Today I’m on an airplane heading to see our new granddaughter! Not only that , but it’s the first day people can fly without wearing a face mask (although 60% are)! There is some freedom today! The stewards are enjoying this and it’s great to see smiling faces and if you’re reading this it means we also safely landed, which would be a huge plus! If not, and this iPad is recovered, I leave all of my cassette tapes to Pastor Al.
I was reminded of the spiritual analogy of mask wearing when Pastor Josh spoke on the woes that Christ leveled at the religious leaders in Matthew 23. Several times these leaders are called hypocrites. The word literally meant “to wear the mask” because actors would do so during their performances. And what Jesus was getting across was that they were acting religiously, but not living that way. That’s a very bad and dangerous place to be. The word “unhypocritical” is used in 2 Timothy describing Timothy, his mom Eunice, and his grandma Lois. Theirs was a genuine faith… the real deal.
The question that all of us need to ask is “do I wear masks?” My guess is when we look closely, we are all guilty at times. Being phony and putting up a false image is rather easy, and as we examine our hearts, it’s sort of a default mode. Being real and maskless is truly a much better place to be!
What are some of the masks we might be tempted to wear?
The Performance Mask:
This one is about the erroneous notion that our deeds are more important than our heart attitude. It’s about looking good, the accolades of those around us, the praise of men. We can idolize having the “perfect marriage”, “perfect children”, or “perfect families” or “the perfect walk with the Lord.” We love it when others look at us and are jealous … it’s insidious. Someone has wisely said “if your goal is perfection you will end up pretending”. The primary goal in our walk with Jesus is a humble honesty. That my friends will involve a lot of confession and repentance. Does God want our good deeds? Of course… but not at the expense of our honesty and refreshing repentance. He first wants us to be real.
The “Religious Speak” Mask:
We learn some lingo along the journey in church that we often hide behind. Have you ever said “I’ll be praying for you “ and not thought about that again till you see the person 10 days later? We all have. What is that? A better response is maybe… let’s pray now. Or I’ll pray for you when I think of you. Or I’ll try to remember to pray for you. Those at least make me honest. When I say I’ll be praying for you and don’t, I’ve only lied. Or how about prayer requests that are only gossip? It happens. Or whenever we speak about our devotional time it’s laced with “Christianese “ rather than sometimes admitting, "You know I haven’t done that in several days… remember to pray for me in that” or “ I’m just staring at what seem to be blank pages.” All of us go through that, it’s refreshing when we own it. Watch out for “religious speak”.
The Church Attendance Mask:
Going to church is a good thing! Hey I’m a pastor… I want you here! But we all know, the attendance thing can be like the performance issue… be careful that you are not substituting it for a vibrant walk with Jesus. Some come to church and on the other 6 days hardly pray and maybe never open the word… is that good? Our walk with Jesus is an everyday thing. If you have trouble here, lay down the mask, and come talk with me, or any staff member. That’s better than sitting in church behind a mask… and it’s freeing.
The Guilt Mask:
I’ve noticed some people are really adept at making others feel guilty. They even sometimes do “drive by guiltings “ involving a quick comment and moving on. Please don’t let that be you. I think the Pharisees were pretty good at this, simply because they loved having their piety on display. Usually people who guilt others are hiding something (you see, putting others on defense can take attention off of our own crap) not at all what our Lord wants.
I could go on with the mask thing… but I think you get the point. Mask wearing is a clear and present danger for all of us who claim the name of Christ! You can come to your own conclusions about what yours are. Let me end by reminding us of what I’ve found helpful in fighting the tendency we all have to wear masks. 
Here’s my personal list:
1. I’m not that good. This is really helpful! I’m just not, and Jesus still loves me. Very cool.
2. I repent a lot. It saves time and heartache. Besides, he knows all about it, and trying to hide is a fools game.
3. “Acting” religious is generally ugly. The religious often act like there’s something stuck up their backside or like they’ve just drank lemon juice. Not pretty at all.
4. Keeping the mask on is exhausting. You’re always excusing something, often hiding, and never get real. You’ll have few friends.
5. The mask puts you in prison. Freedom is only found in honesty, confession, repentance, and being able to let one’s guard down. Christ has set us free. Attempting to perform imprisons.
As your pastor… my door is always open to those who desire to come and let their guard down. Jesus died for all of your “stuff” if you’ve not experienced that type of freedom, let’s talk.
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Pete Nelson