Notice the Masks

God's creation is being scorched by the hot summer sun where I live. Grass that was once soft and emerald green is now tan, dry and pokes my kids' bare feet. Heat is evaporating the water faster than it can be replenished. We're expecting another heatwave this week. I've gotten used to sweating again but I know I'll get used to bundling up when the chilled winds come.

These bodies adapt to the seasons slowly but soon they stop noticing the layer of discomfort that is present in the hottest parts of summer and the coldest times of winter. We adapt to this stuff here on earth. The nightly news sprays images and words of the most detestable sins across our screens and we grow tired of all the negativity. But it doesn't shock us anymore. We are used to hearing about it.

I heard a sermon today about Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) and I truly never thought I'd hear that sermon. It was refreshing to hear the brave and experienced speaker unpack that portion of scripture to us. God used that unfortunate married couple as an example of what He hates. In Proverbs 6:16 it gives the list of what God hates. It isn't greed or lack of generosity, although the selfish couple was guilty of that, too. It's a lying tongue and a false witness, among other things. Ananias and Sapphira wanted to look dedicated and trusting without actually paying the same price as the truly dedicated and trusting of the lot. They held back a portion of their earnings when they sold their land (of their own volition and initiative; doing that was not a requirement of the early church, but supposed to be a result of faith) and yet wanted the same trust and appreciation as the ones who truly gave it all.

Hypocrites. The pastor went on to speak about authenticity and it's value among believers who gather.  Actors don't really experience the stuff in the movies. They are interacting with CGI, head back to their trailer for a massage, and get to do several takes before they get it just right. This isn't the real, dirty truth. They take off their "mask" and go back to their lives where they live out their own part of the story. Don't buy the lie, right? It's only entertainment.

Faith and trust can be just for show, also. Any virtue can be performed for a little while. But when the cameras are off and the audience has gone home, the actors have to face themselves again. They have to face the fact that they aren't the character they portrayed. No amount of money, admiration, or power can make them all that special effects or a masterful script let them pretend to be for a while. Some want the illusion so badly that they start to believe they are actually owed the same recognition as the people they portrayed. Marvelous performance! It's almost like you became that person. Method acting at it's finest.

God knows the truth and He is Light. Everything will be revealed and all the masks will come off. We cannot steal another person's story and make it our own, we must pay the cost they paid. We can try to leach off of another's person's virtue by imitating them and emulating their goodness but it doesn't take. The devil tries to imitate a holy God all the time.

And we humans most definitely can't act like Jesus, the perfect and sinless Jesus! He has to do it from within us. We must sell all that we are back to Him and give what we get for it to each other. Then we will know complete dependence and satisfaction in a holy God. You can't fake that for long.

Everything is so cheap nowadays. Knock-offs and scams and dollar store toys. It all falls apart the minute you trust it. But we've grown accustomed to it as the way things are. We just don't trust anyone, then. The only person we trust is ourselves. That's what got us into this mess to begin with. Trust takes bravery and courage. God help us be brave enough to trust You with everything we have.


Becoming Meek

Don't resist an evil person. (Matthew 5:29) This scripture hasn't made sense to me for so long. Coupled with Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7), it can be even more confusing! Mostly it irritates my personality because I'm an extrovert and I want to loudly stand on my soapbox for what is right. But why did Jesus say not to resist an evil person?

The important difference is the word "person". We can resist the devil without resisting the person the devil is using. Mankind can come after us and strip us of dignity, comfort, and even our bodies. But the devil cannot take our lives because they are hidden in Christ.

I've been baited by evil people. There was a time when I took the bait, hook, line, and sinker. I'd fall prey to the devil's plan to break me down and destroy my faith in God. I was giving in to the devil's schemes by resisting the people he used against me. It caused raging fights that burned and created painful scars on our hearts. I just wanted the anger and confusion to stop! So I'd go to war against the person in front of me. Little did I know that in fighting against them in this way, I was taking the bait of Satan. One can almost feel his sick happiness when people are at war against each other. But we are still unable to resist him alone.

It takes invincible strength to resist the devil. Jesus had a couple of His most challenging earthly moments when the devil was tempting Him. If ever the Lord was physically vulnerable it was after not eating for over a month. And yet this same powerful Lord submitted to crucifixion on a cross at the hands of mankind. By not resisting them, His perfect plan was played out. He subtly and quietly won the war. The enemy was defeated by Jesus's dying breath.

Meekness and gentleness. They respond to an approaching army by kneeling down and praying. Meekness looks anger in the face and answers with loving silence. Gentleness waits patiently for her rescuer because the damsel in distress knows she is no match for the dragon. We are lowly in heart when we recognize our need for a savior and we submit to His protection first.

So how can we resist the devil and not resist the evil person at the same time? We do both things by doing one thing: believing in Jesus. We believe that He is strong enough to fight the angelic forces for us and we believe that against mankind He protects what matters most about us: our eternal selves. If by submitting to the evil person we find our bodies tortured and maimed, we can still consider ourselves victorious in Christ. Because the evil person can't torture us into submitting to the devil. God's Holy Spirit dwells within us and He is in control. Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. (Job 13:15)

I no longer fear what man can do to the body (Matthew 10:28). If I am going to fear anyone it will be He who can throw my body and soul into Hell. By His grace He tells me, "Fear not" and all that's left is the perfect balance of trusting Jesus Christ.