“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”Matthew 5:20 (ESV)
If you attend a church, more than likely, you have been told that church is full of hypocrites. Church people have even agreed and said we are all hypocritical to some extent. When you think of a hypocrite, you might think of “one that says one thing and does another.” And although this may be true, the heart of a hypocrite is a little more complicated.
An actor or a pretender was called a hypocrite. It was not a negative word but a clarifier of the role someone was playing. Hypocrites are sometimes falsely accused of being liars, deceivers, and manipulators. Make no mistake. There are liars, deceivers, and manipulators in the church. But that’s not a hypocrite in most churches.
The heart attitude of a hypocrite is to “Fake it ’til you make it.” They desire to live righteous before the Lord, but their heart hasn’t caught up to their will. There is an internal struggle to do good and be right, but deep down, the battle is raging. Many Christians feel stuck in the “Fake it ’till you make it” syndrome with no guidance on how to change it.
As Jesus taught the disciples in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), He set an expectation of righteousness that exceeded the hypocrisy of his day. Let me offer a working definition of righteousness.
“Righteousness is the people of God taking on the heart of God to accomplish the will of God.”
Moving from hypocrisy to righteousness requires a transplant of God’s heart into the heart of God’s people. Then the actions of the person are genuine and sincere and not hypocritial.
Jesus gave three examples of hypocrisy in this passage: charity, prayer, and fasting. All of which were done to be seen and rewarded by people and not God. Righteousness doesn’t need the show because God ‘sees in secret and rewards them openly.’
I want to give you three steps you can take to move from a “fake it ’til you make it” mentality to a heart of righteousness before the Lord.
Transformational Steps from Hypocrisy to Righteousness.
1. Check the condition and love of your heart toward God.
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”Matthew 22:37 ESV
A genuine love for God is essential for a heart of righteousness. Holding back pieces of your heart from God will cause the inconsistency we call hypocrisy. No one is perfect, but we do have the ability to love God with our whole heart. Honesty is the first step to righteousness.
“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;”Matthew 15:8
Questions to ask yourself:
- Am I taking on the heart of God through my relationship with God?
- How is my love for God expressed through my sacrifice for others?
2. Seek the approval of God more than the approval of men.
God sees the motives of the heart behind our actions. He knows the why behind the what. Therefore, we must strive to please God and not men.
Ask yourself these questions as you decern your own heart:
- If no one is around, will I still worship you?
- Why am I doing these religious acts?
- Is it to get closer to God or closer to people?
3. Build an intimate relationship with God from your heart and not your religious actions.
The gospel (good news) of Jesus and the Kingdom of God does not promote a religion of God but a relationship with God. The more you cultivate your relationship with God, the more you will take on his heart and characteristics. God is a real person that desires to have a relationship with you through His Word, prayer, and His people. The more God reveals to you about himself, the more you can take on His heart and mind.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do I want the rewards of men more than I want the rewards of God?
- Do I desire an intimate love relationship with God that is real and personal?
You don’t have to “fake it ’till you make it.” God can transform your heart if you are willing to let him in.
This blog was derived from the Sermon entitled “Secret Rewards” by Bill Sizemore. If you would like to watch the message in its entirety Click Here.