letting the mouth get loose. Perhaps it is an overindulgence of the bottle. Whatever the case, they may not be “acting” and “playing church” as much as showing that they are still sinners with problems.

The Bible is replete with examples of different types of sinners. Generally, they can be put in two groups: penitent and impenitent. You could make a case that the two groups are willful and ignorant. However, even if someone is ignorant, they will be either penitent or impenitent when knowledge is gained of their stumbling. So, what do we make of these two groups? In Luke 7 Jesus encounters both kinds. He is dining in the house of Simon the Pharisee when a woman of ill repute comes in and washes His feet with her tears. Simon is shocked that Jesus – reputed to be a great teacher and prophet – would allow such a tramp to touch Him. Jesus instructs Him through a lesson about debtors. Simon’s problem was that – even though just as bankrupt in the sight of God as the woman – felt less need than the woman did. In this lesson, Simon was impenitent about his sins, while the woman felt the weight and guilt over hers. Doubtless, she was seen as worse in the eyes of society, while Simon’s standing was likely very high. But, Jesus points out that Simon’s behavior was hypocritical, while the woman exhibited faith that delivered her from the guilt and sting that she experienced.

With this example before us, do church members stumble? Certainly, and the weight of that stumbling should cause a sting within us. Does our stumbling make us hypocritical? I suggest that it does not. However, if we willfully continue in our stubborn path thinking that we are doing ok, then our stumbling has led to a road that would be termed hypocritical. Consider the life of Jesus. He was accused of being a sinner repeatedly, and yet people still came to Him. Why? His life contradicted the reputation. Reputations don’t go away immediately, but people kept seeing a manner of life that dictated that the report was not true. When the blind man was given sight by Christ in John 9, the religious rulers tried to convince him that Jesus was a sinner. The man simply stated that he knew not whether Jesus was a sinner, but what he knew was simple and clear: I used to be blind, now I see. What you’re telling me about this man is of less importance than what I know for sure.

Translated to today, we have the awesome responsibility and service of love as the church of God to live in ways that contradict the reputation that people may have of our home church or religion in general. Sadly, our stumbling sometimes confirms for those observing that they are justified in their own mind to think the way they do. Yet, what power and impact can be had when they see us actively trying to do better than we have done in the past. Paul said in I Corinthians 13 that children act, speak, and think a certain way. When people that knew me as a child saw me speak and walk, they saw the manner of life of a child. Hopefully, they don’t still see me as a child, because enough “grown up” action has been observed that I am no longer in that category. People may have seen what they deemed hypocritical behavior coming from churches, but may they see in us something that defies everything they have ever thought about the matter before.

Actors have the tall task of making people believe they are someone they are really not. Sadly, our stumbling causes people to believe we are something we are not. While perhaps not our active intent, it is an unfortunate side effect. You and I – friends – are children of the King! He has given us rich garments to wear, and adornments richer than any earthly magistrate has ever known or owned. Yes, we still have pauper’s rags in our closet too. When we adorn these tattered ruins handed down through the ages from father Adam, we may play the part of the beggar. But, let us who are of the day, put on the garments of the day along with the breastplate of faith and love coupled with the helmet of salvation. (I Thessalonians 5:6-8)

“Oh yeah? I don’t want to go be around a bunch of hypocrites?” Yes, we are sinners, regrettably so. However, we’re trying as much as we know how to do better than we’ve ever done before. No, our church isn’t perfect, but she has a perfect Ruler. We don’t get everything right, but He gave us perfect rules to follow. Come and see friend. Come and see. We’re trying. Come try with us.

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Evening Thoughts (Who Am I?)

Who Am I?

Garbage in garbage out; ask the wrong question, and you’re bound to get the wrong answer. Two old clich├ęs, but points well-made nonetheless. As an engineer by vocation, I work with data quite often, and bad data is sure to yield faulty results or an erroneous conclusion. What’s the point you ask? That, my friend, is an excellent question, for the question that titles our piece this evening generally follows one of the two statements that led this piece.

Some of the earliest writings of human philosophers manifest that this question occupied much of their thinking. Modern day culture is no different. One of the struggles that present day sociologists deal with is generations of people that have what they call an “identity crisis” Follow your dream! Seize the day! See the world! Be what you want to be or all you can be! All of these and more are the banners flying on the masts of the ships in people’s lives. Sadly, these mottos with nothing to ground them or found them ends up shipwrecked on the reefs of life’s disappointments. Why? Generally speaking, people ask the wrong question and then wonder why their lives shipwrecked on them, not honestly considering that they manned the wheel that wrecked the boat.

While the question “Who Am I?” is not completely baseless, it cannot be the primary and driving question that directs our lives and thinking. The Psalmist plainly stated that just a cursory glance through the heavens and God’s creation dwarfs man and his supposed importance. (Psalm 8:3-4) If the creation of God’s fingers dwarfs the stature of man, how much more the Creator, who can hold it in the palm of His hand? The first and driving question of our lives should be: “Who is He?” The more we know and can answer that question, the better suited we will be to drive our boat correctly without being marooned on an island or treading water in the sea

To figure out who He is and qualities about Him would take more space than we have before us. Surely the eternal God that never slumbers or tires would cause the greatest orators and penmen to shake their heads to declare Him. Just His acts of love are so vast that Paul references the height, depth, breadth, and length of them to pass knowledge and understanding. (Ephesians 3:18-19) One of our beloved hymns puts it in frame through beautiful poetry and rich verse:

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Tho’ stretched from sky to sky

Surely now, the kind reader pauses and says, “But I have another question, what does the vastness of God and the richness of His qualities have in common with the original question? Aren’t the subjects on different ends of the spectrum?” Good questions, yes! Thanks for the inquiry, as they take us to our collection point. If the question of our own identity with no grounding or anchor is sure to lead to shipwreck and the vastness of God’s own identity is beyond man’s fullest comprehension, do such different beings as man and God connect in this fashion? Yes, they do. In the beginning, God created man in His own image and likeness. (Genesis 1) Paul even referenced Greek poets that stated we are God’s offspring. (Acts 17:28)

Therefore, if our identity is tied to God through creation, surely the better an understanding we have of Him, the better suited we are to know who we really are and what our purpose is. Have you ever considered the similarities between pride and pity, though they seem to be polar opposites from each other? After all, a vain and arrogant person looks and acts differently than one who is eaten up with guilt, depression, and sorrow. But in the end, they are very much the same. Whether driven by guilt or arrogance, pity or pride, the focus and thought patterns are in the same place: self. The more we think about ourselves – no matter the reason – the less we are thinking about Him. Since His eternal nature is so vast and deep, there is more to consider with Him than us. Telling my life story does not take long, but declaring His glory will take the redeemed family of God an eternity of worthwhile effort to declare.

Who are we? The creation of God. Better yet, the only part of God’s creation deemed in His image and likeness and the people by which the Eternal Son of God would be joined to as a real man of flesh and blood during His Incarnation. What is our purpose and duty? To glorify Him by doing what He commands us to do. (Ecclesiastes 12:13) The two oldest questions that philosophers have asked are: 1. Who am I? and 2. What is my purpose of being? Friends, those two questions are plain enough from Scripture to answer quickly, but the focus of the answer will take a lifetime of effort just to scratch.

Let’s take roll. Who would like to declare Him fully? Any takers? In case you’re wondering, my hand is not raised to answer the question. I trust that I can as Peter did say that the Son of man is the Christ the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16) and as the eunuch declare, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:37b) However, my own brashness and hypocrisy only goes so far. It would be the height of foolishness, arrogance, and/or ignorance to say that I could fully declare Him. So, what is the answer? Do we have enough good data to weigh a proper conclusion?

If the more we learn and glean from His word about His own identity in point of fact leads us down the correct and anchored path of our own identity, then it stands to reason we should root our time in learning more about Him. When I first starting reading the Bible regularly about 30 or so years ago, He was big then in my eyes. The more I’ve learned, the bigger He has become. While His boundless stature has not really changed, my eyes have beheld more beauty of the King. The bigger and more glorious He gets in my eyes, the smaller I become in my own eyes. When Saul was appointed king over Israel, he was little in his own eyes, but his troubles came when he thought more his office and power than the One who appointed him to it. He became bigger in his own sight and thereby shipwrecked his life and the future reigns of his heirs after him.

Attending His church all my life and joining it some 28 years ago, He was rich then. He’s even richer now in my view. Why have these things shifted so much? The more I’ve learned about Him, the better suited I am to see things clearly and have my perspective more aligned with reality. It astounds me that One so vast, great, rich, powerful, and glorious would have such love, grace, and mercy to such little ones as we are. The more astronomers discover about the vastness of the heavens, the more it makes me ponder, “Just how big is He?” And yet, He cares for us! (I Peter 5:6-7) WOW! That, kind reader, is worth more than the unrooted question of self-identity and supposed self-worth many times over.

When looking at your life, your boat may have been in the seas of life for a little or a long time. No matter. What banner should be flying on the masts? The banner should be Jesus Christ and Him crucified. When I am determined to know only that (I Corinthians 2:2), my ship will bear up better in storms, avoid the treacherous shoals, and continue afloat without capsizing. Please don’t look at my bow, masts, and sails. I’m afraid that my ship has at times dinged the rocks, taken on water, and rocked frighteningly close to sinking on occasion. The boat’s scars tell the tale of my own erroneous thinking and steering, and looking back on those moments, I was more consumed with myself than anything else. Only when the banner of Jesus flies alone from the boat does my track record and navigation show signs of worth, thereby exhibiting that I understand my place compared to Him and the purpose that He has called me unto. Another old hymn gloriously declares:

More about Jesus would I know
More of His grace to others show
More of His saving fullness see
More of His love who died for me
More, more about Jesus

In Hope,
Bro Philip