Most of my life my definition of a hypocrite was this: a person who condemns others for committing the same sins that he/she is committing. But this definition is a bit lacking. Jesus gave us the perfect definition of hypocrisy in Matthew 23:25-28:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
Here Jesus points out that a hypocrite is someone who appears as a good person on the outside, but whose heart is corrupt on the inside. Hypocrites can control their outward behaviors, but they are unable to change their own hearts. Only Jesus can transform our hearts, minds, and desires. Our flesh does not have the power to make us new from the inside out.
Sadly, many religious people do not understand what becoming “born again” really means. They do not know the reality of Jesus being “in us” and we “in Him” so that His desires become our desires and His works in us are the product of His life in us. Many religious people strive their whole lives to be acceptable to men, doing all the right things on the outside, while they suffer miserably on the inside from the demons who hold them in bondage to lusts, greed, the need for attention, the need for power and status, and the need to be accepted in society. Many sad people put on a happy face each Sunday as they go to church with the intention of not disappointing the pastor or their friends at church who are “counting on them” to portray the Christian life as a kind of “good life” on earth. They are like Martha, who fretted over her chores and making sure that she did all the things that an acceptable woman would do for her guest, never realizing that Jesus is not like any other guest. He came to save, not to enslave in a worldly yoke. It is easy for people to let a religious organization enslave them in performance tasks rather than to let the peace of Jesus fill their lives and totally control their every thought, desire, and motivation.
Most of my life I was a religious “Christian,” not born again at all. I was in bondage, not only to sin, but also to the churches I attended. I performed many tasks to please the church leadership. I was a secretary, board member, Sunday school teacher, and helped out with the youth group. But none of these tasks brought me closer to Jesus. Even more disturbing, very rarely did I feel that my service to these churches was leading others closer to Christ. I spent countless hours working for the approval of man, never understanding how desperately I needed repentance and deliverance from my sins—the inward and the outward. My cup was filthy on the inside, but I worked very hard so that no one would notice this. I hid my sins as much as possible from men.
I’ll never forget the evening that I was saved at the age of 41. I prayed with a Christian couple for three hours, confessing my sins and proclaiming the blood of Jesus Christ to wash my robe white and deliver me from the demonic bondage that had controlled me all my life. That evening I was delivered from many demons—rejection, loneliness, the need for attention and acceptance, and lusts of the flesh. After that prayer time was over I was for the first time BORN AGAIN! I had become a totally new person, no longer controlled by demons but now filled with the love, acceptance, and desires of Christ. Jesus was now in me.
Since that evening, I’ve had a totally different perspective on life. The inside of my cup is clean now, and I must keep it that way through faith in the power of Jesus’ name and His blood. When Satan tempts me, I rebuke him and plead the blood of Jesus. I now have a testimony and a deep desire to share my testimony and the gospel with others. Jesus has shown me how to use my finances to promote His kingdom and how to use my secretarial skills to distribute gospel literature and movies to unsaved people. Now I long to please the Lord only. The Holy Spirit gives me instructions and assignments to carry out, and He always provides the resources and time to carry each task to completion. It is never stressful because Jesus is doing these things in me. He has taught me that “His yoke is easy, and His burden light” because I do not serve Him with my will power and fleshly effort. I trust Him and have faith that He will do all these things in me. This is why He gets the glory; He is really doing all the work!
Before I got saved, I tried to “serve the church” with my fleshly strength. Now I crucify the flesh daily knowing that my flesh can never please the Lord or serve Him. In faith, Jesus performs His works in me. I rest from my fleshly religious works. Now we know that Jesus and the apostles worked tirelessly to spread the gospel. Jesus must have burned a lot of calories when he was standing all day in the synagogue preaching, teaching, healing and delivering. And when we serve Jesus, we burn calories too. But again, this service is in faith and in the spirit; it is not of human willpower or human effort. A supernatural power comes over us that allows us to serve. Because this power is of Jesus and from Him, He always gets the glory and we are always able in our weakness to do this work. We don’t get any recognition and don’t need any. We serve from our transformed hearts.
We often think of a hypocrite as a snooty, judgmental person. But most hypocrites are “nice people” who simply never got the inside of their cups clean. They, like Martha, worry about whether they are controlling their outward actions but never take the time to repent and mourn over their sins and ask Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing for their inner person. I was a hypocrite for many years because I never understood how necessary repentance is to the Christian life, nor that full deliverance from demonic bondage was possible in Jesus’ beautiful name.
You see, what the text in Matthew 23 shows us is that a hypocrite is one thing on the outside and quite another on the inside. If the inside of your heart is full of “dead men’s bones,” then there is no outward action that can make up for that. You must have deliverance; and deliverance is not fully possible without repentance. You must realize there is nothing you can do to please the Lord in your flesh. You can only please Him in the spirit, in truth, in love, in Jesus.
Now that I am saved, I work for the Lord more than ever. I’ve shared my testimony and shared the gospel with many people. That was never possible before I became a new creature in Christ. All I could do before was show up for this church event or that church event and work out of guilt, fear, or a need to be accepted. What a fulfilling existence I have now in Jesus! Jesus has asked me to give up many worldly hopes and dreams that used to propel me. Sharing about Jesus has caused some people to reject me. But I have so much peace knowing I am truly saved and that I do not have to perform anymore. I simply need to obey in faith and let Jesus work His miracles in my life.
Is the inside of your cup fully clean? Jesus may be calling you to repentance today. Maybe you are plagued by doubts, fears, self-hate, rejection, the love of material things and economic security, unforgiveness, codependency, the need to control, the need to be noticed in society, or the worship of your family or marriage. Any of these stumbling blocks can be a serious hindrance to your salvation and your service to the Lord. Take the time today to understand that Jesus sees the inside of your heart. He cannot be fooled by your outward actions or your status in any church. If you know you have sin in your life but are not ready to repent, ask the Lord to give you a repentant heart! He is faithful and will answer your prayers if you believe and trust Him. He will change you if you ask Him to!
Jesus told us more than once that what is in our hearts is just as important as what we do. If you lust after someone but never commit physical adultery, it is still adultery (Matthew 5:28). So a hypocrite is someone who controls his/herself on the outside, but is still committing the same sins on the inside. Sin on the inside is the same as sin on the outside in Jesus’ eyes! We must be cleansed and freed from the bondage of inward sin. Then and only then will we be pleasing to the Lord and acting in truth from the heart in all we do. That is why Jesus said that if the inside of our cup is clean, then the outside will be clean also. What He meant is that once our hearts change, so do our actions. If you are a hypocrite today, you do not have to keep living under bondage. Confess your sins, repent with sincerity, claim the blood of Jesus over your life, and be delivered. Then continuously believe that you have crucified the flesh and that Jesus is alive in you. Experience the miracles of a changed life as Jesus performs His works in you. And be blessed! ---Maria Hawke