Monday, September 2nd, 2013
Sermon On The Mount (Part 24)
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)
Jesus did not condemn politicians, prodigals, adulterers or demon-possessed lunatics. He did not condemn the disciples who abandoned Him, the mobs who cursed Him, or the Romans who nailed Him to a cross. He condemned one group of people: religious hypocrites.
'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of Heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in... Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers... For you pay tithe... and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel' (Matthew 23:13-24).
Matthew Chapter 23 points our accusing fingers in the right direction. Because only two right directions exist: one is inward, but Spirit-filled believers get to drop that finger; Jesus took our guilt, hung it on a cross, covered it with Blood, and God declared us innocent. The other direction is downward. We have one enemy: Satan. We are wise to recognize his devices.
Consider two definitions of hypocrite: 1) 'A person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess' (Random House Dictionary); 2) 'A person who pretends to be what he is not' (World English Dictionary). Now consider the root: Hypocrite comes from a Greek word, 'hypokrites' meaning 'stage actor' (Etymology Dictionary).
Therein, Jesus was calling the religious leaders of His time 'stage actors.' Their swelling sermons were lies. Instead of leading a man to Heaven, they lured him to hell: 'You make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves' (Matthew 23:15). 'You also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness' (v.28).
Here's the good news: thousands of unusual stars are rising for Jesus. They are real, and they are true. They hate hypocrisy. They love sincerity. In godly irony, they are actors, models and talent for Christ: a new generation born of the old. They turn our 'World upside down' (Acts 17:6)--and bring the Word of God, Who is Jesus, right side up. They do not judge, but follow their Director's Script: they love.
They refuse planks, ignore specks and embrace honest platforms. They are stage actors of a different breed--as 'Citizens of Heaven' (Philippians 3:20) and 'Ambassadors for Christ' (2 Corinthians 5:20). And here's how you will know them: when they step off stage, their light shines even brighter.
To Be Continued...
P.S. To read the other devotions in this series, please see the Sermon On The Mount series.