The Problem Of Hypocrisy
By Bobby Blakey on August 20, 2023
The Problem Of Hypocrisy
By Bobby Blakey on August 20, 2023
We have a problem, because outside of the church, many souls are turning away from Jesus because of hypocrisy inside the church. But inside the church, if you even bring up the subject of hypocrisy, you are seen as judgmental and unloving. So, we have a problem that we can't even talk about the problem that we have. And so today, this is why I'm so glad that you're here. We're so glad that you're listening to this right now, watching this online, because today, we're going to open up Zechariah chapter 7, where hypocrisy is going to be exposed. And we're going to get to hear what God thinks about hypocrisy. So, if you could open your Bible and turn to Zechariah, chapter 7 with me. And I don't know if you've ever studied Zechariah 7 before, or even if you've really understood the kind of prophecy that we have here. For weeks, we've been going through Zechariah 1 to 6x, where he’s having these visions, and he's seeing things that are going to happen in the future. The prophecy is foretelling, here's what God is going to do. He's going to restore things with the high priest, you're going to rebuild the temple, He's going to judge the nations. The branch is going to come back and reign in righteousness. Look at all that God's going to do. Well, that's one kind of prophecy. And that's maybe the main thing we think of when we hear about prophecy. But it's not always foretelling the kind of prophecy we have in Zecharia 7 is the fourth telling. It's God saying, let me tell you what I think about what's going on right here. Right now, let me tell you my perspective. Let me take what I've already said. And let me apply it to this current situation. And so, we're going to see some people who come forward and they're exposed in their hypocrisy, and then God's going to give us a word through the prophet Zechariah on his thoughts about hypocrisy among his people. So, I ask that you would give this your full and undivided attention, and out of respect for God's Word, I'm going to ask if we would all stand up for the public reading of Scripture; even if you're watching this somewhere else, if you could stand up and read Zechariah 7. This is the Word of the Lord, and we need to take it to heart here today. Please follow along as I read it for us. Zechariah chapter 7, starting in verse 1.
In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is Chislev. Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men to entreat the favor of the Lord, saying to the priests of the house of the Lord of hosts and the prophets, “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?” Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me: “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? Were not these the words that the Lord proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous, with her cities around her, and the South and the lowland were inhabited?’” And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts. “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the Lord of hosts, “and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate.”
That's the reading of God's word. Please go ahead and have your seat. So, the timestamp here Zechariah 7:1, we're now in the fourth year of King Darius. All of those night visions we were studying, they were in the second year. So, this is like two years now. 22 months to be exact into the future. We have these men who come from Bethel. Bethel is a word that means house of the house of God, and it's a little bit to the north. And so, they were calming down. They know that there are priests making people right. They're bringing the people into God's presence. They're in Jerusalem, they're rebuilding the temple. They know something's happening in Jerusalem. So, they come to say, “hey, we've been weeping and abstaining. That means they've been fasting during the time of exile. In the fifth month of every year, we've been doing these fast. Should we keep doing the fast or not?” And then we get a prophecy here in Zechariah 7:4, a word of the Lord, it comes to Zechariah. And he's supposed to say this. So, this is a message for all the people of the land to learn from. And it's specifically giving the priests a way to respond to this question of the men of Bethel. And look at what it says in Zechariah 7:5 here, this is the word from the Lord, when you fasted, and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh for the 70 years, was it for me that you fasted? And the Hebrew there is very emphatic. You're saying, you are fasting for me? For me, really? That's the idea here. I know what you guys were doing. You weren't fasting for me. In fact, you weren't fasting for me in the fifth month. And when you were eating and drinking all the other months, you were doing that for yourselves, too. And let me just remind you back when Jerusalem was well, in habit, and prosperous before the exile, let me just remind you of some of the things that the former prophets have said. So, these people who have been fasting, and they come forward, God is exposing that their fasting was hypocrisy. Their fasting was not really for him. In fact, everything they were doing, they were doing for themselves; they were not really doing it for God. So now, when you look back on Zechariah 7:3, you can read it in your hypocrite voice, “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month as I've done? For so many years, I've been fasting, should I keep doing that?” And this is exposing that you're just all about what you're doing. You're not really doing this for the Lord.
So, this is something we need to understand. People are doing religious things. Now, I don't know why people are doing religious things. When I see people serving in church, when I see people praying or, or doing something, I'm just always thankful that they're doing it. Right? I see these people working hard in the kids’ ministry here at our church, and I'm thankful for the people who serve in the kids’ ministry. Does anybody else want to say thank you for the kids’ ministry here today? You know, the honest truth is we’ve got so many people having babies at this church, we need more people serving in the kids’ ministry. That's the truth of what's going on. I mean, how about those guys out in the parking lot in a tropical storm today? I see those guys. They're wearing full rain gear. I'm like, Yeah, bro. When I see people doing good things that seem like they're doing it for the Lord, I don't know what's going on in people's hearts. I'm just like, thank you. And yeah, if I were to go to somebody and say, why are you really doing that? Are you doing it for yourself? You're a hypocrite. Yeah, that would be judgmental and unloving if I said that. I don't say that. I think I'm just like, thank you for what you're doing. But see, God does see why people are doing what they're doing. God sees differently than how you and I see. God sees every single person, every single one of us in this room right now, every single person watching this online right now, God sees behind what is seen, and it might look like you're doing a good thing, but God knows why you're doing it. He sees to the heart behind it. And if you're not doing it for him, then God is not pleased with what you're doing.
So, let's get this down for point number one, if you want to take some notes from Zechariah 7. When God calls them out here in the first seven verses, it shows us that “God sees behind the seen.” When I see somebody, I see their external appearance. And I'm like, hey, I'm glad you're here. I'm glad you're serving in the kids’ ministry or the parking lot. When God sees somebody, he sees differently than we do. He looks straight through their skin and bones to their soul. God sees your heart. God knows why you came to church in the midst of a tropical storm. Why are you here right now? Did somebody else drag you here? Are you here because you think it's the right thing to do? Are you here because yeah, everybody I knew some people weren't going to come today, but I'm here in the midst of the rain. Right? Or are you here because you want to worship God in this place today? See, God sees the real reason. And this is the right way to address hypocrisy is to let God tell us from his Word what he sees, and the Scripture is alive. The Scripture is living and active. It is sharper than any two-edged Thor sword, and God's word cut straight to the thoughts and intents of your heart. As we study God's Word together today, you will be able to see your heart as God sees your heart, if you're open to hearing what God says. And so that's what we’ve got to get to here today is what does God see when he looks at me? What is God seeing when he looks at my heart? Does God think I came to church today to worship him? Or would God be able to say is that really why you're here for me? Really?
Go with me to Matthew chapter 6, let's hear Jesus say the same warning. The theme of hypocrisy runs throughout the Scripture, anywhere there are the people of God, there will be people pretending to be the people of God, there will be gods or righteous ones. And there will be actors wearing masks. There will be the wheat, and then there will be the weeds growing right there in the garden together. And so, Jesus, he gave a strong word about this in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, chapter 6. Matthew 6:1-18 are all one warning about hypocrisy. You have got to get to your heart’s motives, you’ve got to ask not just what are you doing for the Lord, but why are you doing it? And so, it says here a warning, Matthew 6:1, “Beware,” watch out – “of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” If you think you have your own righteousness from doing good things yourself, and if you think you're going to impress other people with the good things you do, that's as far as it goes. God is not impressed when you're acting righteous in front of other people. And in fact, look, he mentions fasting specifically; look down at Matthew 6:16-18. “When you fast do not look gloomy like the,” what does he say there everybody, like the who? “The hypocrites.” Okay, so these are people that are putting on a face here, when inside they're really thinking something else, or they're about something else. So, “when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
God sees. There are no secrets with God. Everything in our heart is open and laid bare before the eyes of the Lord. And the eyes of the Lord are running to and fro today all over the earth. God is looking for people whose heart is blameless before him. People whose heart is wholly belonging to him. With my whole heart, I seek you. God knows the people who are giving his hearts. And God wants to strongly support those people, but other people who are just doing good things, God sees straight through it. That's the idea here. God sees behind the seen, he sees the secret things. So, whatever you're doing, you come to church, you have a place where you serve the Lord, you have a good thing you do like fasting and praying, or maybe you're giving financially. These things that you're doing, God sees why you are doing that. Is he really? Is it a response to him? Is it pure worship for him? Is it a relationship with him? Or is it so because this is what you do because you're a good person and you want other people to see you being a good person?
Go back to Zechariah 7, because we get another word of the Lord that comes to Zechariah. That's a pretty dramatic scene in the first 7 verses of Zechariah 7, these guys come from another city, we've basically been fasting for 70 years, are we back? Or should we keep fasting? You haven't really been fasting for the Lord at all. In fact, even when you're not fasting, you're living for yourself. And so, they get called out in a way that only God can do. And then God refers to the former prophets. And now it says in Zechariah 7:8, “And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah.” So now God has something more he wants to say, to address this idea of the right heart attitude that you should have when you turn from hypocrisy. What should you turn to? You’ve got to turn from something to something. “And so, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying thus says the Lord of hosts.” So, this is a message straight from the God who commands the angels through his prophet Zechariah, straight to the people then and straight to us today. “Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”
Okay, so now let me get to some things that would show a real heart response. That's what God's saying here. And these words, the Hebrew words here are words that are often in reference to God. So, when it says render true judgments, the word, the Hebrew word that is translated true there is often used that God is the one who is faithful and true. God is going to do what he says. The Hebrew word for judgment here is often used that God does what is right, he decrees righteousness, he makes right judgments, you can't bribe God, you can't get on the good side of God, and he'll let it pass. He always does what is righteous in his justice. And then the word here that says, to show kindness, this might be a Hebrew word you know, it's the Hebrew word hesed, which is often translated about God's steadfast love. O, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. So, it's saying, hey, if you really know God, and you know God's true to his word, and God does righteous judgments, and God loves people, and shows mercy, if God's really loved you, and his love has changed your life, then hey, represent who God is. And that's why you act the way that you act, your heart has been changed by God. And so now you want to do what is right. And now you want to show love to other people? Why? Not because you want people to think you're good, but because God has been so good to you, to love you, so that you now want to pass that on to other people. So, this is describing a heart that has been genuinely affected by a relationship with God that is responding to God, and it's going to affect the way we treat other people. Look there at verse 10. It says, At the end of verse 9 will “show kindness and mercy to one another.” And then we shouldn't be taking advantage of anybody. We shouldn't be mistreating or oppressing anyone. Let's talk about some people here. Widows, ladies who've lost their husbands. They don't have their husband there to care for them. How about the fatherless orphans, children who don't have a father to provide for them? Or how about the sojourner, somebody who's come to our land from a foreign land? They're not from around here, they don't have their normal culture or support system. They're now here visiting and are now among us. And then, what about the poor people who are going through a financial situation where they don't have everything they need to meet their needs financially? So does your heart get drawn not for other people to look at you, but that you genuinely care about other people. See, the world is saying this is very wrong idea that you should avoid from anybody in your life. They call it this idea of people who are toxic. And so, the idea in the world right now is unless people are for you, unless people are bringing positive vibes and energy in your direction, then you should have nothing to do with them; only be around people that build you up and people who are good for you. But the scripture actually says that's a toxic idea. And it says the exact opposite. Who are the people that don't love you in return, but they need love? Has God loved you? Then go and care for those people? Go and care for the people who don't have someone to care for them? Yeah, they may not be able to offer you anything in response, but you're responding to how God has treated you. So go and love them. And it's hypocrisy to say, well, I want to come and worship God at church on Sunday. Even though I've got this evil, I'm really angry with so and so. And I can't stand this member of my family. And I'm really upset with my neighbor. And this person at work is driving me crazy. But let's sing praise songs to the Lord. That's not how this works. No, your heart has to be affected by God. And you have to have a genuine love and care for other people. And you can't be holding evil in your heart towards other people and think you're going to be right with God. See, so that's what it always gets to. It gets to not the external actions, but it gets to the greatest commandment to love God with all your what? Your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength, and to love your neighbor as what, everybody? Yourself. That's when you know you're not a hypocrite, when your heart's really into it. When your heart is being changed by God, and you're caring about people not because they care about you, but because God cares about you. That's why you're caring about other people here.
So that's what it gets to. You have fasting, that's the kind of religious activity that you can do and act like you're for the Lord. But are you really for the Lord? Are you true to what you say? Do you judge things in a right way? Do you know the love of God so that you pass it on? Do you know people who are hurting and going through a hard time? And right now, are you doing something that you have to show that you care about them or their people? Maybe who are mistreating you? Are you getting caught up in returning evil for evil? Or are you turning them away with a gentle answer and loving them, even if they're your enemy? That's what it gets to. What's really going on in your heart where you’re really out with God? Where are you really at with other people? And this kind of response to hypocrisy is throughout the Scripture.
Zechariah is just one of the 12 in the book of the 12 prophets. Let me show you Amos chapter 5, let's all flip on over to Amos. So, the 12 start with Hosea, Joel. And the third one is Amos. He's not so famous. So, if you don't know where Amos is, that's fine. It's not like he's handing out cookies. People don't often talk about Amos these days. But Amos, he had something to say about the hypocrisy in his day. So hypocrisy is a common theme in the Scripture. It's a real problem that God wants to address and God's the only one who can address it, because his words are the only words that can cut straight to the thoughts and intents of our heart and show us who we really are. And that's what happens here in Amos 5:21. Here's God speaking to his people in the first person, Amos 5:21. “hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.” So, three times a year, the Jewish people come to Jerusalem in celebration of what God has done in a feast, and God is saying, when you guys come to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts, I hate it. Why would God hate people coming together to celebrate feast that he told them to celebrate? Amos 5:22-24, “Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” You guys gathered for the feasts, you kill all these animals as sacrifices, you come and sing all these songs. And I hate it because you've still got that sin that you think is hidden, that you think is secret, you're still mistreating these people over here, and you think you're getting away with it, you're not doing what is right. You're not treating other people in a way that is just. You're a hypocrite, and here you come to me, but I know what's going on in your heart. So, get all your songs away from me.
See, only God can say something like this. When I hear people sing in church. I'm not wondering who's really worshiping the Lord. I hear people singing. And I'm like, yeah, praise the Lord. I love it. I love it when the worship team is going, and the bass is going and the drums are going and people are like shouting out. And then I love it when the instruments drop out. And you can hear the voices worshiping the Lord. And I'm like, yeah, praise the Lord. But see, God knows who's living in sin. God knows who's mistreating other people. And when he hears you sing, he doesn't really care that you're seeing it. Because he sees the injustice and the unrighteousness that is there in your life, in your heart. So, see, God sees this differently. We just see everybody here. And we're just happy that everybody's here. But God he sees behind the seen. And he says, yeah, that those people that were singing that song, that song I will wait for you. Some of you guys aren't waiting for me. See that’s how God sees it. God knows about it, and he sees it for how it really is. So, at church, people, it's great that people come to church, it's great that people serve, it's great that people sing, we're for all of it. But see, God knows whether you're really doing it for him, or whether you're still in it for yourself. God knows if the way you present yourself a church is really how you go home and live or if you live some different way, and then you just come to church on Sunday.
See, God says when the people are gathered together, and they're singing songs, and they're raising a big ruckus, but he knows they're still living in sin, and they're not walking in righteousness, they're not putting justice on, he hates it. God is not okay with hypocrisy. Go over to Micah chapter 6. Look at how it says it here. This is a famous line from the book of the 12. Here in Micah chapter 6, it's a few pages over to the right you'll find the prophet Micah, and he addresses this issue in Micah 6 starting in verse 6. How can somebody who's a sinner come into the presence of God there's got to be some atonement for sin. How can the unrighteous come and be in the presence of the Righteous One? And so that's the question he's asking here in Micah 6:6-8, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?” What if I gave all kinds of sacrifices, all kinds of oil before the Lord? Or look at this thought even? What if I gave my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? What if I offered to God one of my children? Would that make me right with God? Well, God's already told us in verse 8, He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Maybe you've heard that verse before?
So, it's like people are thinking, well, what religious act can I do? If I get baptized will the Lord be pleased with me? If I take communion will the Lord be pleased me? What can I do? No, God wants your heart. It's not about the things that you do. God has already told you what he requires of you. God wants your life to be changed from the inside out. God wants you to know his love, and to then pass that kindness on to other people, because you've humbled yourself and you've confessed that you're a sinner before God. And you've admitted that you have no self-righteousness, and you need God to give you the righteousness that only comes through his Son, Jesus Christ. Because there's only one person who was never really a hypocrite at all. There's only been one who's ever really righteous in his name is Jesus. And so, I humble myself before God, and I confess my sin to God, I don't try to impress God, as some kind of self-righteous person; I admit to God, I don't have any righteousness, and I need his righteousness, and I walk humbly with my God.
See, that's the attitude that God's looking for. God's looking for a heart that is contrary for a heart that is humble for a heart that doesn't come in and act like well, I'm doing these things, so God will be impressed, but a heart that comes in and knows that God sees who I really am. And so, I'm going to confess that and humble myself before the eyes of the Lord. When Micah says this, he's already told you what is good. The Lord's already told you what he requires of you see, Micah is doing one of those things where as a prophet, he's saying, here's what God said in the past. Let's talk about it right now in the present this fourth telling kind of prophecy. In fact, what he's quoting here is the law of Deuteronomy 10:12. So everybody flipped back to the very beginning of your Bible, the fifth book, the second telling of the law. In Deuteronomy 10:12, he's already told you, oh, man, what is good. He's already told you what he requires. And it's not sacrifice and it's not fasting. And it's not going to church on Sunday, or any of these external kinds of things that we do know. Look back at Deuteronomy 10:12 and let me tell you what the Lord your God requires of you, Israel. So, you can see here Deuteronomy 10:12, hey, it says, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” See, what God wants is not for you to do something. God wants your heart is what he wants, your heart that is broken about your sin, your heart that is contrite about your hypocrisy. And so, you say, God, here's who I really am here. I agree with you about my sin, and I come before you, and I'm ready to respond to you in fear and love and service and worship. I'm ready to offer you all that I am. That's what God wants. God wants our whole heart.
And so that's what he requires of us. And then who is God? Deuteronomy 10:14, “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.” I mean, this storm that we've been hearing about that's coming our way today, this is just a small glimpse in the almighty power of the God who upholds the universe. Oh, yeah, the Lord. He's awesome in mighty power. But then look at Deuteronomy 10:15. “Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.” We have a God who's the God of the heaven of the heavens, but he's also a God who loves his people. And he chose it, Abraham, and he made a promise to him and he chose the people of Israel just because he set his heart to love them just because he wanted to love them. And so then it says this here, and this might sound foreign to us. Look at Deuteronomy 10:16, where it says, “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.”
See it’s saying something else that needs to happen in your heart. Circumcision was the external symbol of the people of Israel, a physical symbol that they were God's people. Well, what you do on your external appearance, that doesn't matter, it needs to happen in your heart, you have to stop living in your stubborn way. And your heart has to change, to live for God and to love him, and to walk in his ways. Has something happened in your heart? You can't just go through religious motions, you have to turn from that to a relationship with God.
Let's get that down. For point number two, this is what we’ve got to do is “turn from religious to relationship.” Turn from religious to relationship. We have to stop thinking that anything we could ever do would please God. But what God is pleased with is the sacrifice of a broken spirit and a contrite heart that God will not hate ,that God will not despise. So, something has to happen in my heart before God. That's the only way I have to hear God's Word. And my heart has to change because of it. And that's what it says here, circumcise the foreskin of your heart. It's not that you're just born one of God's people in Israel. No, you have to have something happen in your heart to be one of God's people. And then it says this, Deuteronomy 10:17, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice.” And then it talks about those people that were mentioned in Zechariah 7, “the widows, the orphans, the sojourners the foreigners among us, and the people who are poor, who might not have food, or clothing.” And so, see, I love how it says here, God is not partial, he takes no bribe now, nobody's bribing me as a pastor. But one thing that I can just tell you happens with me with being a people, when people do come to church, and they do serve the Lord here at church, and I get to know them. And it's like, we become friends. It's like, we become brothers and sisters, and all of a sudden, I start liking this person, just because I'm familiar with them, just because we've shared experiences, and I've gotten to know him. And they've gotten to know me, and we've laughed, maybe we've cried, and so we've kind of come together, what I noticed happens is, I just think, well, they're my friends, I like them, I'm good with them. But see God's not like that. And it's not like just because you spent a lot of time at church or just because God's been with you and all the things that you've gone through in your life. Well now because you've shared life with God, he's going to let you pass on what is really going on in your heart? No, God, he's going to see it from the perspective of justice. And God's going to see whether you're really right with him or whether you're not right with him.
And so a God sees in a way that we can't see one another. And that's what it's saying here. You’ve got Deuteronomy 10:19. “Love the sojourner.” Therefore, take this love that you know God has for you and treat other people; look what it says, “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” Don't you remember when you guys were slaves, when you guys were foreigners in that land, and God rescued you? God delivered you. God brought you out through the Red Sea, he brought you into the promised land, he gave you a home, he gave you a family, he gave you a place. Look at all that God has done for you? Does it matter in your heart? Does it change the way you treat other people? Have you turned from living for yourself to really living for God? Has what God has done for you really made a difference in your heart? Or are you just still doing things for God yourself? That's the question that the Scripture is getting to over and over again. And it's a question you and I we need to say, God, show me my heart today. As you see it, search my heart, show me if there's any way in me that is grievous towards you. And I want my heart I don't want to be holding sin and trying to hide it or keep it secret in my heart when you already know about it. I don't want to be mistreating other people. I don't want to be thinking about myself when there are others in need. See, we’ve got to see ourselves as God sees us.
Turn with me to the book of James, just to show you that this kind of hypocrisy is talked about throughout the Scripture. Let's go to the book of James, and I don't know if you've ever read the Epistle of James before, but this guy, man, he's got no problem smacking people in the face. Has anybody ever read James before? I mean, he doesn't wait for you to turn the other cheek before he hits you again. Who does this guy think he is? Does he think he's the brother of Jesus talking like this? This guy James? Look what he says here in James 1:26. This is the kind of stuff that will get the preacher in trouble right here. James 1:26. He says, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is” what does it say there, everybody? “Worthless”. Okay/ Now, I'm not here to say that about anybody. I'm not going to go and say, hey, you singing those songs earlier, that was worthless, hey, you serve it in the kids’ ministry. Thanks a lot, that was worthless. I'm not here to say that about anybody. But that is what the Scripture says that there are people who do religious things that on the external appearance seem like good things. But in the sight of God, who sees the secrets of their heart, they're not really doing anything at all. They're not doing it because they love God, they're not doing it because they love other people. They're doing it because they want other people to see them doing it. They're doing it because they have an overinflated view of themselves. And so, James, he's ready to say that there is a kind of religion that seems good, but it is actually worthless. And maybe that person is even deceived in their own heart, maybe that person is not even able to see themselves for how they really are in their heart. If only they could hear the Word of the Lord that will cut straight to the thoughts and intents of their heart, like a sword and will show them who they really are from God's perspective. And so, then he says, so you’ve got to turn from this worthless religion. And then he says this in James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” See, God is looking for that pure and undefiled religion, the heart of the person that really belongs to him, the person who has a relationship with him, and they're doing it because they love him. And this person when they see that lady who lost her husband, or they see those kids who don't have someone providing for them, this person, they're on the move to go and visit them. This person's taking action for other people's benefit, with no self-interest included. And when they're out in the world, interacting with their unsaved family members, and their neighbors and their coworkers or their classmates, people aren't getting a bad impression of Jesus, because they're a hypocrite. But people are seeing that there's something different about this person, this person doesn't blend in with the world. They're not some kind of camouflage, where they blend in a church. And then they blend in and laugh and say all the same words as everybody else out there. This person, they're unstained, they're unpolluted. There's something different about them, like they're shining a light in the darkness, like they're the salt of the earth, this person is actually a real example of Jesus Christ.
See, is that who you are? We have a massive problem with hypocrisy. Are you a part of the problem? Or are you actually showing people somebody whose heart has been changed by salvation in Jesus Christ? See, James says there is a worthless religion. And then there's a pure and undefiled religion. And we’ve got to hear the only way I can know what's really going on in my heart is I’ve got to see it from God's perspective. And the only way I can see my heart from God's perspective is I have to hear the Word of the Lord, expose my heart for what it really is. So go back to Zechariah chapter 7, because now we're going to get a history lesson of God and his people have been down a long road with the problem of hypocrisy. In fact, that's why we're rebuilding the temple. That's why you've been fasting for all these 70 years, the whole reason we had an exile, and there was a whirlwind that took people to other nations, and then the pleasant land of God's people. They're in Israel, that land was desolate, and God's people got taken other places. Why did all of that happen? Well, here's the history lesson in Zechariah 11-14, and now we're talking about the Jews back when Jerusalem was inhabited, the Jews before the exile, they refused to pay attention. And they turned a stubborn shoulder, and they stopped their ears that they might not hear, almost like a child covering their ears so they won't have to hear it. They made their hearts diamond hard. They should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by a spirit through the former prophets.
See, when you hear about the God's truth, God's righteous judgments, God's love and how God expects you to then love him and to love other people. When you hear the Word of the Lord, it either exposes your hypocrisy, your sin, and you have to confess your sin before God and you have to go make things right with other people, even if they started it. If you returned evil for evil, you’ve got to go back now. You’ve got to own up to what you did. So, you either hear the Word of the Lord and you confess your sin, and you seek to make things right, or you harden your heart and you cover up your ears. I don't even want to hear how God sees my heart. And you just have this stubbornness, where it's like, I don't want anybody telling me who I really am. And see, that's what happened. God sent the prophets, God sent messenger after messenger for hundreds of years, warning his people, your heart is not right before me, I still see your sin, I still see the way you treat other people, you need to turn from that, you need to come to me, give me your whole heart. Come to me, God kept saying to his people over and over, and God's own people won’t listen to him. That's the message here.
Point number three, let's get it down like this, “Hard hearts won't hear.” That's what it says. When that moment comes, when their heart could be revealed, the secrets of their heart could be seen. Because here comes the Word of the Lord that cut to the heart and exposes the heart. They won't even listen to God speak through his prophets. They don't want to hear it. They don't want to actually take an honest look in the mirror of Scripture to see who they really are. They cover up their ears, they don't pay attention, and they harden their heart. Now, I want you to be really careful with this. Look at Zechariah 7:12, everybody, because look at how it says that these words came to the people we’re talking about the prophets and basically Zechariah and Haggai, prophets after the exile, but everybody else that we've already talked about, like Amos and Micah, they would be examples of prophets that were former prophets, before the exile. I mean, the most famous ones are people like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, these guys wrote long books of prophecy, warning God's people. And so look what it says here in Zechariah 7:12. It says that the Lord of hosts, sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. So yes, it was a man up there saying, thus says the Lord. But it says here that that was actually God speaking through that man. And God was speaking his words, by the power of his Spirit, through the prophets. So, people might want to kill the messenger. And people might want to say, I don't want to listen to this guy, or why do we have to hear from Isaiah? Or why do we have to hear from Jeremiah? But God's not saying that was just some man giving a message, God's saying, that was a prophet giving my message by the power of my Spirit. You were hearing my word. In fact, look what God says in Zechariah 7:13, “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” I kept calling to them, kept warning them, kept sending my word to convict them, but they heard in their heart, and they would not hear it. And so eventually, I had to get angry with them, I had to judge them according to their unrighteousness. And then when the judgment came, guess what? Now they were all crying out to me. But just like they didn't hear me when I called, I didn't hear them when they called because they're hypocrites. This is God saying this. This is God telling us how it works.
What is happening right now in this moment, is that you are hearing a word from the Lord through the prophet Zechariah. And you are going to make a decision with what you do with what is being heard here today. Either you're hearing it with your physical ears, you're hearing the words that are coming out of my mouth, you're seeing the words here on the page that are exposing the hypocrisy, the whole history of the hypocrisy of God's people. And so, you're hearing it with your ears. But when you get back to your car, is it going to be in one ear and out the other? Or is God's word really going to get to your heart here today? And are you really going to think about if you're walking humbly before your God? And are you really going to think about the way you're treating the other people in your life? Are you actually going to have a heart check?
Everybody would be a hypocrite if it wasn't for hearing God's word, being convicted, and by the power of God's Spirit, confessing that sin, turning from that sin to God. And so, you either hear this Word of the Lord, or you harden your heart. And people come to church every Sunday. People I mean, if you put Zechariah 7, kind of in our modern context, hey, I've been going to church for this many years. How many more years do I need to keep doing this? Basically, right. And God, I wonder, is there anybody here today that God might say to you, oh, you've been coming to church for me, for all those years, for me, really? There are plenty of people who get dragged to church, and they sit here politely and they hear the words but they don't take the words actually to heart. And there are many people who've already decided I don't want to listen to that guy, or I don't like that how this is being said over here. And they're not trying to hear what God said, they've already decided I'm not listening to this, even though they keep coming on a regular basis because their loved one invites them or just because they come because that's what they do. And they want to let everybody know, they're that kind of person. They're not really listening to anything.
And so, God is teaching us something here. The problem with hypocrisy is the hard heart. And what is a hard heart? Looks like a hard heart is somebody who doesn't want to hear it anymore. Stop talking about my sin. Stop telling me what I should do with other people, stop getting to the secrets within me. I don't want to hear any of that stubborn shoulders, diamond hard hearts. So, you are hearing a message about hypocrisy being exposed? Are you going to do a heart check and let the Word of the Lord search your heart and evaluate? Am I walking humbly before God? Am I responding to his justice and his truth and his love in my life? How am I treating the other people in my life? Or are you going to be like, I don't want to think about that and harden your heart to it.
One passage you could write down if you're taking notes is Isaiah 58. Let's turn to one of the former prophets in Isaiah 58. And I can't spend the time reading through this whole thing. But Isaiah 58 is a great example of people who are fasting, and they thought, hey, we fasted. God, why aren't you answering my prayers? I fasted, God, why aren't you giving me what I want? I fasted, God, why aren't you doing this? And the reason they think God should be doing something for them is because look at what I did for you. And then God eventually says in verse five, look at Isaiah 58:5-6, let me tell you, the kind of fast I'm really looking for, “Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord? ‘Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” Hey, how about instead of for one day you act and sad and not eating and fasting? How about you repent to that sin you keep secret in your heart? How about you stop mistreating so and so? That's the kind of fast I’m really looking for, says the Lord. Don't think you're impressing me with your external religion. How about a change of heart, that's what I want to see.
Go back to Isaiah chapter 1. And that's just an example there in 58, that has to do with fasting. But go back to Isaiah chapter 1, and this is the whole tone. Isaiah has some amazing prophecies that foretell awesome things about even the future of world history with Cyrus are a lot about the birth and death and return of our Lord Jesus and the future kingdom. I mean, Isaiah has so much foretelling. But Isaiah starts with some strong foretelling here in the book of Isaiah chapter 1. Look at Isaiah 1:2, he, God, starts by calling witnesses here in the book of Isaiah, “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: ‘Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.” I call heaven as my first witness. And I call the earth is my second witness, because you guys saw how I delivered Israel, and I called them people by my own name. And I delivered them through the waters of the Red Sea, and I brought them into the Promised Land, like, has anybody ever been treated like I treated these slaves in Egypt? And now I made them a people for my own possession? Look what I've done for these people. And let me tell you, they've turned against me. These people, they're my people. They're a bunch of hypocrites. That's the message of the book of Isaiah. Look at what God calls them in Isaiah 1:4, “Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity,” all the time calling themselves God's people all the time having sin in their heart against God. God's not okay with that. The duplicity, the double mindedness, the putting a mask on and taking it off, it might fool everybody else in your life. It might even fool yourself. It will never fool the eyes of the Lord looking into your soul. And so, look at Isaiah 1:10. The answer here is you’ve got to hear this. You’ve got to take this to heart. You’ve got to really let the word of God penetrate into your soul. “Hear the Word of the Lord,” it always begins with will you please listen to me? Will you please pay attention to me? Can you please let what I'm about to say to you? Will you realize I'm actually talking about you, and will you let it in here the Word of the Lord, you rulers of what does he say there? What does he call them, everybody? You rulers of what? Sodom. “Give ear to the teaching of our God. You people have, what does he say there? Gomorrah. I mean, these are cities that literally fire came from heaven to judge and consume that because of their sin. And now God's saying, you've got that same kind of sin in your heart. You’ve got to hear me you’ve got to listen to me. I'm talking about you right now. And then let me just read for you what God says. Isaiah 1:11. “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. ‘When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.’” I hate it when you come to church and you still have that sin in your heart, “Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. ‘Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’”
Oh, I love reading that passage. I love it when God says, come now. Like hey, can we stop being fake? Please, God says, I see you going through the motions at that time. It's the sacrifices at that time. It's the solemn assemblies, all the different festivals, the lifting of their hands in prayer. I see you serving I see you given I see you praying, I see you going to that church. And I love when God just says Come now can we have a real conversation together? Please? Come now. Let us reason together. I see. I see who you really are. And you got this crimson stain on your soul. I see who you really are. You're even the things you think that are good about you are filthy rags, I see who you really are. I see right here. He says Your sins are like Scarlet, I see. And if you could just have an honest conversation with me right now. You could walk out of here as white as snow. I see how filthy you really are. And you can leave here clean. If we could just get past the hypocrisy and have a real honest confession of your sin, that crimson stain, it could be washed away today. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord.” You want to keep putting on an act, or you want to come to me and have a real conversation. See, I love that because what God is offering is such an amazing deal that he sees all of that sin. And he sees the way that he has poured out his love upon you, everything good you've ever got. God gave you and he knows he gave it to you. And then he sees after he's been patient with you and blessed you and forgiving you again and again. Then he sees the way you take all of his blessings, and you mistreat other people in your life. He sees you for who you really are. And yet at the same time, he's like, I see how you have a stain; it is like crimson your sin. It's like scarlet, you got a stain that you could scrub. And you could rub as long as you're alive and you will never clean up that I can wash it away for you right now. You can leave here as white as snow. We could take your sins today. And we could throw them in the bottom of the sea and you could never see them again. I can block them out. I can erase them like they never happened. I can forgive you completely and you will become like wool, you will be pure and undefiled your heart will belong to me. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord.” You want to be honest with God here at church today. Or you want to pretend that God can't see what's right there in your heart. That's what he said. Let's have a real conversation. If you're willing to come to me, you could be so blessed. But if you want to be stubborn, and your stubborn heart, if you want to harden your heart and not hear me today. Well, there's going to be judgment for that. That's what God says. God. He is not letting anybody get away with anything, but when you come to him with a broken spirit and a contrite heart, God will never despise you. God will never cast you out. If you come to God and agree with God about your sin, if you confess your sin, and repent and turn from your sin to God, and you say, God, I see myself as you see me. And I see that sin that I keep holding on to, and I see the way I'm treating this other person in my life. And God, I confess these things to you the things that you confess to the Lord, He is faithful and just to forgive you for those sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. What can wash away my sin, nothing but the what, everybody? The blood of Jesus Christ. I don't have any self-righteousness, never have, never will. The only kind of righteousness that there is, is the only one who was ever not a hypocrite, the only one who was really the righteous one, there's only one who can give you righteousness, and his name is Jesus. And see, when I confess my sins, and I turn to put my trust in Jesus, all my sins are washed away, and I'm as white as snow.
See, that's what God's offering. God, he hates hypocrisy. But he's ready to have the real conversation. He's ready. Hey, let's really do some church here today. Let's not put on a show. Let's not look good on the outside. Hey, why don't you come now? Why don't we reason together? Why don't we have a real conversation, and you confess your sin to me, and I’ll wash it away in the righteous blood of my Son, Jesus Christ. And you could leave here today, not hardening your heart the same as you came in, you could leave here today clean, pure, you could leave here today and go make things right with that other person. You could leave here today and you could go share with somebody, I've been holding this in a secret in my life. And I'm tired of being a hypocrite about it. Will you please pray for me about this? You could leave here today washed and pure. If you were to have a real come now God says to you, let us reason together.
So, we're going to take communion. And we're going to give you a time before we take communion. So that you can have this honest conversation between you and God. God, the Word of the Lord came in Zechariah 7. And it was a word that exposed hypocrisy. And so, this weekend, here at our church, we want to address the problem of hypocrisy. And we want God to search all of our hearts and show us hey, is there any way that I'm holding on to sin in my heart right now? Is there any way that I'm mistreating other people in my life right now. And we want to confess those sins up to the Lord. And we want to be washed of those sins. And the only way that we can be washed is by our faith in the blood of Jesus. That's why there's only one sacrifice that was ever righteous that God was actually pleased with. And it was the sacrifice of the body of Jesus to atone for our sins. There's only one kind of blood that is pure that can actually ransom your soul from the judgment that you deserve. And it's the blood, the precious blood of Jesus, that cleanses you from all your sin. And so, we're going to remember, the sacrifice of righteousness, the precious blood that was shed, that's what washes our sins away. But we want to take a moment to confess those sins before God and maybe some people here, maybe you have been walking with the Lord. But you could see that as sin is creeping into your life, you could see that things are not right in some of your relationships, confess that to the Lord today. As we as we give you a moment to do that. Maybe there's some here today, maybe you've been going to church, maybe you've been doing good things. But you've also had sin going on in your life that entire time. And you've never really confessed it to God, you've never really turned from it. Maybe you have prayed about it. But you keep going back to it over and over. Today could be the day that you are washed clean of that. If you come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. So, we're going to give you a chance to pray. And the worship team is going to come up and they're going to sing a prayer, give us clean hands, give us pure hearts. I want to give my soul to you. I want to give my whole heart to you. I don't want to worship anybody else. I don't want to worship myself. I don't want to be living for anything else. God, I want to give you here today, my whole heart, they're going to be singing that song. And you can pray to the Lord, come now the Lord is saying to you, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord.” Though your sins are like scarlet, they could be washed as white as snow. So, I'm going to pray and then you've got a chance to pray to the Lord.
Father in heaven. This is an intense message for us to hear. This is a different way for us to see. Because when we come here to church, we're just happy to be here. And we can't see what's going on in one another's hearts. So, Father, we ask that you would use your word to cut straight to the thoughts and intents of our heart. And Father, we ask that you would search our hearts and minds right now that you would show us any sin that we've been allowing to continue in our life any way that we've been not caring about the other people or mistreating other people, people who need help, but we haven't been there to help them. And Father, I pray that right now we could confess all those things to you. And we could find your forgiveness, your mercy, your steadfast love. I pray that today people's hearts will be washed, clean. And they'll leave here as white as snow. So, Father, we come to pray to you right now, will you please give us clean hands, forgive us for the things that we've done. Forgive, give us pure hearts, turn our hearts away from ourselves and our sins, and turn our hearts to you with a real love for you and a real genuine reflection of your love to other people. So, Father, I pray for everybody here that we went hard in our hearts that we wouldn't say I don't want to hear this. I don't want to deal with this. I don't want to think about this. I pray that today you would soften our hearts, that you would let us see our hearts are open before you that we have no secrets with you. And so let us now in our prayers agree with you about our hearts. Let us now come before you and reason with you and confess our sins to you. And Father, please forgive us for our sins, please cleanse us from all unrighteousness, all because of the sacrifice of your Son Jesus. All because his blood has paid for that sin so that we could be righteous, not because of us, but because of Jesus. So please hear these prayers now in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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