Take Off the Mask

Josiah Jones // May 19, 2020

Many of us wear masks in order to cover up our pain, struggles, and mistakes. We hide who we are from people out of fear, and are only left with feelings of loneliness and shame. In this message, we talk about how we can take off the mask when we have authentic community with people who know us fully.

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Welcome to The Porch wherever you are tuning in tonight, from around the country or even the world, welcome. If you find yourself tuning in in Houston, I want to encourage you to check out The Porch Live Houston. Our friends down there are starting tonight for the first time live since the quarantine. If you're in this room, welcome friends. I appreciate you all being here. My name is Josiah, and I have the privilege of serving here on staff at The Porch.

I thought I'd start out by just sharing a quick story. I want to take you back to sixth grade. Yes, we're going back to sixth grade, so go back there with me for just a minute. If you're anything like me, it was baggy Tommy Hilfiger shirts, baggy jeans, and the ball chain necklace. I get it. I know I just dated myself. I did it. It's all good, though. But here's what I know.

Here's what I know about sixth grade. I remember walking into science class for the first time, and the science teacher gave me one of these. He gave me a Styrofoam cup, some soil, and a bean. Do you all remember this? I know Ramsey… You remember this, don't you? Yeah, so we get this Styrofoam cup, we get some soil, and then we get a bean.

Before too long, we see a little green shoot sprout up. I remember the science teacher specifically saying, "You're going to need three things in order for this bean to grow. You're going to need sun, you're going to need water, and you're going to need soil." Some of you are like, "Man, you've been growing that in your garage?"

No, no, no, that's not what this is about. I promise you. Maybe BC, before Christ, days, but listen, stay with me. Listen. This is why I start there tonight. Because just like science class, they told us, "Hey, you're going to need these things to grow: sun, water, and soil to grow this bean." There are things in our faith that we need to grow.

There are things that God is asking us to have and really saying, "Hey, if you don't have these things, then you will not grow." So stay with me for a second. Imagine your prayer life is the sun. So the sun equals your prayer life. Let's say the Bible equals the water. That's your intake of God's Word.

Then let's say the soil represents your community. When I say community, I'm talking about your friend groups. I'm talking about those people who you hang out with. This is what I know. You can have an amazing prayer life. You can get into God's Word every single day. You can memorize Scripture, but if your soil, which is your community, your friend group, is toxic, then you will not grow.

The bottom line is, it will not happen. We will never be the best version of ourselves. If we want to grow, then we will have to have the right community. If you don't want to grow, said no one ever, you won't pursue these things. Tonight I want to talk to you about community. Where are you planted?

Psalm 92:13 says, "…planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish…" For some of us, man, it's been a long, hard season of this coronavirus because we've been quarantined. My fear tonight is that some of you are going to hear a message like this and you're going to sort of connect with God and with God's people, but you're going to walk away, and you're just not going to go all in.

Here's what's at stake. The Bible says that when you don't go all in with community… In other words, you're hushing the voice of God. Because one of God's primary means of communicating and provisions in our lives as Christians is community. It's getting with other trusted friends who follow Jesus. We call that community here at The Porch and Watermark.

It's a core value that we embody here. It's this idea that we were made for relationships. If you're taking notes, and I hope you are, first, we were made for relationships. We were created for relationships. You see this rhythm in Genesis 1 where God is creating and he says it's good. He creates, and he says it's good. He creates, and he says it's good. He does this six times.

Then on the seventh time, he rests. So you have this paradise, a place of perfection. Sin hasn't even entered the world yet. It's just Adam and God. God is giving Adam authority among all the animals and in the entire creation. So there should be this amazing connection in a perfect situation with Adam and God, but then something happens.

There's an interruption that breaks into the creation story. God says there is something there that is not good. What could be wrong with perfection after God created? That's a question. Can there be something not good in a perfect place? Let's check out Genesis 2:18. This is what it says. "The LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone.'"

Being alone was the very first thing that God said that it wasn't good. I know this is kind of fascinating to me because nothing is fallen yet. Everything is still in perfection. So God is saying in this moment that, "Hey, it's not good for you to be alone, Adam." He's telling us tonight, years later, that it's not good for us to be alone.

Humans are created to live in relationship with each other. Think of it like solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is what they do in prison. I looked it up. People in prison dread this punishment of solitary confinement. One person said keeping prisoners totally isolated from a living world comes perilously close to a penal tomb.

Being locked up is a place where you have zero human interaction. We know that one of the worst things that can happen is you cut humans off from the rest of the world. Psychologically, it literally destroys them. This is what this person is saying. In other words, it's a slow death for prisoners.

Listen, you might not be in a prison of solitary confinement, but you could be in a prison to anxiety. You could be in a prison tonight to depression. You could be in a prison tonight of loneliness because you're disconnected from God's people. So there's an amazing truth for us to latch onto tonight. This truth is even if it was just us and God alone in perfection, he would say that's not good.

Because I hear people tell me all the time. "I'm good, Josiah. I don't need the church. I don't need other brothers or sisters in my life to run with. I'm good, man. It's just me and God. He knows me, I know him, and we're tight." I'm sorry to break it to you, but the Bible contradicts that type of thinking. I thought that way for so long in my own life.

In Proverbs 18:1, it says this. "Whoever isolates himself…" In other words, cuts himself off. "…seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment." I mean, he will not have the wisdom that God wants him to have. In case you missed it earlier, Psalm 92:13, those who are, "…planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish…"

Planted in the house of God, you will flourish. Doing life together. Getting connected with people who don't look like you, maybe even act like you, smell like you, dress like you, or have the same desires as you. God is saying, "That's a good thing." Listen, my wife and I…Cathy…we couldn't be any different.

I mean, she is creative. She is a designer. She just has these…I call them piles of goodness…all over the house. She is messy, but she is creative. I'm Type A to the max. I mean, seriously. We are totally different, but God has used that to complement us and to grow us and to make us really into the people who he wants us to be.

It's easy for us to believe this lie that, "My faith is just between me and God, and I don't really need anyone else. God and I are cool. I don't need to worry about the rest of you guys. I'm just going to do my thing." Although that sounds really good, it's just not truthful. It's just not healthy, as God would say.

Do you know why corona has been so hard for some of us? It's because it's put us in a quarantine state where we really haven't been able to interact with people. So God is saying, "Hey, you were never meant to be isolated. You were made for relationships." Eventually, no matter where you live, they're going to open everything up.

They're going to say, "Hey, you don't need to quarantine yourself anymore." Tonight, the God of the universe is saying, "Hey, you don't need to quarantine. You can come out of hiding. You can interact with people." Still be safe. Jump on Zoom. We'll talk about that here in a minute, but you can do things that cause you to lean into other trusted men and women who love Jesus and are following him.

So some of you are like, "Man, I have relationships, Josiah. I have it. Seriously. You don't need to tell me that. I know that I was created, I was made for relationships." But this is what I want to ask you. Are they the right people? Are they the people following Jesus? When I say, "Stop quarantining from people," this should also, for some of us, say, "Some of us need to start quarantining from the wrong people."

Why? Because this is what I know. Because you catch the symptoms of those you run with. The people who you run with… The people who I run with, I'm going to catch the symptoms. I'm going to catch their sicknesses. We know this to be true. Corona season… I don't know how many times I've done this. "You've been traveling? Oh man, you probably have corona. I'm out. We need to separate ourselves from each other."

So we do this even in the season that we find ourselves in. Some of us, quite frankly, we need to do this with some of the people in our lives who are dragging us down. Because you're going to catch the symptoms and the sicknesses of the people who you run with. This is true physically, and what God is saying tonight is this is true spiritually.

The Bible says it like this in 2 Corinthians 6:14. "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?" They contradict each other. They're on totally opposite ends of the spectrum. So don't be yoked… Don't put yourself in a position where your best friends are people who aren't like-minded.

It's not saying, "Hey, you can't have friends who don't think like you and believe like you." But they're saying, "Hey, when it comes to your closest boys or your closest ladies or women? Those should be people who are running hard after Jesus." It shouldn't be this idea where, "Hey, we're just going to separate ourselves and we're just going to have our little holy huddles and Christian cliques, and we're never going to try to affect the rest of the world."

No, that would be crazy. No, we've been called to be the light of the world. But when those people start affecting us and bringing us down, that's when it's like, "Hey, we have to draw the line." We have to have people around us whom we can trust who are going to point us back to Him. It goes on and says, "Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"

Secondly, if you're taking notes, we were made to be fully known. We were made to be fully known. Most people who fight anxiety, shame, and guilt do so on their own when we were never supposed to do so. God never meant for us to hide. You were made to be fully known. God is saying tonight, "Hey, I've made you to be known."

Our generation, who is literally one of the most connected generations ever in human history because of the smartphone and social media… Social scientists are saying that even though we're connected, we're the loneliest and the most depressed generation statistically. This is even truer right now during the corona season. These stats are just skyrocketing.

This is also why we tend to make really poor decisions when we make these decisions in isolation. If nobody truly knows you, knows how you're feeling, what you're facing, what's going on in your life, then God is saying, "Hey, that's truly not good." God is also saying, "Hey, it's not good to be alone in a crowd."

Some of you tonight, you're like, "Man, I'm not alone. I do the CrossFit thing. I do SoulCycle. I do barre classes. After work, I go to the restaurant. I have a few drinks at the bar with some of my friends." But come on, if we were honest with ourselves, they don't know much else than you're a Cowboys fan, what you bought on Amazon the night before, and what you think about The Bachelor.

God is saying, "It's not good to be alone in the crowd." Some of you are like, "I have 100 likes on Instagram or retweets on Twitter," whatever the case may be. That's not being known. Here's why it's not good. This is so important. I believe that you'll never be fully loved until you're fully known. You will never be fully loved until you're fully known, because they're just loving some false version of yourself and of myself.

I kind of liken it to this quarantine mask. Everywhere you go lately, it seems like someone is wearing one of these. When you're not wearing one, you just kind of feel out of place. That's me, because I can't stand these things. I was in Costco the other day. It was my duty to get groceries this week, so I went into Costco.

My wife couldn't even go in because we only had one of these in the car. I made my way in Costco. I'm having a hard time breathing in this thing. They're just awkward. They're uncomfortable. It's bizarre because now you really have to wear one. Listen, this isn't really a new concept.

If you were to be honest with yourself, and if I were to be honest with myself tonight, physically this is a new concept, but we've been wearing masks for a long time. Some of us, we wear a mask because this mask represents hiding. We wear a mask when we sin and we try to hide ourselves from letting people see that.

We just want to put our best foot forward. We try to act like we have it all together, so we wear this mask. We hide from people out of fear of, "Hey, what are they going to think of me if I share this or if they know this part about me?" So you see, for my life, I got pretty good at wearing a mask. It was invisible, of course, but it was a mask nonetheless.

I was remember the first time I looked at porn. This idea, man, I loved this. It was amazing. It sparked all this emotion I never felt before and these feelings. But I knew deep down something was wrong. Something was broken. So I just put on this mask of, "Man, I'm just going to keep that thing suppressed. I'm not going to let anyone know that I'm becoming an addict."

Another mask I wore was a cross necklace. I remember wearing a cross necklace when I played baseball games. It was a good luck charm. I wanted people to think that I was spiritual. I was going out to the parties and getting drunk and doing that lifestyle. I had my cross necklace out for everyone to see because I wanted them to see that I was a pretty good person. That was just a form of a mask.

Another mask was being single until I was 31 years old. I wanted to wear the mask that, "Hey, I don't need that. I don't need a woman." But deep down inside, I'm like, "Man, I want to be married." I just kind of put the mask on of, "Man, I'm good." See, we wear masks to mask the pain and the hardship that we're facing.

Do you know who I'm not wearing a mask around? My community. These are men who I've grown to love because I know them and they know me. No matter where I've been in thought, word, and action, I can come to them, and I can share where I've been in those areas of my life. Here's what I know.

They're going to love me unconditionally. They're not just going to affirm or condone the things that I'm doing, but they're going to point me to Christ and they're going to point me to his truth and they're going to hold me accountable. Just last night, I had a disagreement with my wife, Cathy. It was getting late, and I knew I needed to study.

We just kind of shelved it and said, "Hey, let's talk about it in the morning." I went downstairs and started studying, and the attack came. The attack to get on Instagram and start looking at things. The temptation came for me to look at things that I knew I shouldn't have looked at. In that moment, I was getting worked up over the fact that this is a part of my past, this is a part of my story.

I want it. There's still a part of my heart that loves porn. I'm just trying to be honest tonight. But in that moment, I reached out. I reached out, because I knew Satan wanted nothing more than to get me to fall before I taught this message. By God's grace, I didn't look at anything, but I was tempted.

So I reached out to four men in my life who God has placed in my life since I moved here about 10 months ago. I just said, "Hey, look. I'm in the middle of studying, and I'm tempted. My wife and I just had a disagreement. Listen, I am tempted to look at things I know I shouldn't." They were probably sleeping, but do you know what that did in that moment?

It lessened, it weakened that temptation because I knew the very next day, they were going to ask me. And they did. "Hey, did you win the battle? Did you look at porn? Did you reconcile with your wife?" And they did. They asked me. By God's grace, I did. I won. But don't be fooled. Man, I want to wear a mask all the time. I want to cover up the brokenness in my life.

Do you think I wanted to reach out to them and let them know that I was struggling last night? Absolutely not. I want them to see my best foot forward. I want them to see that Josiah is strong. I want them to see that there are no struggles, but when I'm feeling tempted to look at something I know I shouldn't look at, I need to confess that on a thought level, not wait until I get to the action.

I remember thinking last night, "God, thank you for providing a way out. Thank you for weakening this part of me. Thank you that, hey, even though I want to be seen and I want to be in the best light, thank you that I can remove the mask by faith and trust that when they see the real me, I won't get infected with rejection. I won't get infected with shame and guilt and condemnation. Why? Because you nailed Jesus to the cross for those things."

Romans 8:1 says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…" So listen, even if they wanted to shame me, I know that there's no shame in that. Because he went to the cross. All of my sin was poured out on him at the cross. So this is why I can be real. This is why I can stand boldly before you and even share this.

There's a part of my heart that's like, "Man, what are people going to think of me?" I don't care. It's because Christ paid for that, and he set me free from that rejection and that condemnation and that shame. He wants to do that in your life too. It's time to take off the mask tonight. What mask are you wearing? What mask are you wearing that you're tempted even to put on?

Tonight, it's time to take off the mask. Psalm 32:3, the psalmist says, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long." The psalmist is saying, "Hey, when you suppress sin, your bones are going to waste away. You're going to get sick." When you don't bring that to the light, when you don't share that thing that you thought you'd never tell anyone.

Some of you right now you're listening to this, you're like, "Oh no, I couldn't do that. I promised myself that I'm taking that thing to the grave, and I'm not going there, Josiah. Absolutely not." God is saying, "Hey, if you go there, there's healing. There's forgiveness. I want to make you whole." I believe this with all my heart. The power of sin is in secrecy.

In other words, when we decide to suppress sin and we decide we're not going to tell anybody those things that we thought we were going to take to the grave. When we bring those things to the light, it loosens its power and it weakens. This is why, in James 5:16, he says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed."

Then it goes on and says, "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." It's not saying, "Just confess that to anybody." It's saying to confess that to a righteous person, someone who loves Jesus, someone who is in right standing with God, someone who is pursuing him. I believe with all my heart that the secret to life is to live a life without secrets.

Where we begin to see that our whole life is exposed before God and someone who we can trust. Am I saying, "Hey, go share this with 10 people?" No. Real practical. Let's just bring it down a level. Do you know someone who you could trust who follows Jesus? I encourage you tonight to pick up the phone before you go to bed and just say, "Hey, how are you doing?"

Then tell them about how you're doing. Say, "Hey listen, I don't know why I called you, but I know God is telling me to call you. I just have to share with you I'm struggling. Can you pray for me?" Maybe you can't give explicit details, but maybe if you just said, "Hey, I'm struggling. I looked at something that I shouldn't have. Or I've been overeating or undereating because life seems out of control, and this is one area of my life that I can control."

Maybe you would pick up the phone and you would just say something like, "Hey, I've been trading naked pictures with people because I've been craving for affirmation. There I said it. Will you help me?" Listen, if you're waiting for someone to come to you and ask you how you're doing or ask you what you've been struggling with, you're probably going to be waiting longer than you want.

Confession isn't going to find you. You have to find it. You have to run to confession. You have to find someone who you can trust who will not mismanage information. Some of you, that's your story. I would say, don't stop. Hang on to Romans 8:1. I do care that they mismanage information, but listen, at the end of the day, you don't have to let that mismanaging of information define you because God says, "You're forgiven and you do not have shame anymore because I put that on my Son Jesus."

Listen, the best version of you and me stands on the other side of community. Do you know that? Do you believe that tonight? I believe the most healed and whole person who you want to be and who I want to be stands on the other side of community where you can go to them and you can confess.

I'm wondering tonight, do you have that? Do you have that? Have you prayed and maybe asked God to forgive you and he has forgiven you, but you're still walking around wounded and kind of beat up? I believe it's because some of us, we walk out 1 John 1:9 where, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

So we're forgiven, but we're not healed, because healing comes when we confess that one to another, where you have trusted friends who come alongside of you and help you fight against your sin. They begin to help you come up with a game plan to defeat that sin that continues to beat you down.

Let me ask you. What's your plan for defeating sin? What is your plan for defeating sin in your life? Some of us, we're losing the battle before we ever go to war because we walk into the battle without a plan. The God of the universe is saying, "Hey listen, it's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to be transparent." In 2 Corinthians 12:8, God responds to Paul, and says Paul, "…my power is made perfect in weakness."

Look what Paul's response is. "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses…" Because when I'm weak, who is strong? He is strong. That's when you begin to experience the power of God in your life and my life. This quarantine, it's been a completely different experience for those who have been in community versus those who have not.

Tonight, that can change. Tonight, right after this message, you can go to watermark.org/community and you can sign up. If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, you can sign up to get in community. Maybe you're just like, "Hey, I don't have that. I'm starting to understand what this guy is talking about and I'm starting to believe that I need it."

Do it. Some of you tonight, you're like, "Man, I don't live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area." Then hey, find a church that loves Jesus and preaches Jesus and wants to be about Jesus. If you need help, reach out. We'd love to help you. I can't challenge you enough to take this step. Not just because we see this rooted in God's Word, but because I've experienced this with my own life and continue to experience this to this day.

Jesus got ahold of me in college. I was narcissistic. I was selfish. It was all about Josiah. But then the breaking moment happened where I finally saw my sin for what it is in light of a holy God. I saw, in that moment, that all of my sin was poured out on him. I got what he deserved and he got what I deserved.

I remember experiencing this incredible conversion where I'm like, "Hey, I'm empty. I'm unsatisfied. I'm unfulfilled." It's because the proverb says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." Tonight, God is saying, "Hey, if you want life, then you'll pursue this thing called community."

What I quickly learned is that God will never call you from something without calling you to something. One of the very first things he called me to was to change my playground and my playmates. In other words, those places that I would hang out, those people who I would hang out with, he said, "Hey, if you're going to be my man, Josiah, then you have to start changing where you hang out, where you go on the weekends, and who you hang out with."

Sometimes, people would come up to me and they're like, "Dude, pornography, sex addiction, lying, partying, stealing? Those things? How did you do it?" I look at them and I say, "Hey, I got with some men who wanted to be about it. I got with some men who really loved Jesus. They didn't just talk about it, but they really wanted to live out who he is."

So I know for a fact if everyone here is saying you want to have a relationship with Jesus or you say you have one, you're saying you want to grow. If you're not saying you want to grow, then it might be because you don't have a relationship with Jesus. Because that time at church camp where you committed your life to him, it was never for you just to go home and wait for Jesus to return.

It was for you to grow your faith so it becomes beautiful and it becomes attractive to a watching world. I always wonder, what would my life look like if I never plugged into community? I might be an addict. I could be lying and cheating and stealing. I could be this person who takes advantage of others.

I could be the all-star tailgater at the Cowboys game talking about how I never made it, getting drunk before the game. I could be playing video games at a really unhealthy level in my parents' house. I just think back. It's like, "God, if I never made that decision, if you never caused me to have a desire to step out in faith and say, 'Yes, I trust you, even though this is hard,' I wonder what my life would look like?"

Because I get people come up to me all the time and they say, "Hey, what's God's will for my life?" I respond to them with this question, "Do you have community?" "Well, there was this time where I got into community and there was this conflict and it just kind of broke off. There was this time where I got into community and there were some people who just began to talk bad about me and I just kind of walked away.

There was this time where there were some people who really weren't committed and I just decided not to be committed either. There was this time when I walked in and these people were weird. They were just weird, man." So I just say, "All right. Man, with all the love I can share with you, don't complain that you can't hear from God, because one of God's greatest provisions in our life is he gives us trusted men and women who love him and are a voice for him in our life."

Listen, I'm not trying to beat you up. I get it. Community is hard. I've made the same excuses before. I'll close with this. About 10 months ago, I moved to Dallas from Kansas City. Man, things were going well in Kansas City. Ministry was growing. Things were comfortable, and I had my community. I had men in my life who I cherished and I loved. Then God began to continue to move.

Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, which God does this sometimes, he began to lay this move to Dallas and be a part of Watermark Church and The Porch on my wife and my hearts. So we couldn't shake it anymore, and we decided to make a decision to move to Dallas. So we got in the car and packed up all of our stuff and drove down with my two little girls. Let me just be honest.

Man, this has been one of the hardest seasons of my life. I actually started to pursue community, and it got hard. There was a little bit of conflict. I caught myself saying the same excuses that I hear other people make. "Man, it's hard. Man, there was this conflict. People just don't understand me. They don't understand a move. They don't understand what we've gone through."

I started making excuses after excuses until I had a couple of men in my life sharpen me like Proverbs 27:6 says. "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." They said, "Hey, you have to keep pursuing it. You can't just check out, Josiah. This is the worst time for you to check out."

They began to love me and push me into community where now I'm seeing God move like never before. Listen, I want that for you tonight. More importantly, God wants that for you tonight. Where you can experience what we've been talking about, even though I know it's hard. I don't want to be insensitive, but in the same way I had brothers come into my life and tell me what I didn't want to hear, in the same way, I'm sharing this tonight because some of you who are listening need to hear this. So tonight, let me pray that you would.

God in heaven, Lord, we need you. I need you. This has been an incredible reminder for me that when I don't want to read your Word and do what it says, you put people in my life to challenge my thinking, to encourage me, to push me to places where I don't want to go. I've said this over and over tonight, but I thank you, God, because that is one of your greatest provisions.

I pray for my friends who are listening to this tonight that they would understand your will for their lives when it comes to community, when it comes to people in their lives that you want to introduce them to and you want them to lock arms with. I pray that they would stop at nothing until they do. I don't care what barriers come into their lives to try to keep them from community. God, would you push through those barriers and would you give them the power and would you give them the strength to do what only you can do? In Christ's name we pray, amen.