“And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites… Therefore, do not be like them…” (Matthew 6:8).
All right, class, listen up. If you expect to be the next generation of hypocrites, you need to give me your full attention. The old Pharisees will be passing off the scene before long, and we’ll need a new class of the double-minded–you know, the play-actors–ready to step up and fill their ranks.
Tongue firmly planted in cheek now, everyone? All right. Let us proceed….
It’s not easy being a hypocrite. You’re always working on two levels, keeping things to yourself while presenting another image to the world. And that’s hard. It takes a pretty smart person to pull this off. Shallow lazy people can be a lot of things, but not a successful Pharisee.
Scripture says “a double-minded person is unstable in all his ways; he should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” That’s James 1:7-8. We cite it here for two reasons. First, to say how tough our calling is, and second, to remind ourselves that being hypocrites we’re not expecting to receive anything from the Lord for our prayers. That’s not the point.
“They will still bear fruit in old age. They will be full of sap and very green….” (Psalm 92:14).
In no particular order–other than this is the order that occurred to me after going to bed last night (and getting up to write it down!)—here is what I do. Don’t miss the addendum at the end on what I’m not doing right! Might as well tell the rest of the story. Smile, please.
One. I laugh a lot. I love Genesis 21:6, “God has made laughter for me.” Laughter is a vote of confidence in the Lord, that He is in control and has it all in His hands. This means some of what you’ll hear around this house is pure silliness. And I’m good with that. Many years ago, as six-year-old Abby and I played at the swing in her front yard, she said, “We’re being silly, aren’t we, Grandpa?” I said, “Yes, we are. Why do we like to be so silly?” She said, “It’s a family tradition.”
Two. I take a full regimen of vitamins. In the mid-1990s, when I’d gone a decade without seeing a doctor, I went with my wife for her appointment and ended up becoming a patient too. One day the doctor gave me a list of vitamins and minerals (including the baby aspirin and a fiber capsule) she wanted me to start taking. As I left, she said, “Mr. McKeever, I think we have just prevented a heart attack in you.” Well, apparently so. I have almost never missed a day, although the list of what I take has varied a little over the years as successive doctors have tweaked it.
Three. I have an annual checkup, complete with bloodwork.
“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance, and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
A smile is outward evidence that everything inside is in good shape. A smile is visible evidence of the joy of the Lord.
Anyone can smile. And everyone should. But those who put faith and trust in the Lord Jesus have more right to smile than anyone. They can number a hundred blessings in their lives as a result of the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ: They’ve been forgiven, cleansed by the blood, and born into the family of God. They are indwelt by the Spirit, overshadowed and undergirded by Him, and surrounded by like-minded disciples. They have the Word of God, the love of God, and the power of God. And so forth.
The unsmiling Christian is a contradiction.
Why aren’t you smiling?
I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. –I Corinthians 9:22
Imagine someone saying, “I’ve decided to become all things to all people.” You would wonder if they had a) lost their minds or b) chosen a shortcut to losing same.
That’s quite an assignment Paul gave himself. He would, he informs us, become…
–as a Jew in order to reach the Jews.
–as under the Law in order to reach those living under the Law.
–as without the Law that he might win those who are without the Law
–as weak, that he might win the weak
And finally, as though to throw the net over the entire lost population, he says, “I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.”
How does he do that, we wonder. Is the effective Christian worker to be schizophrenic, parceling himself out to this group and that group with the intention of winning them to Jesus? And how does that work?
“And a mixed multitude went up with them.” Exodus 12:38
“And the rabble who were among them had greedy desires, and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, ‘Who will give us meat to eat?'” — Numbers 11:4
The world is attending your church.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is sometimes we turn it over to them. Not good.
When the Israelites left Egypt under Moses, they were not alone. Exodus 12 says a large company of riff-raff seized the opportunity to flee the Pharaoh’s harsh rule also. (Various translations call them “a mixed multitude,” “a motley mob,” “a mingled array of other folk,” “a crowd of mixed ancestry,” and “a great rabble.”)
Did we think the Hebrews were the only slaves in Egypt? Doubtless there were slaves from many countries. So, in the same way a jailbreak might free all the prisoners, many of the Pharaoh’s “inmates” decided they had had enough, that anything was better than the slavery of Egypt, and they threw their lot in with the Hebrews and the fellow named Moses.
Before long, the wisdom of that decision would be put to the test.
“In all things, love.” –I Corinthians 16:14
That’s one test of a believer and a mighty important one it is. Our Lord said it is the mark of a disciple. (John 13:34-35)
Look for the love. Otherwise, you know this one with whom you are discussing scriptures and doctrines is no follower of Jesus.
The cultist you’re talking religion to across the table or across the continent feels no need to love you since he/she has decided you are not a follower of Jesus since you disagree with their doctrine. I’ve sat at a table with a Jehovah’s Witness who was brutal and mean-spirited and who may as well have thought of me as a child-molester by the scoffing and belittling he was dishing out. (I was a younger pastor, and had not learned that there comes a time when it’s all right to say, “This meeting is over,” and walk out.)
But while love is the first mark of the believer, there’s another test for determining whether the person across the table is an honest seeker.
If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth…. (I Timothy 6:3ff).
Some people debating religion are this way, Paul. Conceited and ignorant, rabble-rousers and mean-spirited. I’ve sat across the table from them more than once. It’s no fun, as you know.
But some are sincere and faithful brethren trying to get this right.
Help us, Lord.
If you are a Southern Baptist, as I am, you may find yourself having a problem with the theology of some people whom you happen to like and respect as brothers and sisters in Christ. You respect them and would like to be closer friends, but this “thing” they believe and teach stands between you. So…
The brethren brought (Saul) down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus (his home town). Acts 9:30.
So, the great soon-to-be Apostle Pau, but presently still Saul of Tarsus, went home and made tents. Perhaps he moved back into his old room. We can hear his parents saying, “For this we sacrificed for him to attend the rabbinic school in Jerusalem? Why isn’t he working?”
Saul was waiting on the call from the Lord. Hadn’t the Father called him? Hadn’t he prepared himself? Wasn’t he effective in preaching? So, what’s going on here?
Saul had no idea what the Lord was up to. Later, he would write a lesson learned by hard experience: “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
“Is this normal?”
“I have sent (Tychicus) to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts” (Ephesians 6:22).
I’m a guest preacher in every church I visit these days, and have been for the past nine years of retirement ministry. Today this weekend I’m in Poplarville, Mississippi, and Jackson, MS, next week in Leakesville, MS, and next month will be ministering in Starkville, MS, Mobile, AL, at an encampment in West Texas, followed by McCall Creek, MS and finally speaking at a church banquet in a restaurant in McComb, MS.
I’m having the time of my life. And I’ve learned a few things…
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? The unsaved do that…. But love your enemies and do good and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great…. –Luke 6:32-35
I was a freshman in college, with everything that implies: I was green, scared, eager, excited, learning, stupid, silly, and a hundred other things.
Among the civilians working on our campus was Mrs. Grigsby. I can see her to this day: stern, tight-lipped, unfriendly, and unloving. We thought she looked more like a man than a woman. She was all business, never a ‘good morning,’ and generally unpleasant, we all thought.