This week we’ll be looking at Luke 12:1-3. As you turn there you may want to allow your eyes to roam back over Luke 11 to remember what has occurred right before this discourse. A Pharisee had judged Jesus for failing to wash his hands before eating, and Jesus responded with a rebuke for the Pharisees. He later turned to his disciples and pronounced woes upon the Pharisees for their fundamental problem of hypocrisy.

This subject continues into Luke 12. Jesus is out getting ready for public ministry, and many people have gathered around Him, but He's still focusing on the conversation that started with the Pharisee on the subject of hypocrisy. He is deeply concerned that His own disciples not be infected by the same spirit because they’re going to pastor the first generation of Christians. So Jesus addresses this problem very directly in the first three verses of Luke chapter 12. He deals with the fruit of hypocrisy, the future of hypocrisy, and the failure of hypocrisy.

I. Leaven and Hypocrisy

Why was Jesus so concerned to talk about hypocrisy with His own disciples? To answer the question, I wanted to focus on three words from these verses: “first,” “leaven,” and “hypocrisy.”

Vast multitudes are around Jesus, but He wants to address His disciples first. Why? Because the temptation of the Pharisees is not unique. Jesus didn't put Luke 11 in so that we could come to church say, “Thank God I'm not like the Pharisees.” He turns to His disciples first because they are perfectly capable of this hypocrisy, and so are you and I.

Second, notice the word “leaven.” Jesus engages the disciples first because He knows that, as leaders, their lives will have an effect on the lives of His people. A religious leader whose life is fundamentally hypocrisy has nothing genuine to offer to the people of God. So Jesus pauses and says, “Disciples, it is vital that you get this.”

The last word is “hypocrisy.” Hypocrisy deals with the problem of sin by ignoring it and putting on a good exterior so that others don't see it. Jesus wants nothing to do with that kind of religion because it fails to deal with the fundamental problem. You see, underneath all religious hypocrisy is idolatry. There is some desire that is greater for us than God, and we want to worship that desire while appearing to worship God. That is the heart of hypocrisy, and you can't get at the problem by covering it up.

This demonstrates the universal tendency in religion for us to attempt to justify ourselves. We think that we can handle sin in our lives and experience by covering it up, looking good on the outside, and pretending to be in fellowship with the God whom we profess to believe. This is self-justification. Jesus is so deadly opposed to this in His disciples because it undermines everything that the Bible says about salvation by grace alone. It gives the wrong solution to sin, and so it inoculates us to the very gospel of grace.

This also reminds us of the absolute necessity of heart-work in our religion. Most of us can do a good job of fooling one another, but God sees the heart. I'm not saying that our lives don't matter, but our lives are the issue of our hearts. The outward doesn't matter if the heart is not right. Jesus is emphatic about this. You cannot fool God because He sees the heart.

II. The Future of Hypocrisy

Jesus emphasizes this in verses 2 and 3. He says in verse 2 that “nothing is covered up that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known.” Eventually, everything is going to be revealed. That's why cover-up is always a strategy of delayed failure and judgment because one day the cover-up will be over. Even in this life that principle works itself out over and over, doesn't it? People get by for a long time covering things up and then they come out. Jesus is saying that, ultimately, that is true of every sin. Everything that we do and say in our hearts will one day be displayed for all. Everything will be exposed in the last judgment.

III. The Failure of Hypocrisy

This leads Jesus to a conclusion for His disciples. He says in verse 3 that there are going to be no secrets in the end, and, therefore, all hypocrisy is in vain. “Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light. What you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” He's telling His disciples that hypocrisy will ultimately be a strategy of failure because they will be seen to be who they are in the end.

I want to make very clear that Jesus is not giving His solution to the problem of hypocrisy in these verses. The solution to hypocrisy is far deeper than a warning of ultimate exposure. Have you ever seen in yourself and in others such a desire to do something that even the knowledge that you will almost certainly be caught does not deter you? The desire is so powerful you’re ready to run into a brick wall. What's the solution to a desire so strong in you to worship something other than God?

A Scottish Presbyterian minister named Thomas Chalmers once preached a sermon called “The Expulsive power of a New Affection” in which he said that you cannot eliminate a desire simply by warning against the consequences of pursuing that desire. The only thing that can beat that desire is a greater, purer desire. The new affection comes in and expels the old desire, not by saying, “Stop it,” but by giving you a greater, right, and good desire.

That's where Jesus and the Gospel come in. There is no idolatrous desire in your life that Jesus cannot expel. And, when you begin to have in your heart a desire for fellowship with the living God through Christ, eventually every other idolatrous desire must bow before it. You stop trying to put up a front because you’re not worshipping your reputation. You want fellowship with God, so you don't care what other people say about you. That's why it's vital that we not adopt the religion of the Pharisees. It simply attempts to hide sin when what we need is transformation, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, a new heart and a new spirit, a new affection.

Jesus’s words are important for you and me because none of us is immune to the leaven of the Pharisees. Without realizing it, we can slip into patterns of putting up appearances before others when we know that, in our hearts, there are desires far greater than God. If that's where you are today, I beg you, don't play that game. Own up to the fact that your sin is far worse than you've ever admitted.

And realize that your Savior knows that better than you. He could catalogue your sin better than you could. And one by one on the cross He said, “Father, I want to bear that sin, and I want to bear that sin, and I want to bear that sin for him and for her.” And He's looking you in the eye and saying, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, trying to keep up reputation, and I’ll give you real rest.”