Thursday, May 13, 2010

R12: Why is God so serious?

We all have masks we wear. We have different ones for different times and different people. We have ones we haven't used or needed in a long time, we have others that we've never used but we hold onto just in case. Masks prevent authentic community. Masks keep us from being vulnerable and revealing the real we. And on Sunday mornings we surround ourselves with tens, hundreds, and sometimes thousands of other people all wearing masks.

The fourth relationship in Romans 12 is Serving in Love which appropriately follows Sober Self-Assessment. I need to be ok with the real me before I can share that with others. I need to see myself as a sinner in need of God's grace in order to see others the same way. Once I'm able to do that, barriers are dropped, masks are taken off, and I can begin to see authentic community.

Removing masks is only one part of authentic community however. Get a couple of beers in me and I'll be plenty vulnerable. I'll probably tell you more than you want to know. And you see this type of community at the local watering hole made famous by Cheers or for the younger amongst us, think Moe's in The Simpsons.

We need to not only take off our masks, but we also need to have conviction behind our vulnerability. I share sin because I'm convicted about it. I rebuke a brother because I'm concerned about him. We need to call sin, sin and not dance around it as we are often so tempted to do. Real community begins when our love is sincere and we hate what is evil. (Romans 12:9)

My small group got together last night. It was encouraging to me to watch everyone interact. This small group has gone through several iterations over the last few years and I'm finally seeing relationships grow deep and people click. One of my best friends called me over the other night to share some of his struggles. I was encouraged to be there for him, but I was more encouraged that our friendship was strong enough that we could be vulnerable with one another. Small groups aren't the miracle cure. And not every relationship at church will be vulnerable. But if we really want the Body of Christ to be all Jesus prayed it would be in John 17, we need to take the first steps by removing our masks and having a conviction about sin.

The importance of this is illustrated by the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. To make a long story short, this couple wasn't sincere and wanted to put on a mask to impress the fledgling church. The results? Death, as soon as they were confronted by it and then lied to cover their tracks. While this might be an isolated incident, it is no less serious to God. The first to be thrown in the lake of burning fire in Revelation 21 are the cowards. The last are the liars. Pretty much any sin you can think of can be bookended by these two root sins. God takes this very seriously.

I encourage you to identify your masks and cast them aside. Study the Word of God and develop a conviction against sin. You need both to prevent you from living a watered-down-Gospel on one side or being an unloving fire-and-brimstone Christian cliche on the other. Jesus wants a relationship with the real you and so does the rest of His Body, the Church.

Think: What is necessary for the "real you" to show in your relationships?
Reflect: Why do you think God judges the hypocrisy of Ananias and his wife so harshly? How or where are you most prone to wear a mask?
Understand: What is the relationship between hypocrisy and purity? Is there any "secret sin" or temptation God might be speaking to you about?
Surrender: Pray Psalm 139:23-24. Commit to respond to whatever the Holy Spirit reveals to you.
Take Action: We all struggle with sin and hypocrisy. Both are like bacteria; once brought into the light, their power to infect and inflict disease is removed. Bring any "secret sin" or temptations into the light of God's presence (1 John 1:9) and tell a trusted friend or pastor. "Confess your sins to one another that you might be healed." (James 5:16)
Motivation: Consider downloading "Overcoming the Dragon of Lust- for Men" if you struggle with the issue. [Follow the R12 button on the right, select the Serving tab and find this lesson under "Free Resources".]
Encourage your Pastor: E-mail, text, or drop a note to your pastor. It's no fun sharing "convicting messages" that protect the flock from hypocrisy and impurity. Thank him for his faithfulness and courage; let him know we all need the truthful messages along with the grace of God.


Today continues our "virtual small group" covering the book Living On The Edge. For how this group is going to work, read this entry. For an introduction with disclaimers, click here. For some numbers from Barna to motivate you to continue reading, go here. For the R12 videos, click the R12 button on the sidebar to the right. Finally, as we move forward through the book you can always catch up by clicking the R12 label at the end of each post.

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