Given Josh Harris’s announcement, I find this interesting that I preach this sermon on July 14th, 2019. I wrote this sermon in the fall of 2018 and intended to preach it that winter. But because that Sunday accidentally was double booked at the church, my message was postponed. I planed to preach it in March, but last minute, I preached another sermon instead. So I ended up preaching this sermon on July 14th, a week and a half before Harris announced that he is leaving the faith. While it could be pure coincidence, I believe God wanted me to preach it right now for these times.
The sermon focuses on hypocrisy and calls us to check yourself to see if you’re in the faith. Below are my notes from the sermon.
Turn in your Bibles to 2 Chronicles 24. While you turn there, I’m going to read you an eyewitness account of one of the crucial moments in the American Revolutionary War. I want you to guess what it is.
When a division of the American army was at North Castle. . .. John Paulding came, one afternoon, to me, saying ‘Isaac, have you an objection to going with me on a scout below?’ ‘No,” says I. . .. After walking a mile or so, we fell in with David Williams, and persuaded him to accompany us on our expedition. . .. At 9 we reached the field beside the road, . . .. We cleared a spot, and Paulding, taking out the cards, said, “Boys we will draw cuts—two can play, while the third stands sentry.”—The cuts were made, and I was to stand sentinel.
Shortly, . . . I saw a horseman ride slowly along on a black horse. . .. I said to Paulding and Williams, “here’s horse-man coming—we must stop him.” We got up with our firelocks ready, and waited for him to advance. As soon as he . . . saw us standing by the fence, he reined in his horse, and . . . said, “God bless you, my dear friends, I hope you belong to our party.”—We asked, “to what party?” Without hesitation, he smilingly replied: “. . . I am a British officer, and to convince you that I am a gentleman, and aver the truth, see, here is my gold watch.” We told him he was wrong for we . . . [did not] belonged to his . . . party, but were Americans and that he was our prisoner.——He started, changed colour, and fetching a deep sigh, said. “God bless my soul! A body most do any thing to get along now-a-days.”—Thereupon he showed Gen. Arnold’s passport, and said, “I have been in the country on particular business, and hope you won’t detain me a minute.”
After we had read the passport, we ordered him to dismount and follow us. . .. Major Andre requested us again to release him, and said he would give any sum of money we might ask. . ..You know our answer. After searching his clothes, we ordered him to sit down; and pulling off his boot we perceived that his silk stocking sagged a little; we took that off, and found in three letters that were not sealed. On taking off his other boot and stocking, we found three more unsealed letters, which contained correct descriptions of the posts, redoubt, cannon, &c. of West Point and other places. After taking possession of these documents he said, “Now you have gotten all, lead on.” He put on his stockings and boot, and followed us to the road. Replacing the fence, we allowed him to mount his horse and go in advance.”1
You may have recognized this story near the end. This is the account told by William van Wart of the capture of Major Andre who was coming from Benedict Arnold with the plans of WestPoint. Benedict Arnold, a proud and greedy man, sold out his country for ₤20,000. At the beginning of the Revolution, he commanded American troops and was known for his cunning defeats of the British. George Washington himself retained great admiration for him during most of the Revolutionary War. But growing disenchanted with the American cause, Benedict Arnold decided to be a spy for the British—living a hypocritical life for the hopes of the pleasure of money.
Hypocrisy—really treachery—on this level shocks and astounds us, and well it should. But have you ever considered how this kind of hypocrisy exists in the church? There are people who imitate Christianity but are not true believers. And after some time they grow disenchanted with the church, they turn againstGod and his Word, selling
1. The Wilmingtonian, and Delaware Advertiser in 1826
themselves out for the pleasures of the world. Once the restraints of parents, social status, and the like are removed, they shed the garb of piety and expose their lust for the world. And it is this hypocrisy that I would like to call your attention to today. [Proposition] And here is my main point: Because it is so easy to be a hypocrite (especially in America), we must check ourselves to see if we are in the faith.
We will cover all of 2 Chronicles 24 in the sermon tonight. But before we begin, lets back up for a second and think about the book of Chronicles as a whole. The book was after the Exile, maybe by Ezra himself. It was written to the Jews to show them how following God leads to prosperity and turning from God only leads to destruction. It was written to the Jews to encourage them to reject idols and serve the living God. Our text tonight gives us a negative example of someone who pretended to serve God, but turned against him once godly influences were removed.
Lets begins reading verses 1-3 which give us the setting of the story.
Now, we’re going to get into the passage. The first point, found in verses 4-16, is this:
I. When a hypocrite is surrounded by godly people, he often does great works for God (4-16).
Transition: It may surprise you that hypocrites will do great works for God. But truly, it does happen. Lets look at the text. I want you to notice that:
A. A hypocrite can be passionate about getting things done for God(4-7) [Read 4-7]
Explanation: Notice how it says that “Joash decided to restore the house of the LORD” (4). If you look at the word decided, you may have a footnote next to it. In the footnote, you’ll find that the word literally reads, “was with a heart.” In other words, he put his heart into this project. Also, notice near the end of verse five where he tells the Levites to collect the tax and he says, “You shall do the matter quickly.” He was fervent about getting this project completed. He wanted to make sure that everything was done as fast as possible. Further, when the job was not done, he called Johoiada in to take over the project. He set his most trusted man over the Levites to get it done. The task was big, as verse seven notes: “the sons of the wicked Athaliah had broken down the temple.” So, he called upon his trusted friend and councilor to complete this task. Joash wanted the job done quickly and he wanted it done right. And in this way, Joash put his heart into the work at hand, even though as we find out later he was not a believer.
Transition: Also, verse 8-10 teach us something else about hypocrites:
B. A hypocrite can creative to get things done for God (8-10).
Explanation: Joash quickly realized that it was going to take a while to get all the money for the project. Perhaps, it was the bureaucracy that was slowing things down. Perhaps collecting the tax from all the counties in Judah would take a long time. Or perhaps those things were going great, and he just wanted to make opportunities for more money to come in. Whatever the reason, Joash was came up with an idea to bring in the money. He started thinking out-of-the-box. In fact, he didn’t just think outside of the box to collect money [Read verse 8]. This idea was perfect. It was simple. There was not a lot of set up or people to collect the tax. It was accessible. Anyone could come and give the money and you didn’t have to wait in a long line of bureaucratic slothfulness. It was accountable. Joash didn’t worry if the Levites would steal the money while they were away on the road. All the money was there in Jerusalem under the watchful eye of the king. So, he sent the proclamation throughout the land and the people came and gave money. They came, as it says in verse 10, and they rejoiced to give the tax. They were glad to give money for the rebuilding of the temple. All this thanks to the creativity of Joash, but yet as we will find out later, he still did not believe.
Transition: Joash was thinking creatively. But not only did he think of great ideas, he followed through with them. This informs us about another thing hypocrites can do:
C. A hypocrite can be detailed in his execution to get things done for God (11-14). [Read 11-14]
Explanation: I want you to notice three things that indicate how detailed Joash was about the whole project. First, in verse 11, he is detailed about how he counts the money. He has two people there, (one from the king, one from the priests) to count the money. Also, he counted the money every day which ensured accuracy. Second, look at verse 12. He lists all the trades that he employed to finish the temple: masons, carpenters, iron workers, and bronze workers. He knew the trades that he needed for the job. Third, in verse 13, the construction workers finished the job “according to its specifications.” This means that they had a plan, probably detailed drawing of some kind, so that the job could be done right. Further, they had done the job so well that they actually were well below budget; that is, they had a surplus of money. Notice how in verse 14 that “they brought the rest of the money before the king and Jehoiada.” Joash didn’t waste those tax dollars, but instead put it to good use and made new utensils for the work that had to be done in the temple. Whether this surplus came from an overabundance in giving, or they were really good managing on a tight budget, the result is the same that Joash and Jehoiada did manage the money well so that they had enough left over for these extra utensils.
Application: So we have it: a hypocrite can be passionate, creative, and detailed in his work for God. How does this apply to us today? You may be passionate, creative, and detailed in your service here in the church, but that does not mean that you are a Christian. You can be involved in any number of programs, ministries, or committees. You can be known your creative designs featured at a church event. You can be meticulous in the execution of your budget. You can be passionate about winning souls. But all these things do not guarantee that you are a believer. You may have the form of godliness, but inside you know that you have no relationship with God. Therefore, check yourselves. See if you actually have a relationship with the One who saved you! Examine your heart. Why do you do things here? Is it for the praise of men? Is it because you need to show us that you are a good Christian? And then repent! Confess your sin and turn to the almighty God.
Illustration: I knew a man once who was super active in the church. He was passionate, creative, and detailed. He led choirs, men’s groups, and instrument ensembles. He was funny, wrote skits, and entertained us often. But all along, he was faking it. He finally threw off the restrains of God, became an agnostic, left his wife, and now lives after the world. It seems the whole time he was in the church, he did it for the praise of men. Brethren, please, check yourselves: are you in the faith?
Transition: In verses 15 and 16, there is a bit of a transition. [Read 15-16]. In these verses, we have the sad news that Jehoiada, the faithful priest dies. He had a good life, served his God, and was faithful to the end. His counselee, however, did not finish this way. Instead, as we’ll find in the last bit of the chapter, his true heart comes out and turns away from God (15-16). And this is my second main point:
II. When he is surrounded by ungodly people, a hypocrite often does wicked works against God (17-26).
Transition: With his godly councilor gone, Joash was soon tested on the matter of his faith, and he failed. I want you to notice some more things about the hypocrite:
A. A hypocrite’s wicked works result in his rejection of God (17-22).
Transition: He rejects God by doing two things: he rejects God’s worship and he rejects God’s rebuke.
1. A hypocrite rejects the worship of God to worship his own idols (17-18).
Explanation: These leaders were coming to the king and they wanted something. But what were they asking him for? They came to ask the king if they could worship other gods. The king, not only gave them permission, but it seems that he joined in too, because verse 18 starts with the word they. As soon as the godly influences left his life, these ungodly men came and turned Joash’s heart away from God.
Transition: Also, not only did Joash reject God by not worshipping Him, but he also rejected God by refusing to listen to God’s rebuke. This brings us to another insight about hypocrites:
2. A hypocrite rejects the rebuke from God to live the way he desires (19-22).
Explanation: Look at verse 19. The people and Joash refused to listen to God. Not only this, but God sent a special prophet to Joash: “Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest.” He preached a hell-fire-and-brimstone message, saying, “Thus God has said, ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD and do not prosper?'” Now stop reading right there. The word prosper is a highly significant word in the book of Chronicles. When David turned the kingdom over to Solomon, he said, [Read 1Chr. 22:13]. The prosperity included God giving Solomon all those riches to build the temple and his own palace (2Chr. 7:11). Later, one of Solomon’s grandsons Asa became king. He was a good king because he followed God. In a time of peace, Asa said, [Read 2Chr. 14:7]. After Joash, Uzziah was another good king who sought God. God says of him, [Read 2Chr. 26:5]. But now we see the life of Joash. When God’s messengers came, Joash refused to listen. Even to the point of commanding the death of Zechariah, as we read in verses 21 and 22. Unlike these other kings, Joash turned away from God and rejected him. As a result, Joash and all of Judah would not prosper. And this prediction came true sooner than they thought.
Transition: This brings us to our next point:
B. A hypocrite’s wicked works results in destruction from God (23-26).
1. A hypocrite’s works will destroy many people (23-24).
Explanation: Within a year, God destroyed the prosperity of Judah by sending an army to destroy them. The invading army should have never won, because they were a small force (verse 24 makes this clear). [Read verse A] Why did they lose? Because [Read verse B]. Not only did Joash’s hypocrisy affect himself, but it also affected all those around him. The leaders of the people were destroyed and the people were plundered. So God destroyed Israel because one man turned from God and let the people do likewise.
2. A hypocrite’s works will destroy himself (25-27).
Explanation: But not only did Joash’s hypocrisy cause destruction to the nation, it also caused destruction to himself. Not only was his large army destroyed, but also he was badly wounded (verse 25). Further, his servants hated him because he killed the son of Jehoiada, the prophet Zachariah. And the people disliked him as well, because while they gave him the honor of being buried in the City of David, they withheld the honor of being buried with the other kings. Thus died Joash: A man who shed the garb of piety once the godly restraint was gone. A man who attempted later in life to succeed without following God. This man died an ignominious death.
Application: While you may not kill preachers to silence rebuke, do you ignore the conviction of God? Do you roll your eyes at the line drawn between right and wrong? If you read God’s Word, do you think to yourself, “sure, whatever”? Do you still live with your parents and you can’t wait to get out of the house so you can live the way you want without restriction? Or maybe you come to church for the social or cultural benefits; but you stiffen every time God speaks to your heart. If any of these things is true about you, you need to check yourself. Remember that God does not take lightly your rejection of him.
Illustration: Your rejection of God’s conviction is like people refusing to heed warnings of natural disasters. Like Harry Truman (not the president) who refused to leave his home near Mount Saint Helens—a volcano which erupted in 1980. It was the largest natural disaster in American history. National Geographic said this about Truman:
Harry Truman, who was closest to the volcano, became nationally and even internationally famous for his refusal to leave his lodge. He was portrayed by the press as sort of a rugged western loner who defied
government authority. He had owned the lodge for more than 50 years, and his refusal to evacuate caused difficulties for local law enforcement. People would say, “Harry Truman is up in his lodge, why can’t I go to my property?”
The blast was so powerful it broke off trees 10 feet in diameter, as if they were matchsticks. Harry Truman’s lodge was instantly destroyed and all the structures on Spirit Lake were buried under 200 feet of avalanche debris. Not a sign of them was ever found again.2
Like Truman, who ignored the warnings of the government, you too can choose to ignore the warnings of God. And you may survive for a time, but in the end, God’s judgment will come.
[Call] Therefore, you must check yourself and make sure you know you are in the faith, because it is so easy to pretend to be a Christian. Bow on your knees and submit before God cuts you off. Christ has died to save you from your hypocrisy. Therefore, turn to him today!
[Turn to a more positive tone to end on a good note]
This has been a hard-hitting message. And there is a possibility that because of this message, some of you who are saved might be doubting your salvation. I do not wish to cause you to fear. In fact, the conviction of the Lord in your heart and your willingness to get it right is an indication that you are, indeed, a true Christian. If you are struggling with assurance, pastor Hawkey or any of the pastors here would love to help you overcome.
And to encourage you, remember: Christ has forgiven your sins, and you are free to serve Jesus your God. You may struggle obeying God consistently, but God will give you the ability to get back up and serve him persistently. Like Jehoiada the priest, you can persistently serve God faithfully to the end. And it is this faithfulness in service that God remembers. It is not on our perfection, nor our great accomplishments, nor our temple building, but on faithful service that God rewards us.
Remember those men who caught Major Andre and spoiled the treason of Benedict Arnold? Let me read to the tombstone of John Paulding, one of those men:
FIDELITY – On the morning of the 23rd of September 1780, accompanied by two young farmers of the county of West Chester, he intercepted the British spy, André. Poor himself, he disdained to acquire wealth by the sacrifice of his country. Rejecting the temptation of great rewards, he conveyed his prisoner to the American camp and, by this noble act of self-denial, the treason of Arnold was detected; the designs of the enemy baffled; West Point and the American Army saved; and these United States, now by the grace of God Free and Independent, rescued from most imminent peril.
Your faithful service too will earn a reward, but this one far greater. You can have inscribed on your eternal life: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”