September 3

Matthew 21-22, Psalm 91

Early in my Christian walk the most popular Christian fiction series was published, Left Behind. One of the characters shocked me and helped me to look at things and people a little differently. Raised in a traditional denomination there existed the laity. Those Priests and Pastors seemed elevated or more righteous than other Christians. In Left Behind, character Bruce Barnes is left behind in the Rapture, he was the associate Pastor. When he explains why his family was and he was not raptured, he explains that he enjoyed the respect and accolades of those in the church, but never truly believed or accepted Jesus as his Savior. Bruce Barnes was found guilty of living the life of a hypocrite.  The word hypocrite comes from the Greek, and means actor or pretender. It refers to those who pretend to be something that they are not. At times this word is over applied and attached to anyone in the church who sins, and many outside the church launch an attack at the church calling all hypocrites. This is wrong, for we are all sinners saved by grace, but not all hypocrites.

When the Bible was written, there were no chapters and verses (chapters inserted in 1200's, verses in 1500's). In Matthew 20:30-33, we read the story of two blind men who recognized Jesus and were healed. The next couple of chapters we ironically read of those seemingly enlightened who missed Him, being blinded with religion, tradition, pride and greed. The Pharisees had turned the temple practice of moneychanging and the acquiring of sacrifices into a lucrative and dishonest business. Jesus exposed them, turning over their tables. The priests and elders progressively get more aggressive with their attacks against Him. When Jesus is questioned about His authority, He exposes their hypocrisy, by asking them a question in Matthew 21:25, "The baptism of John-where was it from? From heaven or from men?" We read their dishonesty and hypocritical nature as they discuss this among themselves. As a result, Jesus responds to their initial question in 21:27, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things." He goes on to explain that in their failure to accept Him and recognize Him, though they were initially called they lost their calling and it was given to the Gentiles( this is not permanent, we will see in the book of Revelation huge numbers of Jewish people coming to Christ). In chapter 23 Jesus does not hold back and exposed hypocrisy for what it is.

Despite the fact that most people do not give God a second thought, considering themselves to be basically good and better than most, they would consider it unfair and wrong that they do not deserve heaven. When witnessing to others, we know that we also don't deserve it. In Romans 3:10, Paul said, "There is none righteous, no, not one;". In Romans 3:23, Paul goes on to say, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,". We must never elevate our standing in our own minds, we who have accepted Christ's sacrifice get heaven solely based on what He did and not by what we do. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, we read, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Paul goes on in his letter to the Ephesians, in 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." This should keep us all humbled as we view ourselves and prevent us from ever hypocritically elevating ourselves in how we present ourselves to others.

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster