Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Fraud (Ephesians 2:4-10, 19-22)

First United Methodist Church

Glen Rose, Texas

January 8, 2012

 

Series: F-Bombs

“Fraud”

(Ephesians 2:4-10, 19-22)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn

INTRODUCTION:

     Back in 1995 it was reported that in Pittsburgh a bank robber was sentenced to 24 years in prison. The conviction was made possible by clear photography from the bank's surveillance camera. McArthur Wheeler didn’t wear a mask or do anything to conceal his identity. He was completely unconcerned about the cameras in both banks.

     In the rather speedy trial that followed, Wheeler was completely surprised and dumbfounded when they showed the surveillance footage with his face clearly visible. When the footage first revealed his face, he was heard to mumble, “But I wore the juice.”

     Apparently, Mr. Wheeler had rubbed lemon juice all over his face before the robbery. He was under the impression that because lemon juice was often used as invisible ink, it would make his face invisible to cameras. (1)

     That rather bizarre story made me laugh but at the same time it made me think about all the ways we try to hide the real us.        We don’t smear our faces with lemon juice but we do try to hide behind all kinds of different masks. Why? Because of one of the biggest F-Bombs of life. Fraud. We’re afraid that this F-Bomb will explode and everyone around us will find out just what a Fraud or Fake or Phony we are.

PRAYER

I. MASKS:

     A. The sad truth is, at times, we all hide behind masks of some sort. Some of them are quite innocuous and just show a playful nature like a smiley face.

     Sometimes we mask our grief or anger or anxiety from others with smiles and laughter and nuttiness like nothing is bothering us like the chipmunk.

     Sometimes we give off the sense that nothing CAN bother us; that we can just snort and grunt our way through anything like the pig because we’re too pigheaded to ask for help.

     Sometimes we try to hide behind a phony innocence. We play the part of the innocent sheep hoping and praying that no one finds out about the real wolf behind the mask.

     And sometimes we just wear masks as a sign of our rebellion. We hide behind the mask so when we take it off we will seem normal but secretly we know we’re not.

     Some people think that it’s easier to wear a mask than to face the harsh and sometimes bitter realities of life. We become experts at masking our problems; masking our need; even masking our failure. And it’s those failures which breed that fear of being caught or being found out.

     Our masks become crutches upon which we hobble through life when God really wants us to run, skip and jump. Remember that scene from Forrest Gump when he was being chased and he ran right out of his braces, "Run, Forrest, Run." That’s what God wants for us.

     Instead, we hang onto the mask;, we hang onto the crutches and run around with this fear of being found out; found out that we are really nothing but a fraud, a fake, a cheap imitation, a charlatan. And that fear keeps us separated from God and from each other.

     B. When I was still involved as a leader in Summer Camp and Mike Ford was the director, he talked me into being a Dean for Junior High camp. I thought he was nuts. But the thing is, I fell in love with the Junior High Camp and Campers. The reason I fell in love is because Junior youth are all over the map when it comes to social, spiritual and physical maturity.

     You might have a 6th grade girl who looks 17 and an 8th grade boy who still looks like he’s 7 and they become boyfriend and girlfriend for the week. One minute they were all mature and serious and the next minute they sounded and acted like a bunch of 6 year olds.

     The thing I enjoyed the most, though, was watching them discover or begin to discover who they truly are. During that week of camp I’d watch them take on three or four different personas, trying out different one to see which one fit the best.

     The reason some of us still wear masks is because we haven’t found the right persona yet. We keep buying into what the world says about us and about what and who we should be.

     There's a lot of talk nowadays about identity theft. While it’s a very real and expensive problem, I think there's a bigger problem. It's not really identity theft so much as it is that we give up our True Identity in pursuit of the identity the world says we are supposed to have.

     The sad thing is that the identity which the world beckons for us to assume is constantly changing and morphing with the ebb and flow of popular trends. 

     This week we're all supposed to be like the Kardasians but then the fake marriage lasted a whole 71 days and now who are we supposed to be like, Snooky and the Situation from Jersey Shore? Like the Beverly Hills or Atlanta or wherever housewives catty, conniving and cheating?

     None of those are Biblical. None of those are real. They’re all as phony as the love that lead to the wedding. That’s not what we want, our spirits know we were created for more than that. So why do we settle for less?

     During the worship services at Camp we always gave the youth the chance to try on the one True Persona, the One that isn’t phony. The one God created for us. The one Christ offers to each and every one of us as a child of God. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul describes that persona.

Ephesians 2:4-10; 19-22 (NRSV)

[4] But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us  

[5] even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—  

[6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  

[7] so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  

[8] For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—  

[9] not the result of works, so that no one may boast.  

[10] For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.  

[19] So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,  

[20] built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.  

[21] In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;  

[22] in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.  

     The Genesis passage which was read earlier said, we are “created in the very Image of God.” In this passage we are reminded that we are “what God has made us.” It tells us we are “citizens with the saints” and “members of God’s household.”

II. UNMASKING:

     A. So, how do we take off those masks and become who God created us to be? How do WE put on that One True Persona? Well, first, we have to surrender ourselves to God’s will. We have to give up control of our lives and let God chisel away all the junk and excess baggage we carry around. We have to let God rip the masks off our faces and our hearts.

     This morning I want to share a video with you from The Skit Guys that is a little longer than usual but it is very poignant and to the point of today’s message. I hope you’ll be as moved as I was.

WATCH

CONCLUSION:

     You are God’s original Masterpiece. Remember God doesn’t make junk. God’s love for you has no boundaries. We don’t need to wear any masks. We don’t have to worry about failure or fraud if we surrender our masks to God and allow the One True Persona of Jesus to become our persona; our identity.

     You see, through His crucifixion, Christ offers us His identity, our true identity as a child of God. All we have to do is take off our masks and allow God to continue His work in our lives.

     I want you to repeat with me: “I am God’s Masterpiece… God doesn’t make junk... Through my faith…, and through the Holy Spirit…, Jesus lives in me…. I AM God’s Masterpiece.”

     This morning each of you have been given a paper mask. I want you to take a minute to think about the masks you need to get rid of in your life; the areas of fraud and phoniness in your life that need to be replaced with the Persona of Christ. I want you write them down, either with a pencil or a pen. And if you don’t want anyone to see what you’re writing, then just write it with the tip of your finger. God will know what it says. Go ahead, write it down.

     Now, I want you to fold it in half. Then I want you to tear it up. Just shred it, because you’ve given it God. And then I want you to bring it and truly let it go, give it up to God by placing it on the altar rail. And when we’re finished, I’ll close in prayer.

     Remember, you don’t have to wear any kind of mask. Don’t let that fear of being found out, that sense of being a fraud or a phony rule your life. God loves you just as you are. You ARE God’s Masterpiece. You ARE a child of God. You ARE a citizen with the Saints.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

________________________________

Bibliography

1.  Parables, Etc, Nov 1998 and www.mindhacks.com  Feb12, 2010.

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Other References Consulted

 

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