Imagine yourself inching up to the edge of a cliff with a 300 foot drop below. I’ve literally done that and it is unnerving! Now, imagine doing that with the intention to jump off with no parachute or bungee or any safety gear whatsoever. I now becomes more than unnerving! It becomes insanely terrifying to the point of shuttering and sweating. Heart pounding, blood pumping, mind racing… would you be able to do it?
What if you could force yourself to do it and instead of the imagined results, you ended up suspended in mid-air, floating on a cloud of wind–the breeze flowing through your hair as you enjoyed the exhilaration of flight?
That has just happened in my life and I’ve been really excited to talk about it!
Jesus on one occasion said, “woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of Heaven before men; for you do not enter, nor do you allow those entering to go in.” (Mat 23:13)
This was one of those times when Jesus wasn’t being “nice”. He was fiercely attacking a common mentality that was destroying people. When something stands in the way of people’s entrance to the kingdom, Jesus does not mess around. He goes into attack mode to remove it. He must, by any cost, keep the doorway to His kingdom open–even if it means strong-arming those who are in the way! The mentality that was in the way of His kingdom—that which was preventing people from going in—was “hypocrisy”. Jesus attacks the Pharisees and scribes for hypocrisy. It was keeping them out of heaven! And it was keeping OTHERS out of heaven!
So, what are hypocrites? “Hypocrite” is a Greek word that means “actors.” Hypocrites (hupokrites) were “stage players” who played roles on the stage; play-acting, carrying out fake roles pretending to be someone they were not, also who wore costumes and masks to hide who they really were. In Greek theater, these actors wore masks in front of their faces (hiding their real selves) and acted out roles in plays.
Jesus was attacking the Pharisees and scribes (the religious elite of His day) for being pretenders, for being actors in a play, for not being honest. They pretended to be followers of God, but they were breaking most, if not all, of the commandments of God–according to the Spirit of His law. Jesus is specifically addressing their breaking of the ninth commandment here in this passage.
It seems that as Christians, we will emphasize commandments that we feel accomplished in. But, we don’t spend much time talking about the ninth commandment and I think there’s a reason why—we’re not as confident about it! The ninth commandment goes like this: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.” (Exodus 20:16) This commandment points out the sin of pretending and falsifying and not being honest and truthful. It points out the sin of pretending to be someone who we aren’t. It points out the sin of putting up a false front. That phrase “false front” refers to putting on a mask. The ninth is a direct commandment against hypocrisy!
In 2002, Robert Feldman, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, conducted a study in which he secretly videotaped student’s conversations with strangers. After the fact, he had the students examine the videotapes and identify the untruths. On average, they claim to have told three lies per every ten minutes of conversation. And that number is likely to be far too low.
In fact, we lie so readily that the dishonesty becomes automatic. Most of the time, we’re not even aware of the lies we tell, explains David Smith, director of the New England Institute at the University of New England and author of ‘Why We Lie’. He says we lie best when we don’t know we’re lying. “We don’t have the nervousness or broadcast the tell-tale signs of unease that the intentional liar can barely help,” he explains. “Self-deception is the handmaiden of deceit; in hiding the truth from ourselves, we’re able to hide it more fully from others.”
Who does Jesus identify as the greatest offenders of the ninth commandment? The religious elite! The so-called spiritual leaders! Religious leaders can be among the most self-deceived people who exist. I know because I was one of them and I know many of them. Religious leaders are held in such high regard all the time that they begin to believe the lies others are projecting upon them. Consider another passage directed toward the religious leaders:
“At that time, when thousands of the people had come together, in such numbers that they were crushing one another, he said first to his disciples, Have nothing to do with the leaven of the Pharisees, which is deceit.” Luke 12:1
Here Jesus directly points out that the problem with the Pharisees was deception, which is hypocrisy. They walked around with their masks on always pretending to be something they were not. The great problem with this sin is that it keeps us out of heaven when we do it—and it also keeps others out of heaven who we have influence over. The reason it keeps others out is because when we participate in this sin, we perpetuate a culture of superficial, surface religion that never gets deep enough to touch the parts of the soul that God wants to touch. We keep our religion safe and polished so that people will only see what we want them to see of it. The problem is that God is trying to get beyond that and we won’t let Him.
God says, “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) God wants us to take our masks off and be very real with ourselves and others. He doesn’t want us to only present the pretty side of us (our masks) but the truth. We’re afraid to do that though because that means being vulnerable. That means stripping off our self-made robe of righteousness and standing completely naked in front of others with everything exposed. We’re afraid people might not like that. We’re afraid our children will not respect us. We’re afraid of our own flaws, scars, and deep wounds. We would rather not look at them. And even more, we don’t want others to see them.
But, that’s completely against what God wants. God wants them exposed. He commands us to talk to each other about them and to pray together concerning them. God awakened me to this and I could not continue to break the law. Even more than that, I could not continue to prevent myself from entering the kingdom and continue to perpetuate the attitude of hypocrisy that is destroying our church and my friends in it. God is asking someone to jump first. It just so happened to be me at my church. I’m ready to be fully honest and open. Whenever God prompts me to speak of all that I am, in full display, I will no longer hesitate. I have no more lies to keep hidden. I’m now dead in Christ. I have no more reputation to protect with anyone. I must serve God in this way by making myself completely vulnerable with others in the hope that it will catch on in the church SO THAT WE CAN BE HEALED. The process of healing in the church must begin—let it start with me!
As I mentioned in a previous post, I took the leap and told a few guys that I’m comfortable with about my lies. Then, the next day, I talked to my friend and Pastor about it as well. He’s known me for over 15 years and had no idea of my struggle. I am soaring with new-found freedom and it feels really awesome–like I’m flying. I didn’t realize I was going to find solutions when I started this blog. I thought I was just going to record my struggle with porn. But, now it seems that maybe you are witnessing a recovery (by God’s grace). This recovery process started with speaking up and taking off my mask. This blog was the very first place where I found honesty. You were the first ones I told. It gave me the courage to take the next step and then that gave me the courage for the next, etc. Now, I’m at the place where I’m starting to be very open as I speak with anyone and everyone. It’s no secret that I feel I need to keep from anyone. Thanks to all who commented and supported me. Now, I don’t know if I should change the name of this blog to something else. I don’t know what the focus is of this blog. Maybe I’ll just continue to tell me story. I’m already beginning to have some interesting ones!
I know someone out there is going to point out that it wasn’t that long ago that I was writing about my slavery to porn addiction–it has been that long and I really shouldn’t be thinking that I’ve overcome already. If “someone” ISN’T thinking that, I know there’s a voice in me that is. The Bible says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” 1 Cor. 10:12 I understand that! But it also says to those experiencing the power of God’s grace, “you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:11.
Anyway, I don’t intend to become an annoying Pharisaical Christian who loses his personality to the facade of an acting career. I’m taking God seriously, especially what He had to say to the religious leaders! I don’t want to be someone I’m not. That’s the whole point! I’m removing the mask. Pray for me if you would!