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
“Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for (Ruth) who loves you, who is ore to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Ruth 4:14-15
Before my grandmother passed away a few years ago, she would often tell me a story about when I was younger. On one occasion, as a toddler while I was playing, she was overcome with a sudden urge to pray for me. That day, as she used to tell it, she prayed a very special prayer for me- one of protection, one of service, one of a life dedicated to the glory of God. No doubt, she had prayed for me countless other times. But that day- that day was special. It was different.
Whether or not she was aware of it, the Bible speaks of this type of prayer as a “blessing.” Fathers would often pray a special blessing over their children. I’m not talking about a general, “Lord keep them safe and use them at some point.” No, I’m talking about a specific, Spirit-infused prayer over a child’s life. The child that is born at the end of the book of Ruth is given a blessing by a chorus of women praising God for how He has restored Naomi. This child, like Boaz, was called a “redeemer” and a “restorer of life.” I’m not going to give away any spoilers here, but God certainly answered that prayer! And, as I reflect on my own life, I am convinced that God has (and continues) to answer the prayer of my grandmother.
Last night, as Allison and I were talking, I realized that as a father I have the privilege in leading my family in practicing affirmation and blessing. To my shame, I honestly forget to do this. But, as I see my children growing, I realize that they are unique and special and different and fearfully and wonderfully made. It’s my right, my obligation, and my privilege to speak words of life and affirmation to (and over) my children. I am called to give them a blessing, a prevailing prayer that will guide their lives. My grandmother constantly reminded me of this story, no doubt because it was a very special moment for her. I grew up knowing that I was loved and affirmed and set apart for the glory of God. The reformed community speaks of this as a covenant blessing (though we stop short of infant-baptism!). It is a practice that has fallen out of vogue. But, in a world that constantly drags us down, what a blessing it is to know that your parents and grandparents and even great-grandparents affirm you, love you, support you, and see the hand of God on your life. Speak blessing to your children. Speak affirmation to your spouse. Speak love to the world.