In the early days of acting a hypocrite was considered a good term. It described an actor who could put on many different faces or masks. Actors in the Greek theatre wore masks depicting an emotion. The masks were large, often twice the size of an actor’s face, so they could be easily seen. The Jews used the word hypocrite to describe a liar, deceiver, two-faced, or one who hid his true nature behind a mask.

How would you define the word hypocrite? To be a hypocrite is to believe one thing and behave contrary to your beliefs. If someone called you a hypocrite, how would that make you feel? Christians often get labeled as hypocrites. Christians are hypocrites, but so are non-Christians. Non-Christians believe people should behave a certain way based on various values, and Christians believe you should behave in a way that mimics Christ.

In the Gospels, Jesus accuses the Pharisees of hypocrisy because they used brassy actions that attracted attention, but covered their true heart intentions. They would pretend to do what was really important to God, but Jesus since He was God had x-ray vision into they hearts.

The religious are often the most hypocritical. The Pharisees were outwardly very religious people. The Pharisees controlled the synagogues, its teachings, and were regarded as the chief interpreters of Jewish legalism. They not only believed the Law, they expanded it to include 400-plus rules, and insisted everyone else follow too. Jesus used hypocrite to describe the Pharisees and pronounced seven woes on them for their hypocrisy.

What are the various faces of a hypocrite? And do you wear masks that fit?

First, hypocrites add to the message of the gospel [Matthew 23:13]. The message of the gospel is a simple message: you are rebellious sinner separated from God, but Jesus came to redeem sinful man through the cross, and only those who respond through faith and repentance will be redeemed forever. Though it is a simple message it is not easy. To make the application of the gospel message more than “repent and believe” by adding church attendance, tithing, baptism or any other work as prerequisites for salvation is duplicitous to the work of Christ.

Second, hypocrites use God to manipulate other people [14-15]. Hypocrites commonly devour people for selfish reasons. Hypocrites will injure people with their words and cover with a pious action. Some in the name of God have used and abused their listeners. That is blasphemous. Hypocrites are good at winning debates and proselytizing people to their own opinions. Jesus says the missionary efforts of hypocrites pave the way to hell. Instead of converting people to Christ, hypocrite’s covert people to their system that do not leave room for a Messiah.

Third, hypocrites seek to squeeze out of commitments [16-22]. Hypocrites are skilled liars. They know the loopholes or lingo to get out of commitments. They will make religious oaths with religious loopholes. Jesus says that all oaths are related to God and therefore binding [cf. Matthew 5:33-37]. Evasive oaths are not oath, but lies.

Some Christians say that they are committed to God because they read their Bibles everyday, pray before their meals, go to church faithfully, and give to good causes, but one glance at their life and you would see a huge disconnect. You can commit to all good things making yourself look godly [i.e. reading the Word, prayer, and serving the church], but if your commitments are not rooted in Christ they are self-centered facades.

Fourth, hypocrites are masters at making little things big and big things little [23-24]. Jesus condemns the Pharisees for not understanding God’s Law. The Law required that everything produced should be tithed to the Temple. The silly act that Jesus describes of counting every kernel of spice to make sure that it amounted to exactly 10 percent, no more and no less. Jesus was not criticizing tithing, but was pointing out that true righteousness results in godly behavior—not just an appearance of godliness.

How is it easier to focus on doing the little things—those less personal—than the big ones? Doing small duties are easy, but delving your heart, soul and mind into following Christ takes discipline, time and sacrifice. What did Jesus emphasize in His example of straining at gnats but swallowing a camel? There is great danger in focusing on the things that don’t matter, while ignoring the things that do. For example, some come to church on Sundays to worship God, but Monday through Saturday you are living separate from God. Sunday for them is a show, rather than serious occasion to worship God with His people that transform the rest of their workweek.

Fifth, hypocrites are concerned more about the outside than the inside [23:25-32]. Jesus casts two disturbing pictures of the Pharisees emphasize the outer man over the inner man. The first example is of keeping the outside of a vessel clean without taking the time to clean the inside [25-26]. Would you eat off a plate that was not fully clean, but caked with yesterday’s casserole? Or would you drink from a cup with three-day old milk marks inside? Of course not, that is just gross. That is exactly Jesus’ point. You are clean on the outside, but inside you are unclean.

The second example is decorating the outside of tombs. You can spend all your time on beautifying things that really don’t matter. People spend big bucks on making our faces look better, teeth whiter, clothes brighter, hair shinier, and body thinner. This might make you look good for a time, but in light of eternity it does not matter A beautiful tombstone does not change the condition of the decaying body within. Neither does a mask of Christian righteousness make a person who is dead to Christ inside into a true Christian [cf. Matthew 6:1-3; 15:1-11; 22:18-22]. What you do if you knew no one would see reveals who you really are and whom you really live for!

How do hypocrites stop playing with masks and start being authentic in Christ?

First, realize hell has hypocrites [33]. Hypocrisy reveals your hearts intents. The difficult truth is, the more hypocrisy you have in your heart the harder it is to change. Followers of Christ hate hypocrisy in their hearts and are committed to change in Christ. If a hypocrite continues in hypocrisy there is a good chance he is not a follower of Christ. If there is no change hell is on your horizon.

Second, repent and open yourself to God [34-36]. The response of the Pharisee should have been, “You are the Messiah, forgive us our sins.” However, they would not respond and repent, rather they recoiled to their hardheartedness. Jesus, the Messenger of the gospel, prophesies about other messengers He will send [i.e. apostles, disciples and followers] who will confront the religious system with their wholehearted commitment to their Lord Christ Jesus. Yet just as they rejected and killed Jesus, they will reject and kill His messengers. 1 Peter 2:22-25 says,

“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Third, restore intimacy with your Savior [37-39]. God is a restorer of His people. This is a great promise. When repentance is authentic, restoration of intimacy with God follows. As 1 Peter 2:1-3 says,

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Fourth, remember servanthood is your calling [23:11-12]. Not serving yourself, but serving your Master, Christ. To preface Jesus’ woeful concerns towards hypocrisy He says, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

In conclusion, do not criticize the Pharisee for his hypocrisy for Jesus shares this message not only to them, but also to you. You could be a Pharisee too. Remove your masks. Repent; allow God to restore, and remember your position under God is a humble servant. Pharisees have infected the Christian community. Subtly. But Jesus thinks the heart condition of hypocrites is a serious matter to consider.

lead me not into temptation

Computer viruses are almost like human viruses. Computer viruses have memories, can be caught anytime or anywhere, they can even be lethal to your computers health by sabotaging your files, programs, security system, and causing your hard drive to crash. Computer viruses have cause a lot of damage, cost lot’s money, and caused a lot of frustration from lost information [Solution = Buy a Mac. I just had to throw that in there!].

Temptations are a lot like computer viruses. As followers of Christ, you have incredible foolproof anti-virus software. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, ”No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Before we look at how to handle temptations, let’s look at the sources of our temptations.

What is the Source of My Temptation?

The Tempter. Satan in the Scripture is called, the tempter [Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5]. He is sneaky and sly little serpent. He is like a computer hacker that seeks to cause havoc in your life. He knows when your security system is the weakest. He doesn’t know your wiring quite like God because he is not omniscient. However, he has been around humans for a long time. Therefore, he knows your heart tendencies.[1]

People tend to give into Satan’s lucrative temptations. It is too easy to blame your sin on the serpent. Therefore, when people sin, you will often hear the excuse, “The devil made me do it.” Does the devil really make you do it? Does that devil really cause you to sin? No, you decide to sin. You do not have to choose to sin no matter how enticing it is. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” [James 4:7]

The Heart. The Bible describes the heart as your inner man—the real you—where your beliefs affect your behavior. Your heart is your control center. The Bible says there is something seriously wrong with your heart. Your control center has a glitch in its main frame, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” [Jeremiah 17:9] Your heart is sick and contaminated with a spiritual virus inherited from birth by your first parents in the Garden of Eden.

The World. Your world is warped by sin and temptation. Love for the world begins in the heart. The Bible warns, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him.” [1 John 2:15] Worldliness is exalting yourself and excluding God, for the next verse says, “For all that is in the world—the lust of his flesh, the lust of his eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” [1 John 2:16].

The world knows you crave love and affection, fame and fortune, comfort and peace. The world makes it so appetizing you got to have it. And the devil is the world’s best promoter and commercial advertiser because he is the “god of this world.” [2 Corinthians 4:4]. He has corrupted the system by placing a lie in your mind that you are the center of the universe and God is subservient to all your wants and wishes. James 4:4 says contrary, “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself and enemy of God.”

Do you believe Common Lies Concerning your Sin and Temptations?

It is common to believe lies about the temptations you face. 1 Corinthians 10:13, clears up many lies you will have about daily temptations you come across.

LIE #1: “No one else is going through what I’m going through.” Whatever temptation you face is not unique to you. Someone in human history has faced it too. Your temptation is not a “special case.” Satan would love to convince you that it is special so that you do not seek help because no one will understand. Although, a member of your church might not have walked in the shoes of your temptations more than likely they have walked through similar temptations since “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” Seek accountability through temptation for a single string by itself is weak, but strings woven together into a cord are strong [1 Corinthians 12].

LIE #2: “God must not care about me, since He caused this temptation.” God is never the cause of temptation [James 1:13-14]. God does not tempt because He is not evil. He allows temptation [Job 1-2] within certain parameters. The Bible is clear; you are tempted by your own desires [James 1]. On the flip side, “God is faithful.” He will help you through temptations, giving you the strength to overcome, and restoring those who fall seeking Him for repentance. Sinners are never beyond God’s ability to restore.

LIE #3: “My temptations are too strong for me to resist.” Temptations do become stronger the more you give in. However, you will never have a temptation too strong you can’t get out because God “will not let you be tempted beyond your ability.” This is a precious promise from God.

Often we interpret this verse to have reference to temptations that test our limits to the extreme. We make the verse say something that is not really there. We use it to create an illustration that the war against Satan and temptation is no problem at all. God, will not cause us to go up against something that we are not eminently qualified to face. And when life throws things at us that are overwhelming, we wonder why our experience doesn’t match our understanding of this verse. It is easy to lose heart. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and forces of darkness [Ephesians 6:12]. He allows us to go up against these enemies, and gives us the resources to engage them and endure through the struggle [Ephesians 6:14-18].

LIE #4: “There is no way out, therefore, I must give in.” God always gives you an escape hatch, “with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” If you do not know a way out, pray. As Jesus taught you to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” [Matthew 6:13; cf. John 14:14; James 4:2] Often our only escape is to endure through it [cf. James 1:12; 1 Corinthians 6:7]. As A.B. Simpson wrote,

“Temptation exercises our faith and teaches us to pray. It is like a military drill and a taste of battle for a young soldier. It puts us under fire and compels us to exercise our weapons and prove their potency. It shows us the recourse of Christ and preciousness of the promises of God. Every victory gives us new confidence in our victorious leader and new courage for the next onslaught of the foe.”[2]

How Can I Overcome Sin, Temptation, and a Wicked Heart?

First, read, know, and rehearse the Word of God. When Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, the devil undermined God’s Word, twisting it, and mixing enough truth to make it sound so tasty [Matthew 4:1-11]. Satan is crafty and cleaver with his use of Scripture. Be ready for the devil by reading the Word of God regularly and daily. Don’t just read it, know it, and memorize it. Filling your memory with God’s Word can help you detect tempting viruses. This is why David wrote, “Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You.” [Psalm 119:11] The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit [Ephesians 6:17]. It is a defensive weapon against the wiles of the devil. Wield it. Train to use it well [1 John 2:5]. Be ready to whip it out for action.

Second, run from sin, Satan, and temptation. There is no sense in sticking around to see if you are strong enough to fight sin on your own. You will lose. Guaranteed. Therefore, run like hell or else hell will have a handle on you. If you hop in a canoe and begin paddling down the Niagara River you will soon find the current moving faster and faster. It is easier to pull out far upstream than just before the falls. There comes a point of no return when you will not have strength in yourself to turn back and fight the current. It is best to not even get into the boat or go near the river. Run.[3]

Third, love your Lord Jesus Christ. When you love Jesus, things of this world and desires of your heart seem shallow compared to the depths of Christ’s riches. Think about the cross of Christ and His love for sinners [1 John 3:16]. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

In conclusion, temptation is something every human faces. Temptation in and of itself is not sin, but it is the first stage towards sinning. Temptation comes at you like blazing arrows at from Satan, the world, and your wicked heart. Your only vaccination to combat the constant nagging attacks of temptation is using the Word of God and loving Jesus Christ. Jesus was tempted, but did not sin [Hebrews 4:15-16]. Therefore, He knows the full weight of temptation because He did not give into it.

Is there hope for me if I have given into temptation and sinned? Yes. Restoration through Christ is possible. You never can go to far from God not to be made right through Christ. Repent of your sin and restore your need of Christ for the strength to endure through temptation. Live victorious because Christ is your sin conquering King. He has crushed your foes upon the cross.

For further reading check out John Owen’s work, Overcoming Sin and Temptation.

[1] 10 Temptation Truths: 1. Satan is a real Enemy; 2. Satan will H.I.T. you (Hungry, Isolated, or Tired); 3. Jesus is your victorious Warrior-King; 4. The Holy Spirit is your power; 5. Biblical truth is your counterpunch; 6. Christ is your identity; 7. Escape is always possible; 8. Satan eventually taps out; 9. Repent whenever you tap out and fight another round; and 10. Life is a battle with many rounds.

[2] A.B. Simpson, Christ and the Bible: The Epistle of James. Christian Publications, Harrisburg, PA. 1886. 9.