I could never understand how no one ever pegged Clark Kent as Superman. I mean really? All Clark Kent had to do was remove his thick rimmed glasses, and strip down to his blue and red skivvies, fly around in a cap, and no one could tell the two identities apart? Though superman didn’t wear a mask of fabric to hide his identity, he still wore a mask. His mask was an entire persona! Mighty bullet stopping Superman could don a fedora, put on a reporter’s suit and the glasses, change his posture…and become the mild mannered reporter. No one expected that guy to be more powerful than a locomotive!
That’s the power of a mask—no latex or fabric is needed to hide our identities—we’ve been doing that on our own since the beginning.
After Adam and Eve sinned they sewed up some fig leaves, and Adam responded to the call of the Father with, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (see Genesis 3:6-10)
This was the very first case of sin management. Adam and Eve sinned, and in panic, tried to cover it up. They tried to fix the brokenness. And when God—the one who can redeem them—call’s out—they hide. This is what sin does to us. Rather than address our nakedness (sinfulness) and take it to the one who can heal us, we attempt to keep up the appearance that all is well—and cover it up. So we sew up some fig leaves to hide our broken identities…
What do these fig leaves look like for us? The book The Cure pegs three types of masks we tend to wear. I will address all three in the next three weeks. Here is number one.
1. “Mr. Fix it” mask
Under this mask, we strive to find whatever it is that is preventing us from experiencing the abundant life others seem to have.
So…maybe we start trying harder. We muster up all our strength to perform better. Make strategies of change. Kick those bad habits, be more kind, more knowledgeable, more wise.
I wore this mask. I asked Jesus into my life when I was 5 or 6…but growing up, I often wondered if “I was really in the club.” Did I really belong to Jesus? I am still screwing up an awful lot. When I thought about God, I often thought of him as being disappointed in me. In my mind, I was the son bringing home the test with a D- to my heavenly Father, striking out at bat with my heavenly Father in the bleachers, or sitting in the principal’s office when my heavenly—and disappointed—Father got the call. You could define it as an “I’ve done all this for you, and this is how you repay me!” understanding of God. God was disappointed so I had better earn his love. And so, I tried harder…for years. But I couldn’t be good enough. It’s an unreachable ceiling. It will leave you tired and frustrated.
Worse, it leaves us focused on our shortcomings rather than the person, work and grace of Jesus Christ.
I realized how serious this had become a few weeks ago when paging through a book in my bible. I had a lot of the “convicting” verses in my bible underlined—the things I wanted to try to do better—but very few of the verses describing the beautiful grace that Jesus demonstrated in paying for my sin were highlighted on the pages (if any). As a result, I read Scripture more focused on myself and my shortcomings then on Christ and what he has done for me.
Paul dealt with this mask in the book of Galatians. Some Judaizers were preaching a message disguised as the gospel that wasn’t the gospel at all. They had added to it saying that it was necessary to practice certain Jewish customs in order to be a Christian. This is no different than when we try to earn God’s favor by the things we do—trying to earn what is freely given. The true gospel is that we are saved by grace alone!
2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the Law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?
Renowned Pastor of the Village Church, Matt Chandler, gave this brilliant analogy concerning the Law of God…and trying to earn our right standing through it. Matt had cancer. He had an MRI which revealed the severity of his illness. Though the MRI could point out what was wrong…it had no power to make him healthy. He still needed the cure. God’s law reveals to us that we are not alright—things are not the way God designed them to be. The law has no power to make us right. Only Jesus can bring the cure.
The reality is that Jesus paid it all. ALL. We are passive recipients. Christ does two things for us—he places his righteousness on us so that we are seen as holy in the eyes of the Father, and in turn he takes the Father’s wrath upon himself. This is the most unfair, yet glorious exchange in the history of the Universe. If I punch someone in the teeth, they don’t give me 50 dollars. It’s ludicrous! That’s why for some the gospel is seen as offensive, and to others it’s seen as foolishness!
I can try to earn this un-earnable grace by doing my best to change my sinful ways. I can tip the waitress a little more, say a kind thing to the stranger, and read all the self- help books to deal with my pesky bad habits. I might look pretty good for a while, but that’s simply behavior modification…and anyone who’s gone on a diet, or workout routine knows that behavior modification doesn’t stick. It just attunes my heart and mind to focus on my shortcomings. My behavior isn’t the issue so much as my heart is. Instead I can focus my energies and attentions on Jesus, the giver of the unbelievably unfair and ultimately stunning exchange of grace—marvel in the beauty of the gift—and in placing my focus on Christ and basking in his grace…I begin to look a lot more like him.
To explore this further, check out “The Cure” by TrueFaced.com, and Matt Chandler’s sermon “The diagnostic and the cure”—a sermon on Galatians.