“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses; seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. Everything they do is done for men to see.” Matthew 23:2-3, 5
I don’t like “fake.” I have such distaste for pretense or anything contrived. I especially dislike having someone play on my emotions or feign friendliness trying to get something from me. I know I am not alone in this. Nobody likes to be lied to or deceived.
Jesus encountered many false people during His time here on earth. He loved every person, because every man, woman and child is made by and in the image of God. Yet He saw through people as if they were transparent. Matthew 9:4 says, “Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, ‘Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?’”
The woman at the well in Samaria was trying to hide her true self from Him because she was living a sinful life. Jesus gently exposed her deception. When she acknowledged what they both knew, He offered her Living Water and she drank deeply. Her life was changed by truth, as were the lives of her neighbors who came to know Jesus through her. Truth had set her free. (John 4:1-42)
Jesus also dealt with many fake, yet very religious people. Matthew 23 records some of Jesus’ harshest criticism spoken to the religious leaders of His day. Seven times in this chapter, Jesus says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” (Matthew 23: 13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29) He even called them “snakes” and “vipers”. These were the religious folks!
What’s the difference between the Samaritan woman at the well and those religious leaders? She was living a lie and she knew it. The Pharisees were living a lie, only they didn’t know it. Jesus did. It is impossible to deceive God.
In my prayer journal recently I wrote, “I don’t like fake in anyone – and I especially despise it in myself. God, I don’t want to be the kind of person that is fake, manipulative, deceptive or pretentious. I want to be genuine, real, and sincere. I want truth God.” Then the Jack Nicholson line from the movie: “A Few Good Men” popped into my head: “You can’t handle the truth!”
Do I really want to know the truth about myself? Can I handle the raw, “natural” me? Would I be shocked by my self-righteousness and judgmental nature? Would my heart break at the lack of compassion and kindness in me? Would I cringe to hear gossip and unkind words come from the same lips that teach the Word of God? When I see my lack of faith, my tendency to anxiety, fear and doubt, would my tears flow? Can I survive even a glimpse of my selfishness, sinful desires, impatience, laziness, and ingratitude?
Paul felt the same angst as he described his own struggle with sin in Romans 7. Listen to verses 18 & 21: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I find this law at work: when I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” In verse 24 his self-condemnation hits a crescendo, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Paul asks the same question I ask of myself. Is there any hope for me?
The answer rings with God’s truth – “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 7:25, 8:1) Paul goes on to say, “God [sent} His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.” What wonderful news! Rather than condemn me, He took all my sins with Him to the cross. I know that I am a sinner, and I live a lie when I try to pretend that I am “good”. Jesus shows me who I really am. He bought my pardon on the cross. He cleansed me, purified my heart, transformed my character and brought purpose to my life. Ephesians 5: 8 says “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” I am not who I once was. Jesus Christ has written a new truth for me.
The truth is I am in Christ and His righteousness is mine. (Philippians 3:9)
The truth is I am God’s child. (1 John 3:1)
The truth is I am a new creation in Christ Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The truth is I am made holy by His blood. (1 Corinthians 1:2)
The truth is I have been set free. (Romans 6:18)
The truth is I am forgiven. (1 John 2:12)
The truth is I have the power of the Holy Spirit within me (Ephesians 1:19-20)
It is important for me to see both sides of myself. I need to be aware of how “wretched” I am on my own, and I need to know the truth of who I am in Christ. His truth keeps me humble and close by His side. I can hold my head up confident in my new identity. I don’t have to live a lie any more, trying to appear good. I only need to walk every day as the child of God that I am.
I pray that my life will always be filled with holiness, godliness, kindness, compassion, and faith in God. I want to honor and glorify my Savior Jesus Christ as I write and teach. My heart’s highest desire is to stir in others a passion for God and for His Word. But like Paul, I am still encased in human flesh and prone to stumble. I rejoice that I am in Christ. I no longer fear His wrath, nor need to hide my sin. When I fall, my Father lifts me up and reminds me of the Truth of who I am, and most importantly whose I am.
“Lord Jesus, in love, You that took my sins to the cross and set me free. In love, You gave me a new identity, a new future and a new hope. When I look at myself through Your eyes, I see the beloved child I am. Thank you.” Amen.