Today’s Scripture Reading [March 14, 2010]
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. [Matthew 23:13. KJV]
In Matthew 23, Jesus was speaking to His disciples and to the crowds. It is very interesting to realize that Jesus was very harsh in His words which He has directed particularly towards scribes and Pharisees. These scribes and Pharisees were the religious leaders in the Jewish synagogue and they were among the most religiously conservative during the biblical era. They were like present day church leaders such as pastors, deacons or elders. In just one sermon, He called them hypocrites seven time! (Matthew 23:13-29) and they were no difference from vipers (Matthew 23:33)!. Hypocrisy must be one of the most abominable behaviours that God really hates!
So, what is hypocrite? The word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek “hupokrites (hoop-ok-ree-tace) and it means an actor under an assumed character. A true hypocrite is actually someone who pretends to be something he or she is not, and really has no intention of becoming one. Honestly, we are all hypocrites at some point in our life whether in office or at home, whether we are conscious or not.
Chapter 23 of the Gospel of Matthew has very valuable lessons for all of us to learn. These lessons are:
(a) Do not blindly follow what other people do, especially those who are in leadership positions. As we all know, many people will do something with ulterior motives, perhaps pretending to be helpful or showing compassion but only to later benefit themselves only. Quite unknowingly or quite unsuspectedly, some leaders can become our role-model but remember, Jesus is our only Role-Model and as Psalm 118:8 has warned us to put our trust only in God and not man.
(b) When we do things, especially when helping others, we must do it out of the love for God and our sole motive for doing them is to glorify God. God, though is an unseen, can see through our motives. We cannot hide from Him (Ezekiel 28:3; Hebrews 4:13).
(c) We must refrain from coveting grand titles and honour in order to boast our ego or to increase our standing in society. Jesus has spoken against His disciples from calling themselves ‘Rabbi’ nor be addressed ‘master’ by others, and He even tell us that the most appropriate title of us as children of God is the title of ‘servant’ because they are the greatest people in the eyes of God (Matthew 23:11). The real test of a person’s humility is through his sincere and honest servitude wholly dedicated for His glory.
(d) We must not use the name of God to induce fear into people or take advantage of people, especially helpless women, widows, children and orphans (Matthew 23:14). We have read in newspaper how some religious leaders induced fear by using the name of their ‘gods’ and force the victims into submission for their evil gains. Apostle Paul has also given similar warning to us in 2 Timothy 3:6 which tells us that such people can creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts.
(e) We must not be greedy and we must avoid self-indulgence. We have too often heard of sermons by religious leaders telling us to make godly sacrifices and live simply but we are now witnessing 'high-class' church building with millions of dollars spent just only for the digital screens and all the electronic gadgets that can even outdo many commercial entertainment theatres and concert halls. No music, whether with mono-speakers or with surround-speakers, can turn people to Christ. We all turn to God only by the Word of God; by the sacrificial death of Jesus and by the Holy Spirit. We must avoid to being guilty of having the wrong focus, stressing big buildings, coveting large crowds, just accepting people into the church without challenging them to true repentence and without emphasizing a conversion of inner self (Romans 12:2).
(f) The blue-print of our success must not confine to achieving big ‘numbers’. Report after report, we read about this or that church has now achieved so many thousand membership. In Matthew 23:15, Jesus was fully aware that some scribes and Pharisees though have put the efforts to convert sinners to become believers of the True God but in the end they were the very people stumbled these converts whom they had converted them in the first place and made them twice as deserving for hell. I am not against mass evangelism but we must all be careful not to let the blue-print of our success solely be rested on number and nothing else. A well-known evangelist commented once that of the so many thousands who came and responded to his altar-call to seemingly surrender their lives to Jesus, he wondered how many would keep to their faith after few years.
We must examine ourselves frequently where we are in our relationship with our Holy God. We must seek His Word and to learn of Him especially His way of life. This is the very basic necessity more essential than food and water. We must remember of those commitments that Jesus demand of us, to pick up the cross and follow Him all the way to Calvary. We must watch out for false prophets and false-Christ that come up brimming over with a wide smile on their face, soft voice and the sweetest of words which sound so convincing but with full of spiritual poison. These false-prophets and false-Christs are in abundance and they are going to misuse the name of Jesus in these final days of lawlessness. They will come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. We need to walk with our eyes wide open and we need to get help from the Holy Spirit and through Him, we can recognize these false-prophets and false-Christs by their fruit (Matthew 7:15; 20). We must be thankful, always, to our Lord Jesus because He has provided us the inspired Word of God, the Bible. If we are His true disciple, we must faithfully read His Word daily, hold on to His teaching and He will reveal the truth to us and the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32).
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