A Maskless People

1 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. (Luke 12:1-3)

Just before those verses that Jonathan read, in Luke 11, Jesus calls out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. He exposes them, He exposes the false lives they’ve been living. And then in chapter 12, in the verses that we just read, He turns to His disciples and warns them that more of this kind of exposure would come. He makes a declaration that one day, everyone will be exposed. All that is hidden in darkness will one day be brought into the light.

Have you ever pretended to be someone you’re not? Or, have you ever told someone you’re doing great, when in reality that’s not at all true? Have you ever resorted to dishonesty in order to meet someone else’s expectations for you? We all do these things at times, don’t we? We all have done them. And they are all examples of hypocrisy. Have you ever tried to justify yourself, in some way or another, by looking at outward appearance, while ignoring the problems in your heart? Again, this is common for us. And again, this is hypocrisy. Each of us, in our sinfulness, has a natural bent to twist the truth about ourselves. We have a bent toward hypocrisy.

And Jesus invites us into something better. He invites us to walk in the light, where nothing is hidden. He invites us to walk as people of the truth. And by His work for us, He makes it possible for us to do that, free from fear, and free from shame. But we’re not always there. Often we struggle, in big ways or small ways, with hypocrisy.

One definition of hypocrisy is “an outward pretense masking an inner reality.” Another way to say that is that hypocrisy is putting on an outward appearance to hide our true self. It is putting on a mask, so that who we truly are is hidden by the mask we’ve put on.

Mankind is heavily reliant on masks. If you look out in the world, it’s a pandemic. These masks of hypocrisy are all over the place. In our relationships with other people, we may wear masks. Figuratively speaking, we may have a whole closet full of masks so we can pull out different ones for different occasions. When we’re around one group of people, we wear one mask, and then we wear a different mask around others. People in the world do this. And we can fall into the same trap. Maybe for Sunday mornings, it’s a mask that projects to all those around that everything’s fine. Or that we don’t really have any big sin problems.

For some who are here this morning, you’re wearing a mask that says you’re a Christian. But that’s not true. You may know, on the inside, that that’s not true, but you wear the mask to appease your friends, to appease your parents, or just to fit in. Or maybe you’re wearing that Christian mask, and you don’t even realize that it’s just a mask. You don’t realize your “Christianity” is only skin-deep. This kind of self-deception is common with hypocrisy. You and I, we may simply be trying to deceive others, but in the course of doing so, we can often even deceive ourselves about who we truly are. This is one of the great dangers of living behind masks. And it’s a danger Jesus warns against in Luke 12.

In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1)

Hypocrisy is dangerous because it’s like leaven. And leaven is something that spreads.

A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (Galatians 5:9)

Hypocrisy spreads to the point that it eventually consumes a person. It does this in two main ways. First, hypocrisy spreads by multiplying. Hypocrisy tends to give birth to more hypocrisy. But the second way it spreads, the second way it’s like leaven is even more dangerous. It’s like leaven in that it allows sin in general to spread. Any and all sin in our lives will spread because of hypocrisy. And this happens because hypocrisy provides a safe place for sin to grow and fester. It does this by putting up an outward pretense, masking our inner reality, so that we will not deal with sin as it needs to be dealt with. If we hide our true selves, our true problems, then we’re letting sin abide within us. And when it abides, it spreads like leaven. Held unaccountable, our sinful flesh will run rampant.

When we wear masks, we think we are in control. We’re trying to control what other people think of us, for the better. Trying to manipulate things in our favor, for our purposes. But what really happens when we wear masks is that our sinful flesh is given control. It is freed up to run rampant. Sin’s pervasive influence spreads in our hearts, and in our lives. And one of the things it’s doing, as it spreads, is influencing the way we think of God. Changing the way we view God, for the worse. Sin manipulates our thoughts, manipulates our affections, so that we will rebel against God. So that we will exalt ourselves, and suppress the truth about our brokenness.

All of this shows that hypocrisy is dangerous. That danger is the first point Jesus shared with His disciples. Then secondly, He tells them hypocrisy is temporary. There is no hypocrisy that will last forever.

2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. (Luke 12:2-3)

In other words, at some point the masks people wear will dissolve. And all that will be left is the truth. Truth will be proclaimed from the housetops. What’s true will be exposed for all to see.

Often this kind of exposure happens during someone’s lifetime. A person may try to hide behind masks, but the truth tends to come out eventually. We’ve seen this in the news recently, with the hacking and release of information from a website that promotes adultery. Many people have been exposed. The truth tends to come out. Sometimes, however, a whole life can be lived deceiving others. But even in those cases, when a person dies, he can’t take his masks with him. He is exposed before the just judgment of God. So in either case, whether in life, or after death, all are exposed. The truth is revealed, one way or another.

Knowing this – knowing first the danger of wearing masks, and second that all masks are temporary – why do we engage in hypocrisy? Why is it that we wear masks, and try to hide our inner self, try to hide what’s going on inside us?

One reason, perhaps, is that it’s easier to point out other people’s faults, than to deal honestly with our own. From behind a mask we can belittle others, while exalting ourselves. Our masks can present a false version of who we are, and make us look better than we truly are. So we can judge and condemn other people, all while keeping ourselves safe from that same judgment.

Puritan pastor John Flavel put it this way: “It is easier to declaim…a thousand sins of others than it is to mortify one sin…in ourselves. [It is easier] to be more industrious in our pulpits than in our closets; to preach twenty sermons to our people than one to our own hearts.”

Masks enable us to ignore the ugliness of our own sin, and instead put our focus on the ugliness of other people’s sin. This is hypocrisy.

There are plenty of other reasons we may try to wear masks, but I think there’s one reason that lies at the root of them all. On a deeper level, we may wear masks because we know, in our hearts, that we were created for more than what we see inside ourselves. We were created for more than the brokenness that clings to us, more than our broken, sinful selves.

Each us has a deep longing for the glory of perfection. Romans 8:22 says that all of creation is groaning together in the pains of childbirth, waiting for redemption, waiting for something more. And in the same way, we groan over our fallen state. Because things aren’t as they should be.

God created everything perfect, sinless, as a reflection of His perfection, His sinlessness. And He created the human heart to desire the glory of that perfection. But we don’t see that perfection in ourselves. If we’re honest, as humans we look inside ourselves and find weakness, we find loneliness and brokenness. So what do we do? We put on a mask to hide what’s lacking in us, to deceive others, and maybe even ourselves, into thinking that we aren’t so broken after all.

Sin is what causes our brokenness. And there’s something in our nature, something in God’s created design for us, that is bothered by sin. Let me read a few verses from Romans…

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)

God has given all of mankind a knowledge of Himself, a knowledge of the perfect one. And in addition to that, as Lyndon mentioned last week, God’s law is written on our hearts.

14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness (Romans 2:14-15)

Some part of us knows that sin is wrong. That’s not just true for believers, but for all of mankind. Yes, our thinking is corrupted by our flesh. And yes, we may suppress the truth. But Scripture is clear that in our nature humanity has been given a knowledge of God, and we have His law written on our hearts. Because of that, part of our bent toward hypocrisy may simply be that we realize, on a deep, heart level, that we’re lacking. That we were made for more than brokenness. We were made for more than this fallen world.

That truth should drive us to seek God. It should drive us, in desperation, to the perfect one. But instead, often it drives us to hypocrisy. Because perfection is what we long for. We want to worship a glorified, exalted being. That’s simply God’s design for us! But when we wear masks, and hide the truth about ourselves, we are led to worship the wrong being. We’re deceived. We’re deceived about who we truly are – that we’re sinful, broken, and in need of a Savior. And we’re deceived about who God truly is – that He’s perfect in every way, that He is the one we were created to worship. And as long as we live in that deception, deceived about who we are, and who God is, we will never fully embrace the gospel. Because the gospel is all about God’s unmatched glory, and our desperate lowliness. And without the gospel, apart from embracing the gospel, it only makes sense for us to resort to hypocrisy, to resort to masks. Because we know that the sin within us needs covering. Some way or another, it needs covering. The gospel provides this covering, in the person and work of Christ.

Because of Christ, because of the gospel of grace, we are freed from the need for hypocrisy. Because grace does not treat us in the way we deserve. For all who are in Christ, for all who are believers, the gospel says we are loved, we are valued, we are cherished. And we aren’t loved, valued, and cherished because of the facade we put on. God sees right through our masks. He knows the inner workings of our hearts – every sinful thought, every evil deed – and yet, while staring right at the ugliest parts of us, in love He sent His Son to die so that we could be adopted into His family. So that we could be His for all eternity.

The King of glory wanted us. Not because of anything good in us. There was nothing that made us desirable. We didn’t fool Him with our masks. He saw through them, and He said, “I want you.” He said, “I know all of your deep, dark secrets. I know all the ugly things that you fear will be exposed. And I want you. Come out of darkness. Come out of shame. You’re my beloved, you’re my precious child. I will never leave you, I will never forsake you. I will not turn away from doing good to you. And we will live together in the fullest of joys, forever and ever.”

This is the message of the gospel to all who would believe, to all who would put their faith in Christ. And this is the message that frees us from the need for hypocrisy. It frees us from the need for masks. There’s no need to pretend we’re something we’re not, because the Creator and Ruler of all has searched us, and known us, and He has not turned away in disgust. He made a way for us. He gave us His Son’s righteousness, made us co-heirs of His Son’s inheritance. And so Christ covers us now. Christ covers every bit of us. We cast off the masks because we have Christ covering us. His unwavering love abiding with us. There’s no more need to prove ourselves. No more need to find our worth and value in our relationships, or our jobs, or our accomplishments. And there’s no more need to deceive ourselves into thinking we’re something that we’re not. Because our identity is not found in us, but in Christ.

Let me share a few verses that show us what this means for us…

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27)

If we were baptized into Christ, we have put on Christ. All of His glorious splendor covers us. What could a mask add to that?

if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

If there are secrets in your past, or in your present even, that you’re afraid of having exposed, remember this truth: if you are in Christ, you are a new creation. The old you has passed away, the new has come. Live in that truth! Walk in the light.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)

“It is no longer I who live.” So all our faults, all our weaknesses, all our doubts, all our brokenness, none of it defines us anymore.

Christ lives in us. There is no place for insecurity when you’re secure in Christ. And we are.

There’s a quote from Matt Chandler I’d like to share with you. He said, “If you are in Christ, you have done nothing and can do nothing to turn the affection-filled gaze of God away from you.” Let that sink in, breathe that truth in. Let it quiet your fears. Let it attack that impulse you may have to hide what’s true about you. “If you are in Christ, you have done nothing and can do nothing to turn the affection-filled gaze of God away from you.” That’s grace. That’s the unmerited favor of God, given abundantly to His children. That’s what’s ours.

How then shall we live, as recipients of this grace? In his book on John Newton, Tony Reinke writes about this amazing grace. He says, “The all-sufficient grace of God provides us the context for discovering our insufficiencies. Grace welcomes us to look into our emptiness and personal weakness because our strength and security is outside of us, in God’s all-sufficient grace. Our owning of personal weakness is one of the results of the active presence of grace. And our weakness is how we broadcast the grace of God to others.”

You and I, as the church, we are called to be a maskless people. Those who are imperfect, but who delight to glorify God in our weaknesses. Our weakness makes His grace even sweeter. So we don’t pretend to be something we’re not. We don’t seek to deceive others, or deceive ourselves, because we rest in God’s grace. That doesn’t mean we have to dump all of our skeletons on everyone we meet. But it does mean that rather than trying to hide those skeletons, we aim to glorify God through them. His power is made perfect in our weakness, so we’re not afraid to show our weakness. Instead, we’re humbled by it. And that humility marks our relationships with each other.

For those of you who are here today as unbelievers, hiding behind a mask of Christianity, if that’s you, would you consider the truth about who you are – your weakness, your need – and then consider the grace of Christ? Let God’s Word shine light on your life, and on your frailty. We all have faults, we all have weaknesses, everyone in this room does and everyone in this world does. We are all broken. Wearing a mask may seem to hide that brokenness, but it’s a deception. In the end, the lights will come on, and you will be left with nothing but worthless masks, worthless facades that brought nothing but destruction. Look at what you have. And look at what Christ offers.

For the believers who are here, followers of Christ, grace is ours! But it’s so easy, isn’t it, to forget that. To forget grace, and live as though we didn’t have it. Still trying to cover ourselves. Still trying to please others, and prove ourselves. May we remember anew each day the liberating beauty of grace, and live without masks. Walking in the radiant light of our Savior. May we be like those written of in Psalm 34:5, which says, “Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”

Jesus said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. (Luke 12:1b-3)