As I sat at a memorial service in Wheaton for Rev. John Stott with Karen and our friends the VanGemeren’s, Michael Card was singing before Pastor Tim Keller came up to speak. Card sang about coming as we are to Jesus in worship by lifting up our sorrows and offering our pain – with honesty and in our true identity as sons and daughters of the Father. Michael Card’s “Come Lift Up Your Sorrows”
In Matthew chapter six Jesus teaches us to be honest with people and God, especially in giving alms, prayer, and fasting. John Stott, it seems to me, was the best expositor of scripture in the 20th century. Stott warns us against laying aside our true identity in Christ:
“Our good works must be public so that our light shines; our [Christian] devotions must be secret lest we boast about them.” Practically speaking, we are to show what we are tempted to hide; we are to hide what we are tempted to show.
Stott defines what a hypocrite is:
“In classical Greek the hupokritēs was first an orator and then an actor. So figuratively the word came to be applied to anybody who treats the world as a stage on which he plays a part. He lays aside his true identity and assumes a false one. He is no longer himself but in disguise, impersonating somebody else. He wears a mask. Now in a theatre there is no harm or deceit in the actors playing their parts. It is an accepted convention. The audience knows they have come to a drama; they are not taken in by it” (italics mine).
Later Stott writes: “He is like an actor in that he is pretending (so that what we are seeing is not the real person but a part, a mask, a disguise), yet he is quite unlike the actor in this respect: he takes some religious practice which is a real activity and he turns it into what it was never meant to be, namely a piece of make-believe, a theatrical display before an audience. And it is all done for applause.”
We thank God for the life and ministry of John Stott.
John R. W. Stott The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1978), Kindle Locations 2045-2046, 2049, 2051.