Trinity 4 Sermon, 2017
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
Are Christians hypocrites? By definition, we must say no. By definition, what’s a hypocrite? When a hypocrite “does” what he tells you “not to do,” how does a hypocrite respond? He defends himself, right?
He says, “Well, it was right for me to do it, and wrong for you. I know what I’m doing, and I know you’re a few steps behind. You would’ve hurt someone, but I’m under control.”
By definition, that’s a hypocrite. And, by definition, that’s not a Christian!
By definition, what’s a Christian?
When a Christian “does” what God tells him “not to do,” how does a Christian respond?
He confesses his sin to the one he sinned against or his pastor, receives the forgiveness of God for life-everlasting, and endures the shame and punishment (sometimes public, sometimes private) that his sin deserves. Christians don’t, they can’t, defend sin.
You cease to be a Christian if you define yourself as a hypocrite. You drive the Holy Spirit away when you defend sin.
We all, from time to time, act hypocritically.
We encourage giving but don’t give.
We require honesty and tell lies.
We lambast another person’s public downfall and willfully commit the same sins in private.
If we don’t judge ourselves, God will judge us.
If we don’t condemn ourselves, God will condemn us.
If we have nothing to forgive, God will forgive nothing.
That doesn’t mean go out and sin so God has more to forgive. That does mean be honest about your sins and repent. Go to confession.
The life of the Christian is one of repentance.
When Jesus says, “Judge not, and you will not be judged” (Lk. 6:37), He doesn’t mean “Judges aren’t supposed to judge.” He doesn’t mean “Parents aren’t supposed to discipline their children.” He doesn’t mean “Let the unknown, scary-looking stranger into your home in the middle of the night, because who are you to judge?”
Christians judge all the time, and rightly, because we’re not speaking from our authority but God’s Word.
I mean it like this:
In First Corinthians, St. Paul gives us a list of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God. He writes, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
The world, against these verses, asks Christians: “Will you inherit the kingdom of God?” And the Christian answers truthfully, “Yes.”
The world, then, asks its second question: “Have you ever been sexually immoral, worshiped another god, committed adultery, stolen, been greedy, gotten drunk, or hated anyone?”
And the Christian answers truthfully, “Yes.”
Then the world concludes, “You hypocrite! You say one thing and do another. It’s okay for you to be sexually immoral, but it’s not okay for others?”
The idea of sin, and repenting of that sin, confessing it, and seeking to not sin that sin anymore, that entire concept, is lost on the unbeliever.
The Christian should respond, as we’re taught in the rite for Private Confession and Absolution in our hymnal, “I’m sorry for all this and ask for grace. I want to do better.” We should want to stop what we’ve been doing wrong. We should want to do better.
The Christian knows that God is the Authority, and we have sinned against Him by thought, word, and deed.
“Wherefore we flee for refuge to Thine infinite mercy, seeking and imploring Thy grace for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ” (TLH, 5).
So it’s important to realize that when you repent, when you confess your sins, you are condemning what you have done and seeking to do better.
By definition, that’s how a Christian deals with sin.
Now, in the way that I’ve just explained sin and repentance, am I guilty of judging in the way that Jesus condemns?
The answer is no.
When God speaks a rebuke, He does so for good.
St. Paul writes to Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tm. 3:16).
God desires that all be saved. He speaks that you would be taught, corrected, and trained in righteousness.
To use reason and God’s Word to argue against the unnatural ways of the world is not the judging that Jesus condemns.
To call you to repentance, if you are obviously unrepentant, is the most Christian thing to do.
Expect your pastor to speak the Word of God to you in order to teach, reprove, correct, and train. Expect that in the sermon during church and in conversations over coffee.
And here’s why it matters.
Here’s why it’s worth it to go through these arguments.
Here’s why it’s worth it to have closed communion and private confession.
Some Christians define themselves as hypocrites.
And if you’re a hypocrite, you can’t say jack about anybody else’s sin.
But hypocrisy doesn’t define the Christian. Your sin doesn’t define you. Your disease doesn’t define you.
God defines you.
Baptism defines you.
The Lord’s Supper defines you.
We’re defined by what we say, “[Jesus is] the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (Jn. 14:6).
We’re defined by what we wear. In Holy Baptism, we receive “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).
We’re defined by what we eat and drink. In the Lord’s Supper, we eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus Christ, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins (cf. Mt. 26). Those are Jesus’ words!
What we hear and say defines us. What we wear as Christians defines us. And what we eat.
Humanity is best defined this way: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).
And, “At the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rm. 5:6).
And, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rm. 5:8).
These define us not as hypocrites but as sinners redeemed by Christ the crucified.
Christians sin, of course.
Christians say one thing and do another, yes.
But Christians confess their sins.
They repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and are saved.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!