Post Author: Sarah Auger

Sarah is a member of our leadership team and is responsible for all the Groups (Life Groups and Community Groups) at Riverside.
December 6, 2020
The Masks We Can Leave Behind – Session 4: A Posture Of Defence

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 4

Title: A Posture Of Defence
By: Sarah Auger
Date: 6 December 2020
Bible Passage: Luke (Chapter 12, verses 8-12)

No one likes being unpopular, but the ways we react to criticism are telling. How do you respond? Does it floor you, or make you stronger? Do you automatically defend or attack? What difference might God make on how we view ourselves and others? Discover the true freedom of putting him first, and find a way of neither attack or defence!

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We are coming today to the end of our series, Looking at Masks, the mask that we all wear that, in some way, keep us from living in the fullness of life that God intended us to live in.

Today we are going to be looking at the whole mask of defensiveness, that sense of I want to be right, I want to be the most important. It might be that over this last year where, for so many of us, we’ve been living in a really heightened state of emotion, where emotions are felt much more at the forefront than maybe they previously have, that we know in ourselves that critical sense of spirit has really grown within us. That as we’ve struggled with being apart from one another, or navigating these weird months that we’ve had, that we have become more critical, that we have become more defensive.

So we’re going to look at these passages that have been read to us by Ben earlier this morning to see the example that Jesus gives to us. But before we look at these verses in Chapter 12, I think it’s quite important to put it into context of what has just happened.

In Chapter 11, we see that Jesus had been invited to a Pharisee’s house. He’s been invited around to eat with them. It says that before they started the meal, that Jesus didn’t wash and so the Pharisee questions this.

Now in our historical context, we probably think, “Well, Jesus, you should have done your couple of happy birthdays. Why weren’t you washing your hands?” But in the historical context that Jesus was living in, washing before meal wasn’t about hygiene. It was about emulating what the priest did before they went into the temple. That they would wash to get rid of any unclean things that they may have touched that would stop them from being fully in God’s presence when they went into the temple.

So Jesus questions a Pharisee and says, “You know, I don’t think this is the most important thing. I think that you have got so caught up with the law and the legalities that you’ve actually forgotten how to love people. And you’ve forgotten how to show just love and mercy that God would want you to show to the people around you.”

So then Jesus leaves the house where He’s had the meal after giving this challenge to the Pharisee. It says just at the end of Chapter 11, that when Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose Him fiercely and to besiege Him with questions, waiting to catch Him out in something that He might say. It then goes on in Chapter 12 to say that He goes out of the house, and there’s this massive crowd of people around Him.

There are two things that really stand out to me in this little kind of precursor to the verses that we have read this morning because there’s Jesus having come out of this house. He’s got the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, going on at Him, challenging Him, opposing the things that He said to them. He comes out to these thousands of thousands of people and yet, rather than defend himself, rather than say, “No, you’ve got it wrong. I know what I’m saying,” it says that what He does is, first, He speaks to His disciples.

So in this huge crowd of people with people challenging Him, opposing Him, others wanting to wait and hear what He’s about to say, Jesus looks at His followers and He says, “In this moment, I want to teach you something. I want to teach you about how you can respond when you find yourselves in these situations so that you can then take this and model this, and show this to others who you will go out and you will tell about the love of God.”

Jesus says to His disciples in the verses that Ben read, “Don’t worry about how you will defend yourselves, or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” Because it’s not about you. It’s all about God at work in and through you by His Holy Spirit. That all of the time that Jesus was here on earth, His whole ministry, His whole life, He never once wanted to point people to himself. He never once wanted to get the glory for himself. His life and His ministry was always about pointing others to God, to say, “Look at the love that God has for you. Look at the way that you could be living your life. Look at the best, the ideal that God has for you.”

So Jesus says to His disciples in a proper living example of people challenging Him, “Do you know what? Don’t look at yourselves. Don’t try and make yourselves look great. Let God’s Spirit work through you.” That is the way that you can release yourself from that feeling of always needing to be defensive or always needing to be right, because actually it’s not about you. It’s about God at work through you.

I remember this time probably last year or just before having a conversation with someone which really, really upset me, and he said some very horrible, hurtful things that I felt were quite unjust and untrue, but it was one of those conversations that stayed with me for a really long time. I don’t know if you’ve ever done it, but I did that glorious thing where I replayed the conversation over and over again, and every time I thought of a different way I could have answered the question or a different way I could have defended myself, a better way to win the argument. The more I replayed those things in my heart and my mind, I saw it really affect me. I started to feel really low and insecure even around my friends, because the things that we put into our hearts become the overflow of our hearts into our actions, into our life.

When we look at musicians or sports people who are really top of their game, who are world-class athletes or musicians, it looks effortless. It looks like they have put absolutely no effort in it whatsoever. It’s just an intrinsic part of who they are. But we know that’s not true. We know that every single one of them, they would have had to have worked hard to get to that point where it looks so effortless. That the more they trained, the more they practice, the more they cultivated a real joy and a delight in what they did, then it did become effortless, and it became an overflow of their hearts out into their actions.

Jesus always modelled staying close to His heavenly father and the need to spend time with His heavenly father to strengthen Him, to encourage Him. Time and time again, throughout the New Testament in the Bible, we see examples where Jesus withdraws from the crowds, where He spends time in God’s Word, learning and listening to all that God is saying through His Word in the Bible.

So I started to challenge myself every time I began to replay this conversation that I’d had in my head that upset me so much. It was a challenge because I had to learn to memorize a verse of scripture and then really force myself every time that conversation came back into my mind, to say, “No, I’m not going to dwell on that. I’m not going to think about that. I’m going to recite this verse of scripture.”

It’s just a simple verse, which is said about being a child of God, but it really helped me not to dwell on something that was affecting me, that was upsetting me and actually was putting me first in my own life. Me saying I want to be the most important, I want to be right, actually helped me focus on the fact that God is the most important, and that me being a child of God is what is so important.

The other thing that really stands out to me in this passage that was read is that twice Jesus refers to himself by a name. Now throughout the whole of the Bible, Jesus as God’s son is called many, many different names. But in this passage twice, Jesus refers to himself as the son of man.

Now there is particular significance in this, I think, at this time of advent because Jesus, fully God, also became fully human. Jesus became like us so we could become more like Him. Jesus came to this earth in one of the most vulnerable states that we can find ourselves in as a human, a newborn baby completely vulnerable and dependent on others. He relied on His mother’s womb to nurture, to nourish Him. When He was born, He relied on humans to cherish, love, nurture Him, give Him all He would need until He got to an age where He could be self-sufficient.

If you’re anything like me and you love a bit of sort of Greek mythology or Egyptian mythology, the sort of other things that would have been around at the time of Jesus, other than Judaism, and also it is [inaudible 00:09:40] kind of world religions at the moment, the gods were not born of humans. When a god was born in mythology, they were born from another god.

This is huge. God came to this earth born through a human, reliant on a human, to be grown and nurtured and nourished. That Jesus was fully God on this earth, but He was also fully human. And we see times where Jesus responded out of his full humanity throughout the New Testament. That when He went into the desert and He was tempted when He was praying or fasting for 40 days, the devil comes to Him and He tempts Him. He says, “You’re hungry. You could turn those stones into bread and then you could eat.”

Jesus responds out of His humanity because He uses scripture. He quotes verses of scripture back to the devil to say, “No. I don’t need to do any sort of miracle here to prove who I am. I’m just going to rely on the Holy Spirit in me to tell you scripture to know that He could be reliant on the Holy Spirit working in and through Him. That when He carried the cross up the hill and once He was crucified, He did that in His full humanity, broken, battered, bruised yet relying on the Holy Spirit to give Him the strength to carry that cross up to the point where He was crucified.

There is a verse, a quote, sorry, that I read in a book called The Disciple the other day that says, “Obedience to the will of God is only imaginable and becomes possible by the empowering work of the Holy Spirit.” We can only do it through God’s Spirit in us. That in those moments where we feel defensive or we feel critical, actually the Holy Spirit points us back to God, knowing that we know the words to say and the actions to do because we know God at work in our life.

When I was at university, I did my drama degree. We did this exercise sometimes where we had to do a lesson in a certain emotional body language for the whole lesson. So if you were given sadness, you had to look sad for the whole lesson, regardless of what you were doing. I remember always thinking whenever someone was given defensiveness as a body language, it was all about keeping people out. It was all about keep away from me, defending myself. I don’t want you in, I don’t want you anywhere near me.

It’s the opposite of letting God’s Spirit be at work in your life. Maybe as we end this series of masks, actually it might be less about the things that we have to take off and more about who we are taking in and who we are relying on in our lives. Dallas Willard says the beautiful quote, “The Christian discipleship and reflecting Jesus in our lives is not about rules and propositions, but it’s about being captivated by a person.”

This advent, how captivated are you by Jesus? Does He captivate your heart? Does He captivate your mind? Because the truth for each one of us this morning, wherever you are, whoever you are, wherever you are watching, Jesus is completely captivated by you. There is nothing that you can do, which will stop Him wanting to love you, wanting to know you.

Just as an aside, though, Verse 10 of the verses we read this morning, that “anyone who speaks a word against the son of man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes about the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” Lots of people have debated those Words and lots of people have questions. They’re worried. What if I do the thing that can’t be forgiven? Quite simply. I think that is talking about people who right up until the moment they die, reject God’s Spirit at work in their life.

But God says, “Anyone at any point can accept me into their life right up until that final breath, because I am so captivated by you and because I love you so much.” It is a challenge sometimes, isn’t it? We want to be captivated by Jesus. We want this Christmas, this advent time to be a time where we know Jesus more than ever, but sometimes it can be hard in the business of life and the business of things going on and the mix of emotions.

But the wonderful thing that Jesus says and that Jesus models is that we don’t have to do this alone because this is all about community. Even the Godhead father, Son, Holy Spirit, together, Jesus in His ministry, one of the first things that He did was to call His disciples, His followers around Him to have community around him. That even in this year where we have been physically separated so much, we can still be community to one another, spurring one another on to know the reliance of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives so we can know what it is to be captivated by Jesus.

So at this time of advent, let’s recommit to being a people who will be a community, who will help one another to know God’s Spirit in us, to rely on God’s Spirit at work in our lives. Let’s encourage one another. Let’s be people who love each other so much that we are not afraid to challenge one another when we see each other doing things which are keeping us from living God’s best for our lives. Let’s be a people who love one another and accept one another enough that we confess when we’ve mucked up. That when we’ve done things wrong, we’re not afraid to say to someone, “I’ve done this wrong. Pray with me. Help me.” Let’s be people who get stuck into God’s Word together so we know the wonderful things that it speaks to us about. Let’s pray together.

If you’re someone who is watching this morning, and maybe you’ve never thought about doing that, or maybe you feel really on your own, please get in touch with us. We’d love to put you in touch with a group or even a person who could ring you, who could be in contact with you, to be that community, to help you to really understand what God wants from your life and for your life. It might be that you want to join our new [inaudible 00:16:05] starting in February to think about the incredible truth that God wants to say to you, even if you haven’t yet made a commitment to have Him in your life.

Maybe as we become community like that to one another, maybe as we think about those people that we can get alongside, and maybe as we think about how we can help each other to become fully reliant on God’s Spirit, that as we become more and more captivated by Jesus, as we understand more and more, how much you have, we have captivated to Jesus, maybe we will no longer have to take off the masks because through God’s Spirit working in us and through us, those masks will simply begin to fall away.

Let’s just pray as we respond and move into a time of worship and really reflect on all these things that we thought about this morning.

Jesus, I thank you that you are captivated by every single one of us, so much so that you came to this earth as a baby. And you came to this earth to die as a man yet fully God, wanting us to be in full relationship with you. God, we pray for each of us this morning that we would find a new sense or feeling of the Holy Spirit and that as we understand the love that you have for us, despite our weaknesses, our faults, our selfishness, that we couldn’t help, but be people who would model and show that love to all of those around us.

Study Questions

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