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If you’ve been in the church long enough, you start to notice a strange phenomenon. Some members of your congregation may speak godly words at church, then walk out the door and act completely differently in their real lives. You might have heard these people referred to as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Put simply, they are hypocrites. 

I recently watched this phenomenon play itself out firsthand, as a woman I knew from church resorted to name-calling on Facebook after a “friend” commented with a dissenting opinion on her political post. It took me aback for a moment, as I wondered how others would know that she was a Christian when she behaved in such a manner in a public forum.  

All of us are in danger of hypocrisy because we are all sinners. It is easy to slip and fall into human habits of sin… even when we are regular church-goers. 

Jesus condemned that the religious leaders of biblical times, “... honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9)

But when we are true followers of Jesus Christ, we do not say one thing and do another. We must be on guard against this behavior in our own lives. 

In a blog post, pastor and author Tim Challies writes that people who merely pretend to be godly should be warned of five things: 

1. Hypocrisy angers God. 

Challies writes, “God hates hypocrisy and hypocrites… because hypocrisy misuses religion, taking advantage of its laws and decrees for self-advancement.  The hypocrite wants religion—even the Christian faith—only for the advantages he gains from it.”

God’s laws are the only laws that Christians should be preaching. When we twist these around too meet our own desires, it angers God. 

2. Hypocrisy is self-delusion. 

“Many hypocrites deceive themselves, thinking that their hypocritical deeds are evidence of true godliness or, even worse, that they have the ability to merit God’s favor,” Challies says. 

Acting hypocritically ultimately hurts yourself because you lose favor with God. Don’t believe that hypocrisy is okay if it’s not hurting anyone. It is hurting someone: you. 

3. Hypocrisy is offensive to God and man. 

“Unbelievers hate the hypocrite because he makes himself appear godly; God hates him because he merely looks godly,” writes Challies. 

No one finds hypocrisy to be an attractive quality. Not God, not the world. You don’t want to become everyone’s enemy. 

4. Hypocrisy is pointless. 

Challies says, “The hypocrite may labor hard in this life, but as soon as he dies he will lose absolutely everything. The only reward he will be able to enjoy will be in this life since he will certainly be condemned in death.”

What is the point in pretending to godly when it ends in eternal damnation? Sinners will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21). Genuine believers who have accepted Christ will. 

5. Hypocrisy brings no comfort in death. 

“People who have only painted over their depravity with a thin veneer of counterfeit holiness will find themselves without hope and without comfort upon their deathbed,” writes Challies. 

A life of false Christianity is not one of happiness. A life lived in holiness is what one can look back on without regrets. 

How can the hypocrite save himself from a live of sin? Scripture says clearly: Repent. 

Tim Challies writes, “... there is hope for the hypocrite and the words of Paul should ring in the ears of the hypocrite: ‘Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?’ (Romans 2:4). Those who turn to Christ in repentance and faith will be cleansed of every sin, including this one.” 

And if you are living a holy life, what can you do to keep hypocrites from making you stumble in your own faith? 

Crosswalk.com contributor Debbie McDaniel writes, “The best way to expose the false lies of the enemy is to know the Truth of the One voice who matters most. Know the real and you'll know what is false… As we keep pressing in to know God, who is real, who is Truth, and we set our minds on His Word, spending time there, meditating on it, eventually we become very trained in detecting the ‘fake.’" 

 

Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/IngramPublishing

All of us have dreams. Growing up, you probably imagined yourself becoming an astronaut or a cowboy, or maybe a ballerina. As we get older, these goals tend to change shape into something deeper and more personal. We dream about marriage, family, and a rewarding career. We dream about seeing the world, writing a book, or performing on stage. Even something as common as owning a house or becoming a parent can occupy a special place in our heart. But what happens when we have to let these dreams go?

When I was a teenager, I dreamed of getting married and having a big family like the one I was raised in. Today I am 30 and single, and I’ve learned some dreams cannot be met, only mourned. I’m not the only one either. Over at Relevant Magazine, Shara Lewis has penned a truly beautiful feature about finding God amidst broken dreams. In particular, Lewis reflects how sometimes the Lord asks us to walk away from our personal hopes in order to find contentment in him. She writes,

“Contentment is learned. And like most things that do not come naturally and we have to learn, contentment is hard. Finding contentment in whatever circumstance is learned. And I would argue that it’s something that, through discipline, must be continually learned every day for the rest of our lives. And gracious contentment is something that is empowered by the strength supplied by Christ. And true contentment is ultimately only found in Christ. Through Christ who strengthens, we can grieve our dreams. We can grieve our losses. Trusting all the while in His unchanging character.”

“And through Christ who strengthens, we can take hold of a new dream.”

Life doesn’t always turn out the way we planned it. Maybe, like me, you’re still searching for someone to build a family with. Perhaps you found that person, but they were taken from you unexpectedly. Perhaps you’re still yearning to accomplish that lifelong goal before it inches farther away, or maybe each day has become a battle against illness, depression, and uncertainty. Regardless, God calls us all to move forward in faithfulness.

There is a powerful verse in the book of Ecclesiastes which reads as follows,

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-12

Many dreams fade. Some we are called away from, others we must mourn. Still, whatever circumstance Christians find themselves in, we can rest in the knowledge that God is present and he mourns with us. All things happen in their own time, according to his will. Whether or not our dreams come true, we will only find contentment with him.

 

*Ryan Duncan is an Editor at Crosswalk.com

**Published 5/24/2017

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Love the ones you’re with. Sometimes this feels easy, and other times (maybe even most of the time) this feels really hard…  Anything that involves other people has its hardships because people know how to get on each other’s nerves, they disagree on things, they place matters of importance in varying orders, they subconsciously do something annoying or rude, or they consciously do something mean or petty etc. It may seem like you’re always in a battle to give people grace. It’s hard to give grace when you feel like it’s undeserved or taken for granted. But if we remind ourselves of how God gives grace, we humbly realize that withholding it from others only hurts us.

If you look at a church up close or “behind the scenes,” you’re going to see some messiness because the church is filled with messy people. Instead of trying to clean up appearances so we look good on the outside maybe we should embrace the mess. Jon Bloom, staff writer for desiringGod.org, shares,

But this is the way it’s supposed to be. Because the mess is what draws out the one thing that advances the church’s mission more than anything else. And this one thing is why we must not, for selfish reasons, leave the church.”

We like to choose our church, our Bible study, small group, or friends group based on people we like, maybe even admire, and these are usually people we feel comfortable around, can laugh with, and who we trust won’t hurt us. But have you ever thought about Jesus’ disciples? We usually think of them as a band of brothers united around Jesus. And while they were certainly united in following Jesus, they may not have all liked each other at first. Jesus chose those disciples and placed them together; how quickly did they get over their grudge of having a tax collector with them and a woman who used to be possessed by demons? Bloom writes,

The very next generation of early Christians didn’t get to choose each other either. They too were thrown together with others they likely wouldn’t have chosen: Palestinian and Hellenistic Jews, Jews and Gentiles, educated and uneducated, slaves and slave owners, impoverished and aristocrats, former zealots and former tax collectors, former prostitutes and former Pharisees.”

John 15:16-17 gives us these words of Jesus:

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”

And in Matthew 16:18, Jesus tells His disciples how they are to live in community and love each other:

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

The church is the context that Jesus has given us to love one another in, to grow in, and to bring others to—“ a community of diverse, sin-polluted, defective individuals from all sorts of life-shaping pasts living life together in an impossible love,” says Bloom.

He continues,

Then Jesus gave his church an impossible mission: preach the gospel throughout the whole, God-rejecting, Christ-hating world (Luke 21:17; John 15:18), and plant impossible communities among every people where diverse, sin-polluted, defective individuals from all sorts of life-shaping pasts would live out Jesus’s impossible command to love one another (Matthew 28:19–20).”

As Boom states, this is an impossible love, an impossible community, and an impossible mission… By human means alone, this plan will fail because humans sin. But we have a God who makes the impossible possible. It is God who gives us the strength to work together for His glory; it’s God who does miraculous things among difficult people.

When we look at our church on Sunday mornings, miraculous probably isn’t the first word that comes to our minds. You may feel burned out, taken advantage of, like no one is listening, like no one agrees with you, frustrated with the people who surround you, and ready to move on…to something more stable, more peaceful, and with less work involved. But we can’t give up on the church. God did not give up on us.

A church’s success is measured by the quality of its love, says Bloom. This is shown through honor, respect, hospitality, harmony, unity, including everyone, persevering together through difficult times or issues, bearing burdens, forgiveness, encouragement, fellowship, and meeting regularly. (Romans 12, Ephesians 4-5, Galatians 5, 1 Peter 4, Colossians 3, Hebrews 10).

Our messiness calls us to love others in humility and grace, realizing that we’re only worthy because God makes us worthy. Bloom expresses,

Churches are designed to be communities of impossible love that only work if God is real, and Christ’s sacrifice is real, and heaven is real.”

If we continue to hold onto our personal expectations of how everyone should act and how everything should work, we will be disappointed. It’s so easy to focus on the failure of others instead of our own failures—where someone else falls short instead of where we fall short. When we focus on the failures of others and how they aren’t living up to our expectations, then we aren’t focusing on love. And if the mission of the church is love, then we can’t do both…we can’t withhold forgiveness from someone and love them at the same time.

We must love the people we’re with; they’re commanded to love us just as we’re commanded to love them. When you do something wrong, you want to be shown grace and given forgiveness. We must use this same eagerness to receive forgiveness and grace to show it and give it to others. When broken people love each other, we show the world the kind of love Jesus has for us.

Yet, as Bloom points out there are actual legitimate reasons for leaving a church home and seeking out another. Before you leave a church, ask yourself what the real reasons for leaving are and make sure that the reason is not a self-seeking one.

To read Jon Bloom’s article in its entirety please visit desiringGod.org.

Dr. James Emery White says the best time to leave a church…is before you join. Take your time before joining a new church. Attend for several months, join studies or classes, get together with people, shadow a volunteer group etc. to make sure this is the right church for you. When you like a church it can be easy to want jump right in, but you want to make sure that you align with the values and mission of that church. If you’re unsure about the denomination you’re attending, try out a few churches from different denominations that are Bible-centric and read over their belief sections. If you’re already a committed member, here are some legitimate reasons to change churches:

1. You moved or found a church much closer to you.

2. You don’t agree with the theology or doctrine of a church / the theology or doctrine has changed.

3.  Abuse of any kind, where the abuser is not removed or disciplined.

4. A pastor is continuing to sin in a manner that is harmful to the church and has not been disciplined or removed.

5. The church is not grounded in God’s Word and does not defend it.

Learn more in this article from Dr. Roger Barrier, How Do I Know When It’s Time to Leave a Church?

If you decide to leave your church for a legitimate reason, Crosswalk Contributor Dr. Ray Pritchard recommends leaving quickly, quietly, and graciously. There’s no need to stir up a fight or get one last shouting match in before you leave. Pritchard relays,

Think carefully before you speak about your former congregation. Don’t say anything that could be remotely construed as criticism. Even casual comments could stir up needless controversy. Let the Golden Rule guide all your comments public and private.”

And even if you leave, continue to pray for the church you left. They may be trying to work on the exact reason that made you leave.

Love the people God has placed in your life, for He has given you a heart to love them. 

Related article:
3 Challenges of Belonging to the Church

Related video:

Christianity.com: What are some things I should look for in a good church? - Kevin King from christianitydotcom2 on GodTube.

Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/DigtialStorm

Publication date: May 23, 2017

Liz Kanoy is an editor for Crosswalk.com.

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