Good morning, welcome to Christ’s Community Church. We’re in Part 2 of “The Mask” and we’ve been talking about the real you and the real me hiding behind the mask. Masks that we’ve become so accustomed to wearing that sometimes we’re not even sure of who we really are. Or maybe just not too sure we want anybody else to know who we really are, because we’ve gotten so good at the deception, so good at hiding, that we began to feel like we’re finally safe behind the mask. But the problem is that we’re not as safe as we think we are, in fact many of us have this false view of ourselves, simply because we don’t see ourselves as others do. We’ve been wearing a mask for so long that we start to believe that the lie about ourselves is really true.
In Psalms 36, verse two, David was talking about this deception and he said, “For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin” (Psalms 36:2). In other words he said, “They’ve put on a mask and they’ve been playing this role like an actor so long that they don’t even know who they really are.” He flatters himself, he’s become deceived, having a false view of himself, because he can’t truly see himself as others do. And this is true for so many of us, we flatter ourselves saying, “I don’t have a problem with this, it’s not really a big deal,” and we flatter ourselves so much that we don’t even realize that we’re lying to ourselves and that we actually have a significant problem.
Now sometimes, this self-deception is really harmless. You know, maybe you’ve watched the shows where people sing and compete with others? And maybe you’ve noticed how all the people think that they’re really good singers, but some of them just aren’t! They’re not, and the thing that’s really amazing, I mean this really gets me, because I can understand how they could think that they’re good singers, but when their family is there, their best friends are there, and it’s like they’re all tone deaf or something. You know it’s like they think, “That was great, you’re gonna win, that was awesome!” And that’s okay, they’re deceived, it’s all harmless, but when it comes to sin, when David says, “In his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin” that’s a serious problem, because if we can’t detect our own sin, then we live in ways that are destructive to ourselves as well as to the people around us. And many of us, we flatter ourselves, we’ve been wearing a mask, and we don’t realize that we’re living in sin or maybe we just no longer see it for what it is.
You know, for example, I might be better at something than everybody else, but that’s just the way God made me, so quit telling me that I’m proud. I can’t help it if I’m better than everybody else.
And you know, that’s not really gossip… because it’s not my fault that everybody tells me all this stuff, and anyway the only reason why I’m telling you is because they’re so messed up, and you and I, we really need to pray for them.
Do you see how that works, if we flatter ourselves too much, if we think too highly of ourselves, eventually we won’t even be able to see our own sin? The apostle Paul tells us in Romans chapter 12, “Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment” (Romans 12:3). Because the longer we look at ourselves with a mask on the more likely we are to be self-deceived.
We see this time and time again throughout the Gospels as Jesus confronts the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious folks of that day; but the very first time we see this was with John the Baptist as he was announcing the coming of Christ. In Matthew chapter 3, people went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But verse seven tells us, “When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And don’t think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:7-10). John spoke harshly to them because they thought they were right and everybody else was wrong.
And you know, sometimes the more convinced you are that you’re right, the more likely it is that you’re wrong. When Jesus, the Son of God came, he cut them down saying in Luke chapter 11, "Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered and you’ve hindered those who were entering." (And so they debated back and forth and) “When Jesus left there, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say. Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: "Be on your guard against the yeast (or the sin) of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 11:52-12:1).
Jesus warned his disciples that they were hypocrites, they’re actors, they’re deceived, they’re living a lie, and even Peter, one of the disciples fell into the same trap. The very night that Jesus was betrayed he told his disciples, “I'm going to die on a cross and this very night you will all fall away on account of me.” In Matthew chapter 26, Peter said that he would stand by Jesus no matter what! In verse 33, Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "This very night, before the rooster crows, you’ll disown me three times." But Peter (convinced he would never ever disown Jesus) declared: "Even if I have to die with you, I’ll never disown you” (Matthew 26:33-35). He said, “Jesus, don’t worry, I’ve got your back.” But before the rooster even crowed, he denied Jesus three times because he was what? He was self-deceived.
And often times, everybody else will say, “You know you’ve really got a problem with that… or I’m really concerned about this or that… or I think you might be addicted to that… or we think you’ve really got to do something about that. And the more adamantly and the more defensive you are, the more likely it is that you might be self-deceived. The Bible teaches us, “In his eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his own sin” (Psalm 36:2). And that’s the challenge that I’m faced with today, because I’m trying to help you recognize where you might’ve been deceived and don’t even know it. I’m trying to point out where things might’ve gone wrong so that you’ll admit what they are and let God begin to heal you.
So for us to allow God to do that work in us, a work that only he can do, we need to hear the truth, we need to be challenged to live the truth, and to allow ourselves to be transformed by the truth. But the temptation for all of us, and I mean all of us, is to think, “I hope my wife, or I hope my husband, I hope my son or my daughter is listening to this.” And you know, honestly, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a message and thought, “I wish so and so were here to hear this”? But today here’s what I want you to do, I want you to listen to this from your perspective and ask, “God, what are you saying to me?” And so, what I’m going to do this morning is I’m going to share with you three points to help you walk in the truth and overcome self-deception. The first thing I would encourage you to do is to pray.
To seek God and really ask, “Is there anything in me that I’m not seeing or understanding accurately?” In fact, we can see this in the Scriptures, David in the Old Testament, in Psalms chapter 139 prays this dangerous prayer… “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalms 139:23-24). I would encourage you to make this prayer a part of your daily prayer life for the next seven days. To pray verse 23 and 24 and ask God, “is there anything in me that I’m not aware of? Is there something everybody’s been trying to tell me that I haven’t understood?
Search me and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me?” Pray and sincerely ask God to show you anything that’s displeasing to him. I encourage you to pray this, because we’re all self-deceived in some way, we’re all flattering ourselves too much to detect or hate our own sin, and so if you ask God to show you, I believe you’ll be amazed to see the God of the universe respond to you and lovingly lead you into the truth. The second thing I want to encourage you to do is to listen.
Listen, but don’t just listen to God, listen also to what God is saying to the people who love you and care about you. In fact, listen to what the Bible says in Proverbs chapter 15: “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise” (Proverbs 15:31). Isn’t that amazing? A life-giving rebuke. Have you ever heard that before? You know, we’re all familiar with those people who rebuke us, who are just being rude, who are getting in your business for no reason, but the Bible says that there are people who love you enough to give you a “life-giving rebuke”. In fact, some of you today may need to obey God and love someone with a life-giving rebuke. Maybe for you that means that there is someone that you care about that’s doing something really stupid. You know, they’ve got a problem that’s affecting their marriage, and you’ll get in their face because you love them, you’ll tell them to stop, not to go down that road, and it’s a life-giving rebuke. And of course, there’s a time to pray, but in the body of Christ there are also times that God will call us to love someone with a life-giving rebuke.
Jude tells us in verse 22-23, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear…hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” Some of you need to give one, and all of us at one time or another need to receive one. Proverbs chapter 15, verse 32 tells us, “He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding” (Proverbs 15:32). Listen to what those people who love you are trying to tell you, because I’ll guarantee you if more than one person that loves you tells you that you’ve got a problem with something, you’ve got a problem with something and you need to listen. Listen to those who love you! Stop pushing the people away that love you the most.
What’s God trying to show you today? Write it down. Here is my problem, I’ve been deceived, I’m wearing a mask. And as you pray and listen God will show you again and again different ways that you’ve been wearing a mask. You’ve been self-deceived and it’s time to drop the mask. The third thing is that as he shows it to you, change.
When God reveals the truth to you, when he shows you any area of your life, and you’ve been living that lie so long that you’ve fooled yourself, embrace the truth and change. Make the decision, trust God, and change. Let it happen today, because your life is never going to be the same. You’re going to be more intimate with God, people around you going to be amazed at who you’ve become, and it’s all because you’ve made the decision to change.
Now others of you, those of you that are like me, it’s going to take a little while to sink in. You know, maybe you’ve been believing the lie for so long that there are multiple layers of lies and you may need people to help you. You’re going to need people to pray for you, to help and support you, it’s going to be a process, because you can take three steps forward and then two steps back, but change can start today.
Don’t get caught in that moment of indecision, but as the old saying goes, “We need to do something even if it’s wrong.” You see, inactivity or indecision is the biggest obstacle of change. There’s a word that applies to what I’m talking about and that word is procrastination. It’s something that we’ve all done at one time or another and it’s simply putting off till later that which could be or should be done today. And so when God shows you the truth, when he shows you that area where you’ve been self-deceived… change. Declare war on that bad habit, that attitude, that character flaw, that relationship, that whatever, because it’s not just an offense, it’s a sin, and as big and nasty as it might be it’s not bigger than the grace of God at work in you.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say it any clearer than James chapter 1, “Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). And so many times we find ourselves self-deceived, because we listen to the Word and then we do whatever we want. But don’t do that! “Don’t merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves, do what it says”. Many of you right now the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. God is speaking truth into your heart. You know the truth of God, but maybe you’re living in rebellion to the truth of God, maybe it’s just a little bit, but you’ve got a mask on, you think it’s okay, but is not okay, and God’s asking you to pull the mask off today.
I don’t know what that might be for you, but you’re breaking God’s heart with your lies, you know it and the mask needs to come down. Maybe you need to move, maybe you need to stop looking, stop touching, but whatever it is, take the mask off, quit pretending, and don’t do it anymore. Change. Stop deceiving yourself.
Did you ever wonder, have you ever stopped to consider why is it that we’re so afraid to drop the mask, to stop living behind the lie, and face the truth? I believe the reason is because we’re often afraid of what the truth is, which is kind of funny when Jesus said in John chapter 8: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Yet, there are some here today who don't feel free because the past still haunts you, doubt still knocks you down, sin still trips you up, fear still holds you back, and freedom seems hopelessly beyond your reach. But today, I want you to know that Jesus Christ came to set you free. In his very first public message, Jesus said, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to ... proclaim freedom for the prisoners..." (Luke 4:18). That's what Jesus came to do, he came to set us free, and that means, he came to set you free.
Now many of us have made the mistake in the past of thinking that freedom means being free to do whatever. And we found that this type of freedom leads only to a prison of guilt and shame. Instead, Jesus came to bring us the kind of freedom that truly sets us free; the kind of freedom that comes from choosing him. You see, when you choose to believe in him and surrender your all to him, when you choose to follow his teaching and walk the path of obedience, when you choose to dig deep into his Word and let his Word dig deep into you, then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. And whomever the Son sets free shall be free indeed (John 8:36).
This morning as we close, don’t be afraid of the truth, because the truth is a person. The risen Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). You see it’s our enemy who is the father of lies. He wants you to hide behind the lies, to hide behind the mask so long that the lies become just as if they were true. But it’s all charade. Lower the mask, expose the lies, and embrace the truth that is ultimately revealed in the risen Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the truth and it’s the truth that will set you free (John 8:32).
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
July 17, 2016
Graphics, notes, and commentary from Life and Church, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible. Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.