We Must Sincerely Honor God’s Name!
“These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” Matthew 15:8NKJV
Today we conclude our examination of Question 113 of the Larger Catechism, which asks, “What are the sins forbidden in the third commandment?” The final part of the answer states, “The sins forbidden in the third commandment are… making profession of religion in hypocrisy, or for sinister ends; being ashamed of it, or a shame to it, by unconformable, unwise, unfruitful, and offensive walking, or backsliding from it.” Last time we looked at the broad scope of the third commandment. This week we consider the sin of hypocrisy.
Nobody likes to be patronized. Even though sometimes the truth hurts, it is always better for us when our relationships are conducted with honesty. Whenever we pretend to be something we are not, we use others to further some hidden agenda of our own. Such activity is selfish and disrespectful to people, whom we think we can fool on account of their not being able to see our hearts. Thus, hypocrisy by definition assumes the ignorance of those it seeks to fool. To play the hypocrite before men is rude and arrogant, but to do so before God is the height of folly. For consider: we can keep our real intentions hidden from men but God always sees and knows the true state of our hearts, even better than we do! Therefore, to playact before God by making a profession of faith in hypocrisy or for sinister ends is a great sin. No wonder Jesus says of the hypocritical church, Laodicea, that He would rather they be cold towards Him than lukewarm. The one who is cold towards God at least does not give Him the additional insult of ascribing the attribute of ignorance to Him.
Though no Christian is perfectly sincere, yet surely the genuinely converted person cannot ultimately be a hypocrite before God. The sin of hypocrisy is usually not our greatest temptation. However, many if not most Christians will admit to struggling with the sin of being ashamed of God. Truly there are times when for the acceptance or approval of others I do not want people to know that I am a servant of Jesus Christ. What an awful thing: to be ashamed of the One who bore all shame for us; to be embarrassed over the One who willingly was publicly stripped naked for us; to not want to be associated with the One who forsook the glories of heaven to dwell with us and become one with us. May God give us the eyes to see through the tawdry honors of rebellious man that we would never desire to forsake our true inheritance for all the riches of this sinful world. Surely the greatest shame with Christ is far better than the greatest glory without Him!
Probably the final category of sin mentioned in today’s portion of the Catechism is the one that most often plagues true Christians. None of us is entirely hypocritical, and most of us are only occasionally ashamed of Christ, yet how often are we a shame to Christ? How often do we walk contrary to the commandments and therefore the will of God? How often do we act unwisely, bearing little or no fruit and being satisfied with it? How often do we carelessly offend our brothers and sisters in Christ, and therefore, Christ Himself who identifies with them? And even when we are quickened by God in some spurt of real spiritual growth or true religious affections, how quickly and how easily do we backslide into the most vile and abominable transgressions? Christ has placed His name upon us, He has engraved our names in His hands, and yet we continue to dishonor His great and glorious name in a myriad of ways every single day of our lives.
It is good for us to feel the weight of our sins and to rend our hearts before God in true repentance. Contrition is a spiritual discipline we should seek every day in our prayers as we acknowledge our sins before our perfect God. Yet, heart-felt confession should drive us ever more to depend upon and hope in the One who has made His name great, not for Himself, but for us. Beloved, you and I need to remember that though we break this commandment so readily, yet we have a Savior who fully and perfectly honored God’s name. And it is in His perfect obedience that God considers us righteous before Him. If you are a true Christian today, know that Jesus Christ will never be ashamed of you, no matter how often you fail. May God grant that even our sins drive us to more confidently glorify the name of the One who perfectly honored the name of God!