Becoming … an authentic Christian

Becoming an Authentic Christian – Dealing with hypocrisy
Sunday School, MBC, March 30, 2014

What does it mean to be a hypocrite?

We live in a society in which so much is artificial.
WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF ARTIFICIAL THINGS IN SOCIETY TODAY? Christmas trees, wood laminate, brick or stone façade, hearts, sweeteners, plastic surgery, etc.

WHAT, THEN, WOULD AN ARTIFICIAL CHRISTIAN BE? WHAT EXAMPLES CAN YOU THINK OF WHERE SOMEONE WAS AN ARTIFICIAL CHRISTIAN? They act pious in church – but during the week they live a double life. They say all the right words, but when you turn around, you get stabbed in the back.

In this lesson, we will look at a passage where a couple of Christians tried the route of being artificial.

READ Acts 5:1-11

Ananias and Sapphira learned that God does not tolerate artificiality. In their negative example, perhaps we can learn a little of what it means to be an authentic Christian.

There are times when we idealize the early church. I have even heard of pastor speak of their churches being like a New Testament church. We talk of all the great miracles they did. We envy their intense sense of community and caring. It really seemed like a powerful time. Sometimes, however, we forget about THIS story. You won’t hear too many sermons on Ananias and Sapphira. On one hand, it is a story of one of the great scandals of the early church, while, on the other hand, it is a story of punishment that many find harsh and excessive.

Nonetheless, we sometimes learn best from negative examples. I learned the negative side effects of excessive consumption of alcohol from my brother. One night he came home and threw up all over our front door. The next morning, my dad woke him up early and made him clean it all up. I can honestly say that from that day I chose to never get drunk. It had that much impact on my life.

THIS story can’t help but shock us into thinking about the severity of sin. To fully appreciate all the parts of this story, we need to get some background. The church, at this time, did have a very intense and caring fellowship. They not only met together frequently, but they also shared meals and something else that is still profound today – $ HOW WAS THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH USING PROCEEDS OF PROPERTY THAT WAS SOLD AND DONATED BY MEMBERS? They pooled their financial resources and sold their belongings; using the money to help those in need.

Ananias and Sapphira wanted it to look like they were doing this as well. However, they hedged and decided to reserve a portion of the money from the sale while saying that they gave all the money.

WHY DID THEY DO IT? WAS IT GREED? DID THEY JUST WANT THE PRAISE? We don’t know why they chose to lie; only that the sin was so severe that the death penalty was enforced.


The judgment on Ananias and Sapphira would certainly have sent forth a message that God’s power was with this group of believers. Consider the fact that it sent “great fear” to the whole church and ALL WHO HEARD ABOUT IT. They were not afraid that the same thing would happen to them. Rather, this FEAR that filled the church was a reverence or awe for the power of God.

We also need to consider the unique situation of the early church. It was just getting started. People were looking at this group and asking things like, “Can we trust these people?” “Is this just a passing thing or a real movement of God?” “Are these people for real?” (Are they authentic?)

The questions the people asked then are just as important today. Nothing destroys a religious movement quicker than hypocrisy.
Jimmy Swaggert, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Peter Popoff, Mike Trout

On May 3, 1987, the story of Gary Hart’s fling with blond model and actress Donna Rice finally erupted into a national scandal.
As it unraveled, the tale included accounts of her visit to his townhouse in Washington, a boat trip to Bimini, off the coast of Florida, as well as assorted reports about the promises he had allegedly made to her about their future together.
Gary Hart showed no remorse.
On May 5, he admitted he’d made a “big mistake” but insisted he had done “nothing immoral.”
On May 8, Hart announced he was withdrawing from the Presidential race.
On May 25, Hart’s picture with Donna Rice sitting on his lap appeared on the front page of a national weekly — along with an account of their overnight trip to Bimini.
On Sept. 22, Hart told Ted Koppel on ABC-TV’s Nightline that he had not been “absolutely faithful” throughout his marriage.
On Dec. 15, Gary Hart announced he had decided to re-enter the Presidential race.
On Jan. 9, he told a newspaper in Des Moines, Iowa, that, if elected, he “wouldn’t be the first adulterer in the White House.”
By Jan. 13, he had received almost $1 million of taxpayers’ money for his campaign.
On Jan. 15, at the Democratic Presidential candidates debate in Iowa, he maintained that “there is a difference between public morality and private morality.”

At this critical time in the history of the church, ANY sign of hypocrisy had to be dealt with swiftly and surely. God certainly does not execute those who lie or practice deceit today. If He did, people would be dropping like flies all around us. But this story emphasizes the importance of authenticity in the life of the church and in the lives of Christians. We have to be people who are what we say we are.

A man sat down to supper with his family, saying grace, thanking God for the food, for the hands which prepared it, and for the source of all life. But during the meal he complained about the freshness of the bread, the bitterness of the coffee and the sharpness of the cheese. His young daughter questioned him, “Dad, do you think God heard the grace today?”
He answered confidently, “Of course.”
Then she asked, “And do you think God heard what you said about the coffee, the cheese, and the bread?” Not so confidently, he answered, “Why, yes, I believe so.”
The little girl concluded, “Then which do you think God believed, Dad?”
The man was suddenly aware that his mealtime prayer had become a rote, thoughtless habit rather than an attentive and honest conversation with God. By not concentrating on that important conversation, he had left the door open to let hypocrisy sneak in.


1. The aim low approach. If you keep your standards low enough, it is much easier to hit those standards and you won’t be considered a hypocrite. In marriage, that equates to the following change: instead of as long as we both shall LIVE; it would be as long as we both shall LOVE. In politics, the change is from honesty to plausible deniability (Clinton).

2. The live and let live approach is a variation of the aim low approach. The most important part of this approach is to never say or even imply that there is a right or wrong in the behavior of a person. If you do, then it is being “judgmental” and if there are any flaws in what you are doing, then you will be a hypocrite for pointing out flaws in another. The reference for this is in Matthew where Jesus tells us to remove the plank from our eye before we notice the speck in another. But, IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING JUDGMENTAL AND CONFRONTING WRONG BEHAVIOR? Jesus confronted people all the time. The key is not being blind to our own faults.

Both methods avoid hypocrisy, but do so by destroying the values on which a healthy society is based. What kind of society would we be if we never questioned wrong behavior? We couldn’t confront racism, abuse, neglect, anger, or anything else!

3. A healthier way to avoid hypocrisy is with spiritual honesty.
HOW DOES IT HELP US? It allows us to be open about our own shortcomings and confess that we are sinners. We never pretend that our sins are any worse or any better than anyone else.

The following words are from an old engraving on a cathedral in Labeck, Germany:
Thus speaketh Christ our Lord to us:
You call Me master and obey Me not.
You call Me light and see Me not.
You call Me the Way and walk Me not.
You call Me life and live Me not.
You call Me wise and follow Me not.
You call Me fair and love Me not.
You call Me rich and ask Me not.
You call Me eternal and seek Me not.
If I condemn thee, blame Me not.

When we confront someone, we do so only after prayerful self-examination, and we give the other person the right to confront us in a similar way if they see us doing something that is wrong. We don’t present ourselves as better than we are – or better than the other person is. We confess we fall short at the same time we are trying to leap ahead.

Because of people like Jimmy Swaggert and the Bakers, we know that every era will have hypocrites. But if more of us reach for spiritual honesty, our witness will survive their falls, and God will bless the faithful witness of His children.

The expression “face the music” is said to have originated in Japan. According to the story, one man in the imperial orchestra couldn’t play a note. Being a person of great influence and wealth, he had demanded that he be given a place in the group because he wanted to “perform” before the emperor. The conductor agreed to let him sit in the second row of the orchestra, even though he couldn’t read music. He was given a flute, and when a concert would begin, he’d raise his instrument, pucker his lips, and move his fingers. He would go through all the motions of playing, but he never made a sound. This deception continued for two years.
Then a new conductor took over. He told the orchestra that he wanted to audition each player personally. One by one they performed in his presence. Then came the flutist’s turn. He was frantic with worry, so he pretended to be sick. However, the doctor who was ordered to examine him declared that he was perfectly well. The conductor insisted that the man appear and demonstrate his skill. Shamefacedly he had to confess that he was a fake. He was unable to “face the music.”
In the realm of Christian service, many professing believers go through the motions, but they are only pretenders. Someday they will be called upon to stand before the Judge of heaven and earth, and their deception will be revealed. God will then separate the “phonies” from the real Christians. No one will be able to hide in the crowd. Each will be made to “face the music.”

As mentioned earlier, the church will always have hypocrites. But each of us has a choice in how we will respond. Let me give you some applications to consider:

1. Find a person to be your spiritual advisor. This should be a mature Christian of the same sex who you trust and can be vulnerable.

THE BIBLE PASSAGE THAT ADVISES US TO CONFESS OUR SINS TO ONE ANOTHER IS James 5:16. Do not confess because you are searching for absolution or forgiveness. Do it because it helps you become accountable to another person. Do it because God’s forgiveness can be best felt through another human being. Do it because it will reduce the temptation to be a hypocrite.

WHY DOES CONFESSING TO ANOTHER HUMAN BEING REDUCE THE TEMPATION TO BE FALSE? When you confess to someone else, you realize that another person know you exactly as you are, and this reduces the temptation to be false. That is the essence of vulnerability.

2. Read scripture daily, remembering to apply it to yourself.
Psalm 119:105
Proverbs 6:24
Joshua 1:8
Each time you read, ask “what is this saying to ME?”

3. Encourage Christian friends to give you both supportive and developmental feedback. This can only be done in small groups or though intimate relationships with other people. We all need affirmation and accountability. Feedback helps us to grow to be authentic.


Becoming an encourager

Becoming an Encourager
Small group, March 23, 2014, MBC

Thought for the week: Are you an encourager or a discourager?

Well, nobody likes for someone to rain on their parade! That’s why we need to learn to encourage, rather than discourage each other.

How many of you remember the song, “Home on the range”? “…where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.” Wouldn’t it be great to live a life like that? Well, we can’t do much about the discouraging words that come to us, any more than we can do something about cloudy days. But we can work toward having a Christian community where words of encouragement are more frequent than the words of discouragement from the world.

discouraging sayings in our culture. Can you list some?
Nice guys finish last. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The only one who likes change is a baby with a dirty diaper. You can’t fight city hall.

Fortunately, there ARE plenty of encouraging words to us in Scripture:

READ Matthew 5:5 – Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
READ Matthew 28:20 – surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
READ Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
READ 2 Timothy 1:6-2:3 – focal passages.

To really make a difference in this world we need to take the encouraging words of Scripture and fight off the plague of discouragement. Discouragement is like a disease. HOW DO YOU FIGHT OFF A DISEASE? Inoculate yourself! Take precautions!

Who needs to be an encourager? EVERYBODY!

What professions need to be encouragers?” Coaches, Teachers, Political leaders, etc.

Alan Loy McGinnis, in Bringing Out the Best in People, writes:
A proven motivator will make it to the top before a proven genius. When Andrew Carnegie hired Charles Schwab to administer his far-flung steel empire, Schwab became the first man in history to earn a million dollars a year while in someone else’s employ. Schwab was once asked what equipped him to earn $3,000 a day. Was it his knowledge of steel manufacturing? “Nonsense,” snorted Schwab. “I have lots of men working for me who know more about steel than I do.” Schwab was paid such a handsome amount largely because of his ability to inspire other people. “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among the men the greatest asset I possess,” he said, and any leader who can do that can go almost anywhere and name almost any price.

Well, it should not come as a surprise that then that church leaders also need this skill. But what about us in the pew? Do we encourage our staff? When one of our staff has a new idea, how do we respond? Do we say, “Oh, that will never work!” or “That’s great, how can I help?”

The need to encourage others in the church is nothing new. Paul needed encouragement while he was imprisoned for two years in a Roman jail. (By the way, do you think Paul would have written all those letters if he WASN’T in jail?) The encouragement he gave to Timothy is a good example of what he gave to others.
There are two kinds of encouragement:
1. helping others see that the challenge ahead is not so overwhelming as they think
2. helping the person see more clearly the power of the resources available to them

Let’s look at that first one.
What was the most intimidating challenge faced by the first century church?
PERSECUTION. Persecution had put Paul into prison. It had also almost got him killed.

READ 2 Corinthians 11:24-26

Paul could speak authoritatively about persecution. But did Paul whine about persecution? NO!!!!!!

READ 2 Timothy 1:8, 12

If other people threaten you with death, so what? Jesus Christ has “destroyed death” by taking away its power. That is why Paul could encourage Timothy and us to “endure hardship with us like a good soldier…”.(2:3) We should look for ways to encourage each other especially during the hard times.

Robert Schuller tells a story about a banker who always tossed a coin in the cup of a legless beggar who sat on the street outside the bank. But, unlike most people, the banker would always insist on getting one of the pencils the man had beside him. “You are a merchant,” the banker would say, “and I always expect to receive good value from merchants I do business with.” One day the legless man was not on the sidewalk. Time passed and the banker forgot about him, until he walked into a public building and there in the concessions stand sat the former beggar. He was obviously the owner of his own small business now. “I have always hoped you might come by someday,” the man said. “You are largely responsible for me being here. You kept telling me that I was a ‘merchant’. I started thinking of myself that way, instead of a beggar receiving gifts. I started selling pencils — lots of them. You gave me self-respect, caused me to look at myself differently.”

We should also remember that we have an abundance of resources to face the challenges ahead of us.
two kinds of resources. Simply, they are internal and external. Our internal resources are the gifts of God within us. Paul likened the presence of the Holy Spirit in Timothy to a fire – a fire that was already smoldering, but which could be fanned into flame. That flame could quench the spirit of fear often found in people who are discouraged.

As Paul told Timothy, God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and self discipline. God has given us triple power to overcome fear!

Secondly, we have access to external resources. One of these resources is the support of Christian friends.
His name was Onesiphorus. He not only encouraged Paul, but he set the example for us, too.

Suffering comes to all of us, and no one can suffer for us. Even so, we can be supported in those difficult times by the prayers and understanding of loved ones and friends. It’s when we are too proud to admit our need to others that we are in the greatest danger.
The Sequoia trees of California tower as much as 300 feet above the ground. Strangely, these giants have unusually shallow root systems that reach out in all directions to capture the greatest amount of surface moisture. Seldom will you see a redwood standing alone because high winds would quickly uproot it. That’s why they grow in clusters. Their intertwining roots provide support for one another against the storms.
Support is what Jesus wanted from Peter, James, and John in Gethsemane as he faced Calvary. On the cross as the world’s sin-bearer He would experience His Father’s wrath and abandonment. That was the awful cup He prayed would be taken from Him. In that dark hour, He looked to His disciples for prayerful alertness and compassion. But oh, how they disappointed Him! Somehow the sight of His sleeping disciples must have made the isolation of Gethesemane that much more painful.
If Jesus looked to human support in His crisis hour, how much more do Christians need one another when they suffer! Let’s be willing to ask someone to pray for us and with us. And let’s be alert for opportunities to lend our support to others who are suffering.

Seeing where we are now is the first step to change. But it isn’t the only step. Once we see who we are, we can decide, “Is this how I want to be”?

Have you been raining on someone else’s parade?

Do people come to you for encouragement or run from you lest they be discouraged?
If you’re willing to become an encourager, let me suggest three steps to get there:

1. Tell each person in your family of one quality you see in him or her that gives you hope for that person’s future. That is the first step (Page 76). What needs to be fanned into flame in their life?

2. Pause long enough to choose a positive reaction when people tell you their plans or dreams. This may be a long breath for some, but practice making it a habit. See the good in the plan before you determine why it won’t work.

3. Find one person each week who seems discouraged and encourage them. Be an Onesiphorous!