I believe one of the greatest gifts we have as Christians is the freedom to be authentic about who we are; scars, skeletons, and all. We know that our only evaluation, the only judgement that actually matters, comes from The Lord. Furthermore, we know that The Lord sent His son, Jesus, in response to the conditions of our hearts and very being. Jesus came to save because He knew we needed a Savior.
Clearly, God knows our hearts. Every piece that exists in us, He has known from the beginning. To be true, God has known our hearts longer than we have, and He knows us better than we ever will. Every thought, every fear, every feeling, and every single fiber of our being is on the table before The Lord. So why do we wear masks? Why do we put on facades? Why do we feel the need to "get ourselves together" before we go before The Lord? Has He not known us from the beginning? Does He not know us better than we really know ourselves? He knows what drives every action, He knows the history behind every thought, He knows every single hole, every single crater, and every single piece of us that's been distorted because of sin. He see's us at the very core of who we are. Friends, why do we put up this massive front before our brothers and sisters, let alone the One who came to save and restore us?
What happened to being real?
I want to take us to Scripture on this subject, because believe it or not, we aren't the first to put on a mask. We aren't the first to feel the need to pump ourselves up, to exaggerate a story or underplay a flaw. We aren't the first to "fake it till we make it." No, it happened long ago...and it happened when Jesus walked the Earth.
John 13:36-38 reads:
"Simon Peter asked Him, 'Lord, where are you going?' Jesus replied, 'Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.' Peter asked, 'Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.' Then Jesus answered, 'Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times!'"
Peter does what we all do at times...he cleans himself up, puts on a brand new suit, and seeks to sell his affections to the One who knows him best. He overstates his affection for Jesus, and Jesus responds to the mask Peter puts on by calling his bluff- He tells Peter that his heart will be revealed sooner than later.
So...on to John 18:
V.15,17- "Meanwhile, Simon Peter was following Jesus, as was another disciple...Then the slave girl who was the doorkeeper said to Peter, 'You aren't one of this man's disciples too, are you?' 'I am not!' he said."
V.25- "Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said to him, 'You aren't one of his disciples too, are you?' He denied it and said, 'I am not!'"
V.26,27- "One of the high priest's slaves, a relative of the man who's ear Peter had cut off, said, 'Didn't I see you with him in the garden?' Peter then denied it again. Immediately a rooster crowed."
The Lord knows our hearts, just like Jesus knew Peter's. Peter cared deeply for Jesus...Jesus actually gave him the name Peter, meaning "Rock," because the Christian church would largely be influenced and built by his work in the ministry. Peter really did love The Lord! However, he wasn't the rock God designed him to be...his heart just wasn't there at this point. Yet, Peter still felt the need to put that mask on...to be someone he wasn't, or at least, wasn't yet.
God does what He wills in His own time. He is not subject to time constraints, nor does He feel pressure to act quickly or slow things down because of unforeseen realities. He knows what He is doing, and has known what He would do far before we ever came into reality. The Lord takes the time to do the most good in our lives, and He hastens the time as well, simply when He chooses to do so. Therefore, we can be encouraged to give Him our hearts as they are...we learn there's no need for masks. We have nothing to hide from Him, and He has come so that all things would be made new.
If you sweep sin under the rug, put makeup over the scars and bruises, and seek to put your best foot forward before the One that knows you better than you know yourself, for what purpose would we do such a thing? Why would we hide our wounds from the only One that can heal them?
I think Peter ponders the same question, and comes to a conclusion that changes things.
Let's jump to John 21, where Jesus has returned from the grave, and the disciples, whom are out fishing, see Him on the shore. One of them jumps out of the boat and swims to The Lord in authentic elation...I bet you'll never guess who it was.
V.7- "When Simon Peter heard that it was The Lord, he tied his outer garment around him (for he was stripped) and plunged into the sea."
V.15- "When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?' 'Yes, Lord,' he said to him, 'You know that I love You.' 'Feed My lambs,' He told him."
V.16- "A second time He asked him, 'Simon, son of John, do you love Me?' 'Yes, Lord,' he said to Him, ' You know that I love You.' 'Shepherd My sheep,' He told him."
V.17- He asked him the third time, 'Simon, son of John, do you love Me?' Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, 'Do you love me?' He said, 'Lord, you know everything! You know that I love You.' 'Feed My sheep,' Jesus said."
V.18- "'I assure you: When you were young, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don't want to go.' He said this to signify by what kind of death he would glorify God. After saying this, He told him, 'Follow Me!'"
So there is something worth noting here, and I first heard it taught in a book by Tony Evans called, "No More Excuses."
Peter is asked three times about his love for Jesus, but there's more to it than the English shows. When we dive back into the original Greek, we come to find the use of two different kinds of love. In the Greek language there are several different kinds of love, each having its own word, but each kind of love is often translated back into English simply as the same word, "love."
The two words used in this passage are "agapeo" and "phileo." Agape love is the love of God. It's an unconditional, unmatched, unselfish love that comes from The Lord. It's the strongest love there is- one that involves sacrifice, maybe like Peter had suggested he would do for Jesus back in John 13. Phileo love is brotherly love. Essentially, it's the love we have for our closest friends. We love them and cherish them, but they aren't on the level of God. It's a sweet, friendly love.
So, question number one in the Greek reads..."Do you AGAPE Me more than your brothers in Christ?" "Yes, Lord, You know I PHILEO You."
Question number two reads..."Do you AGAPE Me?" "Yes, Lord, You know I PHILEO You."
The final question reads..."Do you PHILEO Me?" "Yes, Lord, You know everything! You know I PHILEO You."
And in response to Peter's authenticity, Jesus tells Peter that even in his death, God will be glorified. He then extends an open invitation, and says..."Follow Me!"
Friends, The Lord loves a humble heart. He rejoices in authenticity! We see it clearly in the life of Peter. One minute he is at rock bottom after denying the same One he said he would die for, and the next minute he is as humble as they come...he's real, and he's authentic. So what does Jesus do? He places him in positions of leadership. "Feed My lambs"..."Shepherd My sheep"..."Feed My sheep." That's young believers, strong believers, and everything between. Jesus is essentially handing him a huge responsibility in Kingdom work, saying, "Thank you for being real. I trust you with this."
Peter learns he doesn't have to put on a facade, acting like someone he isn't. He learns he doesn't have to rush God's work in his life. He learns he isn't as strong as he thinks he is. He learns he isn't as good a man as he wants to believe he is.
Moreover, Peter learns that when we give God our hearts simply as they are, He renews and restores all of what we are into all of what He made us to be.
As The Lord wills, simply one day at a time, I have the very same hope for both you and I. I pray that we will find the courage to look in the mirror, and not only see, but perceive who we really are. I pray that we will not only know, but understand and believe that The Lord doesn't ask us to clean ourselves up before we walk with Him, nor does He ask us to measure up to some astronomical standard of morality we couldn't possibly uphold.
It's time throw away our masks, give Him our hearts, and watch the Great Physician go to work.
We don't have to be a finished product. We don't have to look a certain way. We don't have to know every fact. We don't need to have every answer. We don't have to have a specific resume. We don't have to be this perfect person. We don't need to try to be somebody's savior.
In fact, we have Someone who did that for us...and what Jesus has done is more than enough. He came to save us from ourselves. He came to bring us out of the condition we find ourselves in at this very moment to say that it doesn't have to be this way- He gives us life in His name.
Our past doesn't define us. Our present condition doesn't speak for us. And our future may be unbeknownst to us, but there's One who is ready to lead us to where He's calling us to go. We have this hope in the One who knows us best- in the One who knows who we can be apart from sin's destruction. Only He can get us there, and there's only one thing He asks from us before the journey begins...our hearts, simply as they are.
How's your heart?