Once upon a time, in ancient Egyptian, Inca and Aztec cultures, masks were worn by the dead. Funerary masks were often placed over the faces of those who were recently deceased. This generally had the believed purpose to honor them and protect them in the spirit realm as their body and spirit depart from one another. Some believed the mask itself helped force the spirit to leave the dead body. Once upon a time, in our world today, a very similar phenomena is taking place, though, it is the living who are the ones wearing the masks, and its the spirit of truth that is leaving the body through accepting the mask of lies.
The term, “mask”, nowadays has many different forms. As we all can observe, there are many masks being worn today for health concerns. It might be this kind of mask that pops into your mind when the word is mentioned. It may be early for this, but another form of mask that we may think of is one worn at Halloween time as we all dress up as characters or other miscellaneous things. Maybe you think of face masks worn by football or hockey athletes when you hear, “mask”. Regardless, there is always some sort of purpose for wearing a mask. In many of these cases, it is for protection or leisurely pleasure. There are some cases, however where masks serve an evil purpose. For instance, a bank robber up to no good, will wear a mask to hide his identity and get away with the crime he is committing. In all these cases, whether serving a good or bad purpose, there is one thing that remains constant; the wearer underneath. Someone wearing a mask to prevent sickness will likely remain a healthy individual. A child dressing up as Batman remains not as Batman, but as a child. Likewise, a bank robber is no less a bank robber underneath his mask.
That which is real remains constant when masks are worn, regardless of the outward perception upon them. And that’s what we would come to expect. We expect the fake to not be mistaken for the real. God forbid, during Halloween time someone actually believes real scarecrows, monsters, or whatever other crazy characters people dress up as, are roaming the streets at night. At the end of the day when the masks come off, we once again expect the real to be the real, and the fake to be the fake.
As silly as it sounds, the living dead are walking around our streets right in front of our eyes every day. They have their masks on, pulling off the look of someone who is living quite well. Don’t be mistaken. Underneath the mask lays a very dead corpse. This mask I’m talking about here is not one that changes the way you physically look. It’s one that masks the reality of the heart to those around them. This mask can be worn at all times and can even convince others that it is the true face. “This must be an incredibly realistic mask”, you could ask. It’s true. In Christendom, (A society dominated by a Christian worldview) a “Christless” heart can easily be mistaken as “Christ-filled” by the masking of ones heart with conduct expected of Christians. In other words, anyone can ascribe themselves to Christian traditions, such as going to church, occasionally reading your Bible, singing passionately to Christian music. Anyone can post pictures of their “devotions” on their Facebook or Instagram, have Christian friends, speak “Christianese” to sound spiritual, or correct people’s language when they swear to bolster their image while their mouth runs rampant with perverse speech amidst their close huddle of friends. From the outside you look incredible! You are that faithful, Biblically knowledgeable, upright Christian citizen. You are well established, raised up in the church, told that you are the future of the church. But what future does the church have if what’s fake on the outside perception of the individual is mistaken for what’s really corrupt and lifeless on the inside? And as much as I would love to be able to diagnose each and every person spiritually as either hot, cold, or lukewarm, the truth of the heart is not something I can consistently determine. Truth is not something we inherently know. It is something to be searched for, sought after and desired. When we fail to search, we fail to find. Matthew 7:7 says,
“Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened unto you.”
When we align our hearts to discovering what is real and begin asking those important questions, like, “Where does my heart really stand with God?”, we align our hearts to the desires of God. I believe there are many people out there who call themselves Christians who have failed to search the one place most crucial to look. I believe there are a lot of people out there who call themselves Christian because in a quick search of their surroundings they determined that they fit in most with people who also consider themselves Christians. I believe there are a lot of people who call themselves Christian who have not truly searched within themselves. They fail each and every day to search their own heart. In 1 Corinthians 13:5, Paul tells us to,
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test.”
To wear a mask is to claim the name of Christ without truly examining your heart. To wear a mask is to wear “Christianity” as a title without the words of the Bible having any effect on the way you live your life. To wear a mask is to compromise Christianity to account for your desire to serve yourself over all else. And finally, to wear a mask is to be lukewarm. Revelation 3:15-16 says,
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm – neither hot or cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
These are God’s words here. He sees through the mask and knows your heart. The only person you are fooling is yourself. The problem for so many people is that they have worn this mask for so long that they, themselves, often do not know what is under the mask. They are satisfied with how the mask portrays themselves. But underneath the mask is a corpse; a spiritually dead person. “I’m just not a very spiritual Christian”, they claim. To be lukewarm is to use the belief in God as a crutch: its painful to walk, but with this crutch you carry on trying to convince yourself and others that you are fine. In other words, every step is a chore and burden. Every step deeper into the understanding of Christ is met with resistance because conviction is around every corner. So you stay in the shallows and say it is enough to just be doing the basic “Christian things”, and not being the hungry soul for Christ-likeness. To be content with being “not very spiritual” is to be content with being lukewarm, and content with being spat out of the mouth of God. It is knowing about God, but not willing to be a living sacrifice to God. In actuality, it is to be satisfied with eternity away from God.
God says, “I know your deeds”. Its by these deeds that he knows you as hot, cold, or lukewarm. This isn’t about your good deeds outweighing your bad. Confession and faith in the power of Christ over your life is what God desires. But your deeds confirm the status of your heart. When your heart is inclined towards being like Christ, it changes the way we think and changes the way we act. God promises us a process that leads to righteousness. Through that promise we are given power over the sinful desires of our heart as we proceed forward in life. With that process we are given the Holy Spirit as a helper and guide. No mask comes with this Holy Spirit. The only spirit this mask gives is the spirit of confusion and pride. While you carry this mask labeled “Christian”, the real you underneath lives in turmoil. You are confused why your life is crumbling, you’re disorganized in thought and uncertain of your path, but too prideful to examine your heart honestly and come to the realization that the Holy Spirit is not there. Romans 8:9 says,
“You however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.”
During the previous summer I had an opportunity to disciple a number of young kids coming from all sorts of walks in life as a counselor again. Many of them I have known from years prior, but only being able to spend a week with them makes it difficult to diagnose their spiritual condition. Every year, the single most difficult task is trying to determine where these kids are in their relationship with Christ, or if they even know him as their Lord and Savior. There is always that one kid who draws my attention that I know does not have a relationship with Christ. I put him under my wing. I teach him the message of the Gospel. I pray for him and cry out to God for his soul to turn to Christ. His heart is cold; so innocent and so unaware of his need for Christ. These are so often the people we jump for because they stand out. We give them special attention because our general search for truth concludes that the Holy Spirit is absent in their life and their need for him is ever-present. The story here would be great if it were about this boy. I served like anyone else would have. I played my role simply as God asks of us all to do. But this story is not about this boy. He was cold and easy to spot. This story is about the boy in the corner of the room. It’s about the boy who I have known for years. The boy from a great Christian family who I have understood to be “saved” already. God pressed on my heart that summer to look for masks. He told me to search for truth, the truth of the heart.
“I was saved just two weeks ago!”, he exclaimed.
“Two weeks ago?” I responded. “I thought you said you were saved last year?”
Well yes, in fact, he was saved two weeks ago, and he was also saved last year as well. But the real kicker here was that he was not saved by the receiving of Christ’s gift of salvation. He was saved from a bike accident one time and saved from falling off his bed at home another time. This child could quote the Bible and lead the other boys in prayer every day of the week without thinking twice. He was one of the nicest kids in the room, but ANYONE can fly under our radar if we are not willing to look deeper to really find the truth. That boy became a true believer in Christ that day. The mask was removed as he learned his need for the Savior, Jesus Christ, and accepted him in his heart willingly. He now walks around with a heart turned from lukewarm to scorching hot by receiving the gift of salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
My hope and prayer is that all masks be taken off. It could be a mask of misunderstanding as this boy. It could be a mask of pride and ignorance for those who hate correction and love following their own sinful desires. Or a mask driven by expectations for those who feel pressured to act a certain way due to their Christian family roots. If it’s not real, it’s not real. Let the real be the real. Now, my prayer certainly doesn’t end there. I only pray that the mask be taken off so that you come to Christ without it! I pray that by taking the mask off you examine your true face. Is it a face you can live with confidently? Is following the desires of your flesh satisfying to you? Is being your own god worth it? You decide. If you answer no to any of these questions and by taking off your mask realize that Christ is your missing piece, then invite him in. If your heart has been struck with the realization that the face you worship is the face you hide, then show it to God and ask for salvation. Ask for freedom from sin and a REAL relationship with him! Ask and it shall be given. Seek and you will find. Knock and it shall be opened unto you. Let the search begin. Become alive, no longer dead. Awake, no longer asleep and blinded by the mask!
I pray that this post hits home for someone out there. As you can see, this is only part one of The Mask. Yes, more is coming! Part 2 will really dive in and get practical with what examining your heart looks like and how to diagnose what the Holy Spirit inside you will begin looking like through you if it is indeed residing within.