Mark 7:6-7 ESV And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; (7) in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
The kind of people we are learning about and exposing in this series are, in Paul’s words, hypocrites who have an appearance of godliness. Not only are they unregenerate (not born again), but by their words and practice they actually deny the gospel by denying the necessity of being born again.
Isaiah describes them in terms of lips and hearts. They spew out words that “honor” the Lord but in fact the person they really are (their heart) hates the Lord and all who belong to Him. All of their busy, buzzing, behive activity in their “churches” are vanity. Emptiness. In fact their religion (doctrines) are the commandments of men. Man-made. Fake. Opposed to Christ. They are of the spirit therefore of the antichrist.
Let me introduce you to Larry.
Larry and his family were part of a new church. He had a more liturgical church background but claimed he needed something “more.” Larry had a respectable job in the small community and had a knack of what I suppose you could call “social acuity.” He knew what to say and what to do to win people’s approval.
Not long after Larry and his family came to the church, Larry stopped by to talk to the pastor (ie, me). He seemed very humble and said he had something to tell me. He had a “drinking problem.” He wanted me to know about it. He said he was battling it and asked me to pray for him.
Now, that sounds all pious and right. It wasn’t. Not at all.
What Larry was doing, as it turned out, was conducting what I call a “pre-emptive strike.” He took the first step in “confession” but he did it for evil purposes. This tactic is often used by domestic abusers who parade as Christians. They make sure that they are the first to confess “I don’t love my wife as I should” so that from that point on everyone is obligated to forgive them. After all, the poor fellow, he confessed his sin, you know. And that is what Larry was doing.
Not long afterward, Larry came to a community event – drunk. Visibly drunk. And he was carrying a very young baby. Someone in the crowd shouted “watch that guy! He is going to drop the baby. He’s drunk.” So here was Mr. Pious, absolutely polluted on alcohol, and he staggered right up to where myself and a couple of other people from the church were sitting. He sat down right beside us.
Larry was acting very intentionally and you will know this if you are wise. He was drunk, but he knew exactly what he was doing. His wicked, evil heart was acting in open, rebellious, defiance, daring any of us to do anything about it other than to feel sorry for him. It was his way of saying to me, “what are you going to do about it?”
A couple of days later on Sunday, Larry showed up at church and never mentioned his sin. He acted as if he was the finest Christian man to be seen. That evening (by the way, Larry had been appointed as the church treasurer) at a church board meeting, I told the board members (Larry had two close friends on the board) about Larry’s drunken, shameful, public show and said that he needed to be removed from the treasurer position and confronted with his sin.
Reaction? You can guess. Two board members were incensed that I would be so cruel to Larry. “That was a cry for help!” one said who had been present and seen Larry intoxicated. Turns out they had known about his drunken habits for a long time. The end result? The church board did nothing.
Then, a few days later when I was in my office, in comes Larry. He didn’t say a word. He sat down at a table, pulled out the financial books, and started working on them. A bit later he got up and left. What was his motive? Larry came in (he should have been ashamed but his kind are shameless)…he came in to covertly announce “I won and you lost.”
Well, not long after all of this another church contacted me and asked me to come and meet with them. They were looking for a pastor. I did so and within a couple of months, we moved away. Larry continued to exalt himself and as scripture says, “the people loved it so.” Larry became a primary financial donor to the church. They built new buildings. And Larry found a pastor or two who would gladly let Larry run the show and dominate them. And that is how it is to this day, over 30 years later. The people insist that Larry is a fine example of what a Christian man should be.
Larry has not changed. Larry’s kind never change. Larry is the kind of man Isaiah described – “lip religon but an evil, unbelieving heart.” The Lord sees it. Larry and His followers, will all give account one day and hear the words “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”
This is an appearance of godliness, and a denial of the real power of Christ in the hearts of His true people. Be wise. There are many of Larry’s kind today and in fact you can find them in most every church.
Avoid such people.