A Dividing Line Between Hypocritical and True Believers

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Create in me a clean heart, O God,
     and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Your presence,
     and take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51:10-12

In an earlier post, I defined a hypocritical believer as a professing, but false, Christian who has hidden from himself the reality of his spiritual lostness. I believe that the text before us reinforces that contrast.

In it, we see David after II Samuel 11. In that story, he had been looking out over the city of Jerusalem from his palace. He saw Bathsheba bathing on her roof. Stirred by lust, he had arranged for the murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite, so that he could gain her for himself. After the Prophet Nathan rebuked David (II Samuel 12), David was overcome by sorrow over what he had done. Psalm 51 is the prayer he wrote, confessing his sin, and seeking a restoration of his damaged relationship with Jehovah, his God.

Consider also Psalm 38, another psalm by David. In verse 3, he describes the physical trauma caused by sin. In verse 6, “all the day I go about mourning.” And verse 8, “I groan because of the tumult of my heart.”

In both of these psalms, we see a man traumatized, sorrowful and cast down, because he is aware of his sin. That doesn’t happen in a hypocrite. The hypocritical believer is self-satisfied with his spirituality and would be quite insulted if anyone were to suggest that he isn’t as holy as he imagines himself to be. He wears blinders, so he won’t see the reality within him (though, of course, those blinders don’t prevent him from seeing faults in others).

Further, even if a hypocrite were to recognize that maybe he isn’t so spiritual after all, another aspect of his condition is that he won’t consider his shortfall something to be concerned about, something that needs to be dealt with. And he certainly isn’t going to respond positively if someone were to confront him about his complacency! Since he has no real relationship with God in Christ, he isn’t conscious of lacking that relationship.

Prophets like Nathan make a true believer change. But they merely reinforce the blindness of the hypocrite. With just one exception: if the sovereign Lord sees fit to grant the hypocrite repentance (Acts 5:31 and II Timothy 2:25).

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