Joel Osteen — Be Real
I want to talk to you today about being real. It's easy to go through life wearing different masks. Instead of dealing with the issues that we know are holding us back, too often we keep them covered up, pretending that everything is okay. We're more concerned about the outside, what people are going to think, our image, than we are the inside. It takes a lot of work to deal with the inner issues, our character, our motives, our attitude, our behaviors, things that we know are not right.
A mask and pretend, and some people have a mask for every situation. They're professional pretenders. They have a mask for work, a mask for home, a mask for this friend, even a mask for church. They come in on sundays, they're not speaking to their spouse, mad at their neighbor, can't pay their bills. Greeter asks, "How you doing"? "Blessed and highly favored. Couldn't get any better," and I'm all for having an attitude of victory, not being controlled by circumstances, but in order to get well, you have to get real.
You have to take that mask off, get honest with yourself, and say, "Okay, I have some things to deal with. This is not normal". When you get down to the real you, not the pretend you, that's when God can turn things around. But it's tempting to go around wearing different masks. We don't want people to think less of us, so we hide behind that mask of pride. "I don't have any issues, I don't need any help".
God will not bless who you pretend to be. God blesses people who are real, not people who are perfect, not people that don't have any issues, but people who are honest enough to say, "God, I have this bad habit. I need your help. I'm taking off the mask that everything is okay". Or "God, I'm struggling with my temper. I made a mistake. I blew it. God, I need your forgiveness".
When you're honest, you open the door for God to come in and begin to change things. But as long as we're pretending, not dealing with the real issues, this is what happened with the pharisees in the scripture, they were the religious leaders. They did the right thing, but they didn't get a reward because they did it for the wrong reason. They went to the temple each week like they were supposed to, but they didn't go to worship. They went to be seen, to be well thought of, to impress people.
Fancy prayers out loud, not because they were sincere, they wanted everybody to hear them. They gave their money, they supported the poor, but it was only to make them look good. They were doing the right thing, but they had wrong motives. They were wearing masks.
Here's the key, your inner life is more important than your outer life. It's easy to put on a mask and disguise what's going on on the inside, but Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart". On a regular basis, we should ask ourselves, "Why am I doing this? Why am I being nice to this person? Because I like them and I want to help them? Or do I want something from them? Am I trying to impress them? Why am I working 80 hours a week? Because I need the funds, or am I trying to prove to people that I'm successful, trying to gain my self-worth by what I do"?
"Well, Joel, I've been volunteering in the Nursery for 6 years, nobody's told me thank you, nobody's given me any credit". Well, somebody should thank you, but the bigger issue is, are you doing it for the applause, for the credit, or are you doing it to be pleasing unto God? You got to pull that mask back and examine your inner life. Don't go like the pharisees year after year, doing the right thing, giving, serving, helping others, but not receiving a reward because you're doing it for the wrong reason, and facing truth about ourselves can be uncomfortable.
It's hard to admit, "Maybe I didn't have the right motives. Maybe I am playing up to this co-worker so they'll put in a good word for me. Maybe I am smiling on the outside, telling my friends, 'congratulation on your big promotion.' on the inside, I'm thinking, 'you didn't deserve it. That depresses me, you're just lucky.'"
You got to pull that mask back. If you'll look inside and get honest, you can overcome the things that I know people that are very talented, they work hard, they're doing the right thing, but they can't seem to get ahead. It's because there's a problem on the inside. They're not addressing the hidden issues, motives, character, pride, jealousy, things like that.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4, "We refuse to wear masks and play games. We keep everything out in the open, the whole truth on display". That's the kind of people we should be. Our life is an open book. Thinking one thing and saying something else. Our motives are pure. We're not perfect, but we're dealing with the issues. Not pretending, not disguising it, we're real. When you live like that, open and honest, God will make you and mold you into a vessel of honor used for his highest purposes. He'll take you further than you ever imagined.
In the parable of the prodigal son, the young man asked his father for his inheritance. He went out and spent all of his money partying, living wild, hanging out with the wrong people. He blew his inheritance. What should've lasted years only lasted a matter of months. There came a great famine in the land. He had no money, no place to live, and nobody to blame. The only job he could find was working at a hog pen feeding the hogs. It was hot, dirty, smelly.
To make matters worse, he ended up having to live in the hog pen, eating hog food to survive. That could've been the end of the story. Too bad, he brought the trouble on himself, but the scripture says, "When he came to himself". That means when he took off the mask, when he quit pretending, when he quit making excuses. In other words, when he got real. He said, "My father than me at home. I will arise and go back to my father's house".
When the father saw him a long way down the road, the father took off running toward him. He gave him a hug. He told his staff, "Let's have a party, my son has returned home". The father represents God. He saw him coming a long way off. That means he was looking for him.
God will come running towards you. When you get honest to say, "God, I need help with this addiction. I need help with this anger, this temper. Or God, I've made a mess of things, I need help in my marriage," God won't say, "I'm not going to help you. You made the mess". Just the opposite, he'll come running. When you're humbled enough to say, "God, I've come to the end of myself. I can't break this addiction in my own strength. I can't straighten up my life just in my ability". When you acknowledge you need God's help, he'll make things happen that you could never make happen.
Are you wearing any masks today? Hiding behind the mask of pride? Not wanting to ask for help? Too embarrassed to admit that something is wrong? God is not going to fault you for where you are. He knew every mistake we would make before we ever made it. He knows our flaws, our weaknesses, our failures. You don't have to pretend, you can be honest. Like the prodigal, when you go to God, you take off that mask, that's when you'll see things begin to turn around.
This is what David did. You remember he made a pretty major mistake. He committed adultery with Bathsheba. He tried to cover it up, it only made matters worse. He sent her husband out to the front lines of the battlefield and he was killed. Now that her husband was gone, he took Bathsheba as his wife. David acted like nothing was wrong, life is good, no big deal. He was wearing the mask.
Only he and Bathsheba knew anything about it, and David tried to ignore it, go about his business, but the problem is when you're wearing mask, you step out of God's favor, you step out of his protection, his blessing. For one year, he was sick, he became weak, all kinds of things came against him. Normally, he could overcome them. He had defeated Goliath, he had survived Saul, chasing him through the desert. He'd had overtaken great armies. But now, the tables have turned.
Deep down, David knew what the problem was. He was smart enough to get honest with himself. He took off the mask. Psalm 51, he said, "God, I acknowledge my transgressions. I'm not covering it anymore, I admit that I've done wrong".
The first step accept responsibility. You have to own it. You can't overcome what you won't admit, and it's easy to go around hiding things, hiding an addiction, hiding a failure, hiding an area that you struggle in. Like David, what you hide, all that's going to do is eat away at you on the inside. It's like poison. It's much better to be real, and go to God and say, "I acknowledge that I made this mistake". Or "God, I acknowledge that I'm still struggling".
David went on to say, "God, you require truth in the inward parts". He was saying, "God, you require us to be real. You require us to take off you can't pretend and have God's blessing at the same time. If you're covering the issues, not dealing with them, it's not going to magically go away. But there is a way out. God is not holding your faults, your mistakes against you. He has mercy, forgiveness, new beginnings, but you have to do your part, take off the mask.
Quit pretending, and go to God and be real. He already knows what you're dealing with. It's not a surprise to God. When you ask for his help, his forgiveness, his mercy, that's when he'll begin to restore you and put you back on the right path. This is what David did. He said, "God, create in me a clean heart. Restore unto me the joy of my salvation". He got it out in the open, asked for forgiveness, God forgave him, restored him. He went on to do great things.
God will do not only did David take off the mask of pretending everything was perfect when it wasn't, under that mask was a mask of shame. "I can't believe I did this. What was I thinking about? I'll never become who I was created to be". The mask of shame can keep you from your destiny. Voices will constantly whisper, "You can't take this mask off. You're paying God back for your mistakes. You're showing him that you're sorry. You should live guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, unworthy.
Friends, the price has already been paid. You don't have to pay God back, you don't have to live guilty and condemned. God has mercy for every mistake you've ever made. He didn't disqualify you. He can still get you to where you're supposed to be. Take off the mask of shame.
A friend of mine was raised in a very dysfunctional home. His father was an alcoholic, and when he would drink too much, he would become angry and violent, and mistreat his mother, bring all kinds of turmoil in the home. My friend, this young man, grew up just like his father, addicted to drugs, angry, violent, couldn't hold down a job.
But in his mid-20s, he gave his life to Christ, and he had this major turnaround. He ended up becoming the pastor of a church, it's well respected in the community. He'd go around telling people what God had done, his story. But what people didn't know is he still he was free from the drugs, from the addiction, but the smallest things would set him off. Just like his father, he would go into fits of rage and mistreat his wife, his family.
He knew it was wrong, but he was too embarrassed to ask for help. His wife told him again keep living like this, pretending everything is okay. He would answer, "I know, but I'm supposed to be the example. What are people going to think of me if they find out I have this anger problem"?
Sometimes we're more concerned about what people are going to think than we are about what God thinks. One day, like the prodigal son, he came to the end of himself. He got tired of pretending, he found a trusted friend, and went and told him everything that was going on. The scripture says to do this, "Confess your faults one to another and you will be healed". But if you keep hiding things, ignoring it, covering it up, it's not going to go away.
You have to take off the mask. "Well, Joel, what are people going to think if they found out I'm dealing with this issue? What if my co-workers learn that I'm struggling in this area"? Can I tell you everybody is struggling with something? There are no perfect people. Don't be embarrassed by it. The enemy would love for you to go your whole life wearing a mask, pretending, not dealing with the real issues. There is a freedom when and you get real.
That's what my friend did. He got involved in a good support group, something like celebrate recovery that we have here. Today, he is totally free, one of the kindest, most gentle people but he would still be pretending, still be dealing with that anger issue if he hadn't made the decision to take off the mask.
Paul said in 2 corinthians 3, "We see God's glory with unveiled faces". As long as your face is veiled, as long as you're wearing that mask, you won't see God's glory. If you're wearing the mask of perfection, pretending everything is okay when it's not. Or like my friend, wearing a mask of pride, not wanting to ask for help, that's going to keep you from God's best.
I'm asking you to take off the mask. You don't have to pretend. When you're real, you'll see God's favor. When there's truth on the inside, you'll see things that same verse goes on to say God changes us from glory to glory. Notice God doesn't change us from shame to glory. If you're wearing the mask of shame, you're going to get stuck. You got to take that mask off. He doesn't change us from pride to glory, when you're not wearing any masks, you have God's glory on your life. When you're open and honest, that's when God can change you and take you to the next level of your destiny.