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The Mask

Part 1: Hiding the Shame

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(7/25) Good morning, welcome to Christís Community Church. Today weíre starting a brand new series called, "The Mask" and itís going to be a bit challenging, because many of us from childhood have been taught to put on a mask so that we can be rewarded as we go door to door saying, "Trick or treat" and receiving gifts of candy. You see, many of us growing up here in America have been brought up celebrating Halloween dressing up and acting as someone or something else and so now as adults weíve been trained, conditioned, and maybe I should even be bold enough to say deceived into wearing masks almost every day of our lives. Many of us have come to the point in our lives where we believe itís appropriate and have found it to be acceptable to wear a mask in public.

Gloria Steinem, feminist, activist, and publisher once said, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle". You may have heard that quote before and throughout her career her attitude towards men had been basically "Who need them?" In fact, she often referred to marriage as "legalized oppression" but apparently she changed her mind, because in September of 2000, she found one man she planned to keep for a while and got married. I have to wonder what would cause a woman who had taken such a strong stance against the institution of marriage for almost 40 years, to drop her mask, to change her tune, and to suddenly decide that she wanted it for herself. You know, after so many years of boasting that she doesnít want or need a man in her life and then to turn 180E and head in the opposite direction is truly a mystery, but I guess she had just beenÖ wearing a mask.

Well, if you have your Bibles with you today, open them up to Genesis, Chapter 2, and weíre going to consider how many of us are not really honest with each other, with God, or even where we stand with God. And honestly, I think many of us have become so self-deceived, weíve been wearing a mask so long, we become so accustomed to it that we donít even recognize this false front we put up. Some of us have been hiding things in our lives, covering them up for years, and yet I pray that as we dig in, as we exercise the freedom that ours in Christ, that we may learn and have the courage to lower the mask once and for all.

As we begin, Iíll be the first to admit, that Iím not excluded from this teaching. This message is for me, just as much as it is for the church, and there are things going on in my life, just like yours, and so Iím going to assume that if youíre anything like I am that youíve become rather skilled at wearing a mask. Iím just saying this to be transparent, to be straightforward with you as we begin, because I believe itís important that as we lay the foundation for this series that we understand that weíre all in this together. Weíre all on a spiritual journey together and yet I imagine that you would all agree that as your pastor itís important that no matter whatís going on in my life that I always have on a happy mask, that I am always encouraging, and always having the appearance of holiness. Isnít that right?

Arenít I supposed to be an example? Maybe you look to my wife and I to be an encouragement to you in your walk with the Lord, and so it doesnít matter whether this morning my wife and I are yelling and screaming at the kids to get ready, yelling and screaming at each other for whatever, yelling and screaming at the person who pulled out in front of us on Main Street, and yelling and screamingÖ because weíre going to be late for prayer. And so, praise the Lord, letís get in the car, letís get the church, we walk in the door and the first thing somebody says is, "Good morning, itís great to see you, how are you doing?" Isnít that right? And so itís almost instinctive to want to put on a mask, maybe itís expected, but maybe we shouldnít.

Itís almost embarrassing to say, because sometimes when deep inside Iím hurting, Iím burdened by the pain of so many, the struggles of so many, Iím working 12 hours a day seven days a week, Iím stressed out, struggling, and sometimes feel all alone, and itís just easier to hide behind the spiritual veneer that everything is good and that all is well instead of dumping the wagon load of stuff Iím dragging behind me. But you know because I love you and I donít want to let you down, I donít want to drop the mask and say, "ActuallyÖ Actually, can we just drop everything right here in the foyer, can I just unload, because Iím not doing very well, Iím struggling, hurting, and could use some rest." And so thatís what weíre going to be talking about for the next few weeks. The Mask! Your mask, and my mask, because we all have them and so weíre going to seek God together, that he may teach us and give us the courage to expose the real you.

So this morning as we begin weíre going to be looking at Genesis chapter 2 and weíre going to see the very first application of putting on a mask recorded in the Bible, and I love how itís their right in the very beginning, because our God is so transparent. How many of you know that God is nothing to hide? Anybody?

You see, God is love and God has nothing to hide. And so in Genesis chapter 2, we find that Adam and Eve are the only two people on earth, theyíre looking each other up and down, thereís romance in the air, and God said in verse 24,

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame" (Genesis 2:24-25).

1. Feeling No Shame

God said, "They will become one flesh" theyíll be married, theyíll be intimate with one another, and theyíll share life together. And verse 25 sets the stage saying that "they were both naked and they felt no shame." In other words, they had no clothes on and they werenít embarrassed, because before sin entered the world there was no shame. They werenít hiding, because they didnít feel exposed, there was no reason to hide, there was no embarrassment, and nobody had even created a maskÖ yet.

There was no shame. And the Hebrew word translated shame, just to clarify for you, means to be ashamed, disappointed, confused, or to become dry. So here we have Adam and Eve created on a perfect earth without sin, knowing no shame, there wasnít any disappointment, confusion, or relational dryness. There was nothing that separated them from their God and from each other, because there was no sin, no shame, and therefore no masks.

Letís pick up the story in Genesis chapter 3 at verse one.

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'" "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it" (Genesis 3:1-6).

So Satan, the serpent came along, he questioned God, and put a delicious piece of fruit in front of Eve. She fell for the temptation, she disobeyed God, she ate of the fruit, she gave some to her husband, he ate it, and then the Scripture says this in verse seven:

"Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves" (Genesis 3:7).

2. Behind the Mask

This is the Bibleís very first deception, the first cover-up, and the very first masquerade. They had been deceived, so Adam and Eve covered themselves, because for the first time they felt shame, they felt unworthy of each other, and unworthy of Godís presence because of what they had done. And this was the first example of the sin that Jesus despised. You see, Jesus hated hypocrisy, he hated those who put on a show like actors on stage, and as you read the New Testament, Jesus was harsher to the hypocrites than he was to anyone else. If there was a sinner who was honest and truly repentant Jesus showed them love and grace, but to those who pretended, who weíre hypocrites, like actors playing a role, wearing a mask to deceive and to misrepresent reality, those like the teachers of the law and Pharisees, to them Jesus said in Matthew chapter 23:

"Woe to youÖ you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matthew 23:27-28).

You see, Adam and Eve inside, behind the mask were like, "If you just knew the real me, how sinful I am, and how unworthy I feel." And so they hide behind the mask, they had fallen into sin, and into the great deception. And you see thatís what our spiritual enemy does. Satan defeats us through his lies, convincing us that because of what weíve done that weíre bad people and therefore the only safe place is to hide. And heís very strategic in driving us into a life of hiding, which typically begins when you experience something extremely painful or sinful. Maybe you did something that leads to shame or maybe somebody else does something to you and youíre the victim, and yet you still feel the shame.

The serpent, our spiritual enemy, has been defeating us with the shame of sin or that painful experience for thousands of years. And so the next thing you know, you begin to connect what happened to you, with who you are. You confuse the action with your identity, thinking that what you did or what someone else did to you is your identity. And if you were with us last week, we noted that failure is an event, never a person, and therefore failure is not personal. But what happens is that thereís that divorce, that bankruptcy, that moral failure, and because of what you have experienced, you often incorrectly associate what happened to you with who you are, and then youíre deceived into believing that the only safe place is to put on a mask and hide. And maybe for you, you just try to keep yourself busy, you try not to think about it, you smile and pretend that everythingís okay, and yet inside you feel so ashamed and afraid.

Thatís exactly what we saw in Genesis chapter 3. In verse seven, Adam and Eve, "Realized they were naked, so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." And thatís whatís happened to so many of us, we start to think that what we did is who we are, that weíre a bad person, that weíre unlovable, that weíre unworthy, and so instead of being real, instead of showing who we really are, we wear the mask and hide.

Look with me at verse eight, "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden" (Genesis 3:8).

What just the day before wouldíve been good news, now causes fear, and they hid from God among the trees. Like little children they hid from the Lord, their Heavenly Father, their all-knowing, all-powerful, ever present God as if he couldnít see them. And how that reminds me of my own little children playing hide and seek, calling me to come find them as if I donít know where they were. You know, the chairs are moving around the kitchen table, thereís Oliviaís unmistakable voice calling me to come find her from under the table and so what do I do? I play along, wondering out loud, "Where are you?"

3. Where Are You?

Look with me now at verse nine, "The Lord God called to the man, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:9).

Now of course we have to wonder, "Didnít God know where Adam was?" And most certainly he did, but God asked Adam where he was, because God wanted Adam to acknowledge where he was. Like my daughter hiding under the kitchen table, as I walked through the kitchen and call for her, she invariably bursts out of hiding gleefully announcing her presence. Today, the Holy Spirit is going to ask many of you that very same question, "Where are you?" Adam answered, and verse 10,

"I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid" (Genesis 3:10).

This morning, as the Spirit of God whispers in the quietness of your heart, "Where are you?" How would you answer? Adam says, "I was afraidÖ because I felt vulnerable, because I knew I was imperfect, because I no longer felt good enough, and so I hid." Adam says, "I was afraidÖ"

What would you say? "I was afraid, because if you knew what Iíve done you wouldnít love me. I was afraid, because Iím ashamed of what Iíve done. I was afraid, because of my sinful thoughts and God if you just knew. I was afraid so I hid."

Some of you might say, "I was afraid, because Iíve got this problem. I was afraid, because I slipped into sin. I was afraid so I hid this from you, I hid this from God, and Iím hiding behind a mask. I didnít want to do it, I didnít plan on doing it, but I got trapped and now Iím overwhelmed by all of this. I was afraid because Iíve been hurt, Iíve sinned, and so I have these masks to show you because Iím afraid for you to see the real me. And sometimes itís just so easy, so safe, to slip into that mindset where life is shrouded in mystery; and we always put the best face forward, whether itís dressing a certain way, sounding a certain way, or acting a certain way. No matter whether weíre dealing with anxiety, maybe financial challenges, or relationships that are strained, itís hidden behind the mask.

But itís all hypocrisy, being an actor, faking it is hypocrisy, and Jesus hates hypocrisy. He hates when we pretend to be somebody that weíre not and some of you have been putting on a spiritual show and God recognizes that youíve been hiding and he comes calling for you so lovingly, so patiently, and he says, "Where are you?" This morning as we close, in your relationship with God, where are you? I want to dare you to drop whatever mask there may be and let the real you show.

Many of you are here, but you havenít talked to God all week, and youíre not even sure where your Bible is. Youíre wearing a mask. You believe in God, but youíve been overwhelmed with all the stuff and you denied the Lordship of Jesus Christ over your life because you surrendered to your own priorities. Youíre wearing a mask. You find yourself living in a continual state of unrepentant sin and whatever it is whether itís an emotional affair, a physical affair, financial abuse, lust, greed, or pride, youíve lost your intimacy with God and yet youíre acting like it is all okay, and itís not. Youíre wearing a mask. And so what I want to do is to encourage you to boldly drop the mask and tell God, "Here I am." You see, you can approach the throne of grace with confidence, you can be honest, because God already knows and I guarantee you he is big enough and heís secure enough to handle it.

Drop the mask! All around this room I want you to drop the mask and tell God right now where you are and why youíre hiding. Quit the charade and tell him whatís going on. Drop the mask. Drop the mask, because you canít do all that God wants you to do wearing a stupid mask. As we close, I want to show you what God did for Adam and Eve as they were cowering afraid, naked, and vulnerable hiding in the garden. Genesis chapter 3, verse 21 tells us,

"The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them" (Genesis 3:21).

This is the kind of merciful God that we worship. He made garments of skin for them, covering them, and even though this is the very first story of humanity in the Bible, itís a very powerful description of what God was going to do for us through his son Jesus Christ. Here in Genesis chapter 3, God sacrificed an innocent animal, he shed innocent blood, and took the skin from that sacrificed animal, and made a covering to cover their shame and sin. And thatís exactly what God did for us through his son Jesus Christ. He sacrificed the innocent Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who would shed his blood for the sins of the world so that we would be covered by it. And because of the covering of Christ we no longer have to hide, but the only way we can be everything God wants us to be is to drop the mask, to be clothed with Christ, and then we can please God in every way.

Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott

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