A few weeks ago I re-discovered The West Wing, an award-winning drama first aired in 1999, that is now showing on Netflix. It is about the fictional Presidency of Jed Bartlett and his senior staff. The production is amazing; the actors are skilled. After all these years it’s still jarring to see Allison Janey in other roles. She became completely identified with “C.J. Cregg,” the Press Secretary in Bartlett’s administration, in my mind. The thing with actors is that they take on a temporary identity, playing a role. A person can become a “President” without the rigors of an election, a “doctor” without going to medical school, by learning the lines and using their acting craft and we believe the story.
My question for us this morning is a pointed one.
How are we living this Christian life? Are we really disciples of Christ Jesus or are we just playing a role?
The core of Christian faith is that we are being changed from the inside out by the Spirit, ‘born again’ as God’s child. “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT) We do not merely try to ‘act like’ a Christian, we are Christian.
Jesus reserved His most scathing criticism, not for prostitutes or thieves, but for religious leaders that He called ‘hypocrites.’ The Pharisees were great actors, Jesus said. “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” (Matthew 23:5-7, NIV) “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13, NIV)
Hypocrite is an interesting word in that context. It is a direct translation of the New Testament word ‘hupokrites’ which described actors who ‘lived behind a mask.’
Let’s not allow ourselves to put on a mask, to adopt a role, to just learn songs, prayers, and Scripture quotes that allow us to look like a Christian. It can be tempting! Authentic Christians know the struggle of the school of discipleship. They engage in the spiritual disciplines that lead to transformation of character. It is not at all hypocritical to admit that there is a gap between the ideal to which Christ calls us and our present experience! The ugly side of hypocrisy is the refusal to acknowledge our sin, to cover up those places where we are inconsistent or where our actions contradict what we say we believe. If a Christian does not understand that becoming ‘holy’ is a process, that there are daily choices that allow the Spirit to do His work, that person will become just an actor – inauthentic and an imposter.
We overcome hypocrisy by fully trusting in Jesus Christ, who is our Savior. We cannot perfect ourselves. Oh yes, we have choices to make, but ultimately, we are saved by grace, through faith. Are you committed to knowing Him? Like Paul will you say, “I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I can learn what it means to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that, somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead!” (Philippians 3:9-11, NLT) ?
There is great freedom in becoming authentic, not reveling in sin, but acknowledging what is real and true, so that we can grow into the beauty of the Spirit’s life.
Here is a word from the Word. Believe it and live. “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—” (Ephesians 2:3-8, NIV)
Build My Life
(A great song that points us to real faith in the Builder)
Worthy of ev’ry song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You
Jesus the name above ev’ry other name
Jesus the only one who could ever save
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You We live for You
Holy there is no one like You
There is none besides You
Open up my eyes in wonder and show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me
I will build my life upon Your love
It is a firm foundation
I will put my trust in You alone
And I will not be shaken
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