There is so much that needs to be said concerning the message of The Mask. Though, even while writing this, I have come to the realization that its not what I say or how much I say that really has any value to anyone here. But rather, it is the manner in which it is said that I believe has the most value here. Because the people that this message is written to are people who have heard the “what” more times than they probably could even count. Masked people aren’t afraid of attending church and hearing a message. They aren’t afraid of being seen from a distance doing “Christian” things. They hide in plain sight, comfortable with the mask they wear, portraying the title of “Christian”. They’ve heard plenty of God’s Word, but it has only made its way to the head, not deeper down into the heart. So I write not to graze over a wide audience for general application. I write to YOU: the reader sitting here right now who is lukewarm and masked. I pray that this is convicting to those who it ought to convict and encouraging to those who it ought to encourage. That it does not cause those who truly know Christ to doubt their faith but be strengthened in it and empowered to continue in it confidently. But to those who have fooled themselves into thinking they can fake their way to heaven, I pray that the Holy Spirit shakes you awake through this and that you reach out to him earnestly.
Matthew 3:7-10 centers in on the ministry on John the Baptist. John was the precursor to Jesus who’s purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. Like Jesus during his ministry, John too was visited by many Pharisees and Sadducees. It says in these few verses regarding John,
“But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. You brood of snakes! He exclaimed. Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, we’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham. That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the acts of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”
The Lukewarm Christian turns to other lukewarm Christians and say, “We were born into a Christian home, we are safe. We believe God exists and go to church on Sunday; we are safe.” But that means nothing! Even Satan believes God exists. God can create disciples out of lifeless stones, out of family lines who are spiritually lifeless, out of places with people unable to go to a building of worship freely. Matthew Henry has said regarding this mindset of the Pharisees here in this passage, to “be not of the opinion that this will save you; harbor not such a conceit. “Please not yourselves with saying this. Rock not yourselves asleep with this, nor flatter yourselves into a fool’s paradise.” For, it is the fruit of the Spirit alone that gives peace to the restless, joy to the brokenhearted, faithfulness to the faithless, patience to the quick-tempered, among other fruits as well. Therefore, with your life being nothing more than a vapor in the wind, you ought not to embellish this fool’s paradise that is here for just a moment and gone another. Instead, you ought to examine what’s underneath the mask.
Is there good fruit?
Galatians 5:22-23 describes what good fruit looks like. It says,
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Is there Love?
John 21:15-17 says,
“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
From our perspective in reading this passage, it may seem that Peter is without resistance in expressing his genuine love for Christ here. He responds all three times as if he is accounting for the three denials of Christ when Jesus was arrested. But when we look back at the original Greek language concerning this passage, the context changes drastically. Jesus and Peter were not using the same word for love here. Peter was not responding back with the same kind of love Jesus was talking about.
Jesus uses what is known as agape (uh-gah-peh) love. It best translates to a love that is selfless, more concerned for the greater good of others. Its source is not rooted in wavering emotions, circumstances, or familiarity. It establishes itself through the faithful choice of the individual to sacrifice themselves without expecting anything in return. It is rooted in commitment to another.
Peter, on the other hand, was responding to Christ with what is understood to be phileo (fill-ey-oh) love, which is best defined as “having attachment to” or “to be fond of” someone. It is a friendly appreciation for another by way of feeling or emotion towards them.
When your love for Christ comes only in waves when it is convenient for you or when you have no other choice, are you really choosing Him or merely settling for Him because all your ways failed again? Maybe you treat him more like a vending machine; you go get what you want from him to tie you over until your next meal with some other unsatisfying sin. But you never go to him consistently for a decent wholesome meal. When Christ asks if you love him, your response is the shallow, “I love you”, understood only in the phileo sense. Your commitment lays with other desires, and Christ remains as a friendly appreciation or fondness to you when you want to “get in your feels” or are desperately in need of help. It’s wavering love, empty love, masked love. Masked not because phileo love is evil, but because God is asking for more than just phileo love. He is asking for agape love: a persistent following of him, a resilient choosing of him and a committed journey of life with him. Masked because your spiritual contentment, by merely holding onto a fake plastic fruit of fondness to the character of Christ, is all you care to respond to him with. In reality, it is spiritual resentment. Spiritual contentment is spiritual resentment. I will never be content with my sinful flesh, but through my agape love of Christ, I will forever continue to hunger and thirst after righteousness.
May that be the condition of your heart as well; that your love for Christ and doing his will not be wavering or founded upon the circumstances around you. That it fervently and perpetually longs for righteousness and Christlikeness. Let the fruit of love, which covers over a multitude of sins, grow blissfully on your tree and that you be recognized as God’s child by it.
May the Holy Spirit speak to you who does not have this same love for Christ. I pray that the void within your heart is recognized and uncovered from the mask today. Come to Christ and confess your sin to him. Ask him for salvation and as promised to all, you will receive this free gift and be redeemed of every sin burdening your soul. As also promised, you will no longer have to walk alone. The Holy Spirit will be your guide and set you on a path of sanctification to be more like Christ through your daily battles. As a true follower of Christ, he is your comforter. The love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control come from the Holy Spirit dwelling within your heart. If they are evident, then he is indeed evident inside you. Let this be your confidence; that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6