Recently, as I was reading the Book of Acts, the Lord began speaking to me in a very real and deep way. It was liberating but I felt the Fear of God in me at the same time.
The Early Church was known for its exponential growth and power, but, did you realise that it was often messy too? Acts 4 revealed that the spirit of generosity was a public testimony. A disciple, Barnabas, was touched by the Lord and had sold a field he owned and brought it to the disciples’ feet. Everyone heard about it and praised the Lord.
Then in Acts 5, we were introduced to a couple named Ananias and Sapphira who saw what Barnabas did. They probably thought “This guy is cool, he did such an amazing thing. I think we can do that. It will look good on our ministry portfolio!”
But, unlike Barnabas, they struggled with generosity and sacrifice. Instead of dealing with it and seeking the approval of God, their greedy hearts craved the applause of men, and glory for themselves.
They had the right act but their hearts were far from God’s truth. The word that comes to mind is ‘hypocrisy’.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘hypocrisy’ as ‘the assuming of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, with dissimulation of real character or inclinations, especially in respect of religious life or beliefs; hence in general sense, dissimulation, pretence, sham.’
Put simply, a hypocrite not only does not practise what he preaches, but the exact opposite.
To walk in hypocrisy is to forget God met us where we are, having pulled us out of the muck and mire. We’re all being perfected and, when we realise that, we can live in increasing victory. We live in pretence as we’ve really not understood the Gospel.
We should not just look for behaviour modification but seek the heart. Clichéd as it sounds, the heart of the matter is always the matter of the heart.
Doubt and struggle should not be viewed as weakness among God’s people but as part of the journey.
Two keys can help us: (1) Being in a healthy community; (2) Having the gift of confession and repentance.
God shapes us not merely by speaking audibly, but also through self-reflection in light of the Scriptures (Psalm 119:9; 139:23-24) and through others in our community (Hebrews 3:13).
King Solomon’s wisdom echoes from from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. He’s saying there should always be someone in the trenches of life with you – someone who knows all about you and what you wrestle with.
We need people who love us enough to correct and encourage, to see our blind sides and tell the truth. When we are struggling, we should stop pretending and start confessing and repenting.
To be His disciples, we must live in the Light. There’s no shame in confession, no need for face-saving – we’re all works of grace. Stop deceiving ourselves because we can’t manage sin – sin manages us. What’s hidden in darkness cannot be healed in the light.
Let’s be men and women who will fight against hypocrisy, walk in the type of community that can point out our blind spots, and learn to preach the Gospel all the more to ourselves.