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The Fourth Shepherd – Sincere

. . that ye may be Sincere . . .”

Christian and Hopeful had come to the Delectable Mountains (Isa. 49:9-11), which belong to the Lord of that hill mentioned before. “These mountains are Immanuel’s Land, and are within sight of His city.” Our two pilgrims were welcomed by four mountain shepherds, three of whom we’ve already met. The remaining shepherd is the one called Sincere. He is the very opposite of Mr. Hypocrisy. (See Jan. ’71 Beacon Lights, article: Formalist and Hypocrisy). Nothing is more despic­able than the hypocrite, and nothing more agreeable than sincerity. What this man had was a “godly sincerity.” Actually, his name was given him “of God” and “in grace” (II Cor. 1:12, Gk.). The English Sincere, according to the dictionary, means, “to be in reality as in appearance; not as­sumed, feigned or pretended; real, true, genuine,” and comes from the Latin, which means, literally, “without wax,” as the best and finest honey should be. Or. where there is a greater chance for deception, in the setting in of marble floors, walls and pillars, or marble art objects, chips, cracks and other imperfections were often repaired with wax fillings made to cleverly blend with the natural patterns of this beautiful stone. Any piece of marble “doctored up” with wax, no matter how insignificantly, was not regarded as perfect, and, ready to be sold that way, could not get top price, except as bought unnoticed. A sophisticated buyer would always demand the best quality marble, and “without wax.” He wanted the material he was purchasing to be “the real thing,” unspoiled with clever “cover- ups.” A sincere man is really as he appears to be, without wax, i.e., without deceit.

The Apostle Paul actually boasted of having this God-given quality, but then he was not boasting of what he was and had himself achieved. He boasted of what God had done in him. The word he used is eili- krineia, which, from the nicest derivation we can find, means (hele sunlight ~ krino, judge) judged or “tested by the sunlight.” Before you buy a new suit, you look at the cloth out in the light of day to see plainly its true color. Under artificial lighting it may look entirely different from what it really is. Or, that which is made on the loom may look quite attractive on the floor or over a couch with a soft table lamp shining down on it. But an honest demon­strator will raise the loom in such a way as to show the sun back-lighting it, so revealing immediately the quality and craftsmanship of the weave. Such a test makes imperfections stand out like “a sore thumb.” Bare spots, knots, ties, tangles, holes, irregular spacing of warp and woof, cheap quality threads will all stand out exposed by the sunlight test. The really perfect product passes such a test. It is the work preferred by the connoisseur. The sincere man is “tested by the sunlight” and found to be the genuine article. He is sincere who can bear the ordeal of light. (Read John 3:19-21.)

Peter used a different word, also trans­lated sincere, when he exhorted, “As new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word (I Peter 2:2). This is the word adolos, which means “no tricks.” Sincere milk has “no tricks” about it. It is neither watered down, nor adulterated with preservatives, nor spotty with impurities. There is “no bait” as to its price and advertising, “no deceit” as to its purity and quality, and “no guile” in the dairymen putting it on the market. The sincere man is not a “tricky Dicky”. He is “truly an Israelite, in whom is no guile” (John 1:48). Since Nathanael was of a sincere character, he was also sincere about the truth, about the gospel, and therefore, did not let cur­rent prejudices stand between him and the Truth. There was no deceit in Nathanael. He was, completely, Sincere. Most people are not. Are we? Are you? You profess to love Christ. But do you secretly love the world and the flesh? Perhaps you have not yet made confession of faith. Nevertheless, you are a Christian, aren’t you? You profess that much. You’re no heathen. Actually, with your church attendance, studies in catechism class, and in the Christian school, you make a confession of the faith. In all this, you profess a faithfulness to Christ. But is your heart in it all? Can you say that the cause of Christian church, home, school, catechism class, young people’s society are really bound on your heart? Or is it but mere pretense with you? You go along with the Reformed community be­cause you were born in it and it is your environment and life. But do you wink secretly at worldly opinions, humanistic authorities and long after modern ex­pediencies? Are you always making plaus­ible excuses to deviate from what you have been taught according to the Word of God? Remember, “Blessed are the pure in heart (the sincere), for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

Peter had this beatitude in mind when he said that he wrote his second epistle “to stir up your pure minds by way of remem­brance” (II Peter 3:1), or literally, “your sincere mind.” Then a man with a pure heart (the center of his being) will have a sincere mind (an aspect, or faculty of his being). The Christian is principally, though not perfectly, pure in heart. A true Chris­tian will be the first to confess the impurity of his heart. It causes him no end of daily pain. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. He wants a true heart, to be upright in heart. He loves pureness of heart. He is not perfect, but he is sincere, and he will have his heart right with God. He wants to be right. A mere abstract sincerity is not enough for him. Some people advertise their ignorance when they shout before all the world, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU BE­LIEVE AS LONG AS YOU’RE SINCERE! In effect, that’s what the man said who, in the dark, by mistake, took deadly poison instead of aspirin. It does matter what you believe, very much, for you could be wrong about what you believe, and if sincerely wrong, then all the more dangerously wrong, perhaps dead wrong. The word sincere is a neutral adjective. It may modify something bad as well as good, something wrong as well as right. Saul of Tarsus was a sincere Pharisee, sincere in his opinion that he was, as touching the law, blameless. He was a sincere persecutor, thinking that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Go to the man who took a headlong dive at night into an empty swimming pool, and tell him it doesn’t matter what you believe. Even an empty head, coming up solidly against the stone wall of reality knows dif­ferently. The repentances of Ahab, of Esau and of Judas were sincere. But better get rid of that kind of sincerity, and the faster the better!

The true Christian conscientiously strives against all sin, even against those some call venial (not worth getting all “shook” about). He will abstain from every form of evil (I Thess. .5:22, marg.), aims to be cleansed and preserved from secret sins, and to be just as hard on his own sins as he is on sin abroad in the world. In fact, his severity against sin does not spare his own right-hand and right-eye sins. He is more con­cerned about the splinter in his own eye than the speck in his neighbor’s eye.

No man is Sincere by nature. Sincerity is not a native, but an exotic plant. It is not hereditary. You are not born with it. You must be born again to have it. Eve lost her original sincerity the moment she listened to the devil. She should have re­ferred him to her husband. It was very insincere of her to reply to the devil as though she were equal to the headship of her husband, and a party over against her husband, as though she were free to think and act independently, without consulting him. It was very insincere of Adam to put the blame for taking of the forbidden tree, really, first of all, on God, then on his wife. When, then, Adam begot sons and daugh­ters in his own image, his descendants were an insincere lot by their natural birth. All of them were transgressors from the womb, who go astray as soon as they were born, speaking lies. The truth is not in them. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. All forms of insincerity come from the deceitful heart — hypocrisy, deception, lying and pretense. The deceitful heart makes the eye flirt. (Therefore make a covenant with thine eye.) Flirtation is attention without intention. It makes words softer than oil which are really intended as drawn swords. It makes the body posture, or body language, to indicate interest and respect, while the actual attitude, hidden, is aversion and hatred. It makes a person double-hearted, double-minded and double-tongued (a Mr. Two-tongues).

Beware of counterfeit counsel. The devil, that old Counterfeit, will come with his counterfeit clergy, or his Hollywood jesters, saying, “Lo, here is Christ! lo, there!” Such a “holy” world with so many Christs! Such a “Christian” college with its evolutionary Christ, its historical Christ, socialist Christ or model Christ! Such a counterfeit “holy,” advising, “Be not righteous overmuch, neither . . . overwise. Why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Be not wicked overmuch. . . . Why shouldest thou die before thy time?” (Eccl. 7:16, 17). Oh, the devil is both Stinker and Slinker! The Lord rebuke him. Let your sincere life rebuke him. “Prove the sincerity of your love” (II Cor. 8:8).