Imagine the man who is part of an exclusive cigar and cigarette club. Membership in this club is prestigious and profitable. It is prestigious because society looks upon you as someone with clout, someone part of â€œthe in-crowd.â€ it is profitable because other members are able to connect you with business associates and clients simply because you are a member of this club.
There is only one problem with being in the this club: it is literally killing you physically. Youâ€™ve seen the medical evidence of the effects of smoking and youâ€™re beginning to experience the physical ravages of smoking.
You are ready to quit smoking and following a more healthful lifestyle and yet you cannot let go of the prestige and profit of club membership. Would not that be the most senseless position to take? And would it not also make you a hypocrite because although you say you want to live a healthy lifestyle, you cannot give up your exclusive membership?
Some of the Jews the last week of Jesusâ€™ life were such men:
â€œBut although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: â€˜Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?â€™ Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: â€˜He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.â€™ These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him. Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.â€ (John 12:37-43)
These men, rulers and Pharisees, were unwilling to follow Christ for two reasons. First, they were afraid of being put out of the synagogue. The synagogue was the cultural center of Jewish society and to be a member of the synagogue was profitable because it was the central meeting place and the seat of local Jewish government. But it was also prestigious, which brings us to the second reason.
These who believed in Christ would not confess Him because â€œthey loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.â€ Is there a greater hypocrite than â€œmen-pleasersâ€? The Apostle Paul warned the Ephesian church against such conduct:
â€œBondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.â€ (Ephesians 6:5-8)
Great harm has befallen many a man and nation because of the desire to please man and not God. The vanity of man has been the ruin of countless men and women throughout history, all of it rooted in original sin…pride. King Solomon wrote on the vanity of gain and honor:
â€œIf you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them. Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even the king is served from the field. He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity.â€ (Ecclesiastes 5:8-10)
In John 12 we see men believing in Christ and yet unwilling to confess Him all for the sake of vain praises of men. Just two days later our Lord would be crucified as a common criminal and these believers, unrepentant and unwilling to confess the Messiah, would stand by and watch His horrible death.
You may be wondering how someone who believes in something is unwilling to take a public stand and confess the truth and oppose the unrighteous. Abortion is the most vivid example. How many Christians stand silently, or worse yet, accept from their legislators using tax payer dollars to murder babies in the womb? Is that not the height of hypocrisy? Do they not remain silent for fear of excommunication and love the praise of men rather than God?
We should never underestimate our vulnerability to such peer pressure. We are all capable of such disgraceful behavior; yet for the grace of God go I. It takes moral courage to stand in the gap for Jesus, a courage not manufactured by man. Why? Because when being religious is in vogue, we all jump on the bandwagon. Oh but let their be opposition to us, ever so slight as it is, and we crumble under the weight of scorn. Our old friend Matthew Henry once again puts it best:
â€œSee the power of the world in smothering convictions, from regard to the applause or censure of men. Love of the praise of men, as a by-end in that which is good, will make a man a hypocrite when religion is in fashion, and credit is to be got by it; and love of the praise of men, as a base principle in that which is evil, will make a man an apostate, when religion is in disgrace, and credit is to be lost for it.â€
We give into to the power of the world and allow it to smother our convicted hearts and instead of turning from wickedness and proclaiming righteousness, we succumb to pragmatism and human wisdom and choose the road most traveled. And then we wonder why we slip closer to Gomorrah and claim we live to fight another day.
One day such compromise will end in destruction, as long as we rely on ourselves. The crucified Christ on Friday evening, left at the tomb would seem equally hopeless. But glory be to God on that precious Sunday morn followers of Christ discover an empty tomb!
Only resurrection power can bring the dead back to life.
Only resurrection power can turn the hypocrite into the holy.
Only resurrection power can turn the religious into the righteous.
Have you experienced that resurrection power? It is only available through Jesus. The choice, like it was for those men the last week of Jesusâ€™ life, is yours.
Will you choose the praise of men or the praise of God?
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Copyright Â© 2012 David Jeffers
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