“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2nd Corinthians 11:13-14).
Magritte, the Belgian Surrealist artist, once painted a smoker’s pipe on a canvas with the title “ceci n’est pas une pipe” meaning “This is not a pipe”. He was right it was borne out of the awareness of the challenge for the carnal and distorted mind to discern the reality from the shadow amidst a complex and disrupted society; like that title, “ceci n’est pas une pipe”, it will be a timely break from religious boredom, if branded men and women with God’s seal on them as quide post, of proven integrity, should permeate every sphere of life. Their appearance and general demeanour will as of a necessity dissolve doubt and create hope. But then Paul the Apostle is not leaving us without the vestige of the devils sophistication to have our profession marred and have many sifted as wheat (Luke 22:31). He says, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ”. In other words, so many are going to brand themselves apostles of Christ to advance the desires of Satan they major on minor, they are deceitful men! “They keep saying to those who despise me, “The Lord says: You will have peace.” And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, “No harm will come to you” (Jeremiah 23:17). This is the height of charismatic bewitchment.
These supposed angels of light and “apostles” that create influence by such inequitable and exploitative schemes are real portraits of hollow minds and dead hearts that have mortgaged their posterity on the altar of greed and Satan. For them building an evil systemic community, artificially stratified in the name of God, is real breakthrough and not otherwise! To allow these erratic and undisciplined men advance, creating in perpetuity, the Christianity of the more you look, the less you see is a taint to the collective intelligence of the regenerate Christian.
Hear what the Lord says about them, “I will make thee a terror to thyself and all thy friends” (Jeremiah 20:4). What other fire do we need to explode for righteousness? To be excited with prejudice for the lumbering church system would mean audacity for truth! It will mean savouring revolution by eternal principle, a champion of integrity and the battle axe ready to raze the fortress of falsehood to enthrone Christ.
Hypocrisy is one allowable, but destructive tool the devil has successfully implanted in Christendom. And believe me, it has worked for him. You ask how? The spiritual barrenness, perversity and unbridled passion for outlandish, stuffs are a few of the multitude of recorded victories of the devil. We have decided to discuss it in this edition of the “APOSTOLIC VOICE”, and it is critical, that we must earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, the, the measure of the sin of your forefathers” (Matthew 23:27-32). The Bible is full of damnable words against the hypocrites and hypocrisy? Hypocrisy used to be a tool for actors, rhetoricians and debaters in ancient Greece. They assigned to themselves sides of an argument that a person must take to his/her fullest capacity. It was known to them that the side they took does not represent their truest point of view. And to deepen their false-heartedness Mark Twain said, “Thank heaven for hypocrites, they keep the arts going.” It was a sum of hypocrites as actors, and entertainers! They are irrelevant to the spirituality of God.
It was this nonsensical and foolish attitude Jesus perceived from the spiritual perspective of all who displayed the outward piety; their ineptitude in the things of God, and shouted, “Woe unto you hypocrites” (Luke 11:44). He went further to make a statement that demands separation, “Thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are” (Matthew 6:5). Jesus was so vexed in His spirit for the time wasted in mundane things! Hypocrites in this context means, there is for certainty something in this supposed “pious” people that are deadlier than their appearance. Well, by their fruit, you shall know them. “A crab can’t be made to walk straight”, so said Nietzche.
A story is told about Alexander the Great and his Army. A young officer was brought to him for gross misconduct and Alex asked him, “What is your name?” The man replied, “Alexander!” And Alexander the Great told him, “You either change your name or change your character.” A man that is not converted in the life of God is still an animal with the human face and skin enveloping the essence of nothingness and so inherent desires, and his daily activity is produced from the cycle of mundane nature –vanity of the mind. They wear the cloak of truth upon rotten bones and flesh of humanity to keep the art of pretence and duplicity going. It is having the face God hanging on the mind of the devil, and like Alexander the Great, I say, “Have a new heart (Ezekiel 18: 30–32)!”
In another case, I remember being part of a business group, and the chairman was boasting to these Chinese visitors of his achievements. To me, the stories were all brazen lies to whip up interest in the mind of the innocent strangers. My conscience could not stand the deceit. Immediately, it dawned on me the principle I hold dear to my life, “I can’t violate what I value.” Well, it’s a personal integrity demand. That I must always do or say what is right, within myself, regardless of what other people do. I had to jettison them out of my life. Others may continue but I cannot. It does not matter the titles we all carry in our different churches; the matter here is God and His Holy Spirit. The voice of a living conscience! I know many will say, this is business and it is done that way. No, my answer is simple: To covet what is good! I am dead to lies. Never again! Why did God demand that the Israelite must destroy almost everything and everyone in Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)? God is merciful, that we know; but He’s for justice too. And when it involves His integrity, He will destroy to be God. The Canaanites was a stronghold of rebellion against God. They were threats to the right kind of living that God required of His people. And idols are reminders of a life of rebellion against the sacred trust reposed on Israel worship of one God. All instruments of distraction from one shepherd, one fold must be completely wiped-out.
We must all come to the place that we are dead to sin, Satan and self. “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Such a regenerate and resolute mind will live above the hills of hypocrisy!
The Hebrew word rendered “Hypocrite” means the “godless” or “profane”, as it is rendered in Jeremiah 23:11, “For both prophet and priest are profane: yea all my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord.” The hypocrite is a person who pretends to have virtues, morals or religious beliefs, principles, etc, that he or she does not actually possess, especially one whose private life opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements; having weak convictions, and standing down on graceful things to satisfy one’s appetite for unwholesomeness; “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their God is their stomach, and their glory is their shame. Their mind is on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19).
Hypocrites are a set of people who criticize something they also do. Alternatively, someone who outwardly condemns a manner or habit he does condone secretly. He is one who claims to be what he is not. Our Lord is out to shame all those who claim to serve Him, but who misrepresent His character; and multitudes are deceived, and led into false path. They betray whenever entrusted with confidence. They lie whenever they speak. They become treacherous whenever in a covenant.
To the Hypocrites who teach and preach God’s word, He says, “Recite my laws no longer, and don’t pretend that you obey me. For you refuse my discipline and treat my laws like trash” (Psalm 50:16-17, NLT). God is angry when evil people pretend to be good. Hypocrites are evil people; they pretend and create some fantasy façade around themselves, making themselves something they are not. Hypocrites can be so knowledgeable and great orators with God’s word and never disciplined by the word they preach. And to those who pray and lift their hands in worship, but are really hypocrites, the Lord says, “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea; when ye make many prayers; I will not hear; your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:15). It’s a divine foreclosure to define the impact of hypocrisy amidst the believers who stand in prayer with hands full of blood.
How many hands that are filled with blood are lifted before the Lord daily? That makes for the question, “Who is praying?” A Liar or a saint? The polluted or the pure? The earth would have returned to Eden if human beings are themselves separated from dirty duties.
In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus warns: “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” The emphatic thing about this message here is caution against:
(1) Giving out of wrong motives—good action’s with hollow intentions.
(2) Having the knowledge of the truth and not obeying it; people that don’t care about living holy but just looking holy in order to receive the admiration of the people; ever learning, but never allowed the word of it to pass through them. It is a special ugly type of deceitfulness.
(3) Living a self–serving life; when love for position and cheap popularity grows stronger than loyalty to God; when serving our greed is stronger than seeking the freedom, peace and security of humanity and enthronement of Christ.
(4) Having the outer conformity without inner reality; we can be ceremonially clean, but a total stranger to God: “Wherefore the Lord said, for as much as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13). Let me drag this a little further and show you the gravity of executing in hypocrisy.
It will create that environment where we have more regard for our own reputation than to the requirements of God. Rather than dare to be called judgmental or court enemies by rebuking sin, we let them stay convenient in unrighteousness and remain unchallenged. It portrays the heart and life that have Herculean fear of men than of God. So their “fear of the Lord is taught by the precepts of men.” They dread displeasing men, but then delight to risk offending God. They care not what God’s reaction will be towards the transgressor; all they want is to have their greed pacified.
Hypocrites are such cowards that they absolutely stand opposed to the plain command of God. It would be better for evil to thrive than rebuke or cross it. But the Holy Scripture says, “Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbour frankly so you will not share in his guilt” (Lev. 19:17).
The Danger of Hypocrisy
It is of a great necessity to know that men weren’t created hypocrites, but they make themselves one by choice. There are forces and structures around that daily execute judgment on careless and unregenerate hearts and leading them captive into the nations (Luke 21:24). What good is a slave than the service of their captors? Let me quickly give us a few out of the many that give this evil force advantage in human lives. In Paul’s epistle to the church in Galatia, he wrote, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest” (Galatians 5:19-21). The scripture in the 21st verse ends with an emphatic note about the kingdom of God. Why? Until, we are restored to that realm, we are all slaves to the workings of evil. That is the higher life that kills sin and death (Rom. 8:2). This is where the workings of the flesh are never practised anymore, for we’ve put on the ‘new man’!
Galatians 5:19-21 also makes mention of the sins that slay men and distract them from the holy pursuit. These are adultery, greed, fornication, stealing, lying, fraud, cheat, anger, etc; they are the things that blind the heart and make for undisciplined life in Christian profession. It is good to know that these and more make men hypocrites, and Paul the Apostle did not hide it from his congregation when he said that the works of the hypocrites are seen to be the aforementioned.
So when we say “the danger of hypocrisy”, we are talking about the consequence of being a carnal Christian, an impostor, a cheat, a fornicator, etc; and that is being self-destructive. What is Self-Destruction? It is a conscious activity one engages that downplays the severity of God and a gross violation of divine order or instruction. It is to sentence oneself to either spiritual or physical death with one’s hand in selfish pursuit.
I love to tell this story about the man, Achan, in the 7th chapter of the book of Joshua. The neglect of his divine responsibility and the plodding of the devil path by taking an accursed thing into Israel’s camp was one action that swiftly made him a stairway to destruction.
When he stooped down to pick up the Babylonian jewels, his language was, who sees me? Who knows? I am wealthy and an authority, so to hell with godliness and playing according to the principle. It would have been unbelievable if he was told what his later end would be, and that he was on a suicide mission of annihilating his life and his entire household. But that was exactly what happened.
It was a major decision made out of the blindness of the heart which did not only destroy his life but also his destiny and his future. It brought iniquity and God’s wrath upon his family. Not only that, by that one action, Israel became a lawful captive, and Satan had the legal right to defeat them through Ai (Joshua 7:1). Achan believed that because he wasn’t caught or seen, his action had no spiritual implication to the journey of Israel. His activeness in the ceremonial and ritualistic events with other people was to him penance or forgiveness of his sin. But God’s word has this to say, “God is angry with the wicked every day, and the foolish shall not stand in His sight, He hates all workers of iniquity” (Psalm 5:4-5, 7:11). That’s the way many Christians behave. We live in sin but show signs of the revived when in the congregation of the saints. Well, we should know that the wages of sin (hypocrisy) is death. I remember God telling the Israelites and swearing by His name that He will be an enemy to their enemies (Ex. 23:22). But the impact of this sin beclouded the efficacy of the promise. Why? The principle of divine duty was violated and though hand join to hand, the sinner shall not escape unpunished (Prov. 11:21).
Hypocrisy creates the switch from life to death! It forms a thick cloud over our heads such that God’s rain of victory will not flow down (Lev. 29:18-20). God needed to expose the secret sin that was causing shame and defeat (Achan’s greed and hypocritical living). Joshua must leapfrog the recess; the right things must be done. Israel must move forward. The Christian Church sometime confuses responsibility with activity and ignores that call to duty and separation from evil. God is active and responsibly active. “Joshua, up! Sanctify yourself”, God instructed, “and tell the people to do same!” “Early the next morning Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was taken. The clans of Judah came forward, and he took the Zerahites. He had the clan of the Zerahites come forward by families, and Zimri was taken. Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.’ Achan replied, ‘It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath'” (Joshua 7:16-21).
Achan should have known that the accomplishment of vast purposes from the private rank of life was as vital as that of the public life. The challenge of true salvation is staying dressed daily in God’s righteousness in secret and in the open; knitting together in that distinct inner and outward fabric that communicates God in our environment that is given to indifference and outright rebellion. “Joshua said, ‘Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today.’ They all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since” (Joshua 7:25-26).
Achan’s death became another warning to the Israelites as all watched him and his household stoned to death. My prayer is that our lives shall not be an evil example in Jesus name. Generations have come and gone; we are in the next yet this is still preached: the sins of Achan.
Hypocrites should know by now that they are all heading to destruction, no matter how sophisticated and wisely concealed the imposture and the fraud. Every sin has on it the sentence of death. Time will reveal it. “And be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).
How Do I Escape Hypocrisy?
Choice is a powerful tool that makes or mars Life. And better choices create distinctive lives. Excellent people are known by the excellent choice they make and the reverse is the case for those who engage in wrong choices. Let’s look at these Biblical characters to see what made them different. “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, where in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord” (Ezekiel 14:14).
These three men were portraits of disciplined and focused lives that God mentioned to shame the hypocrisy and moral decadence of His people, Israel. The first to hit the list was Noah. Who was Noah? “By faith Noah, being warned of God of the things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark in the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Heb. 11:7).
There was an error against the righteousness of God in the land, as the scripture puts it, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually…and it grieved Him at His heart” (Gen. 6:5-7).
At this point, God’s passion for Noah rose as opposed to the near calamity coming upon the inhabitants of the land. He advanced for his services amidst a perverted people among whom Noah’s just and perfect relationship with God prospered. God believed Noah was the best man for the season and the job and he (Noah) proved it by not slighting the warnings of God. He was a man whose fear of the Lord was a life lived from mind to practice. His heart was dead to the on-going evils as his hands were eternally festered to the plough of truth and integrity. His affections were on things of outstanding spiritual and moral worth: things noble and elevated in quality, style and delivery (Col. 3:1-2).
Noah’s fear of the Lord was also the condemnation of the hypocrites’ vain confidence, unbelief and contempt for godliness. It was a life of exemplary consecration or devotion to the orders of the Almighty. By this chivalrous attitude and unquestionable character, he escaped hypocrisy by choosing to be on the side of the Lord. When others were living by their might and schemes, he moved with fear, built the ark and stepped out of the conventional wisdom of religious pattern. He defined by action what the fear of God is. And what’s the fear of God? Practically, to fear God is to depart from evil and therein is the beginning of real wisdom (Proverbs 8:13).
The second to hit the list was Daniel. “And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises; stopped the mouths of lions, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Heb. 11:32-33). We understand that Daniel had no conventional weapons to crush the threat of King Nebuchadnezzar who lost his mind to the invading dreams of the night. He had no special art or skill in taming wild lions! But he towered all the challenges and led with excellent wisdom and principal capacity in four successive governments in his day. What’s the secret? A Biblical study shows that he was resolute in his commitment to pursue righteousness (Dan. 1:8). He saw the future glory of the Jews through perfect living with God than the present and transient pageantry of the evil and undisciplined living. He made his life a principle of conscience and purity. The change of his name could not cripple his true nature—it was rather taken as a confirmation of being dead to Babylon and her profanity but alive to God. He stood still on the values and devotion of a true Jew and concerned about his desired placement in God. Daniel was set to do record-breaking exploits in such a time then by accepting to go God’s way! (Deuteronomy 10:20-21). I see the emergence of this Daniel army in the present church age. Amen.
The last on the list is Job. The scripture says he was a man who feared God and eschewed evil, a perfect man (Job 1:8). Looking closely at all that took place around Job; one would make a summary that “godliness with contentment is great gain!” (1 Timothy. 6:6). He feared God and eschewed evil. That debunks the popular and even flagrant abuse of God’s grace. Grace being turned into lasciviousness was to Job foolishness of the highest order. The grace that saved him eschews evil. This man of exemplary character couldn’t go on sinning. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John. 3:9). Job was born of God. In other words, he had God’s kind of life living in him. That life is above the practice of sin.
Looking closely at these outstanding men, it’s my conclusion that the taproot of their distinction was their devotion to God. And for us today to maximize our potentials and our calling in God in the race of life, we must covet their resolute and deepest consecration to God as the covenant wisdom for speed, strength and stability.
God’s word says, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). “Look unto Abraham, your father” (Isaiah 51:2-3). Why must we engage in the laying aside and looking unto? It is the divine strategy to connecting and staying in God.
Drawing near to God will help us get rid of hypocrisy in our lives. It’s the best decision one can ever make in the race of life. Five things from the lessons of these Biblical portraits stand forever strong, valid and vital:
(a) The God we allow to lord our lives;
(b) The God future (invisible) we see;
(c) The decision to pursue the peace of God’s heart in spite of the fire;
(d) The rest we agree to take in God come what may, and
(e) The daily judgment we execute on all distractions and threats to our sanctity.
It was these that made them men of superior understanding. They were able to see clearly and avoided the dangers of hypocrisy. “But he that lacketh these things is blind” (2 Peter 1:9). May the Lord separate you by His Spirit as you submit to His dealings for His Everlasting Kingdom in Jesus name! Amen.
*This article was originally published in the Apostolic Voice.