Good morning and welcome to Christ’s Community Church. This morning, we’re beginning part three of our series called “THE MASK” with a message entitled “Covered Up.” I pray that you are challenged as I have been challenged to present this message in grace and truth. My prayer is that there will be things exposed that have been covered up and that we would be authentic with each other, because we all know people who claim to be Christians and whose lives are really no different from non-Christians. This was a subject that the Lord spoke on many times and I pray that we move deeper in our relationship with him and with one another. Jesus said things like, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). He said, he was going to separate the sheep on his right from the goats on his left (Matthew 25:33). He told a parable of the weeds in the field and how they grew alongside the good seed, they looked the same until the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds became obvious for what they were (Matthew 13:26). Jesus said, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! But because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” He said, “You say, 'I am rich; I’ve acquired wealth and don’t need a thing.' But you don’t realize that you’re wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:15-18).
And so what the Lord is saying to us today, is that there are those of us, whether it’s your moral compass, the way you handle money, or your relationships or marriage, that you’re really no different from the world and what that means is simply that you’re living a lie. Jesus said, “I knew your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you’re dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains…” (Revelation 3:1-2). And maybe you’ve got secrets that are buried, covered up, and you’re just praying that they don’t come out, because everybody thinks this is who you are, but you’re not, because you’re living a lie. Now maybe some of you are feeling pretty good about yourselves, because you’re just an occasional liar, you know it’s just those little white lies, those harmless lies. But did you know that God hates lying? Listen to what Proverbs 12:22 tells us, “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.” God detests lying lips; that’s a strong word to say that he hates it. God hates lying, because lies hurt people and they continue to hurt people and continue to hurt people until they have run their course. And for that reason the Bible warns in Revelation 21:8, “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and (what? What does God say?) …all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” That’s strong language isn’t it?
This morning, can we be real with one another? Can we drop the mask here this morning? I wonder how many of you would be honest enough to say that you’ve been caught in a lie. You see, here’s my point, when we sin it’s not only easy, but it’s also tempting to try to cover up our sin with a little lie. And so when we sin we have two choices, the first of which is to conceal it.
I’ll be honest with you, when I was a teenager I lied so much that my parents never believed a word I said. I would look them dead straight in the eyes and lie about anything and everything. As a matter of fact, it took me quite some time to learn to tell the truth, to value others, and to respect others enough to tell them the truth. You see the problem was I had gotten so accustomed to covering up my sin and avoiding any type of confrontation that I’d just lie my way out of the discussion.
And I think for many of us when we sin it’s very tempting to try to cover up our sin. As a matter of fact, it’s our nature to cover it up, because we don’t want to be exposed. You can see this time and time again in the Bible, one sin after another, followed by a cover up, and it begins with the very first sin in Genesis chapter 2, when God put man in the Garden of Eden and said,
"You’re free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil..." (Genesis 2:16-17).
Then just nine verses later in Genesis 3:1, the serpent who was Satan came and said to the woman,
"Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"
Eve seeing that the fruit of the tree was good for food, took a bite of the forbidden fruit, and gave some to her husband who ate as well. Later in the day, when the Lord God came walking through the garden, they hid, attempting to cover up their sin, but God asked in verse 11,
"Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" (Genesis 3:11)
The man said in Genesis 3:12-14,
"The woman you put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me and I ate." So the Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.”
The serpent, who is Satan, being accused by Adam as well as Eve, didn’t have a leg to stand on; there was sin and the cover-up.
The very next chapter tells us the story of two brothers, Cain and Abel, in Genesis chapter 4 at verse 3,
“In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry… he said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" (Genesis 4:3-9).
Verse 9, Cain says, "I don't know, am I my brother's keeper?"
Again there was sin and the cover-up. “I don't know where he is!” Cain says.
One more example is found in Genesis chapter 37 and that’s the story of Joseph. Now Joseph had a dream from God that he would rule over his family and so he tells his brothers, and his brothers who were already jealous of him because he had the favor of their father, plotted to kill him.
Genesis 37:23-28 tells us,
“So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the richly ornamented robe he was wearing, and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
Judah said to his brothers, "What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood." His brothers agreed.
So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver...”
However, after Joseph’s brothers sold him they realized, “Dad’s going to be mad, so we better cover this up.” And so verse 31 tells us,
“Then they got Joseph's robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. They took the ornamented robe back to their father and said, "We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son's robe." He recognized it and said, "It is my son's robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces" (Genesis 37:31-33).
Again there was sin and the cover-up. Adam and Eve, Cain, Joseph’s brothers, and you and I have two choices when we sin. The first, which is the easiest to do, is to conceal it, and the second, the better of the two, is to confess it.
You can conceal it, but that keeps you in bondage to that sin, or you can confess it. Now we talked last week about the freedom that ours when we embrace the truth, when we own the truth, the truth ultimately being the Lord Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). And so we want to receive the truth, learning to stop hiding behind the mask, and walking in the freedom of the children of God, because the Bible says in Proverbs 28:13,
“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
So when you hide behind the mask, when you conceal your sin, you don’t prosper, but whoever has the courage to embrace the truth, to drop the mask, to confess and renounce their sins, they will find mercy.
And today, many of you have a significant life-changing choice to make and that’s simply to conceal your sin and not prosper; or to drop the mask, confess your sin and find mercy. The choice is yours and it’s a choice that we all face day by day. The reason why is because we are all vulnerable to the lust of the flesh. Of course there are different types of sin, but the lust of the flesh is an ongoing battle, because as a Christian you’re spiritually connected to God. And so on a good day your spirit will lead you to do what is pleasing to God, but you’ll also have this battle and on a bad day your body could overwhelm your spirit, silencing your brain, and you could end up doing stuff that you know is wrong. You know what you shouldn’t do, but your flesh is overpowered, your mind is overwhelmed, and you do something that later you recognize certainly wasn’t worth it. But in the moment, you just can’t control yourself, because the lust of the flesh overwhelmed you.
So what do you do now? What do you do when you sin and you’ve messed up?
You have a choice to make and especially with the lust of the flesh it can be embarrassing and so the tempting thing to do is to try to conceal it by covering it up. By nature we’re tempted to conceal it, but don’t you know that sin has a way of coming out? God has an amazing way of uncovering our transgressions. As a matter of fact, Jesus said it this way in Luke 8:17, “There is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” (Luke 8:17). You see, you may not get caught for a while, but the Bible promises us in Numbers Chapter 32, “...you may be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).
Here is the thing, whatever we conceal God has a way of bringing out into the open, but whatever we confess he has a way of covering. That’s what the Bible tells us in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Whatever we confess God covers up and forgives. That’s why he brings it out into the open, because he loves us enough to confront us with our sin, to give us a chance to confess and find mercy. It doesn’t matter how dark, ugly, pathetic, or horrible it was, whoever confesses and renounces their sin finds mercy. If we could just be courageous enough to expose those sins that have been concealed, confessing them to our merciful Savior Jesus Christ, we will then experience the forgiveness of our God.
Listen to this description in the Psalms. Psalm 103:11-12 tells us, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” When we confess it, in God’s mind it’s as if it never happened, you’re forgiven, but it shouldn’t end there, because the effects and consequences of that sin have been released to carry out their dark task. So to confess to God and leave it at that is to confess halfway and yet that’s what many people do. And so today I want to show you the fullness of confession and though there are many references that I could share with you, there’s one verse in the New Testament that is so simple, so clear, and so powerful, that I want to just focus on this one to make sure you get it, because we’re not just going to confess to God, but we’re going to confess to the appropriate people so that number 3, we’ll be healed.
You see, confessing to God is the easy part, but it’s only part of it, the Bible tells us in James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed…” So we confess to each other and pray for each other, not so that we’ll be forgiven, but we confess to each other so that we may be healed. We confess to our brothers and sisters in Christ or if appropriate to the offended party so that we may be healed. This is important, because when someone confesses sin to another, suddenly there’s this breakthrough, and whatever that burden is that you’ve been carrying for days, weeks, months, and years it is released, having lost its power, and you’re free.
Now I know some of you won’t do that, you’re just going to confess it to God, but if you’ll drop the mask you can be healed. You see, some of you have prayed to God over and over and over again because of the sin, but you’ve never let God’s people in to help you heal. If you confess your sins to others so that they can pray for you, they can also hold you accountable, they can encourage you and build you back up. Sometimes we just need somebody else to stand in the gap, to stand between us and the sin that is overwhelming us. And when we expose those things that have been covered up, those things that have been concealed, we’ll find that we’ve been healed. But when we refuse to confess our sins to others, we’re not really trusting God at his Word, and we’re believing that our lies will work better than the truth. And if you’ll do the right thing, the Bible tells us in 1 John 1:7, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
When we quit playing games and drop the mask, God will bring forgiveness and healing. And so as we close today, I encourage you to bring your pain, to bring your hurt, to bring all your baggage, because what we’re not going to do is to continue to live in sin and pretend that it’s not sin and that you’re not breaking the heart of God. We’re going to confess it, we’re going to be transparent, we’re going to be authentic, and we’re not going to hold anything back. We’re going to let the Spirit of God set us free, because “He who conceals his sin does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
July 24, 2016
Graphics, notes, and commentary from Life Church, Preaching Library, and PC study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.