REMOVE THE MASK 10-27-19
Remove the Mask
October 27, 2019
I’m sure many of you have seen the commercial which says, “Although you may try to put on a brave face like these individuals holding up smiley faces, you may still struggle with depression while taking antidepressants.” The percentage of the population diagnosed with clinical depression has been steadily on the rise in the past decade. Medication is helpful in some cases, as are lifestyle changes. But of course, the best way to have true joy is through Jesus Christ. With him we don’t need to hide behind a mask. As you heard in our first Scripture reading (Hebrews 10:19-25) we can boldly come before the throne of mercy crying out like a child when the troubles of this life overwhelm us, knowing that our Lord not only hears us, but is filled with love and compassion, and will answer our prayer in the way that He knows is best for us. It is through Christ that our despair can be replaced with hope, our doubt with faith, and our grief with joy. And we have the assurance that there will come a day when he will wipe all tears from our faces forever (Revelation 21:4).
But a smile that hides inner sadness isn’t the only mask that people wear. I’m sure any of you that are even remotely near my age remember the song by the O’Jays, “The Backstabbers”, in which they sing, “They smile in your face, all the time they want to take your place.” Yes, sometimes a smile can disguise hidden motives. King Solomon, through his God-given wisdom, wrote: “Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot. People may cover their hatred with pleasant words, but they’re deceiving you. They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils.” (Proverbs 26:23-25). May our words and actions not only be kind, but more importantly may our motives be pure! For as Solomon also said, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)
Our churches should be a haven for the broken, for the hurting, for the desperate. They should be a place where people can come and take off their masks and be accepted, welcomed, and brought to Christ in love, for forgiveness and redemption. A place where they will be given guidance, not condemnation. Offered compassion, not judgment. And most of all, a place where they will hear the truth, and not empty promises. And yet unfortunately even within the sanctuary there is an alarming number of masks being worn.
Jesus openly spoke out about the Pharisees, whom he called ‘religious bullies’ in our second Scripture reading (Luke 12:1-5 MSG). And although they don’t call themselves Pharisees anymore, these bullies still exist today. They wear a ‘mask of holiness’. They would rather burden you with an extensive list of rules that they themselves don’t keep, than lead you to the one who ended the system of law with its commandments and regulations (Ephesians 2:15) by fulfilling it perfectly for us, the one who took our guilt and sins to the cross and filled us with his Holy Spirit that we might be able to follow the law of love - our Lord Jesus Christ.
But what about the other end of the spectrum? There are also those within the church that wear a ‘mask of love’. While all Christians are called to love, just as all Christians are called to holiness, when they are only worn as a mask, then there is cause for concern. We are called to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). But when we speak what others want to hear, and not what they need to hear, we are guilty before God and will have to answer to him for souls that are not saved (Ezekiel 3:18). If we tell someone it doesn’t matter what they believe, as long as they believe something; if we tell them repentance is outdated and isn’t necessary, or tell them faith in Jesus Christ is not the only way to heaven, when in fact it is (John 14:6), we have deceived them. We haven’t spoken the truth in love. We haven’t shown real love at all. Because real love, the kind that comes from God, wants “all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The apostle Peter spoke out against the false motives of those who corrupt the truth. In the second chapter of 2 Peter he talks about destructive heresies and bringing the way of truth into disrepute. Although the heresies have changed and morphed over the centuries, they will always be with us until our Lord Jesus returns. Every time a new one, or a new version of an old one, raises its ugly head behind a beautiful mask, people are drawn away from the truth of the Gospel. Pews are filled, but souls are lost. Temporary friends are made, but they will not forgive you when they are separated from God in eternity because you lied to them, even if you only consider it sugar-coating the truth. Or, God forbid, even if you have believed the lies yourself.
Instead, we are to love others as Christ loves them. In the Bible it was the sinners that Jesus neither rejected, nor was afraid to tell the truth to, that loved him in return, and were willing to lay down their lives for him as he did for them. It was those who could not, or would not, accept the truth who hated him, mocked him, and had him put to death.
Jesus saw behind the masks. He sees behind ours. And yet he loves us. He reaches out to us in our miserable, lost condition and if we take hold of his hand in faith, he fills us with new life - born of the Spirit, forgiven of our past, made whole and perfect before God, with a new identity in him - as a child of the one true king!
"The Real Me" (Natalie Grant) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2C4eqqDYwc
"Hello, My Name Is" (Matthew West) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuJWQzjfU3o