Post Author: Judy Moore

Judy Moore is the Associate Pastor at Riverside Church.
November 22, 2020
The Masks We Can Leave Behind – Session 2: The Stories We Tell

Teaching Series Introduction:

In a world in which wearing masks can save lives, what other masks do we wear that we can take off? Masks that hide the reality of who we are, and what we are carrying? We all do it, but it gets so tiring. In Luke 12, Jesus offers a better alternative than the mask-wearing of the religious leaders. A life in which we don’t have to pretend. A life in which we reveal who we really are, and discover the freedom that Jesus offers.

Session 2

Title: The Stories We Tell
By: Judy Moore
Date: 22 November 2020
Bible Passage: Luke (Chapter 12, verses 4-5)

We all tell stories about our lives. But are they the real story? Often we write a script about how we should, and shouldn’t, be living, and let our fear of others dictate what we know to be true. It’s only as we have the right view of God do we find lasting freedom from needing to fear others.

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Well, good morning everyone. And welcome to the second in our series on, The Masks that We Leave Behind. We will be looking at this passage in the Book of Luke in the New Testament in Chapter 12. And looking at both the warnings and the encouragements that come from Jesus when he’s with his team and with his followers and being scrutinized a little bit, being watched and critiqued, if you like, by the Pharisees who were judgmental in their appraisal of him. And I wonder for you, if there’s a little bit of a resonance with that. There certainly is for me, that we go through life and there is a crowd, whether that’s on Facebook or Instagram or a class at school or in college or our peers or our family, and there’s pressure to please them. There’s pressure to perform and to be the person that they want us to be.

I don’t know whether you were often play that game at Christmas, where you’ve got a post-it note and you have to stick it on your forehead like this. Then you have to go around asking people, who you are, to find out who you are. I know that’s a game, but there’s a little bit in life, a little bit like that, that we’re almost going around everybody else saying, “Who do you think I am?” And trying to discover who we are through that lens. Whereas actually in this passage, Jesus is quite tough. He says to the friends and he calls them friends. “I tell you my friends,” his followers, “Don’t be afraid of those who would kill the body. And after that can do no more, but I will show you who you should fear, fear him, who after your body has been killed, has all authority to throw you into hell.”

Now, tough verses there, particularly that end bit, but essentially what Jesus is saying, and what he is  saying with great love and great Liberty, is that we might as well be free to be the real you, because that’s who God’s made. And he is the one who’s in control of your life and your eternal destination. He’s the one who thought you up. And because Jesus was human, but was fully God, which is really hard to wrap your head around, he’s been with God enough to know one thing for sure. And that is how much God loves you. And as we look at the masks we wear, and I’ve got one here, it’s a bit similar to Nathan’s opinion makeup last week, but have these masks that we wear and The Greek Mask was used for many different distinctives in early Greek theatre, but it was also used for uniformity.

It was used for the Greek chorus, all looking exactly the same. In other words, to get rid of anything that would mark you out from the crowd and that would keep you as a chorus with a corporate identity. And there was a little bit of pressure on us when we’re younger, but I don’t always think it gets any easier as you get older, as I can testify to try to be a bit of a comedian, to seek the approval of people and to define us as a bit like back that game with the sticker on us, to define ourselves by the lens that other people might see us by. And we’re also very aware that every single one of us is a product of labels and stickers that might have been put on our masks as we grown up.

So we might have a label that says, insecure, we might have one that say’s weak, we might have one that says stupid. And these are labels that we’ve started to wear without even knowing it. So that they become a filter for our story, but if somebody says a chance comment, it feeds into one of those labels, one of those things that we’ve written on ourselves. Some of us might have this label it says, imposter might be quite hard for you to read it.

And we perhaps wear that imposter and that might be because we’re a surgeon and we feel we’ll get found out, it might be because we’re a class teacher and we feel we’ll be found out, it might be because we’re parents and we feel like we’ll be found out that we’re not really very good. And so we have this tape, this script in our heads, and it feeds into this craving if you like, addiction even for some for approval. And Jesus, as always, he just gets it. He knows that God’s love for you is so profound, his approval of you is unflinching.

And I think that’s the pace that Jesus is trying to get at. He’s saying,” Why would you put all this store by what other people think of you? When actually the person who’s created the whole universe and controls you’re living, you’re dying, you’re breathing, everything! thinks you’re amazing. And he knows that because he’s been with God. And he also knows that the lie of any enemy or any force of evil in this world will be around distorting that truth. I was in Dudley a few years ago, and we were doing an Alpha course with a group of people and there was a wonderful guy called Matt on that course, and we were talking about how Jesus had been with God and was absolutely sure of God’s love for every single person.

And he compared it a little bit. He said, “Ah I get this!” He said, “It’s a little bit like if you used to play for the Villa and you suddenly played with the Baggies, you’re much more likely to score against shore old team.” And he said next, ” Its because you know their strategy. And so you’re much more likely to know how you can score a goal.”

And I thought that was a brilliant way of looking at it because he was saying in a way, Jesus knows how much we’re loved and any enemy voice, or any evil voice would try and distort that one truth. The strategy, the opposing strategy will be to make us doubt that we’re enough that we are loved.  That is the incredible truth of the Bible is that we are enough, we are loved by God. And it’s the incredible truth of the soul rest that we can find in a faith in Jesus. Because every single day, even before you wake starts with God’s saying, “Look what I have made. Look who I’ve created. She is my masterpiece, he is my handy work. And I love him. I approve of her so much.”

So to wear a mask, that says imposter or insecurity or fearful, is to mask the absolute beauty and security of being a child of God. Eleanor Roosevelt says, “Isn’t it strange that we obsess about what others think when nine times out of 10, they’re not thinking of us at all.”

In other words, we are so vulnerable to those likes on Facebook or Instagram, we’re so vulnerable to whether people are angry with us or are pleased with us or approve of us and yet the creative of a whole universe looks at what he has made and says it is good. I always feel sorry in the New Testament for Pilate. Pilate’s the guy who has Jesus in front of him and gets to decide whether Jesus is put to death or lives. And he has alongside of him Barabbas and the crowd are clamouring “Free Barabbas they identify with him, yeah he’s a guy who got it wrong, but he’s not claiming to be God.”

And they cry and shout and in the end Pilate gives in to the voice of the crowd. But he also has this incredible self-doubt when he does that, because he thinks what crime was this man committed? He’s just added to people’s lives. He’s made them well again and he’s restored people and deep in his spirit, he knows that actually he should have feared God over man.

Well, let’s break down this word fear because it’s a tricky one. We may have had an upbringing that’s made us fearful of God, fearful of upsetting him, committing a sin that he can’t forgive all those things, and actually these couple of verses might key into something that just says, “Oh no, what if I get it wrong?” Well, the reality is, and the Bible is very sure about this and Jesus is too that we will get it wrong. We will mess up, but fear of God is actually being in awe of him. It’s being in awe of the fact that the God of the whole universe would love us, would care what happens to you and I, and actually when we begin from that approval, when we begin every day from that place of just knowing whatever man may say of you or whatever woman may say of you, you have a secure place, a soul place that no one can touch, and that’s what Jesus is saying here, they can’t touch that. They can’t touch the fact that actually you have a security that is founded on your identity.

And so the futility of us all trying to be the same, the futility of us all trying to be this corporate mask, this person that’s exactly the same as every other person, this chameleon is such a waste of time and energy and mental effort. Because the real beauty is to be the very best version of ourselves because there’s no one else like you. I love the Oscar Wilde quote, where he says, ” Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” That is so true and I and I loved it when I discovered that, because I know that I can be a bit of a chameleon. I know when I was touring and we would be in different places where they had different dialects and I’m very fascinated by voices, as some of you know will know, and I know that I can pick up a dialect or an accent in the place that I am without even knowing it. Some of the guys that I used to tour with would say we’d literally cross over the West border and I’d walk into the petrol station and just say well, “Can I have a sandwich?” in a welsh accent. And they would then mimic me because I was so susceptible, without even knowing, it trying to sound like the people around me. And if we’re honest perhaps to a greater or lesser extent, there is a little bit of that mimicry going on in all of us, that actually we start to pick up the accent around us rather than the beautiful tone that is your voice, that is the uniquely crafted story and voice that Jesus has given you to tell you to live out and do that with great freedom, knowing that it starts from a place for approval.

There’s a great psychological tool that talks about a cycle of grace and a cycle of grief. And a cycle of grief begins with not feeling loved or accepted and spends life always trying to find a rival with that place of acceptance and it’s fleeting you might arrive there, and the very next day might rob you of the approval and you’re back to square one. Whereas the cycle of grace begins saying, “Do you know whatever happens today? I am loved.” You are enough. So that everything comes out of that, that there is no one else like you, everyone else has taken. And that’s for a reason. There’s a reason your DNA is unique. There’s a reason that your fingerprint is so unique to you. Many of you all know that I’ve worked quite in prisons, and I remember sharing how excited I was that fact in a huge man’s prison in Wolverhampton and getting a lot of heckling because they were all saying, “But that’s why we’re here we got found out because of our DNA.”

But that’s so true isn’t it? That we have got that unique fingerprint that even if we have a twin it’s not the same, because God wants you to make your mark on this world. So there’s no point us trying to mimic the other person because they’re already making their own mark for what is unique to them. In the book of Proverbs, we hear that actually the fear of man was set a trap for us, but we will find safety in the fear of the Lord. And Jesus gently in this passage is just saying, “Do not play to the crowd above playing to me and my father, because he loves you and wants you to come to him, wants you to live a life that actually honours the person that he has made us all to be.”

So let’s pray for those masks that we’re inclined to wear, that are too uniform for us to be wearing, that to conformed. And in church life, as Nathanael rightly shared last week, we can be really guilty of this, we do not want lines of people or pews of people or whatever your context is lined up looking the same. I know as a pastor so well, that so many people over the years have come to see me in my office and said, “Well, I don’t know because I come to this church and I just look at everyone else and their lives are so perfect.” And that particular family is so perfect, and you can bet your life that it will be a few weeks and then somebody from that family or situation will be coming and saying, “I’ve got so many fragilities and frailties. And I look at everyone else and think they’ve got their life sussed.”

Can I be honest? I’m not sure anyone really has got this whole thing sussed, but we do know a God who has, and he says, “You are enough.’ And his grace is enough. His approval is enough. So let’s accept that today and live without that mask of people pleasing that we hide behind, but live as people who fully long to please the God who loves us.

Let’s pray. Be with us now Lord we pray, as we leave our masks behind once again, as we lay down our people pleasing in favour of accepting that we do please you, even when we’re asleep, because you’ve made us, you approve of us, you love us. And we give you these words that we might have a filter for everything that happens to us, because we think we’re stupid, because we’re afraid, because we feel we’re a failure or a mistake or ugly or we are weak. Lord we give you those labels. And we ask father that you would help us to remove them. We would be free of them, Lord, free to be ourselves, to be loved, approved, and accepted and live in real security. As Jesus said, that we have the security of knowing that whatever man may say of us, whatever woman may throw at us, they can’t touch our soul.  May our security be that soul rest of knowing that you love every single child created by you. You love us all Lord. And you have no one else in this earth like us. Amen

Study Questions

  1. Do you worry about what people think of you? Why/why not?

  2. Read Luke 12:4-5. These initially seem to be some daunting words from Jesus. How would you summarise what he is saying?

  3. Jesus is talking about the Pharisees, a particularly devoted group of religious leaders who were often telling others how to live their lives. In verse 4 Jesus seems to be saying ‘they’re not that big a deal’! What reasons does he give? In what ways is this comforting?

  4. In verse 5, Jesus reminds us that people have no control or authority over our eternal destiny. Only God does. And so the right response is to fear God more than people. What do you think it means to ‘fear’ God? Is there a difference between ‘fear’ and ‘being afraid of’? (You may like to read the following: Proverbs 7:13; Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 28:14; 2 Corinthians 5:11)

  5. One author, Douglas Stuart, describes the fearing God in this way, ‘…always in awe of him, appreciate his supremacy and greatness, fear the consequences of disobeying his will, and not treat lightly any aspect of their covenant relationship with him.’ Read Proverbs 29:25 – compared to fearing God, why is fearing what people think always going to be a ‘snare’?

  6. Compare Luke 12:5 and 1 John 4:17-18. How does the passage in 1 John give an insight into what Jesus might be saying in Luke 12:5?

  7. Take some time to pray, asking that God would give you a healthy perspective about him and what other people think about you. Thank him that because of Jesus, we don’t need to be afraid of eternity. And ask him to give you a right ‘fear of the Lord’. 
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