Join us June 13th-15th for our Vacation Bible School! Our theme this year is “In the Wild.” Hope to see you there!
What: Vacation Bible School
When: June 13th-15th, 6:30pm-8:30pm
Where: Antioch Baptist Church, 135 Cook Rd, Portland TN 37148
“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Luke 12:1
We’ve all heard it before: “I don’t go to church because Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites.” If you’re like me, I immediately have two reactions when I hear that. On the one hand, my sensible mind responds with an eye roll because the people that say things like this have usually been burned by some past religious experience for which all believers must now pay the price. But, on the other hand, my heart sinks a little because… honestly, yeah, I do feel like a hypocrite sometimes. In fact, it has been my general pastoral experience that many Christians often feel hypocritical. So, are we? Is this a fair statement? Are Christians “just a bunch of hypocrites?”
Well first, let’s acknowledge Jesus’ warning in Luke 12:1. Jesus would not warn his disciples to beware of hypocrisy if it wasn’t a very real and viable danger. Hypocrisy, according to Jesus, is the putrid fruit of self-righteousness. Jesus strongly confronted the cold, dead, self-righteous religiosity of the Pharisees throughout the Gospels. In short, Jesus told his disciples “Don’t be like those guys.” They appear holy, they appear zealous, they appear as if they “have it all together,” but they are rotten to the core. And, yes, it is possible for true believers to develop such a disposition (at least in part). Jesus warns us to avoid this. Self-righteousness is useless if we are declared righteous in Christ Jesus (cf. Rom 8:1).
But what about the ones who are not self-righteous? What about the ones who are deeply aware of their indwelling sin and struggle to make sense of it all? What about those who mourn over their failures and sin, the ones who don’t have it all together, the ones who feel a tension between their confession and their reality? What about the ones who read about the standard but never quite feel like they’re able to obtain it?
By the Apostle’s own words (cf. Rom 6-8), even Paul felt such a tension. In Romans 7:24 his struggle crescendos with the cry, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of death?!” Biblical Christianity never claims sinless perfection this side of eternity. In fact, sound theology leads us to the exact opposite conclusion: While we have been declared righteous through faith in Christ Jesus (cf. Rom 5:1), we will not be made completely righteous until the end (cf. Rom 8:30). Therefore, we don’t claim to be sinless. We don’t claim to be “better than” anyone else. We don’t claim to be “holier than thou.” We only claim to be forgiven! If our only boast is the cross of Christ, then the charge of hypocrisy loses all merit. That is why Paul doesn’t conclude with self-deprecation: “Man, I’m such a hypocrite.” No, he says, “There is therefore now no condemnation (Read: Hypocrisy) for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).
Hypocrisy is the putrid fruit of self-righteousness. It blossoms when we plant within ourselves the mistaken belief that we have obtained a higher level of moral and spiritual maturity than that of others (cf. Gal 6:1-5). Hypocrisy thrives when our standard is no longer vertical, but horizontal. I understand that we can feel hypocritical at times. How can someone who claims to have experienced the love of Christ continue to… (fill in whatever blank you wish here)…? But this is the experience of every believer as the Holy Spirit convicts us and conforms us to Christ. No, this isn’t hypocrisy at all! This is evidence of the authenticity of the believer. This is the experience of the child of God learning the delicate dance of grace, the gentle balance between resting in Christ and working out our own salvation. Hypocrites usually don’t feel hypocritical. No, they feel self-gratification, entitlement, achievement, and pride. So, if you “feel like a hypocrite,” well, that probably means you’re not one.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Matthew S. Rickett
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Phil 1:6
It’s funny how emphasis can completely change your understanding of a sentence. For example, take the sentence: “She isn’t flying to Hawaii tomorrow.” How are we to understand this?
So, which is it?!
Biblical doctrine can be quite the same. Two churches with the exact same confession of faith can place their emphasis in different areas and end up sounding completely different. I believe this helps to explain the culture and tone of Antioch Church. While we believe in Christian growth and sanctification, we place our emphasis on the finished work of Christ. Rather than trying to evidence our justification by our sanctification, we believe that our justification will inevitably (though, not always pretty!) lead to our sanctification. Yes, we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph 2:10), but without salvation by grace alone (Eph 2:1-9) they result in nothing.
In other words, many believers approach the Gospel backwards. They are focused on “life application,” transformation, growth, etc. This all points to the reality that they’ve truly been born again. Yet, Paul always started his letters with the Gospel first. He reminded his readers of who Jesus is and what he has accomplished and therefore, we can expect to see the Holy Spirit slowly conform our life to Gospel imperatives. In fact, in Phil 1:6 he states positively, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” That’s a promise. If you are a believer, then he will finish his work. No if’s, and’s, or but’s! Therefore, we emphasize God’s good work before our own. And, isn’t it refreshing to be able to simply rest in the knowledge that God is going to finish what he has started in you? You’re a work in progress. You’re HIS work in progress.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Matthew S. Rickett
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34
Listen, weary pilgrim, you can’t choose your cross to bear. Even our Savior prayed for the cup of God’s wrath to pass from him, yet there was no other way. Our cross is our cross. We cannot choose our suffering. How often do we scroll social media and wish away our cross? How often do we long for some semblance of “normal?” How often do we pray for the thorn to be removed only to be reminded that his grace is sufficient? The call of Jesus is clear- pick up your cross and follow him. Comparing your suffering with the suffering (or, ostensibly, the lack of suffering) of others is both fruitless and frustrating. Your cross is your cross. Their cross is their cross.
But let me encourage you. Yes, his grace is sufficient for every ounce of suffering you endure. I don’t say that glibly or dismissively. Like you, Paul bore a cross- one which he begged God to remove. Though God never removed the burden, he supplied so much grace that Paul exclaimed, “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses…” (1 Cor 12:9). By grace, Paul was able to see the power of God demonstrated in and despite his suffering. Grace becomes “amazing” when it becomes more valued than our healing or restoration. As you take up your cross this week, know that the Spirit of God Omnipotent is upholding you, walking with you, sustaining you, and enabling you to obey his command to follow King Jesus. It is through your suffering that the power of Christ is being made known. “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses (Physical ailments), insults (relational difficulties), hardships (daily struggles), persecutions (martyrdom), and calamities (life-changing events). For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (1 Cor 12:10). If you cannot say this with Paul, then the depths of God’s grace is a treasure yet to be discovered. The grace that regenerates is the grace that sustains. The grace that brings dry bones to life is the grace that puts breath in our lungs.
Not only is his grace sufficient, but his wisdom and providence is perfect. Jesus was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the Earth. His cross was a predestined reality. Just as surely as God knew what he was doing when he grew the tree to make the cross, so too he has a plan and purpose in your suffering. We may ask, “Why?” We may ask, “Why me?” But God’s wisdom is perfect. His decrees will stand. You will be conformed to the image of Christ and he will be glorified. We may wish for another cross, but this one was chosen for you. Pick it up. Follow Jesus. He knows what he’s doing.
Be encouraged this week. Your suffering and your trials and your heartaches and your tears and your agonies and your inner turmoil and your stress and your burdens and your shortcomings… none of it can compare to the glory that is to come. Yes, the cross will lead you to Calvary. But Calvary will lead you to glory.
“But all things should be done decently and in order.” 1 Cor 14:40
This sentence concludes Paul’s thoughts on the mess that was called “worship” in Corinth (1 Cor 11-14). Paul actually begins this unit by stating that their corporate worship was to their detriment rather than good (1 Cor 11:17)! Can you imagine things being so bad that an Apostle actually says, “Look, when you guys get together it’s not for better but for the worse!”? Well, this was certainly the case in Corinth- the Lord’s supper, the agape feast, and the use of spiritual gifts were all completely off the rails. I will let you read Paul’s argument for yourself, but his conclusion is simple: All things should be done decently and in order.
In our little church how do we worship “decently and in order?” Let’s think through our order of service (or, our liturgy) for just a moment…
While there is so much more we could say, perhaps we will save it for a part II?
Soli Deo Gloria,