“Take the mask off”. “Examine yourself”. These are the thoughts I wanted you to reflect upon in the last post. The purpose of Part 1 of the Mask was to leave you feeling empowered to search for what is real inside your heart.
Maybe you did that, and briefed yourself with comments like,
“I like reading my Bible. Check!”
“I like going to Church. Check!”
“I like that I can be forgiven for everything bad I do and still go to Heaven someday. Check!”
“I like doing Christian things and being a generally good person. Checkmate!”
And if so, maybe it also brought questions like, “What more do I need to do to inherit the kingdom of heaven?” or, “What am I lacking?”
I could have left The Mask as a regular one-part blog post and had you go on your way, with hopes that you took some sort of encouragement or conviction from it. But I don’t think it’s good enough to just send you off telling you to examine your heart without giving you something tangible to look for. Part 1 was incomplete, and do I dare say, Part 2 will be as well. It lacked the practical pieces of application that are necessary to truly examine your heart. Nothing like sending you off to go search for something when you don’t know what that something looks like. I don’t want this just to be a warm encounter with the Holy Spirit through reading this. I want this to be a heat-seeking missile straight to your heart, so you feel the heat and power of Christ as you turn away from a life of spiritual contentment to a burning passion for righteousness! These questions that I outlined above that you might be asking yourself are not the first time we have seen these questions. The concept of the mask has been around since even when Christ himself walked on the face of the Earth. In Matthew 19, we encounter the story of a young wealthy man who was seemingly doing everything right. He came to Christ asking what more he needs to be doing to obtain eternal life. Matthew19:16-26 says,
Just then, a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself. “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
It’s easy to say that this was a story simply about how hard it is for rich people to inherit the kingdom of heaven. I don’t believe Christ wanted the man to be poor. But I do believe that Christ understood that this man was proud of his wealth and was comfortable living in his wealthy lifestyle. He desired living the wealthy Christian lifestyle of his choosing more than following Christ the way God wanted. His wealth was not detested by Christ, but his heart being inclined towards his wealth was indeed detestable.
The Apostle Paul states in Philippians 4:11-13,
“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. for I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.”
If only the young rich man Jesus encountered had this same mindset, perhaps he might have inherited the riches of heaven. If only he sacrificed his life completely to God, he would have experienced the fulfilling feeling of Christ in doing his good works. And perhaps, if the rich young man were to have had the heart to do exactly what Christ said, we might have seen something similar to Abraham, when God asked him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. With knife in hand and arm stretched out to strike his only son as commanded by God, an angel of the Lord called out to Abraham and stopped him from proceeding. God saw what he needed to see: Abraham’s heart given fully to the Lord’s commands. God tested the heart of Abraham to see if he truly had faith in the promise and will of God, just as Jesus was testing the heart of the rich man. But he loved his money too much. That is what separates these two stories. One man of great faith and love in God, enough to even sacrifice his only son when asked, and one man with great love for his material possessions and wealth, more than his love for God if he were to be without those things. God does not despise being wealthy, or surely, he would not consider wealth a reward or blessing to those whom he chooses to bless. And Paul would have no room to say that in wealth and plenty, he has learned the secret to living a life glorifying to God. We are asked to be a living and willing sacrifice to God in whatever life status or circumstance God allows us to enter. That we be willing to stretch our arm out with knife in hand, prepared to slay whatever alternative identity or desire God asks us to, that we may grow in our faith in Him. By this sincere act of the heart, we demonstrate our love for God, and we demonstrate where we desire our riches to be stored in.
It is not enough to just be a good person. As Christ says, “There is only One who is good.” It is not enough to just appear “Christian” on the outside by doing good things. It is not enough to wear a mask and pretend you have it all together. Christ challenged the heart of the rich man, and he broke under pressure just as you will if your heart is not devoted to Christ and your good deeds are only demonstrated to uphold your social status as a “Christian”. It masks a lost heart who’s heavenly status remains unknown by God. Matthew 7:21-23 says,
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers!“
“Depart from me, I never knew you.” – Words that send a chill down my spine. They are words that I never want to hear, nor do I want anyone else to hear. Yet, they are the words one will hear who wears a mask and never truly comes to terms with the condition of their heart.
As much as the mask is a deception to how others see your true heart, it is also a deception on your own perception of the world. It’s in the lens of the Mask as well. And from looking out into the world you can be easily deceived to believing that you are living in a garden. The deception is that you would be missing out on so much fun and excitement by jumping fully into Christ’s arms. That you can still be “good” without following Christ. But Jesus did not come down to Earth, become fully human, die, and rise from the dead to pluck us out of a garden. The garden is gone! Our world is not what it appears to be. We live in a lifeless desert. You are spiritually dead, and only hallucinating a world full of satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment. Christ came because of our sinful deprivation. “The wages of sin is Death,” (Romans 6:23) “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
There is no middle ground. We can’t be straddling with one foot stepping in the life of Christ and the other in the life of darkness and death. We cannot be both dead and alive. Matthew 12:30 says,
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters”
What that implies for us is that there is only that which is good, and that which is evil in the sight of the Lord. Each grow distinctly separate lives with drastically different purposes. One is spiritually living, and one is spiritually dead. Or as I said in the last post, they are, “the walking dead”. One produces good fruit, and one produces corrupt fruit. Matthew 12:33 says,
“Either make a tree good and its fruit good, or make a tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.”
In other words, if you claim Christianity, you claim Christ and all that he is, all that he has done, and all that he will do. And by doing so, genuine faith in him will ooze with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These fruits are the indicators of the Holy Spirit residing within. These are what you can be searching your hearts for! Don’t come to Jesus as the rich man did, showing him how good you are at following the law. This man was “good” in our worldly understanding. For a non-Christian who still believes in some sort of afterlife, this is the man who they would use as a model to whom deserves a place in heaven. His good deeds outweighed his bad. He “earned” a ticket to heaven. But no, his deeds masked him from the reality that God expects complete perfection. God’s concept of goodness is nothing short of perfection. And in our deprived sinful state, perfection is far out of reach. Christ says, “sacrifice that which you love and abide in, and come follow me”.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” – John 14:6
That is the perfect will of God. That we, in our incapacitated state of being, accept the free gift of Christ who knew no sin, yet took our place in death on the cross, rose again in power and created a way for us to be perfect in choosing him. Choose him! Respond in love to his calling and let the Fruit of the Spirit bloom in your life today!
Complete? Not quite. Next post is meant to convict the heart. Part 3 of The Mask will discuss the Fruit of the Spirit itself and how they too can be masked in order for us to “look the part”. The truth will reveal itself, even if it’s wearing a mask! Until next time, God bless!