I.         How often I have been told, “I don’t like going to services. I know that so many of the people there are just hypocrites. They say one thing, but they don’t live it.”

            A.        It is true. In religion, hypocrisy is a major problem.

            B.        But before we can solve the problem, we must define it.

                        1.         The word hypocrite comes from the Greek. It refers to someone playing a part on the stage -- pretending to be something you are not.

                        2.         Today, we would say, “They are just putting on an act.”

                        3.         In other words, a hypocrite is an actor.

            C.        People put on an act for a variety of reasons

II.        The one whose heart is not in it

            A.        Some people pretend to be what they are not for politeness sake.

                        1.         The aunt who says, “Aren’t they cute!” while thinking “why can’t they keep those hoodlums under control.”

                        2.         The miser at a meal who says “Eat!”, but wishes you would curb your appetite - Proverbs 23:6-8

            B.        Unfortunately, people do this to God as well.

                        1.         People ask God for blessings, yet believe it will never happen - James 1:6-8

                        2.         Sometimes it happens because you pray because someone asks you to do so, but your heart is not in it.

                        3.         Or, you pray because it is the proper thing to do, but it is not what you desire.

                        4.         God condemned the Israelites for worship of the lips only - Isa. 29:13

                                    a.         I particularly like the way the New American Standard renders the last phrase, “And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.”

                                    b.         Is it not what happens to many people? You do something over and over again and it becomes a habit without meaning. Or worse, you carry on what you have been taught by parents or others without understanding its significance.

III.       The one who purposely deceives

            A.        This is the one we understand is in the wrong.

            B.        A malicious man who covers up his intentions - Proverbs 26:24-26

            C.        Examples

                        1.         The Jews attempting to trap Jesus - Matthew 22:15-22

                        2.         Judas supposed concern for the poor - John 12:4-6

            D.        Here again, God’s people are not shielded from such people

                        1.         There are false teachers who teach religion for the profit it brings them - Romans 16:17-18

                        2.         Some do it for the “fun” of stirring up controversy! - Philippians 1:15-18

IV.      Saddest of all are those whose act deceives them.

            A.        The Jews, once again, illustrate this point

                        1.         They claim to live righteously, but they are not - Matthew 23:2-3

                        2.         I’m not saying they purpose set out to deceive people, but in their misguided intentions, this was the result.

                        3.         They said they are giving glory to God

                                    a.         But the result is they give glory only to themselves

                                    b.         Matthew 23:4-7

                        4.         They said they are saving the lost

                                    a.         But they cause people to lose their souls by their false teachings

                                    b.         Matthew 23:13, 15

                        5.         They said following the Law

                                    a.         But they obscure the Law, making it more difficult to follow

                                                (1)       Over regulation - Matthew 23:16-17

                                                (2)       Matthew 15:1-11 - adding traditions of men

                                    b.         They are willing to overlook major points, to enforce minor ones

                                                (1)       Matthew 23:23-24

                                                (2)       Luke 13:10-17 - In their zeal for the Sabbath, they overlooked that God had preformed a miracle in their midst!

                        6.         They claim to be righteous worshipers of God

                                    a.         But they lived unholy lives - Matthew 23:27-28

                                    b.         They emphasized the physical and neglected the spiritual - Matthew 23:29-31

            B.        But lest we get too busy condemning the Jews, we must remember that Christians have been guilty of the same things - I Timothy 4:1-3

            C.        Perhaps the greatest self-deception is the one who sees only his own righteousness - Luke 6:37-42

                        1.         It is so easy to forgive our own faults while condemning the faults of others.

                        2.         Let me give you an example: We all know we should attend the worship service each Lord’s Day.

                                    a.         “Oh, you’re thinking of Sister Mabel! She comes when she feels like it is convenient.”

                                    b.         Meanwhile, you come to each and every service, but you avoid participating in the worship.

                                                (1)       You sing, but you think about matters at home.

                                                (2)       You bow your head in prayer, but you are going over your plans for the afternoon.

                                                (3)       You eat of the Lord’s Supper, but you are wondering if you will be able to pay all your bills this week.

                                    c.         Who is the greater actor, Sister Mabel or you?

V.        Hypocrites will end up in Hell - Matthew 24:51

            A.        It is not just what you do, but what you do and why you are doing it.

            B.        If we will avoid condemnation

                        1.         We must learn not to be deceived - Eph. 4:14-15

                                    a.         This means we must be well-grounded in the truth so we can recognize falsehoods

                                    b.         No actor is perfect. Eventually, their deeds show their true character - Titus 1:16

                        2.         We must avoid encouraging deception - II John 7-11

                                    a.         It may seem inhospitable, but we can’t let the false teacher or others think we approve of his teachings.

                                    b.         Remember the hypocrite who does things solely because they are polite?

                        3.         We must live honestly with ourselves and others - Eph. 4:25

            C.        Remember God’s words - Psalm 101:7

VI.      Are there hypocrites in the church?

            A.        Of course there are! Where else would you find them?

                        1.         If a wicked person wishes to pretend to be righteous, then of course he will attend services.

                        2.         But would a truly righteous man not come to serve his God?

            B.        Perhaps some here are struggling with making their lives match the righteousness of God, but at least they are working at it.

            C.        Let us each come and serve our Master with sincerity of heart.