Halloween is getting close. It will be interesting once again to see all the different disguises that people wear. I almost said that the children wear, but some of the more interesting ones I’ve seen were not children at all, except in heart. It is worth noting that the word disguise and the word hypocrite are extremely close in their background and definition. Back during the first century the word hypocrite meant one who wears a mask. It came from the action of actors to wear a mask when they were on stage to help them appear more like the character they were playing and the mask had a megaphone design in it that helped their voice to carry through the crowd. So when Jesus looked at the religious leaders of the day and called them “Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites,” it was with a clear picture in mind. They were being actors on the stage of life, pretending to be something they weren’t at all. They wanted to be seen as righteous, but the reality was they were just religious. We often think of one as a hypocrite who in spite of great effort never is able to live up to the standards God gives in His word. If someone who is trying to live for God has a big failure in life, many will say that their whole faith is a matter of hypocrisy. I suspect that many of the ones we call hypocrites are ones that God calls “weak”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all indicating there aren’t real hypocrites among us. There are and have always been such. But we often misapply the word. A hypocrite knows they are deceiving people. They are pretending to be what they aren’t. They want to appear righteous without making any effort to be righteous.
Sometime ago I was talking with a person who has struggled with drug abuse for a long time. They had made lots of attempts to pull back into the world or reality and escape the problems of addiction. Somewhere in the conversation, I asked where she faced the greatest temptations to get back into the drug culture when she had been sober for a period of time. I was expecting her to say that it was some place where she shouldn’t have been going anyway as a recovering addict. I was shocked when she said, “church.” I began to question her answer further. “How could church be the place where she faced the greatest problem?” Her answer was that it usually happened when someone acted like they wanted to help her with her problems but it turned to them either leading them back into addiction or something that pushed her in that direction. She talked about the men who wanted to be friends but it always seemed to lead to wanting sexual favors along with it. She said, “I’m sure part of it is my fault. I come to church expecting everyone to be real and to be devoted to Christ and living right. I’m not as careful in who I associate with at church as I am in other places.”
I kept thinking of Jesus statement, “Beware of false teachers that come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Paul said that Satan transformed himself into an angel of light in his efforts to lead us away from God. We wish to picture Satan in a red suit with horns sticking out so that everyone in their right mind would run from him. But the truth is that Satan comes to us looking like the prettiest woman we’ve ever seen or like the most handsome man we’ve ever known. Instead of being repulsive he is appealing. He is outwardly beautiful, like an angel of the Lord. Some of the worst false teachers in the early church pretended to be apostles of the Lord. Some who were leaders in different congregations of the Lord’s people were working for the devil all along. We see a picture of this in the little book of 3rd John. When John the elder wrote this group he mentioned a man there by the name of Diotrephes, who loved having first place among them and refused to accept the teachers that John had sent. He threw them out of the church when they came. When John wrote the book of 2nd John he told of false teachers that were going out telling people that Jesus didn’t really come as a man. They said that he didn’t have a real body like we do but he looked like he did. John said these teachers are “Anti-Christ” and warned the elect lady not to take them in or bid them God-speed. He said if you accepted them and treated them as brothers you were joining fellowship with them and became guilty with them yourself.
Think of those charges in light of what Paul wrote in the letter of 2nd Corinthians to the church in Corinth. In chapter 7 he tells them he has been open with them. There was no hidden message. He hadn’t try to pretend he was one thing when he was really something entirely different. He then pleads with them to be open in return. God wants us to learn the lesson well that He knows us from the inner core all the way to the out layers of the skin. We can’t fool him. When we are judged our lives are laid bare. “All things are naked and open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”
It would be a great time if we could simply get everyone to take off the mask and be real. Don’t stretch the truth to make a sale. Don’t say things to others to get them off course when they are looking at your life. Just be who you are. You are the best you in the world. You make a great you, but a lousy anyone else. Satan needs a disguise to fool us into following him. God needs us to open our eyes to get us to follow him. If people look closely at your life, where are you leading them to go?