In his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey tells a story about a Bible study he was teaching. The class began discussing how the hypocritical legalism of the church turned off non-believers. Then they began to ‘swap war stories,’ and Yancey shared his own tale of Moody Bible Institute in the early 1970’s. They banned all facial hair on the male students, as well as any hair over the ears. Every day the students would file past a large painting of the institute founder, Dwight L. Moody, breaker of all the rules.

As he told his story, all but one man laughed. one guy became angry and spoke up in an indignant rage. “I feel like walking out of this place,” he said,… “You criticize others for being Pharisees. I’ll tell you who the real Pharisees are. They’re you [he pointed at me] and the rest of you people in this class. You think you’re so high and mighty and mature. I became a Christian because of Moody Church. You find a group to look down on, to feel more spiritual than, and you talk about them behind their backs. That’s what a Pharisee does. You’re all Pharisees.”

Yancey writes: “I glanced at the clock, hoping for a reprieve. No such luck. It showed fifteen minutes of class time remaining. I waited for a flash of inspiration, but none came. The silence grew louder. I felt embarrassed and trapped.”

We’re all guilty of hypocrisy on one level or another. If we look at the hypocrisy of others, we often neglect to see it in ourselves. We’re human and we fail to live up to the standards we set for others. After condemning the Pharisees for hypocrisy in Luke 11, Jesus follows with a warning to His disciples about the same problem.

To keep hypocrisy out of our lives, we can do four things:

1 – Understand what hypocrisy really is.

…But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Luke 12;1-3)

The word hypocrite is very interesting. In Greek culture a hypocrite was an actor – like the people you see on TV and in the movies. It’s someone who pretends to be something he is not.

John Wayne didn’t fight in the Alamo or Iwo Jima. John Wayne isn’t his real name; it was Marion Morrison. He is not the only one – Stevie Wonder was really Stevland Judkins. Caryn Johnson is Whoopie Goldberg. Hypocrisy is being something you’re not to impress others. The problem is you might be able to hide your true identity from others, but you can’t hide it from God.

“For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every SECRET THING, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:14). “In the day when God shall judge the SECRETS of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Rom. 2:16). Jesus said, “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36).

Like yeast (leaven), hypocrisy begins very small but grows quickly and quietly. As it grows, it infects the whole person. Hypcrisy does to the soul what yeast does to bread dough – it puffs it up. Soon pride takes over and the person’s character deteriorates rapidly. If you want to keep hypocrisy out of your life, avoid that first bite.

2 – Understand what causes hypocrisy.

And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:4-7)

Jesus mentioned “fear” five times in these verses, so He is teaching us that a basic cause of hypocrisy is the fear of man – more concerned about reputation than character, what people think about us than what God knows about us. The remedy for hypocrisy is to forget about what people may say and do and fear God alone.

Fear controls too much of life. Afraid that we will not please others, we become hypocrites. Afraid of those in power, we forfeit our integrity. Afraid of ridicule, we deny Jesus. Afraid of poverty and want, we deify our wealth. Afraid of death and suffering, we lose trust in God. Afraid we have missed our opportunity, we are not ready when God calls. Afraid we will not get all that is coming to us, we take things into our hands rather than waiting to accept the reward God has prepared for us. Afraid of what our family will think, we let family loyalty override loyalty to God. Jesus seeks to lead us to trust God and overcome all fear.

A man is what he loves and what he fears. Jesus gave three reasons to fear God rather than people: 1- God will uncover everything that has been hidden; 2- God will punish evil doers in Hell; 3- Nothing escapes God’s knowledge.

3 – Confess Christ Openly.

Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. (Luke 12:8-9)

The act of confessing Christ before others implies a risk, with negative consequences. It also suggests a great reward in heaven. Nothing fights phony Christian living like becoming vocal about who we really are and who Jesus really is. We prove the genuineness of our faith as we boldly proclaim Jesus as our Savior and Lord.

Our true confession demonstrates a transformation in our life. This transformation will become evident to others in our words and our changed lives. If a person genuinely confesses Him before men, Jesus will identify with them in Heaven. The first act of public confession is baptism. But if a person denies Jesus  he will hear “I never knew you”.

But what about Peter? He denied Jesus and is in Heaven. Peter’s true confession of Jesus would not allow Him to continue to deny Christ. In fact, his remorse and repentance over his denial led to his restoration. Legend has it when he was sent to his crucifixion, he did not feel worthy to be executed like Jesus and was crucified upside down. He denied once. But the Holy Spirit challenged Him to confess Christ openly from then on.

4 – Depend on the Holy Spirit.

And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven. And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say. (Luke 12:10-12)

Jesus closes with two opposite reactions to the Holy Spirit. Blasphemy and Dependence.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is serious business. It is a sin that will not be forgiven. Specifically, this was a sin the religious leaders in Jesus’ day committed by attributing the works of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus to Satan, in the face of overwhelming evidence (miracles). Today, we can apply this principle to many who refuse to listen to the Holy Spirit’s conviction in their heart. Whoever rejects the work of the Holy Spirit in their life rejects the only force that can lead anyone to repentance and restoration with God. They will never ask for forgiveness because they don’t listen to the Holy Spirit.

This sin against the Holy Spirit is usually gradual – It begins with grieving the Spirit, which leads to resisting the Spirit, and develops into quenching the Spirit. God hasn’t shut Him out – He has shut God out.

I’ve had people ask, “Could I have possibly committed the unpardonable sin?” My response is “Not so long as you’re concerned about it.” If you feel the Holy Sprit convicting you of sin, you know you’re haven’t committed it. But you need to listen and repent.

Yet, Jesus encourages us to depend on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will be every believer’s Helper. In the worst of times (persecution), the Holy Spirit will lead, guide and teach us. We don’t have to worry about it. He will take care of us. Jesus didn’t say “if” but “when” you are accused and brought to trial. Persecution is expected. But the Holy Spirit will stand with you and give you what to say.

We can lift four clear commands from these verses:

  1. Don’t live a hypocritical life.
  2. Don’t fear hard times.
  3. Confess Jesus openly.
  4. Don’t defend yourself – God will stand in your defense.

How can we apply all this?

  1. If you’re a phony, admit it.
  2. If you’re fearful, redirect it. Fear God not man.
  3. If you’re worried, pray about it.