[Regrettably, audio for this sermon is unavailable. However, you can read or print the word-for-word transcript below]
Well good evening everyone, it's lovely to be with you here in Lurgan Baptist Church at the Male Voice Choir Festival of Lurgan. It's a great privilege and an honour to be the speaker on this occasion. I can remember many times sitting where these men are sitting, because I was in the best Male Voice Choir there is in Northern Ireland - that's the Iron Hall Male Voice Choir! But unfortunately they can't be here tonight - I think it's something to do with the preacher, or something like that! I was also in the Portadown Male Voice Choir, and there are some of them sitting in the audience as well - but it's a great privilege, and I hope as we turn to God's word that we will receive a blessing from it.
We're turning to Matthew's gospel, our text is found there, Matthew's gospel and chapter 15. Matthew's gospel and chapter 15, and when we read in the Gospels of the Lord Jesus it's important to notice that often the words that we're reading are not only the words of God that we read right throughout the Bible, but they are the specific exact words of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. I often say it's important that whenever the Lord Jesus speaks that we, as His creatures, listen to what He is saying. So, if you listen to nothing more this evening, listen to Jesus Christ and His words.
Matthew chapter 15 and verse 1: "Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread". Verse 7: "Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias", the prophet, "prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me".
That's the text I want to take for our message this evening, let's read it again, verse 8: "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me".
Ignorance is a terrible thing. You often hear it said that ignorance is bliss - but it's not always bliss. Ignorance, misunderstanding, confusion is a terrible, terrible thing. I remember reading of a man who picked up the telephone and asked if he could send a telegram. When he got through to the to the telegram clerk, he said: 'I would like to send a telegram to Potawatomi in Indiana'. 'Please spell that', the girl said. 'Listen lady', the man replied, 'if I could spell it I wouldn't send a telegram, I'd write a letter'.
Ignorance! I heard another story of the night that the astronauts - I can't remember it, maybe my father here, Pastor Lyle, can remember it - but when the astronauts went to the moon for the first time, and the moon over the Canadian skies was a crescent. There was a Nova Scotia farmer who was out in his field one night finishing his work, and he couldn't get over the unnecessary risks that these men were taking. He turned to one of the beasts, and he said: 'You'd think they'd at least wait until it was bigger than that!'.
Ignorance! Some of the Portadown folk that are here tonight will remember this. When I came to Portadown and was inducted, my photograph was in the Portadown Times - I haven't been in it since, and probably never will be. It was in it that particular week, and my grandmother in Belfast had got a copy of it. You'll know that the Pastor of Portadown Baptist is Pastor Clifford Morrison. She was flicking through the Portadown Times, and she didn't know it was there - but she came across this photograph and she said: 'Quick! Quick! There's our David with Van Morrison!'.
Ignorance, isn't that true? Ignorance is not so often so blissful. On a more serious note, I want to say this: the ignorance of soul's salvation is damning. My friend, note that: if you are ignorant of the true way of salvation and eternal life, your soul will be damned in hell forever. I can't say that in more stronger terms - but I wonder did you come here this evening, as I know so many people do come to hear Male Voice praise, and perhaps you love it, love to listen to it, love to enjoy joining in even with the congregational singing as we praise God - you love it! You maybe have an interest in music, so many interests, and you love to be in a place like this on a night like this - you even love to be in your church week after week to hear such things as this - but you're not converted!
Could that be? This evening, as you've sung the hymns, as the rousing noise of God's praise has lifted the roof from these men and from the congregation, the Lord Jesus Christ sitting at the right hand of God there in glory looks down and upon your soul declares: 'That man, that woman, draweth near unto Me with their mouth, honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me'. I can't answer that question for you, only you can answer it.
I want to bring three songs before you this evening as we close our gathering with the word of God. The first song that we find is in our reading, it is the song of the hypocrite. The word 'hypocrite' is derived from a Greek word that simply meant an actor on the stage. He would come along, and he would take a mask and put it in front of his face. In other words, he would pretend and act out to be someone or something that he was not. Doesn't that define 'hypocrite'? Oh, we have so many hypocrites in our world, in politics and stately places. We have hypocrites who say one thing and do another thing - but let me tell you this my friend, upon the authority of God's word: there is a greater hypocrite than that!
There is the religious hypocrite. Let me define him or her for a moment. They go to their church week after week, they never take the name of the Lord in vain, never blaspheme, never miss a meeting, give to the poor, give to their church, are good to their neighbour, try to keep all the ten commandments, they're baptised, they're catechised - but they're not converted. My friend, what an awful state to be in, to be what the Bible calls a religious hypocrite. There are some people, and in Lurgan town this evening - I know it, because they were in Portadown and they're in Belfast, and as far as the earth will exist they'll be here - and they'll be in the pub, full, on a Saturday night, and in the pew on a Sunday morning!
Is that you? One night in the week it's a pint in your hand, and on the Lord's Day morning it's the Communion cup. The word of God says what you do is this: you eat and drink damnation unto yourself, because God cannot deal with hypocrites! You'll notice as you read the Gospels that the Lord Jesus Christ never had a word of compassion for a hypocrite! Every time that the Scribes and the Pharisees came to Him, He lambasted them! On the outside they were all squeaky clean, 'whitewashed sepulchres' He called them, but inside they were dead men's bones.
My friend, I love your soul - you mightn't believe that, but God knows it. But my friend, I warn you on the strictest terms of God's word that, if you are religious hypocrite, the Bible says that you will one day lift up your eyes in hell being in torment!
There are religious hypocrites, but there are self-righteous hypocrites. They maybe wouldn't set foot over the door of the church, they maybe don't put a denominational tag upon them, they maybe don't follow any religion - maybe atheist or agnostic - but they follow a moral life, they are good men and women. We have many 'good living' people, but they're not converted. Could that be you? Do you think that one day when you get to those pearly gates, and God comes to you and you stand before the judgement seat, that like a boxer God is going to weigh you in? Do you think that if your good deeds have outdone your bad, well, God will stand there and He'll pronounce and say: 'Now I have said that all fall short of My glory, but I must apologise - I've made an oversight - here is one that is worthy to come in!'? What pride!
What pride to think that you, my friend, are unique. But God says that there is no difference, that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and as God looks at us with His holy, divine, laser eyes, He says that from the tip of our head to the toes that we are covered with putrifying, seeping sores of sin. But some of us are so proud, and before the face of God - whether we be a religious hypocrite and we think that our denomination means something to God - my friend, it's an abomination if you think that it's going to get you into Glory! Oh, Job says: 'For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?'.
You see all that the hypocrite has is a front, isn't that right? It's a mask, it's a portrayal - it's going out on a Sunday morning, it's giving and letting other people see in the monthly magazine, or the yearly report, how much you've given year by year! That's what the hypocrite thrives on: to know that he is seen to be a man of God, a religious person - but Job says: 'Oh, what of the hypocrite on the day when God takes his soul away?'. What then? What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, yet lose his own soul?
But then the word of God tells us about the song of the happy. There's the song of the hypocrite, but we read of the song of them that have joy, the word of God says, unspeakable, that have a river of living waters, a fountain spraying up within their soul. They're joyous, they're happy, they're victorious and jubilant. The Psalmist David epitomised it in Psalm number 40, and do you know what he said? Listen: 'I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord'.
The song of the happy is a new song, do you know it? God has put into your heart, injected, transplanted into your being a song that means that at times you could nearly burst because of the joy that is in your soul! That's what musicians, they could tell us better this evening, that's what they say real singing, real music is. It's art, and art, if you like, to define it is: an expression of what is in the heart. Do you remember the black slaves in America? You've maybe seen it in the films, and as they plough in those cotton fields, as they're doing their work under slavery day by day, what did they sing? They brought into being those black spirituals: 'Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?', 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'. What where they saying? That in their hearts was this oppression of being slaves, but they knew one day that the chariot of God would come and deliver them - a song that was in their heart.
Do you have a song in your heart? Oh, I know the song that's maybe on your lips when you're staggering out of the pub at the weekend - the real song comes out then, doesn't it? But do you know what the song that God can give you this evening is? 'Oh happy day that fixed my choice, on Thee, my Saviour and my God. Oh happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!'. It's the song of the soul set free:
'Long my imprisoned spirit lay - Wesley could say
Fast bound in sin and nature's night,
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I rose, awoke, the dungeon flamed with light,
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose went forth and followed Thee'.
Do you have that song? Do you have the song of joy in your heart, the song of a knowledge of sins forgiven and peace with God, the song of a knowledge of a home in heaven one day if anything should happen to you, or if Christ should return again? Do you know for certain that He'll come to take you? Charles Wesley wrote that hymn that I quoted, but his brother John Wesley was a Church of England clergyman. He was on a boat to be a missionary, and do you know what he's quoted in his diary as saying? 'I'm going to convert the heathen but, oh, who will convert me?'.
My friend, your song of the hypocrite can become the song of the happy! Not only the song of the happy, but thirdly and finally the song of the heavenward. These men sang it this evening, we sang it in our own hymn, that there is a day coming when there will be a great crowd in heaven. It says in Revelation 5:9: 'And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation'. You'll not get to heaven through your church, you'll not get to heaven through the singing of these men, or being at a meeting like this, or giving as much as you like, or being moral, or whether you're Protestant or Roman Catholic - it'll never get you to Glory! Only the blood of Christ can do it!
You see it only took a few words for God to create you, but it took Him to put His Son to death to save you. There on that cross He hung between heaven and earth, bleeding and dying: 'Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown'. Do you see it? He is crying out to His Father: 'My God, my God, why?'. But have you ever noted that as He hung on that cross, He could have come down, for they said to Him: 'Come down! You saved others, why don't You save Yourself? If Thou be the Christ, save Thyself and us!'. But do you know why He didn't come down? Because He was paying the price for your sin.
These men sang one of my favourite hymns: 'Why was He there, my Saviour there on Calvary? Oh soul of mine, stop, reflect a while'. Do you know why He was there? He was there because He loved you. In a gospel meeting like this on one occasion, the preacher was stopped at the door and, as so often, he was cornered and told: 'Look, I've had enough of all this slaughterhouse religion and preaching blood and crucifixion and death. Why don't you preach Jesus as the example to the world?'. The preacher looked at him and said: 'Sir, do you think Jesus was a good example?'. 'Oh yes'. 'Do you think you could follow His example?'. 'Well, I could try, but I couldn't be like Him'. That Pastor turned to him and said: 'My friend, you don't need Christ as an example, you need Him as your Saviour'.
In a gathering like this on one occasion in Boston, it was called the Ecumenical Council of Religions, every known religion was there, every known Eastern philosophy and strange cult was represented. There was a man called Dr Joseph Cook who stood to his feet, and he addressed the gathering. He had a woman beside him, and he said: 'This woman stands here with me, and she has great stains of sin on her hands. She has the stains of murder'. Turning and addressing each company, he said: 'Can any of your cults or religions in their truths, in their doctrines and in their beliefs give this woman any hope? Can any of you tell this woman how she can get rid of her guilt and her sin?'. There was a great silence came across that gathering, and the Eastern cults looked at the Western religions with their mouths shut, and they couldn't say anything. All of a sudden, as if to hear a voice from heaven, Dr Joseph Cook looked to Glory and he said: 'Listen, hold on, hush! I hear a voice, it is John the apostle and he speaks! - 'The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth us from all sin''.
You're a sinner here, and God has been speaking to you either about your hypocrisy or about your sin in some way. My friend, there is a Saviour here this evening unseen to all of you - but you better believe He's here. He's here to save! He's here to save you! He can save you if you will come to Him and repent, turning your back on your sin, and turning your face to God to give Him your life - trusting the death of His Son at the cross, by faith, to be able to save you - and asking Him to save your soul from hell. Will you do it? Do you know what He says to you by His Spirit? 'Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow'.
Let us bow our heads for a moment. If you're a believer in this place please be praying. Perhaps God has spoken to you, you may be a very faithful church member, a very good neighbour. You may be the deepest-dyed sinner that Lurgan, or mid-Ulster, has ever seen - but no matter who you are, no matter what you've done, Christ bore your sin at Calvary. He shed His blood for you, and that blood is there to avail of, to cleanse you from your sin now - but you must come now, come in faith, ask Him to save your soul. Why not do it now?
Let me say that I will be out in the foyer if you wish to speak to me about these matters, but don't leave this place without knowing the reality of your sins forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ. Thank you for listening so well.
[Closing prayer: Pastor Denis Lyle, Pastor of Lurgan Baptist Church]
Let's bow together in prayer. I'm sure God has spoken to hearts this evening through the ministry of our brethren, through the duets, and more especially through the word. Maybe you're here tonight and you're not saved, my friend you need to get saved this evening.
'Get right with God, do it now.
Get right with God, He tells you how.
Oh, come to Christ who shed His blood,
And at the cross get right with God'.
Will you come to Calvary tonight, to this once crucified, but now glorified Saviour? Take Him home with you tonight as your Saviour, your Lord. The Pastor will be at the door to greet you as you leave tonight, and if you're concerned about your eternal welfare he would be happy to speak with you, and show you from the Scriptures how Christ can become your Saviour.
Father, we thank Thee tonight for such a wonderful Saviour. We thank You for the one who went all the way to Calvary to pay the great debt for our sin. We thank You, our gracious God this evening, that this Christ who now lives is in glory is able to save to the very uttermost all that come unto God by Him. Our Father, we pray that dear unsaved folk tonight, still on the road to hell, might turn, seek the Lord while He may be found, and call upon Him while He is near. We thank Thee for the ministry of our brethren, for the duets, and especially for the preaching of the word - and, our Father, we pray that this combined effort tonight will bring salvation to the lost, restoration to the backslider, blessing to God's people, and glory to God's Son. We thank Thee for Thy presence with us. We pray, oh God, that Thou wilt take us now to our homes in safety: Oh spread Thy covering wings around, till all our wanderings cease, and at our Father's blessed abode our souls arrive in peace. We ask it through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at the 41st Festival Of Male Voice Praise held in Lurgan Baptist Church, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "The Hypocrite's Song" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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