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That You May Believe - Scott Richardson

Sincere - Scott Richardson


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November 21, 2010


sincere |sin'si(ə)r|
free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings
from Latin sincerus ‘clean, pure.’

Paul, as he writes of his own conduct, uses the phrase “godly sincerity” (2Corinthians 1:12). This text tells us that the apostle’s life, actions, and words among the Corinthians had been sincere. From the American Heritage Dictionary definition cited above, we see the word “sincerity” means pure, unmixed, and without alloy, and it usually has to do with motive. An insincere person is dangerous. They give “mixed signals” and their motives aren’t always pure. All “religious” people are not sincere. Even those who preach can do so without sincerity (Philippians 1:15-17). What part does sincerity play to those who would be “real” Christians?

Sincerity is a must for those who want to become Christians, as there is no way for those who are insincere, who have mixed and impure motives, to become what Jesus requires. Some followed Jesus for the loaves and fishes: “Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26), but they did not become Christians. Some followed Jesus for what gain they could get in this life, but Jesus had a response to those who wished to be disciples and looked back to things of the world: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:57-62). It is never insinuated that these became Christians. They weren’t sincere.

Sincerity is a must for those who claim to be Christians. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he reminded them of their sincerity to indicate that it was reflection of their understanding of Christ: “But just as you abound in everything, in faith and utterance and knowledge and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you abound in this gracious work also. I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2Corinthians 8:7-9). In a previous letter, he had also written to them that in celebrating Christ as our Passover we must “celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1Corinthians 5:8). Paul prayed that the Christians in Philippi would “be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10). Paul also closed his letter to the Ephesians with encouragement to have a sincere or incorruptible love of Christ (Ephesians 6:24). A lack of sincerity on the part of many “religious” people is a reason so many people rebel against what they call “organized religion.” This is one reason for the rise of alternate approaches like the “Jesus Movement” of a few decades ago and more recently movements such as the “New Age” movement and even a rebirth of “Humanism.”

But as important as sincerity is, is sincerity enough? Sincerity was not enough for the prophets of Baal when they were in conflict with Elijah: “Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, ‘O Baal, answer us.’ But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made … So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention” (1Kings 18:21ff). Sincerity was not enough for Uzzah, a man of God of whom we read in 2Samuel 6:3ff: “They placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart … But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.” Sincerity was not enough for those who crucified the Son of God: “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also” (Acts 3:17). Sincerity was not enough to save the Jews who rejected Christ: “For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:1-3). Sincerity was not enough even for Saul of Tarsus who would be known as the apostle Paul: “Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” “… [Ananias to Saul] Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 23:1; Acts 22:16). Sincerity was not enough for any of those whose conversions we read about in the New Testament.

Remember our opening text of 2 Corinthians? There is a significant word attached there to “sincerity.” That word is “godly.” Our sincerity must be guided by godliness — the things God would have us do.

Are you sincere enough to do what Jesus requires? Surely you can see that as important as being sincere is, it is not enough.

 — S. Scott Richardson Sr.

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