Dishman Baptist Church
The Heart of Hypocrisy
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      • 1 Timothy 4.11-13CSB

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  • Good morning and welcome to Dishman Baptist Church. Please take your Bibles and open them with me to Mark 12, Mark 12. We will be completing this chapter today as we continue to move through this wonderful book.
    Well this has been another in a long stream of exhausting, taxing weeks. I nearly postponed this week’s message yet another week as the news is revealed that we are looking at some new restrictions being put out right now, as we speak, from the government of Washington regarding Covid-19 and trying to get that virus under control. As I prayed and searched the Scriptures I just didn’t feel peaceful about breaking away from this book again so here we are. There is nothing I’d rather be doing but, if I may be transparent for a moment, these last few weeks have been really hard. Not for myself personally but rather in trying to think of how all of these issues affect us as a church and how to shepherd all of you. How do we and how should we biblically respond to issues such as the election and the renewed shut down of our society.
    Well, Mark has some important insights into that for us today. So let’s look at what he has written for us and then we’ll spend some time breaking it down and understanding how it impacts our lives today. Please follow along in your Bibles with me as I read Mark 12:38-44
    Mark 12:38–44 CSB
    He also said in his teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who want to go around in long robes and who want greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and say long prayers just for show. These will receive harsher judgment.” Sitting across from the temple treasury, he watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little. Summoning his disciples, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had—all she had to live on.”
    Watch, It’s All About Me, It’s Not About You.

    Watch

    When I joined the Navy and was going through boot camp we had to memorize a series of orders known as the 13 General Orders. Two of those orders were to walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert, and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing. Another was to be especially watchful at night and during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post, and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.
    Beyond triggering my PTSD from boot camp, these particular orders have great bearing in explaining the first words of Christ in this passage. He continues teaching in the Temple grounds, having just had an extended interaction with the Sanhedrin, He now turns primarily to His disciples but also to the rest of the crowd that has been drawn and begins His last period of public teaching before His crucifixion. And He starts off with a warning to His listeners - beware of the scribes.
    The word that Mark uses here is βλέπω (blepo) and it is used 15 times in the book of Mark with the primary meaning being to see. It is also used in Mark 4:24 to tell the disciples to pay attention and then in Mark 8 when Jesus tells the disciples to beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Scribes. In His first public message recorded for us as the Sermon on the Mount Jesus begins by warning
    Matthew 5:20 CSB
    For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
    And now at the end of His ministry the message is the same - to beware these men. There is a consistent theme throughout Scripture of being wary. Paul warns the Ephesian elders on the beach in Acts 20
    Acts 20:28–31 CSB
    Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will rise up even from your own number and distort the truth to lure the disciples into following them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I never stopped warning each one of you with tears.
    And then in his final letter, written to his young protege Timothy he will warn him
    2 Timothy 4:3–4 CSB
    For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.
    And yet this concept is foreign to us today. We operate today under the so called eleventh commandment
    Matthew 7:1 CSB
    “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.
    Jesus warning here is explicitly external - which tells us that false teachers will reveal themselves. No one warns you to beware something you can’t see - except maybe in the case of viruses - but for the most part when someone tells you to beware or to be on guard there is a credible, visible threat. And we will get to how to recognize them in accordance with Jesus description of them in a moment. But there is also a sense in which Jesus warning here is implicitly internal - that one place that we should be wary of is the heart that is beating inside our own chests.
    This concept of watchfulness, as the spiritual discipline of watching one’s own spiritual life is called, is somewhat of a lost art in Christianity. Throughout the New Testament we as believers are cautioned to keep a close watch on our spiritual lives. Jesus isn’t warning the disciples against the scribes solely because they may fall victim to them, He is warning them against them so they don’t become like them. Warning believers to keep close watch on themselves Paul implores us in 1 Corinthians 16
    1 Corinthians 16:13 CSB
    Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.
    Be alert - watch yourself. Again in Colossians 4:2
    Colossians 4:2 CSB
    Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.
    Peter takes up the standard in 1 Peter 4:7
    1 Peter 4:7 CSB
    The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer.
    and the Apostle John warns as well in 2 John 8
    2 John 8 CSB
    Watch yourselves so that you don’t lose what we have worked for, but that you may receive a full reward.
    There are three fundamental ways in which we guard or watch our own hearts. The first is that we have to know our hearts - our real hearts, not the Facebook hearts that we so often try to show to others or even try and fool ourselves with. We know that there are tendencies within our hearts that are bent towards sin and we must root them out. The prophet Jeremiah describes man’s heart
    Jeremiah 17:9–10 CSB
    The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it? I, the Lord, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.
    The Lord tests our hearts to determine what is there and it is incumbent upon those who proclaim themselves to be in Christ to be knowledgable of what is within our hearts. Charles Spurgeon, commenting on these verses, said it this way
    2,200 Quotations from the Writings of Charles H. Spurgeon: Arranged Topically or Textually and Indexed by Subject, Scripture, and People Jeremiah 17:9

    1674There is within our nature that which would send the best saint to hell if sovereign grace did not prevent. There is a little hell within the heart of every child of God, and only the great God of heaven can master that mischievous indwelling sin.

    And it is this bent, this tendency to sin that we must root out and afford no opportunity to. This is the second way that we must be watchful over our own souls. On the night that He was praying before His betrayal Jesus said to the disciples
    Mark 14:37–38 CSB
    Then he came and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Couldn’t you stay awake one hour? Stay awake and pray so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
    The New American Standard Bible translates “stay awake” as keep watch - keep watch so that you won’t enter into temptation. Knowing the bent of our heart, knowing what truly resides within us should also help us in watching and avoiding opportunities for the sin that seeks dominion over us. God warns Cain in Genesis 4
    Genesis 4:6–7 CSB
    Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
    Paul laments in Romans 7
    Romans 7:17–20 CSB
    So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me.
    Just like the alcoholic who can no longer walk into a bar or the person addicted to pornography who can’t get onto a computer, we should know our triggers and what it is that influences us to those pet sins which still seek to hold sway over our lives. But it is not only in the negative - the don’ts that we must function - but also in the positives.
    What we must do is to steep ourselves so greatly in the Gospel that we provide no quarter for sin to manifest itself in our lives. When I was in the Navy we would try to make our commands a “hard target”. We would build layer upon layer of defense. First there was a gate on the pier and behind them was an overwatch so that if the gate was threatened, they could engage the target. Then there was another guard at the foot of the brow or the walkway up to the ship. Then on the ship there was the Officer of the Deck and the rest of the quarterdeck watch. Roving sentries. Cameras. We did everything we could to make our command as difficult a target to attack as possible. Were we impregnable - no - but we did everything we could.
    We should endeavor to do the same in our Christian lives. We should practice the disciplines of our Christian life, prayer, Bible reading, evangelism, stewardship among others and always be preaching the Gospel to ourselves. Puritan John Owen, writer of such great books as The Mortification of Sin and Death of Death, says that we should meet temptations with “thoughts of faith concerning Christ on the cross, this will make it sink before thee.” In another place he says of temptation
    “Gospel provisions will do this work; that is, keep the heart full of a sense of the love of God in Christ. This is the greatest preservative against the power of temptation in the world.” It is also the greatest preventative measure against becoming like a scribe. One danger of watchfulness is that it can become too self-centered but our gaze as Christians should never be inward for too long before we swing our eyes upward towards the promises, towards the celestial city that we are all called to.
    This was a primary problem with the scribes - their gaze was focused on themselves and it was all about them.

    It’s All About Me

    Comedian Brian Regan has a great bit about being at dinner with a “Me monster”. You know the type - the one who has done everything better, faster and easier than any five other men and is not afraid to tell you all about it. The one who every conversation comes back to them. Some of you may have people in mind who fit that description. The scribes were a prime example of me monsters.
    Which of course was only right. This denouncement of the scribes by Christ would have been surprising to His listeners to say the least. According to Jewish tradition, Moses received the law and gave it to Joshua, who gave it to the elders, who gave it to the prophets, who gave it to the scribes. The Mishnah stated “It is more culpable to transgress the words of the Scribes than those of the Torah” meaning that you were more to blame for transgressions against the words of the scribes than against those of the Torah - the first five books of the Bible.
    Jesus says that they wore long robes. These were not just any robes. They were pristine, exquisitely decorated prayer shawls that had long tassels at the hems that marked them out from the more colorful garb of the regular Jewish populace. They were sure to be noticed wherever they went. As they flowed through the market places where everyone except the most burdened laborers would stop and greet them as they passed.
    They desired the best seats in the synagogue. These would be the seats against the front of the dais or the front of the room against the ark or chest that would contain the scriptural scrolls. It was from this place that they would address the congregation and were reserved for teachers and persons of rank or affluence. James would later warn his readers against giving preference to people
    James 2:2–3 CSB
    For if someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor person dressed in filthy clothes also comes in, if you look with favor on the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here in a good place,” and yet you say to the poor person, “Stand over there,” or “Sit here on the floor by my footstool,”
    The scribes would also expect the best seats at banquets. Jesus has previously warned against such self-promotion
    Luke 14:7–11 CSB
    He told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t sit in the place of honor, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. “But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
    And in Mark He gave His disciples this instruction when they were arguing amongst themselves who was the greatest
    Mark 9:35 CSB
    Sitting down, he called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last and servant of all.”
    Now we don’t have many who are ostentatious enough to be in the same category as the scribes in the modern church. There are those who seem to take to themselves special places of honor undeservedly or who might think higher of themselves than they ought. But what is more common in today’s iteration of the church is the mentality that church is about me.
    It is the consumer mentality that says I can show up once a week for an hour and I’m good. I don’t have to serve, I don’t have to use my gifts I’m just here to be noticed and to be served. It is in many ways the exact opposite of the watchfulness to which Christ calls us to. It is the idea that an hour on Sunday and 20 minutes a day for the average church goer is enough and they’re safe. They’ve done their part.
    It is a well known statistic that we are in a prayer famine throughout the American church. And I know that we have some prayer warriors in this church - but having a handful people who have a deep prayer life is not the same as having a praying church. William Tyndale is quoted as having responded to a priest who sought to persecute him for translating the Bible “If God spare my life ere many years, I shall cause a boy that driveth a plow to know more scripture than thou dost.” For some that plow boy knows more Scripture than they do even though they have no less than five paper translations in their home and more on their phone.
    We have become a church that is asleep and instead of one that asks what more can I do for my God we as what has my God done for me lately? We have the audacity to come before Him week after week as if it is to His benefit that we are here. And that’s when we do come. The standard for church attendance changes every year but I think it is something like one out of every four Sundays now. There is no where else in our lives that that standard is acceptable. Try showing up to work one out of every four work days. Or try being married for only 25% of the year. We have a corporate heart issue when it comes to God. We think He’s down here and we’re at the same level.
    We’re like the two guys I knew in the Navy who showed up one day to a meeting called by the Command Master Chief - the highest ranking enlisted member of a ship’s crew - late and boldly pushed their way to the front of the crowd and stood there eye to eye with him as if with equals rather than as senior to subordinate.
    In the case of the scribe and in the case of some of the church today the sin is the same - they had forgotten the first things and we have forgotten the same. The commandment that Jesus quoted as the first and foremost of all the commandments
    Mark 12:29–30 CSB
    Jesus answered, “The most important is Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
    And when we are living in this condition, when life is all about us, there is no time for it to be about anybody else.

    It’s Not About You

    Mark is going to deliver an object lesson of just how the scribes had failed to follow the second commandment -
    Mark 12:31 CSB
    The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.”
    He says that Jesus continues to condemn the scribes by saying that they devour widows houses and say long prayers just for show. Commentators are very split on exactly what Jesus is discussing when He says they devour widow’s houses. It could have been along the lines of the story recounted by Josephus later about a Jewish man who arrived in Rome and purported himself to be a scribe. He endeared himself to a local widow named Fulvia and persuaded her to make substantial gifts to the Temple in Jerusalem. He was in truth a con artist who made off with her “gifts” leading to outrage in Rome from the emperor Tiberius down to the commoners. Or Jesus could have simply meant that they would take advantage of widows by charging them exorbitant prices for legal advice or making loans to them and charging high interest. Whatever else the point may be, it was clear that these men were not living in accordance with the principle to love your neighbor as yourself as they were mistreating the most vulnerable of society.
    Isaiah had condemned an earlier generation of Israelites for the same practices
    Isaiah 10:1–4 CSB
    Woe to those enacting crooked statutes and writing oppressive laws to keep the poor from getting a fair trial and to deprive the needy among my people of justice, so that widows can be their spoil and they can plunder the fatherless. What will you do on the day of punishment when devastation comes from far away? Who will you run to for help? Where will you leave your wealth? There will be nothing to do except crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain. In all this, his anger has not turned away, and his hand is still raised to strike.
    One point to make here is that the scribes were dependent on the generosity of worshippers and benefactors for their living. But much like the prosperity preachers of our day, they took great advantage of the position to extort money from the poor and downtrodden. In so doing they violated the principle that Peter will write about in 1 Peter 5
    1 Peter 5:1–3 CSB
    I exhort the elders among you as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory about to be revealed: Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but willingly, as God would have you; not out of greed for money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
    And now Mark puts these two stories together - of Jesus teaching the crowds and then seeing the widow’s gift - to drive home the point. While the story does make the great point of sacrificial giving that isn’t the main point of it’s presence at this point in the book. Mark has been very carefully raising the level of conflict between Jesus and the Sanhedrin and he has just condemned the scribes. As we get to chapter 13, this theme of condemnation will continue. It seems odd that Mark would stop all of that to recount this endearing story of this woman giving her last two coppers, amounting to one sixty-fourth of a day’s wage, into the offering box.
    He is highlighting for us both the depravity of the scribes and the level to which they had duped the population into their works based system of salvation. This widow, who should have been cared for by the community, who should have been provided for by the temple, gives her last two coins and is now destitute with nothing to live on. Mark doesn’t give us enough details to know whether or not she could work. The picture of this poor woman that I take is a hunched over, older woman a bit frail in stature who doesn’t really have any way to make a living. And here she is sowing her seed into the Temple. Maybe she’d heard someone tell her that if she just gave in faith that the Lord would reward that.
    Rather than this woman giving out of her poverty, the rich, who were ostentatious in their giving wanting to be noticed for the large sums they had given, should have been looking to care for her and to provide for her needs. James would write a few years from this moment
    James 1:27 CSB
    Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
    The first church controversy to arise was over the care of widows
    Acts 6:1 CSB
    In those days, as the disciples were increasing in number, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution.
    While it is not the Gospel, we do have a responsibility to look out for those in our community who are marginalized and who are overlooked. Now my definition of who that is is vastly different from the world’s. Those we should be looking out for are those in our church who are hurting whether financially, emotionally or however, and seeking to serve them. They are our neighbors who are coming up short. It is a completely opposite point of view from what has God or the church done for me when we ask how can I serve my neighbor.
    It is the fulfillment of Paul’s instruction in Philippians 2
    Philippians 2:3–4 CSB
    Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.
    The scribes were so busy looking at themselves and looking out for themselves that they had forgotten the two greatest commandments. Have we?

    Conclusion

    To be fair - not all of the scribes fall into this camp and I know that not all of us do either. There are some though who do and we should be wary of them. There are those in the Christian world today who, just like the scribes, seek to draw all the attention to themselves even while piously speaking of Christ. The hardest differentiation we as modern Christians have to make is not between what is true and what is false. It is between what is true and what is almost true. These scribes were the experts of their day, they were the experts of the law. They would have been the names you would have seen on Lifeway’s website selling their Bible studies and their spiritual growth books. They would’ve had their own websites and ministries - fittingly named after themselves - and would have had a million followers on Facebook and Twitter. And yet they were teaching a false gospel and supporting a false system.
    Christ’s warning to beware, to watch out, for their teaching was delivered to disciples who very shortly would be on their own and, quite possibly, tempted to succumb to the scribes manner of teaching and way of life. We may be tempted to do the same as we look out and see high profile, well meaning Christians and think we could listen and follow them. Yet what they have embraced is just slightly off center. It sounds good and they can even find a Bible verse that seems to support what they are saying and yet - it’s wrong. We must be watchful and wary of them. It starts at home - with your own heart. You must be watchful over your own heart and the condition of your heart. Are you living as if it’s all about me and not about you? Or are you living as if it’s all about God and loving others as yourself?
      • Mark 12:38–44CSB

      • Matthew 5:20CSB

      • Acts 20:28–31CSB

      • 2 Timothy 4:3–4CSB

      • 1 Corinthians 16:13CSB

      • Colossians 4:2CSB

      • 1 Peter 4:7CSB

      • 2 John 8CSB

      • Jeremiah 17:9–10CSB

      • Mark 14:37–38CSB

      • Genesis 4:6–7CSB

      • Romans 7:17–20CSB

      • James 2:2–3CSB

      • Mark 9:35CSB

      • Mark 12:29–30CSB

      • Mark 12:31CSB

      • Isaiah 10:1–4CSB

      • 1 Peter 5:1–3CSB

      • James 1:27CSB

      • Acts 6:1CSB

      • Philippians 2:3–4CSB

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