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About this series
Stop Faking It!
Live Without Hypocrisy
Nobody likes a hypocrite, and nobody wants to be one. But for some reason, living an honest, authentic life is tougher than it sounds. God calls us to walk as "children of light," but many of us find ourselves living shadowy lives of part-time spirituality, and then wonder why our hearts feel cold and our prayers go unanswered. If you'd like to know how to live a winsome, whole and holy life, join Chip Ingram for this series from Ephesians 5.More from this series
Do you remember the first time that you tasted hypocrisy? I mean, the kind of hypocrisy that was ugly. It was distasteful. I don’t mean it was mild. I mean, it was blatant. And someone really pretended or projected genuine concern and love and then you realized, behind the scenes, they were just ripping you off.
And that’s why I brought my black Volkswagen. It is precious to me. It may look just like a black Volkswagen, but this end comes off. And you can undo that, it still has it on the bottom, it says, “Avon.” Volkswagen, Wild Country aftershave.
Now, believe it or not, in about 1973, this was really cool. And I had a little collection of these and my mom, dad, or sister, someone gave me this little, black Volkswagen, and it was really cool. And I’m on the basketball team in high school.
And right next to me, we had those wire lockers where you could see inside, and right next to me was Harold, who was the star of the team. And so, afterwards, I would shower, take out my precious thing, make sure all the guys could see this. “Hey!” You know? They had little cars, you know? Hoping that some cheerleader would smell me walking down the halls.
And so Harold looks and he goes, “Wow, Chip, that is so cool! That is so neat. That is so cool. Boy, those are really hard to get. I think those are so neat. And, boy, someday, some way, I sure would like to get one of those.” And in a moment of weakness, to the star player, I’m thinking – I’m not a Christian or anything, I know Christians are supposed to be loving, but I just had this ooey-gooey feeling well up in my heart, like I would like to be kind.
And it was a different car, it wasn’t a Volkswagen, I still have this one. I said, “Harold, I want to give it to you.” And he took it and he smiled, and then he went “Ahhhahahaha! Guys, come here! Come here! Come here! Look at this! These things are really hard to get. I got it. Ingram just gave it to me. You sucker!”
And I looked at him and I said, “What?” And then he stuck it in his locker, slammed it shut, and put the lock on it. I said, “Hey! Harold! You’ve got to be kidding me, man! You just suckered me in?” “Yeah! Guys!”
He was six foot three and a half, and about two-twenty-five. Or he would have been in trouble. I was about one-thirty-four, five-nine.
But the sting and the hurt and the pain and the anger, and I lost total respect, but it was a bait and switch. He actually pretended to like me, drew me in, took my stuff, and then stiff-armed me. Do you remember when that happened to you?
Remember the first time someone really acted like they liked you, cared for you, and then just took the knife and stabbed you? Do you remember when it was?
So you know what I learned? I learned to be suspect, like you have learned. And I learned to put up my guard, and I learned, when people talk, I listen, and I put it through a little X filter, and I know there’s an angle and I know there’s a spin, and I’m always looking for what is insincere. And we have all learned, right? We play the game.
But there are a few arenas in life where, even in a fallen world, you expect people to be authentic. Right? There are a few, little arenas left that you think, If this person says they really love you, they really care for you, this is true, there are a few arenas where you expect that they’re not going to be hypocrites. Places like the Church. And then what you find out is that there are hypocrites there too, huh?
Since we are doing a little memory lane walk, here, do you remember the first time that you tasted hypocrisy in organized religion? Do you remember it? Mine is right here. I was eleven years old, I went to a bit more of a formal church and it was really beautiful, it had this huge A-frame, and all stained glass window, and the light would come in and it had this huge, forty or fifty-foot cross that went across the building.
And you know when you are ten or eleven, I believe God begins to stir and draw you. And I didn’t understand it but I wanted to get near to God and the minister got up and said, “If you really love God and want to help out, we’re going to have a work day.” And it was mostly for men but I remember saying, “Mom, Mom, can I go? I want to help. I want to do something for God.” She goes, “Yeah, it’ll be okay.”
So I’m out there, digging in the weeds and doing all kind of stuff, and I come into the church kitchen to get a drink of water. And there are a group of the church leaders and the kitchen is situated where I can look in and there’s the worship area, and then I can look out over here and there are these guys sitting down.
And the behavior is immaterial. But they were participating in a behavior that I had been told is wrong, and these are the church leaders doing it, all sitting around out back.
And eleven-year-olds aren’t really smart, but they are not dumb, and I went, “Let’s see, on Sunday they say ‘Don’t do this,’ and we are at a church work day and they are doing that.”
And then I got a little closer and I started listening. And I heard guys cussing and swearing and making crude remarks, and then even some comments about Jesus and this and that.
And I’ll never forget, as an eleven-year-old, I stepped back and I thought, This is a con. This is a sham. All this stuff about Jesus? This is just a little, moral straightjacket they give X to little boys like me to keep me in line and then when I come of age, I go out and sit like them and realize the whole thing…
And I vividly remember, in my mind, thinking, I never want to be like them. And then I walked into that worship center and I looked at it with all the religious jazz and I thought, You know something? I don’t know much about God either, but they are the leaders, so their God must be a lot like them. I don’t want anything to do with them, and I don’t want anything to do with Him.
And you just think, at least in the Church, aren’t people going to tell you the truth? Your parents, aren’t they going to tell you the truth? And then you get this hypocrisy. And, man, I don’t know about you, it tasted awful. And I just didn’t know if there was anybody I could trust. And I got pretty self-righteous and, Man, I don’t want any junk from anybody, anytime.
And then, as you grow older, something happens. This is the scary part. Do you remember the first time, as we go down memory lane yet one more time, when you were looking in the mirror one day, a little bit of personal reflection, and for the first time, at significant levels, not, like, Well, I goofed up a little bit, where you saw hypocrisy in you? Do you remember that?
For me, it was high school. I was this skinny kid, back then, I was desperately insecure. Now, I’m still desperately insecure, but the difference back then was I thought I was the only one!
And so, being desperately insecure and thinking you’re the only one, I learned this game. I found, in the locker room, with the guys, I could swear and I would cuss, and if there was a loose ball, I would dive after it and get up in people’s faces, and when I would dribble, if a guy would reach in, I’d get him with an elbow and bust his nose, and say, “Do it again; you’ll get more.” And I wasn’t very big, but I was mouthy. You can imagine this. And I was Mr. Tough Guy. And I befriended the biggest, strongest guys on the team, to back me up.
And then what I found is that that was really not a good image for adults. Adults like you to be polite. The all-American boy. Get good grades. Do civic things.
And then I learned that that works in the locker room, that works with adults and beginning college, but with girls, you have to be sweet, and you have to be smooth, and you have to manipulate. And so you act sensitive, and if you play that game, you can get what you want.
I remember the day, looking in the mirror, when I realized, in the dictionary, under Chameleon, was the picture of a lizard, and a picture of Chip Ingram. And a chameleon is a little lizard that, when it’s in brown leaves, turns brown. And when it’s in bright green grass, it turns bright green. It just meshes in with whomever and wherever and that was me.
And about my junior year in high school, I remember a series of circumstances that allowed a girl, guys from the team, and adults to be in the same room that I became the center of attention and I realized, Uh-oh. Who should I be? And I had this dissonance in my soul and I realized, Boy, I don’t like me. I don’t like me at all. Have you been there?
Are there some people, that you know they think a lot better of you? And you know it’s a game, it’s a sham. See, we all hate hypocrisy. I hate hypocrisy in other people, I hate hypocrisy in the Church and organized religion, and I hate hypocrisy in me!
Now, finally, did you ever wonder how God feels about hypocrisy? If God had a top ten, where would hypocrisy land? Would it be, like, numbers one, two, and three? It’s not that big of a deal, but don’t do it. Or would it be, like, axe murderers and multiple affairs and adultery, like, an eight, nine, or a ten?
Where would it play out, do you think? You don’t have to wonder. You know what it is? It’s a ten-plus. The harshest words that have ever been spoken on this planet, by the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus, were around the areas of hypocrisy. Do you remember Matthew 23? “Beware of the scribes and the Pharisees, those whitewashed tombs. Those blind guides. That brood of vipers. Hypocrites!” He said, “Beware!”
He said the harshest, most significant words of reproof ever uttered on the earth, toward the most religious people on the planet. God hates hypocrisy. In fact, He hates it so much, if you would leaf through your Bible and get beyond, after Jesus rose from the dead, remember when the Early Church began to grow? And this new life, this new power, this resurrection power, and it always, if it’s authentic, it always ends up in love toward one another.
And the Early Church, they were selling their possessions and there were poor people and hurting people and many of them were slaves and they were being kicked out of their families, following this Messiah. And they would bring their money and say, “Hey, just help people!” And they did it, and did it, and did it.
And in Acts chapter 4 they tell us a quick picture of a story of a man who gave very generously. And then in Acts chapter 5, the very first discipline that occurs in the Early Church, occurs. And guess what it’s about. It’s about hypocrisy.
Ananias and Sapphira, do you remember that story? They see all the people getting all these strokes and Ananias says, “Hey, honey, what do you think? We have this lakefront property,” a little loose translation, here, “and we could sell that and say we got this much money for it, but we really will just give part of it away and we’ll keep it. And so we’ll get our cake and eat it too. Everyone will think,” mask, “that we are holy and generous and devout. But then we’ll get to keep our stuff.”
And so Ananias walks in and tells Peter, “Oh, I love God so much and I want to help people so much. I want to give this.” And Peter says, “Why have you lied to the Holy Spirit?” And you read the text – boom – he drops dead. His wife comes in later and Peter does a quick dialogue to find out if she is in on the deal. He looks her right in the eye and says, “The feet of those that carried out your husband will carry you out too.” Boom – she drops dead. Over hypocrisy!
He wasn’t an axe murderer. He just projected what wasn’t true. Can you imagine if God judged hypocrisy in the Church, like that, today? Tchoo! You would have to listen to the rest of this message on tape! But why? Why is it such a big deal to God? Turn the page and let’s find out.
And the reason is explained in Ephesians 5, 1 to 14. And in these fourteen verses, God is going to reveal why you hate hypocrisy and why He has zero tolerance for it as well.
It begins in verse 1 and it says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love,” – how? “just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
Now, if you have a pen, pull it out and circle the word therefore. Anytime there is a therefore in the Bible, you need to discover what the therefore is there for. And the book of Ephesians is an amazing book where the first three chapters talk about new life, new birth, new identity. That when a person receives Jesus as their Savoir, follows Him as the risen Lord, the Spirit of God comes into your life.
And it’s like a caterpillar that has a brand new birth and has a new identity. And you are loved and you are accepted and you’re secure and you have an inheritance. And you have power, the same power that raised Christ from the dead, now it dwells in you.
And the first three chapters talk about new life, new birth, new identity, new inheritance, new blessings. And the second half of the book says, “Now, since you are totally new and transformed, live in a way that is already true of you.” Now we pick it up in chapter 5, “Therefore, this is what it looks like to live this new life.” There are two commands for every Christian to follow. By the way, these are not commands for missionaries or for pastors or for ministers or for holy Marys or holy Joes.
These two commands are for every Christian. Command number one: mimic God. The word where it says imitate, the Greek word here, we get our word mimic. Mimic God. How? The way children, in a healthy family, mimic their parents. Think on that. If you have a second birth and have a relationship with God, through Christ, here’s a command: mimic God.
Had a couple over for dinner Thursday night. And so, once a week, they bring their little eighteen-month-old over to grandma and granddad. And they just clear a whole day and the little eighteen-month comes over and it’s really cool, they ring the doorbell just so the little one can get the experience. And granddad and grandma open it, “Oh, hi!” So this last week, or recently, this little eighteen-month-old comes up and looks up at grandma, puts his little hands on his hips and goes, “Sooooo?”
And his mom and dad crack up and then her husband, grandpa, he cracks up, and everyone is laughing. And she is going, “What’s the deal?” “You don’t get it? Oh, come on, honey, are you serious?” And then they begin to tell her, “Every time something happens, what do you do? You put your hand on your hips and you go, ‘Sooooo?’”
When children are loved and, in a healthy environment, they mimic those who are in the home. Unconsciously. Their parents didn’t say, “Okay, now, try this. Ready? Put your hands on your hips, little one.” They just picked it up. And God says when you are a child of God, you have experienced the new birth, a new identity, and you are a new creature in Christ, mimic God.
Well, what does that mean? Mimic His kindness. Mimic His holiness. As a child in a family, take on and mimic the characteristics of the holy, loving, kind, compassionate God.
And then it plays out to the second command: and love people. And how are we to love people? The same way Jesus loved people. Isn’t that what it says? In a warm, accepting, authentic, selfless, sacrificial manner. Love people to the point that it costs you. What does the text say? “Who gave His life.”
And love people, not for what they will do for you, not to gain strokes. Love people as an act of worship. What does it say? “As a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
And so he is going to build his case and it starts off with this premise: Every Christian needs to mimic God and love people. That’s the positive side.
Now, notice the negative side, verses 3 through 6. He’s going to give two warnings for every believer to heed. “But” – that’s a word of contrast – “but in contrast to mimicking God and loving people, do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among the saints,” or believers. “And there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting,” the idea for God’s people, “but rather the giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty.” This isn’t up for grabs, this isn’t up for debate. This you know is a fact, “that no immoral or impure or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”
So, warning number one, if you’re a child of God, by contrast, mimic God and love people. Don’t use people. Don’t live this other kind of life. And then notice the second warning, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”
Two warnings for every Christian to heed, number one, don’t use people to satisfy your selfish, lustful agenda, especially with regard to human sexuality. If we had time to develop it, all those words I underlined: immoral, impurity, greed, filthiness, silly talk, coarse jesting, they all – do a word study on them, I have – they all have sexual connotations.
Loving people is about giving and serving and wanting what is best and doing whatever it takes for their benefit. Lust is about taking and getting and using and abusing and grabbing and satisfying you. Love is about them; lust is about us. And he says, “If you’re going to walk in love, you can’t be involved in sexual immorality.”
That is why it’s so tragic what we are seeing when we see people in ministry and people in churches living in sexual immorality. Because lust, it’s not loving.
Whether you are single or whether you are divorced or whether you’re married and some guy is coming on to you, when any man, anytime, anywhere gives you this line or insinuates that if you really love him, you’ll go to bed with him, know for sure that he does not love you.
He lusts for you. And he can be sweet, and he can manipulate, and he can make you feel very, very special. But what this is about is him and his lust and his desires and you will end up used. If you love someone, you want what is best for them. If you lust for someone, you want what is best for you.
And then notice the second warning is: “Don’t let anyone deceive you into thinking that selfish, lustful, me-centered behavior is compatible with mimicking God and loving people. You can’t compartmentalize. Following Jesus and sexual immorality don’t mix. Following Jesus and being a greedy, self-centered, lustful person don’t mix. Following Jesus and lying at work don’t mix. Saying, “I love God,” and living according to my own selfish desires means I am a hypocrite.
And that is why I hated the Church. And that’s why I hated me. And that’s why many of you hate the Church, and why you hate other people, and yourself. And guess what? You’re right in line with God on this one. He hates it too, because it produces pain and damage and hurt.
Well, he goes on to say, “Therefore” – well, what should we do in light of this truth? “do not become partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but” – here is the good news, “now you are Light in the Lord;” – so here is the command, “walk as children of the Light.”
And if you’re not sure what that means, it says, “For the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” The idea, walk in the Light. You’re a child of the Light. You have a new birth and a new identity.
Walk in goodness. That means benevolence and caring and wanting to do good for others. Walk in righteousness. That means being holy and pure, morally, and in your thoughts and in your mind, and what comes over the screen of the Internet, and what magazines and what books and what shows.
Not some self-righteous, prudey holiness, but a winsome, pure holiness, because your heart is clean and you love God. And then walk in truth. Not only externally speaking the truth and living the truth, but in your motives. And that little phrase, “trying to please the Lord,” the sense there is not, like, trying really hard to please God. It’s a word for testing or a proving of metal. It’s like taking a little bit of acid on metal and dropping it on to find out the level of purity.
And then you put it on and you realize, Oh, this is really pure. This is really good. The idea is proving or demonstrating, when you live in goodness and righteousness and truth, you are approving and demonstrating what is pleasing to God. And it produces awesome peace and goodness in your heart.
Then notice what he goes on to say. He says, “And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;” – we’re going to talk about that in a minute – “for it is disgraceful even to speak of these things, which are done by them in secret.”
God is saying to His people, “You don’t need to be curious about the darkness that goes on behind closed doors. It’s disgraceful even to speak of them, let alone, view them; let alone, joke about them; let alone, actually participate in them, because it is such a contrast with who you really are.”
And so two applications flow out of this for every, single Christian. First, don’t participate in deeds of darkness. Don’t be a hypocrite! Positively: Do practice walking in the Light.
Ask yourself, right now, Does my speech demonstrate walking in the Light, or the deeds of darkness? Does my thought life and my sexual practice demonstrate walking in the Light or deeds of darkness? Does my integrity with my spouse, my friends, at work demonstrate walking in the Light or the deeds of darkness? Does my commitment to my marriage and my children demonstrate walking in the Light or the deeds of darkness? Is how I conduct myself, at work, demonstrate…You got it? Got it?
You do remember the greatest act of hypocrisy that ever occurred, do you remember this one? Ever. Remember? It happened right before Easter. One of Jesus’ twelve closest friends got a few guys with some torches, got a few swords, here’s Jesus in the garden. And here’s Judas, “[Makes kissing noises] Jesus! I’m your follower. I love You, love You, love You!” Do you realize the implications of what it meant to greet a person with a kiss? What was Judas doing? He was coming to Jesus as his Rabbi and Teacher, and communicating his love by his outward action of the kiss.
And the actual kiss was the sign of betrayal and everything he did, externally, actually betrayed Christ. And I like to identify with different people in the Easter story. This is not one of my favorites. But you know what has really helped me to realize? When I say, “I love God, I love Jesus,” and I walk in darkness, welcome to a fellow Judas, right here.
And when you say you love God, “Oh, I know Jesus. I believe in God,” and your lifestyle and your speech and your sexuality and your money and your motives are walking in darkness, welcome to the Judas club. And, see, this is why God so hates hypocrisy.
In fact, he explains, in the very next line, the devastating impact, when I know what is right to do… Now, we’re not talking sinless perfection. We’re not talking about having it all together. We’re talking about knowing what is right to do and living in willful disobedience.
Notice, verse 13, “But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light,” – literally, the word exposed, here, when they are rebuked, when you see them for what they really are – “for everything that becomes visible is light.”
It’s like walking in a pitch-black room and you get a flashlight. The moment you click on the flashlight, what happens? Anything the flashlight is focused on becomes visible. You see it for what it is. In the dark, you don’t know what it is.
Someone could tell you, “Oh this is great, this is wonderful, this is powerful, you’ll love it. You know what? The best sex is over here! You ought to try this! If you have never tried this, give this, smoke this, try that!”
It’s darkness, darkness, darkness, darkness, boom! Someone turns on the light. You mean this could happen to you? You mean this is what will happen to your kids twelve years later? You mean this is what will happen to my body five years from now? You mean this is the psychological damage? Oh my lands!
When you take the light of truth, it exposes things for what they are. “For this reason it says, ‘Awaken, sleeper, arise from the dead, and let the light of Christ shine on you.’” Two things happen – they’re amazing, they’re wonderful, they’re just so powerful – when Christians live in the light 24/7, when I live in the light, and you live in the light, when we are not hypocrites, two things happen. Number one, when believers walk in the light – mimic God, love people – they winsomely expose evil and sin as the ugly agents of death that they are.
I had the privilege of this happening in my life. Exposed. I saw myself for who I was. We did not grow up in a Christian family, but my sister, somewhere in high school, I don’t even know where it happened, she went to this college campus and met some group, I don’t know, Campus Crusade for Christ. Maybe some of you have heard of them. A group of real-life Christians, you know?
And she became a Christian. She didn’t make any big deal about it, she didn’t say anything, she didn’t become a religious “fanatic” in our house. But I lived with this person, who was only a year and three months older than me, which you would expect a little sibling rivalry.
I have never lived under a roof with any person, that I know of, apart from my wife, that has loved me so winsomely. She didn’t say, “Stop doing this, do this, do this.” I didn’t know even what happened to her. All I knew was, I would come in from basketball practice and, man, I would be dead and struggling and I would go to the refrigerator, and she goes, “Oh, go sit down, Chip, I’ll fix you a sandwich.” This was my sister! “Hey, you want a Coke?” “Yeah.” “Hey,” all my friends would be over, and she goes, “Hey, guys, you want me to make you some popcorn?” My friends are going, “Man, who is she?” “She’s my sister!”
You know, I’d be doing my homework and dragging my feet, and she would say, “Chip, can I give you a hand?” “Yeah, thanks, Punky!” I’m telling you, I lived with this person that I just thought, Someday, I want to be like her.
In fact, guys, can I take you, very briefly, to a place that your wives know not of? Male locker rooms in high school and college, go there, come back quickly. The scuttlebutt in the locker room about my sister and her best friend, “Punky,” that’s my sister’s name, “and Tammy are not the kind of girls you want to date. You won’t get anything. They are the kind of girls you want to marry. They are the kind of girls you want to marry.”
And my sister’s life was so, so impactful, it exposed my manipulation and I probably saw that I was such a chameleon because I was living next to this person that, she acted this way with my folks, she acted this way in school, she acted this way with me. She was walking in the light and it exposed me.
I literally remember, you know when, guys, when you’re thinking, I’m really going to do this thing, and it’s not a grey issue. This is wrong and this is bad, and you know it, but it sure looks like fun! You know? And I decide that I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it. And I would think, But what would Punky think? Boy, I would never want to let her down.
You know what that’s called? The power of walking in the light. That is exposing my ugly deception. And then the second things happens: When unbelievers see and interact with authentic Christians, the light of Christ shines upon them and it invites them to turn from the deception of sin and death, and receive God’s love and forgiveness through a relationship with Christ.
When you walk in the light, authentically, not perfectly, when you walk in the light in your home, when you walk in the light at work, when your kids see an authentic marriage where, yeah, you fight, then you make up, and you ask for forgiveness. When people see you living not hypocrisy but a level and significant consistency, empowered by God, it’s like a light, that flashlight, shines on them and they begin to see, “Oh, Christians aren’t a bunch of hypocrites. There may be a lot of them that are. But you’re not.” And the light of Christ shines on them and they say, “There’s hope! You mean I could find forgiveness? I could be loved?”
Do you now see why God hates hypocrisy? When I am not walking in the light, instead of exposing the deeds of others in a winsome, loving, non-self-righteous way, I literally become a barrier to the message of life through Jesus. I become a blind guide, a whitewashed tomb.
I was invited to a camp after my senior year. My scholarship in basketball, it’s not like Ohio State and all these big schools wanted me to come play. They weren’t looking for, five-eleven guards that weighted a hundred and thirty-six pounds. But there were some small schools that were interested.
And my best deal was, “You come make the team; we’ll pay your way.” And so a coach said, “Hey, there are six hundred of the best athletes, they’re going to be at this place – Fellowship of Christian Athletes – I’ll pay your way, it’ll really help you get better.” That’s why I went.
And it was, oh, it was like, What have I done? When you walked in, they gave you a little Bible. I had never read the Bible in my life. Then they gave you this t-shirt, FCA, and something about Jesus. Now, I don’t know about you, I had never said Jesus’ name out loud before. And I looked at this t-shirt and I thought, I’m going to put this on. I am among Jesus Freaks. Oh my lands. What have I done?
And so, it was like, Ew! They’re going to try and brainwash me! These people are weird! You know? And so, then, every morning you were supposed to have twenty minutes where you open the Bible and have this little devotional time. Six hundred athletes on this big lawn on this campus; five hundred and ninety-nine have their Bibles open. And mine is shut and I’m thinking, Man, you know what? You’re not going to manipulate me. I’m not reading that thing.
But every day, someone would teach a little bit out of the Bible, and it made sense. And it was like, Hey, man, someone is reading my mail. I had no idea that, hmmm, hmmm, uh-huh.
So by day number four, I opened it. By day number five, we’re out, and you would play all kinds of sports… Etched in my memory, everyone is coming off the field, they are going in, the wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons, at the time, and the fullback for Illinois, were walking off.
And I am this skinny, little, drenched in sweat, guy behind them. And I’ll never forget, this wide receiver put his arm around, in a very masculine way, this fullback, and they were talking issues of the heart I never, ever, in my life, had heard – two men, masculinely – share life and love authentically.
And this fullback was going through some rough times, I could kind of pick up, and then I could hear what this other fellow was talking to him about. And it was, like, arm-in-arm, authentic love.
And I still remember, I can’t tell you how it works, but I remember walking behind them and going, I don’t know what they have, but I want it. I don’t know what it is, but I’m so sick and tired of playing games and being a phony and acting this way. I don’t know what they have, but that’s what I want.
A day and a half later, I was in a room much like this and that fullback sang the Lord’s Prayer and a guy got up on a chalkboard and he said, “Christ died for all of you. He died to pay for your sin and your guilt. And then He rose from the dead to prove it’s true. And you can be delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light by receiving Him as your personal Savior. In fact, today, He’s standing at the door and knocking.
“And if you will hear His voice and open the door of your heart, today, He will come into your life and He will forgive you and cleanse you and He will take up residence and you will have a relationship with God the Father, through Jesus. And the moment you pray, turning from your sin and asking Him to be your Savior, the Spirit of God will come and live inside you. And He will be with you 24/7. And He will give you power, and He will give you peace, and life will not be a rose garden.
“But you will have strength and the power and the presence of the living God every moment, of every day. And, by the way, the moment you would die, you will be ushered into the presence of God, not because you were a good person, but because on the basis of His work on the cross and forgiveness, you became a part of His family.”
And I’d like to say I prayed some big, theological prayer. But I remember thinking, God, I don’t know what it really means to be in Your family, but I know I’m sick and tired of being a phony. And I want to ask You, right now, whatever it means for Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, come into my life.
And even as I was getting there I realized, You know something? There’s some stuff in my life that I probably can’t play some sort of game with God. And I realized, You know something? This is what I need to do and I’ll ask for the strength to take care of some of this stuff that needs to be cleaned up.
Where are you at? Any fellow Judases here who say, “Oh, I love God. Oh, yeah, I’m a Christian”? But if you did a little analysis, do you walk in the light, in your honest moment, here, today, you would say, “No, I’m not walking in the light”?
See, when you don’t walk in the light, fellow believer, the message of Christ, the power of God, what was accomplished on the cross, is nullified. And instead of light coming through you that gives hope to others, you become a stumbling block. That’s why this is so serious.
Notice, as we turn to the final page, what he says. Where do we go from here? He says, “Therefore be careful how you walk,” the word careful, literally, it’s the word see. See into your life, see, examine the issues of life with scrutiny.
“Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men” – people who don’t get it – “but as wise men,” and then, “making the most of the time.” And there are a couple of words in the New Testament for time. One word that means chronology and length of time; one that means time as in a ripe opportunity. That’s this word. Some translations actually say, “redeeming,” or, “buying back the time” – why? “The days are evil.” The days are evil.
People are teaching little kids to put on bombs and blow people up. People are drowning their own children. People are getting in planes and crashing them. People are giving total disregard to their children and to their marriages. We are living in a world that is evil. Light, Christians, children: Walk in love, mimic God, walk in the light so that you may expose sin for what it is and invite others into a relationship of hope and peace.
So the word for believers is, “Walk wisely.” There is so much at stake. Wow. Huge. If there is ever a time for the Church to be the Church and for us, as Christians, to live like Christians, it’s now.
And there’s a word for unbelievers: “Awake, sleeper.” Those of you that are kind of spiritually dead. That’s the metaphor. Awake! Let the light of Christ, this moment, today, shine on you. Cleanse your conscience. Give you assurance of heaven. Turn from the darkness, enter into the light, and let it cleanse and fill and let Christ come in, today, and give you new purpose and meaning and peace. Want to do that? Today is the day.
Father, I want to pray, right now, for my fellow brothers and sisters. And we, first of all, collectively confess that we are hypocrites. It’s just a matter of degrees.
I pray for the kind of courage that gets mustered up inside when the Spirit of God really works and we’re open. That, for my fellow believers that, where there is clear, willful disobedience in areas of speech, sexuality, of thinking, of viewing, and in relationships, Lord, I pray, that right now, we would draw a line in the sand and we would turn from the things that we know are wrong.
And now I pray, God, I pray for those that were just like me when I heard that fullback sing that song and I realized I needed You.
And if that’s you, I’m going to pray a prayer, and obviously praying a prayer is not what builds a relationship with God, but it’s the starting point. It’s the way that you open your life. And if you don’t know what to say, but it’s your heart’s desire, just repeat after me, in your heart of hearts, and God will hear.
Dear God, I need You today. I confess that I am a hypocrite. But today, I want to be free. I believe, Jesus, You died on the cross to pay for my sin. I believe, today, You rose from the dead to prove that it’s true. And right now, I ask You to come into my life, cleanse me, forgive me, save me. Make me Your son. Make me Your daughter.
And I pray for the power, beginning today, to follow You all the days of my life. Thank You, that because You always tell the truth, You have done what I have just asked. In Jesus’ name, amen.