« Burning Daylight | Main | Yet Once More »
Tuesday
Apr122011

Disguises

Every year on All Hallows’ Eve, millions of Americans – children and adults alike – don silly or strange costumes and take to the streets in search of candy or amusement, or both. There is certainly something very dubious in the costumes that celebrate evil, and even in the holiday itself, which is an amalgam of pagan superstition and Catholic appeasement. It is the costuming, however, that is most integral to American Halloween, and for some, to their faith throughout the year. Christian hypocrisy is likewise a matter of disguising one’s deepest carnal intentions with a pious costume that must be stripped away eventually.

I. Disguised

    A. Jeroboam’s Wife

        1. long before you could buy superhero costumes at Target, the first lady of Israel put on a disguise that she might get information from a prophet that her husband figured would not cooperate with them

        2. King Jeroboam was the first leader of divided Israel and he was promised a dynasty just like David’s, but he could not resist the urge to have a temple like Solomon’s as well; that led him into further sin and God responded with punishment

        3. and so he sent his wife to get information (First Kings 14:1-6)

            a. Abijah saw right through her disguise and pronounced judgment upon the royal family

            b. some costumes are better than others and it is amazing what Hollywood can do these days, but underneath the makeup and plastic, and even beneath the skin, that’s still really you

 

    B. Ahab’s Uniform

        1. another king of Israel, even more famously wicked than Jeroboam, tried to save his life by hiding his identity, subjecting his friend, King Jehoshaphat to battle (First Kings 22:30-35)

        2. Ahab’s disguise was fully intended to save his life at the expense of his ally’s and it might have worked had Jehoshaphat not cried out in some way that alerted his pursuers to his true identity

        3. Ahab was disguised as an ordinary soldier or something like it, but it could not change who he was, nor God’s intention for him

 

    C. Disguises

        1. many other characters disguise themselves, or at least conceal their true identity for some strategic or selfish reason

            a. Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute before her father-in-law Judah that she might gain satisfaction from him after her widowhood and his unfulfilled promises (see Genesis 38:1-30)

            b. beneath her inherent beauty and royal trappings, Queen Esther hid the truth that she was a Jew until Mordecai plead with her to save her people from Haman

        2. in most every case, the disguise fails or the truth is revealed to the embarrassment of the actor, reminding us that our true identity might be concealed from the people around us, but it is laid bare before God

        3. the most obvious manifestation of this insincerity is in cases of ongoing hypocrisy – everyone slips and sins from time to time, but there are other church members who secretly harbor disbelief or sinful habits that make their professions of faith very false (Titus 1:10-16)

            a. hypocrisy comes from a Greek word (ὑποκριτής, hoop-ok-ree-tace') that literally means “an actor, stage player … a dissembler, pretender” (Thayer)

            b. when Jesus condemned hypocrisy, he took aim at apparently religious people who were hiding very sinister secret identities, whose costume had become their public apparel, while they sought to conceal reality

            c. play acting Christians “outwardly appear righteous to others, but within … are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:28).

 

II. Christian Costumery

    A. False Brothers

        1. contrary to the theory of salvation by faith only, the Holy Spirit identified certain false brethren even in the early church, who held both simple faith and membership in the church, but who labored to drive the doctrine in a legalistic direction (Galatians 2:1-5)

        2. Paul ran into them many times, discovering that these Judaizing teachers who sought to impose adult circumcision and other Mosaic customs on Gentile converts, were frequently among the party of the Pharisees (see Acts 15:5)

        3. some Pharisees did obey the gospel of Christ, at least in performance of the rite, but their hearts remained wed to false notions and they troubled their brethren with hobbies, vendettas, and opinion

        4. Paul asserted that he did not yield to them even for an hour and when congregations today try to appease false, divisive brethren by giving them a platform or begging true brethren to go along, they do so to their own destruction, usually regretting it, but too late

            a. these brethren wore a costume of deeper piety and personal holiness, but they were guilty of binding upon others what God had not bound

            b. today, they continue to divide the church by going beyond Scripture to enforce some personal qualm and preference upon others

 

    B. False Apostles

        1. Paul even crossed paths with some who falsely claimed to be apostles, ones specifically inspired, authorized, and sent by God to address the universal church in the first century (Second Corinthians 11:12-15)

            a. these false apostles, sarcastically called super apostles by Paul, were guilty of preaching another gospel, warping the teaching and character of Christ to fit their model

            b. they wore disguises that made them look like reliably authoritative ministers, but they adopted a power that was not theirs

        2. Diotrephes is not identified as one who claimed apostolic authority, but the result was the same on a local level (Third John 9-11)

            a. wherever elders lord themselves over the flock or very assertive members attempt to take control, they are behaving like false apostles

            b. they disguise themselves as passionately concerned for the group, but their controlling, overbearing attitude exposes the selfish reality

            c. “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false” (Revelation 2:2).

        3. false apostles operate in the Mormon Church, for no man alive today has seen the incarnate and resurrected Christ as they had in the first century, but there is a more imminent threat to churches of Christ in reproducing a Diotrephes in every city

 

    C. False Teachers

        1. false teachers also disguise themselves as ministers of hope, usually promoting a doctrine that is more convenient and evangelistically palatable to the masses by cutting corners and ignoring costly consequences of obedience to truth (Second Peter 2:1-3)

            a. their masks smile and their costumes are white, but the effect of buying into the illusion is always a compromised faith (Second Peter 2:17-19)

            b. false teachers follow the pattern of false prophets who frequently promised the people of Israel peace when there was no peace forthcoming

        2. false teachers often loose where God has not loosed, validating immoral behavior and inviting experimentation with sin (Matthew 7:15-20)

        3. that is why, like the fair-minded Bereans, we must be in the habit of testing the spirits of those who would teach us by examining, not only the visible character, but the accuracy of their message: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (First John 4:1).

 

    D. False Identities

        1. most imminently, we must be concerned that we do not slip on a pious costume of weekly church attendance, occasional meditation and prayer, and innocuous behavior like we put on our suits and skirts every Sunday in place of our more comfortable, everyday clothing (Second Timothy 3:1-5a)

        2. the trouble with the Pharisees had more to do with their behavior than their teaching as they failed to practice what they preached; they subtly influenced people to be play-actors at their faith as they seemed to get away with all manner of selfishness and exploitation simply by knowing the rules of the game better than anyone else

        3. if we think the rules of the game allow us all the secret sin on the side that we want, as long as we slip back into our Sunday best long enough to make an appearance in the pews, we are just as disguised and misguided as the Lord’s worst enemies (Hebrews 4:9-13)

 

Conclusion

After Halloween is ended, the costumes come off and and the candy is devoured, exposing reality of the situation again. Judgment Day has an even greater potential to bring to light many secret and very sinister identities. We hope that our appearance is no mask, but that it reflects who we really are.

 

Questions For Review

  1. What was Jeroboam’s wife trying to accomplish with her costume?
  2. What did Ahab hope to avoid in his disguise?
  3. What is hypocrisy literally?
  4. What makes some brethren false?
  5. What is the point of being a false apostle?
  6. To what were false teachers compared?
  7. How do Christians sometimes wear disguises?

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend