Pastors Report - 4 Dec 2020
Masks We Wear

The Masks We Wear:

"...every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. Surely every man walketh in a vain shew:" (Psalm 39:5,6)

Covid Concealing:

Who would have thought less than a year ago that the world could be so different today? A shopping trip to the smallest village shop is now dominated by queues outside and the necessity to wear a mask within the premises. You then find yourself lining up at the checkout, struggling with not only your purchases but the need to 'social distance', while your glasses steam up as you fumble for the payment – a key element of your discomfort revolving around the wretched mask that you are being forced to wear. And you can't help but wonder whether a large part of the problem is a lack of oxygen getting to the brain, as you look around and see others surreptitiously snatching breaths, as they also struggle in a similar way. But there is often an even more fundamental problem with wearing a mask.

If there is a universal game that can be seen in all societies when playing with infants of only a few months old, it is the game of "Boo!". This entails briefly hiding from his gaze by covering your face with your hands, only to reveal yourself once more to the child's giggling delight. But have you thought what this means in the wider theatre of this present mask-wearing? It seems as if the game of "Boo!" is based on the primal need of a child to recognise both people and their mood by the expression on their face. Take this ability away – such as by wearing a mask – and you wonder how much psychological harm is being done in their formative years. My wife mentioned to me just the other day that she noticed a young boy of about 18 months old in the local supermarket, being ferried around on the shopping cart by his parents, both of whom were wearing masks. The little lad stared at her with a worried look on his face – and so she automatically smiled at him, then realised there was no way he could have seen that smile ... as it was hidden behind the mask she was being forced to wear.

I must admit there is a certain irony in the present requirement of having to wear a mask in order to do business in a bank these days! And why was it a problem in years gone by? Because the mask-wearer – of the Bonnie and Clyde variety – did so specifically to hide their true identity. Yet when you consider the various 'masks' we as human beings wear, the most insidious of them are not those that are physical but rather spiritual in nature – trying to conceal our true selves behind an outward facade of some description. In the same way that physical masks distance us from others and can damage relationships, so too do the spiritual masks we wear!

A Good Impression:

The various spiritual masks we wear have at their root an almost universal purpose – the desire to make a good impression, to be thought of in a more favourable light. This appears to be particularly true for those that rely on a public profile ... such as politicians, actors, religious leaders etc. But we are warned by Jesus Christ; "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets." (Luke 6:26)

We can see this vividly described in Jeremiah where the religious leaders at that time were more concerned with their popularity than warning the people of the consequences of their actions. Back then, the Jewish nation was taken into captivity by Babylon as punishment for their various sins, but the fact that this book has been preserved through the millennia shows it also carries a sobering message for us today.

  • But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone.
  • Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the LORD our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest.
  • Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you.
  • For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men.
  • As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxen rich.
  • They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge.
  • Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?
  • A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land;
  • The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so : and what will ye do in the end thereof? (Jeremiah 5:23-31)
Satan's Tool:

As with so many things it is important that we recognise the true source of this desire to hide behind such spiritual masks. A quick glance through a thesaurus clearly shows the insidious scope of the word 'mask' and its companion, 'masquerade': "blind, camouflage, cloak, concealment, counterfeit, deception, cover-up, facade, guise, obscure, pretence, subterfuge, vail." (Chambers). As soon as God allowed Satan access to Adam and Eve, he set about doing just that ... practising deception, masking his true intent, and hasn't stopped since. In addition to being identified as "a liar and the father of it" (John 8:44), he cunningly disappears behind his own mask by depicting himself as an angel of light:

  • For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
  • And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
  • Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (II Corinthians 11:13-15)

In Jeremiah 17:9 it states that a heart so manipulated by the god of this world is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. We read daily of black being called white and vice versa, of what is right termed as being wrong (Isaiah 29:15,16 and 59:13). We're bombarded with the still unproven (and unprovable) theory of unguided evolution stated as categorical fact in just about every facet of life ... from what foods we should be eating to why we have backaches (apparently we should have stayed on all fours, all those millions of years ago!) And just this past week, a "star of a Hollywood inception" has declared herself (now a him ... or "them") happy to be transgender and non-binary, with her/his/their partner declaring "I am so proud of XXX. Trans, queer and non-binary people are a gift to this world".

This self-deception, this need to mask the truth when it is unpalatable, or not along the lines of what we happen to desire is highlighted in the book of Isaiah:

  • That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:
  • Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
  • Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. (Isaiah 30:9-11)

Satan desires above all things to separate us from our Creator, and to replace God with himself as Number One in the universe and he has a myriad ways of attempting this takeover. The western nations in general refuse to believe he even exists, but in other countries where a spirit world is accepted as fact, the evil influence by Satan and his cohorts can be seen in a number of pagan rituals and dances, where in the vast majority of cases masks are worn to literally depict these demonic powers – the underlying motive being intimidation, control and the gaining of power over something or someone.

The World's Mask:

As noted above, one of the synonyms for mask is "blind" ... and that is the state in which the vast majority of the world find themselves right now. It's a situation that God is allowing – for the time being – as stated in Romans 11, and II Corinthians 3:

  • What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded
  • (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day (Romans 11:7,8)
  • But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.
  • Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. (II Corinthians 3:15,16)

As stated in Revelation 12:9, Satan has deceived the whole world and a deceived person doesn't realise he is deceived, generally speaking. But as is so clearly and unambiguously brought out in Romans chapter 1, that is not the case for everyone. The entire world each day wakes up within a reality that shouts intelligent design from virtually every facet, but not only do many of the so-called 'intellectuals' suppress this fact, but they actively prohibit and ban any who would dare to point to the supremely obvious – blatantly and dishonestly pursuing and rooting out any in the scientific community who would disagree with their unguided and godless evolutionary stance.

  • The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
  • since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
  • For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
  • For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
  • Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
  • and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
  • Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
  • They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans 1:18-25 NIV)
Lying Wonders:

With what appears to be an increased activity of the spiritual broadcast at the end time we need to be particularly aware of the masking of the truth as we proceed into the immediate future. The chances are that the way ahead is going to be strewn with obstacles, muddying the waters to the actual truth of what is going on. Satan already has the rest of the world under his thumb, so his main target has to be those within the church, the soon-to-be-born sons of God, as indicated by Matthew 24:24 – when read as it was originally given.

  • And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
  • And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many ...
  • Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
  • For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were [not in the original] possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matthew 24:10,11,23,24)

And again, the warning the apostle Peter gave to the church shortly before his death was seen fit to be preserved by Christ to specifically alert the church at the end time.

  • But there were false prophets among the people, as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly put forward wrong teachings for your destruction, even turning away from the Lord who gave himself for them; whose destruction will come quickly, and they themselves will be the cause of it.
  • And a great number will go with them in their evil ways, through whom the true way will have a bad name.
  • And in their desire for profit they will come to you with words of deceit, like traders doing business in souls: whose punishment has been ready for a long time and their destruction is watching for them. (II Peter 2:1-3 BBE)

This masking of the truth becomes particularly important when we consider the role of the false prophet, who is prophesied to appear and be active right at the time of the end – possibly in the next few years. Being labelled a prophet carries with it the role of teaching – but what is destined to be taught will be very much a masking, twisting or obscuring of the truth. Empowered by Satan this individual will be producing 'lying wonders' and we need to be prepared and on our guard within God's church as the entire world will apparently be taken in by this personage. To this end, we are encouraged to remain well grounded in and have a love for the truth – the unmasked truth of Almighty God.

  • Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,
  • And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
  • And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:
  • That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (II Thessalonians 2:9-12)
Pharisaical Hypocrisy:

As a human being, Christ was well aware of the blindedness of the majority of the people He came into contact with, as His explanations of the parables show ... "Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand" (Matthew 13:13) But not so with the Pharisees of His time, who He clearly labelled as hypocrites. Not only does Chamber's Thesaurus amplify this word with; charlatan, deceiver, fraud, imposter." ... but also "Pharisee" and "whitened sepulchre"! The Greek from which we get the word hypocrisy (Strongs 5273) brings with it the concept of an actor, stage player, pretender.

And we don't have to sink to the depths of old-time Pharisees to find ourselves being two-faced in our own lives, deceiving ourselves as to our true motives and abilities. As Paul brings out "For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself." (Galatians 6:3)

  • I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
  • And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
  • For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12:1-3)

We might think we're doing OK, paying our tithes, giving offerings, keeping God's holy days, but could the following warning apply to us on occasion? It's much easier to present a 'masked' view of ourselves to others ... maybe concentrating solely on what can be seen physically, while our minds and hearts are going in a very different direction:

  • Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
  • Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. (Matthew 23:23-24)

King David understood this common human weakness and asked God many times to help him be open and upright in his relationship with Him:

  • Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
  • Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
  • Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:12-14)
Nothing Hidden:

This need to be transparent – and therefore unmasked – is particularly important when we consider the true reality of both our present and future lives. All of us are destined to eventually appear before the judgement seat of Christ (Romans 14:10) and when we do so, it's guaranteed there will be no mask involved! As indeed "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do". (Hebrews 4:13)

  • And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?
  • For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.
  • If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
  • And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.
  • For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath (Mark 4:21-25)
  • For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
  • Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12,13)

Even though such a thought can be disconcerting when we consider the various masks all of us sometimes wear. Yet at the same time it can be quite comforting to know that not only will WE appear before that judgment seat, but so too will the rest of humanity. At that time it won't be a case of buying the best lawyers available and/or hiding behind some kind of mask for protection, as their lives too will be "open and naked" before God. We find this position superbly expressed within the book of Psalms:

  • LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph?
  • How long shall they utter and speak hard things? and all the workers of iniquity boast themselves?
  • They break in pieces thy people, O LORD, and afflict thine heritage.
  • They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless.
  • Let they say, The LORD shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.
  • Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise?
  • He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?
  • He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?
  • The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity. (Psalm 94:3-11)
Seeking Light:

Really coming to grips with the fact "all things are naked and open etc" ... should make us much more clear and transparent in our dealings with one another – yes, but particularly in approaching God. Paul was painfully honest about his shortcoming in chapter 7 of Romans ... "O wretched man that I am ... " (Romans 7:14-15) as was David in his prayer to God in Psalm 51, knowing God "desired truth in the inward parts". (Psalm 51:6) Only then – when we are 'unmasked' before God can we really develop and deepen the relationship, and get the contact and help we vitally need.

This honest and 'open-faced' approach is something we all vitally need if we are to be part of the God Family, as we are reminded by the book of James that with God Himself – unlike Satan – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17)

If we are being led by the very spirit and mind of this Being – which must indeed be the case if we are to be the children of Almighty God (Romans 8:14) – it is important that we don't just grudgingly allow God and Christ to shape and mould us, but that we actively seek their input, as expressed in John 3:

  • And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
  • For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
  • But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God (John 3:19-21)

Rest assured that there is no place for a mask within this process but we can simultaneously receive great comfort in knowing the overall purpose of God is "...to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy..." (Jude 24) and to that end: "... the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him ... "(II Chronicles 16:9) . For, as King David points out within the book of Psalms:

  • A song of David: Thou searchest me, Eternal One, though knowest me,
  • thou knowest me sitting or rising, my very thoughts thou readest from afar;
  • walking or resting, I am scanned by thee, and all my life to thee lies open;
  • ere ever a word comes to my tongue, O thou Eternal, it is well known to thee;
  • thou are on every side, behind me and before, laying thy hand on me.
  • Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is far, far beyond me.
  • Where could I go from thy spirit? where could I flee from thy face?
  • I climb to heaven? – but thou are there; I nestle in the netherworld? – and there thou art!
  • If I darted swift to the dawn, to the verge of the ocean afar,
  • thy hand even there would fall upon me, thy right hand would reach me.
  • If I say, "The dark will screen me, the night will hide me in its curtains,
  • Yet darkness is not dark to thee, the night is clear as daylight.
  • For thou didst form my being, didst weave me in my mother’s womb.
  • I will praise thee; for the awful wonder of my birth; thy work is wonderful.
  • Thou knowest all about my soul; my body was no mystery to thee, as I was being moulded secretly and put together in the world below;
  • all the days of my life were foreseen by thee, set down within thy book; ere ever they took shape, they were assigned me, ere ever one of them was mine.
  • O God what mysteries I find in thee! How vast the number of thy purposes!
  • I try to count them? - They are more than the sand; I wake from my reverie, and I am still lost in thee...
  • ... Search me, O God, and know my heart: test me, and try my thoughts:
  • See if I am taking any course of wrong, and lead me on the lines of life eternal. (Psalm 139: 1-18, 23,24 Moffatt)