By Steve Brown
One of my favorite books is C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. It is a story showing that the closer one gets to the deep mountains of God/heaven, the more real one becomes; the further away one runs, the less real. It is a profound commentary on heaven and hell, and reflects Lewis’s belief that hell is locked from the inside. But the book also reflects a reality for those of us who are dealing with our masks. The closer one gets to God, the less one feels the need for a mask or a hidden agenda. In other words, the closer one gets to the “real” God, the more “real” one becomes oneself.
My late mentor, Fred Smith, had a close friend who was dying. Fred’s friend decided that he needed help in dying, so he called in a number of his friends. He called them his “death board” and they were charged with overseeing his death. One was a doctor because Fred’s friend said he wanted to know what was going on medically as he faced death. Another was a lawyer because he wanted him to oversee the legal issues of his will and the repercussions of his death. He also appointed a pastor to speak to his spiritual needs and a counselor to help him deal with his fear of death. As Fred listened to his friend’s commissions to his “board,” he noticed that his dying friend had not given him a job. “Okay,” Fred said, “this is good stuff, but you haven’t told me what I’m here for. What do you want me to do?” “Fred,” the dying man said, “your job is to be a BS filter.”
That’s what the Holy Spirit is. The more we walk with Christ, the more the Holy Spirit tells us what is true and what isn’t, what is a lie and what is the truth, and what is nonsense and what is important and real. Jesus called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17) and said that the Spirit “will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). The Spirit of God has a job and his job is to make us real.
When Christians learn to identify their false masks and hidden agendas, something really exciting happens: there is a BS filter about everything around them.
Did you hear about the new believer who found Christ in a Texas church where they believed in entire sanctification (total perfection) after one’s baptism? After this particular man was saved, he insisted on being baptized even though it was winter and the river where the baptisms were normally performed was frozen over. At his insistence, the church leaders went down to the river and chiseled out a hole in the ice, and the pastor baptized the man. When the man came up shivering out of the icy water, he shouted, “Praise God! Praise God! I’m sanctified! It’s so wonderful that I’m not even cold.” “We have to do it again,” the pastor said through clenched teeth. “He’s lying.”
That’s what the Holy Spirit does for Christians as we make our way through the minefields of the world. When commercials promise us something they can’t deliver, when politicians knowingly mislead us, when a preacher tells us that Christ’s work isn’t finished and sufficient, and when we fall prey to our own neurotic fears, the Holy Spirit says, “He’s lying!”
For our purposes here, when we pretend to be something we’re not, condemn others for their lack of faithfulness when our unfaithfulness is greater than theirs, when we say we’re fine when we’re not, when we deny the reality of who we really are, the Holy Spirit whispers, “You’re lying.” Eventually (and it is a slow process sometimes) we listen and become more and more real. The masks become a cumbersome burden and the hidden agendas are no longer worth the effort.
Here’s a question hardly anybody asks. They don’t ask it for the same reason we bury people in their best clothes surrounded by flowers. We do it because we don’t want to think that—in a beautiful casket surrounded by flowers and dressed like he or she is going to the prom—there is a cold, dead corpse. The question is this: What matters when you’re the corpse? Probably the most important answer to that question is that unreal masks, hidden and dishonest agendas, and being accepted by people who are also going to end up in a casket—none of it matters. In fact, it’s all about as valuable as a bag of chicken feed.
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Steve Brown is the founder of Key Life Network, which exists to communicate that the deepest message of the ministry of Jesus is the radical grace of God. Having spent 25 years as a pastor, Brown now devotes much of his time to the radio broadcasts Key Life and Steve Brown, Etc., which are currently heard on more than 600 outlets. Keep up with Steve at keylife.org, on Facebook at /Dr.SteveBrown and via Twitter @drstevewbrown.