Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Taking Off the Mask

Leslie: Free to be real. Nancy Leigh DeMoss was invited to speak at a conference on that theme, and the concept of free to be real got her thinking.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As I thought about the theme of free to be real, a story came to mind about an actor who in the recession couldn’t get a job, couldn’t find work.

He was looking in the want ads in the newspaper, and he saw an ad by the local zoo that said they were short on monkeys. He thought, “That’s maybe something I could do.” So he went to the zoo. He applied for the job. He got it. They handed him a monkey suit. He put it on. He got in the monkey cage.

He was an entertainer at heart, so monkey-see; monkey-do. They scratched; he scratched. They ate bananas; he ate bananas. Then he noticed that there was a rope hanging from the top of the monkey cage. If he would grab hold of this rope and begin to swing across the cage, the fans really liked that, the crowds liked that. So he would swing across that cage. He would do all kinds of acrobatics and tricks. As an actor, he just loved this.

One Saturday morning it was a beautiful, sunshiny day. Crowds from all over gathered to watch this amazing death-defying monkey swinging back and forth on this rope. Now, what he had not noticed was that right next to the monkey cage was the lion’s cage. As he was swinging back and forth, just going further and further, getting more and more brave, he swung out over the lion’s cage.

The crowd just loved it, until all of a sudden the rope broke, and he fell smack in the middle of that den of lions. Those lions began stalking and pawing and growling at him. One lion began to just run into him in an attack formation.

All of a sudden that actor tore off his monkey costume, and he started to scream, “Help! Help! Get me out of here!” Only to hear the lion say, “Shut up you fool, or we’ll all lose our jobs.”

(Laughter and applause)

Well, the fact is that most of us go through life wearing some sort of mask, playing a part. Most of us, if truth be told, are really not free to be real. We’re ashamed—we’re ashamed of our secrets; we’re ashamed of our past, in many cases. We’re fearful about what others would think if they knew what we were really like. We’re fearful of rejection. We’re actors, aren’t we?

Leslie: Today you’re invited to discover the freedom to be real.

This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: I hope you brought your Bible with you today. I want to ask you, if you have one, to turn to the gospel of John, chapter 4. Let me begin reading in verse 3 where we see that, Jesus left Judea, the southern most part of Israel, and He departed for Galilee, the northern most part of Israel, and He had to pass through Samaria.

Now, if you’ve studied this passage, you know that Samaria is right in the middle between Judea and Galilee. Typically, Jews, for reasons that we’re going to see in just a moment, would not go through the most direct route, through Samaria. If possible, they would go around even though it took longer, because of years of animosity and hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans.

But the Scripture tells us that Jesus had to go through Samaria. I think the reason that God told Him to go that way was that God knew, in His providence, there was a woman who would be there who needed to encounter Jesus.

So [Jesus] came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour [or twelve noon according to our time clock].

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (vv. 4, 9)

Now, we won’t go into a lot of detail except that this woman knew that she had two strikes against her at least. For Jesus to strike up a conversation with her as a Samaritan, despised by the Jews, and as a woman, despised in many cases by men in those days, it was astonishing that Jesus should initiate a conversation with her.

So Jesus speaks to her, and He says,

If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, "Give me a drink," you would have [initiated the conversation]. (v. 10)

Now, we need to remember that when it comes to matters of grace, we never initiate a relationship with God. He is always the one who comes initiating a relationship with us, but Jesus says to her, “If you knew who I am and what I have and what I could do for you, you would have asked Me, and I would have given you living water.”

Now, the woman has come to the well to draw literal water. She knows about that. And Jesus asks her for a drink of literal, physical water. But now Jesus turns the conversation to something entirely different, and that’s a matter of living water, water for her thirsty soul, which was after all the greatest need and the reason that God took her to that well that day.

Well, the woman is confused. She doesn’t know anything about this living water. She only knows about the water in that well, and she says,

Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water [this water in this well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty [again].” (vv. 11-14) 

Jesus is offering to this woman and to us today a water that quenches the thirst of our soul forever and ever and ever.

"The water that I give him will be in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” (vv. 14-15) 

Now, Jesus had just said a few verses back, “If you ask Me, I will give you this living water.” Now the woman is asking, and you’d think the next verse would be Jesus saying, “Here’s the living water.” But there’s an interesting, what seems like a diversion at this point in the text. Jesus doesn’t immediately give her the water.

Instead, He turns in a different direction, and I believe the reason is that He knew that this woman was looking for temporary relief from her problems. She wanted an escape from her problems, as we are prone to desire. But Jesus wanted to give her something much richer, much deeper than just temporary relief.

He wanted to give her permanent release from the heart issues that were destroying her life, but in order to do that, in order to give her the living water, that required getting to the real issues of her heart—her heart.

So Jesus asks this woman a question that is intended to get her to take off her mask. He probes a part of her heart, a part of her story that she has kept walled off, something she doesn’t want to talk about, a place she doesn’t want to go. Jesus says, “If you’re going to have living water, you have to be willing to go to this place, this hidden place of your heart.”

So in verse 16, Jesus says to her, “Go call your husband and come here.”

Verse 17, the woman answered Him, “I have no husband.”

Now, as you live in this text, you’re beginning to get the feeling that what she’s really saying is, “Period. End of conversation. Not going there—no way, no how. You can ask me about anything. You can ask me about the weather; you can ask me about politics; you can ask me about sports; but marriage? Uh-uh. We’re not going there. That’s a private part of my heart. There’s too much pain there. There’s too much . . .” maybe guilt in her case. We don’t know the details. “But don’t talk to me about my family.”

What is the one area of your life that you don’t want somebody asking questions about, that you don’t want anybody penetrating or probing, you want to keep it walled off, you want to stay behind your mask? What’s that one area of your life that’s most uncomfortable for you to talk about?

Can I tell you that if you want the living water that Jesus wants to give you, to satisfy and quench your thirsty soul, that’s the one area He’s going to ask you about? That’s the one place, among others, you’re going to have to go.

This brings me to my first observation about this passage, and that is that our natural inclination, our natural instinct is not to be real. Rather, it is to cover up, to hide, to wear masks.

I was in a group of people one time. We were introducing ourselves, and they did it this way: It was a kind of small group, and they said, “Everyone go around, tell us your name, and then tell us one thing about yourself that no one else in this group knows.”

I thought of something really profound, like, “I used to play the cello when I was in high school.” Nobody in that group knew that. Well, that was true, but I guarantee you this: We all have parts of our story, parts of our past, parts of our hearts—myself included—that no way were we going to share in that circle. We only told things we felt safe telling others, things we didn’t mind others knowing. That’s because our bent, our inclination is to hide, to cover—not to get real.

It goes back to Genesis chapter 3. What did Adam and Eve do after they sinned against God? They tried to hide behind the bushes from God. I mean, that’s like trying to find a place on this platform to hide. With all these cameras, you can’t do it. But they tried. They hid from God. They hid from each other.

Their intimacy was broken. When God came to them and said, “What have you done?” Did they get real? No way. They hid. They covered. They blamed. They excused. And we are experts at hiding, at covering, covering who we are, what we’ve done.

We’re experts at:

  • defending ourselves
  • blaming others
  • rationalizing
  • excusing

We are master pretenders.

That’s why when we go to church and everybody asks us, “How are you doing?” What are most of us going to say? “Fine.” Now, if you’re fine, it’s okay to say, “Fine,” but a whole lot of us aren’t fine.

There are women in this room crying themselves to sleep at night over some issue, some burden, something that’s heavy on your heart in your own life or a burden you’re carrying for a family member. But we’re all “fine.” Why? Because we’re scared to get real.

We think maybe nobody cares, or if they did know how I’m really doing, they wouldn’t accept me. They might reject me. We have fear and guilt and shame and pride.

So the Samaritan woman says, “I have no husband.” Meaning: “I don’t want to discuss this any further. I don’t want to go there.” She was uncomfortable. This was embarrassing. There were shameful things about her past. There was a fear of rejection, perhaps guilt, and those things keep us from coming out into the light.

We want God and others to think that we’re fine. We’re okay. We’re no better than others; we’re no worse than others; we’re good wives, good moms, good friends, good sisters, good people, good Christians, spiritual—so we hide.

When you hide behind a mask, it may be the easier way at first, but there are consequences. Think about this woman who was hiding behind her past, and the isolation and the alienation that resulted. You say, “How do you know that?”

Well, there’s a clue in this passage. It appears that this woman came to the well alone. We know she came at—what time of day? At noon. Noon was not the typical time when women would come to the well to get water. That’s the hottest time of the day. This is a hard chore. So they would usually come early in the morning or later in the evening when it was cooler.

But she comes alone at twelve noon. Why? It’s not like women. We women, we like to do things in droves, in packs. When was the last time you were out to dinner with some couples and a man got up from the table and said, “I’m going to the restroom. Would anyone like to come with me?” (Laughter) Not likely. But women? We do those things together. We do it in a crowd.

But this woman came alone. Why do you suppose? I think here’s a woman who was alienated from other women, who she felt looked down on her because of her past. She felt rejected, so she came alone. When we hide behind a mask, we’re not real with God. And when we’re not real with God, we can’t afford to be real with others, so we put up walls.

As we’re going to see, when we hide behind masks, we cannot really connect to God. We can’t be true worshipers of God. Oh, we can sing. We can put our hands up in the air, but there were a lot of us in the last few moments here, as Charles was leading us, who were going through the motions though, who weren’t really worshiping God. And do you know one of the reasons some of us can’t? Because we’re hiding; we’re covering. We’re putting up walls and masks.

So Jesus says to this woman, “Go get your husband.” He’s saying, “I want the truth, and if you’re going to get this living water I’m offering you, you’ve got to tell me the truth.” He wants the truth about who she is, where she’s been, what she’s done, what has been done to her. He wants the truth about her past and about her present, about the things she’s ashamed of, the things she doesn’t want anyone to know, about her need, and yes, about the sinful ways that she has tried to get those needs met.

Jesus wanted this woman to come just as she wasno pride, no pretense, no hiding, no trying to look respectable, no saying you’re fine when you really aren’t.

So verse 17, Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband.’” Now some of us, the problem was, we’ve read this passage so many times, we’re too familiar with it. But I want you to put yourself in this woman’s sandals. Here’s a total stranger. She's never seen this man before, and He says to her,

You are right in saying, "I have no husband," for you have had five husbands, and the one you now are living with is not your husband. [You are in an immoral relationship.] What you have said is true. (vv. 17-18)

Now, if you’re in the habit of marking in your Bible, let me encourage you to underline or circle that word true, because it’s going to come back in this passage. Jesus wants the truth. He wants it from this woman. He wants it from us.

We don’t know the details of why this woman had had five marriages, whether it was through death or divorce or both, but we know that she’s in an immoral relationship now, and she’s had a series of broken marriages.

The details aren’t really important. What’s important is that she knows that He knows, not only the number of marriages, but the implication is, “I know everything that’s behind every one of those failed relationships.” Busted! Caught! Exposed! Mask torn off! And that is when there is hope of getting that living water.

So Jesus taps into this woman’s history, into her pain, into her rejection, into the ways that she had been sinned against, but also into the ways that she had sinned. You see, the core issue was not the number of times she had been married or the nature of the relationship she was in currently.

The core issue was her broken relationship with God was evidenced by the wells that she was constantly running to, the wells of men in her case, and perhaps others, because we all have these wells, the wells she was running to other than Christ to try and satisfy the deepest needs of her heart. So we see that our inclination is not to be real but to hide.

But then this second observation that God sees behind our masks. He knows who we really are, not just the image we try and give to others, not just the impressions we carefully construct for others, but He knows the truth, the whole truth.

“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good,” Proverbs 15:3 (KJV) tells us.

The Psalms tell us,

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it all together. (139:1-4)

Jesus said in the gospel of Luke, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (12:2). 

First Corinthians 4, “When the Lord comes,” Paul says, “He will bring to light." He’ll put a spotlight on "the things that are now hidden in darkness, and He will disclose the [hidden] purposes of the heart” (v. 5). 

Hebrews chapter 4, “No creature is hidden from his sight, but we are all naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (v. 13). 

What’s the truth that you want to keep hidden? Can I just remind you, Jesus knows? He knew all about that woman in Samaria, and He knows all about you. He knows what others have done to you, the rejection, the abuse, the husband who abandoned you. The Lord knows.

  • He knows the things you’re not comfortable talking about.
  • He not only knows the things that have been done to you, He knows what you have done.
  • He knows about those habits, the over-spending, the debt, the addictions—television, movies, computer games, romance novels, food, alcohol, prescription drugs—the things that you run to to escape from the pain, to escape from the real world.
  • He knows about the anger issue, the temper issue. You’d never tell that to people at church, but Jesus knows.
  • He knows about the eating disorders.
  • He knows that there are women in this room who are estranged from their parents.
  • He knows about the multiple marriages, the broken vows, the broken covenants.
  • He knows about the immoral relationships before you were married.
  • He knows that there are women in this room and at sites all across this country who are right now playing with fire in an immoral relationship with a man that you met over the Internet, somebody you met at work.

No one else knows the things that you dare not breathe to the people who are closest to you, but He knows.

He knows things about us that no one else knows. He knows things about us that we don’t know or have never even acknowledged to ourselves, the things that Psalm 19 calls the hidden sins in our hearts.

He knows that there are some of us in this room who, from all appearances, really are doing just fine. Christian leaders, or leaders who teach Bible studies, you lead women’s ministries in your church. You have an impressive exterior, but Jesus knows not just the outside, but He knows the inside. He knows the hearts, the thoughts, the intents, the motives that people we smile at with this pious grin, but in our hearts, we can’t stand them. He knows it all.

He knows, and He’s waiting for us to get honest so that He can give us living water.

Leslie: Jesus offered some challenging words to a woman sitting next to a well. Those words are equally challenging to any woman who is willing to listen today.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been helping us understand the heart of those words from the book of John, and we’ll hear the second half of that message tomorrow. Nancy delivered it at a conference called “Free to be Real.”

We’ll send you a copy of that message on CD when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Just ask for it when you call 1-800-569-5959, or just visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

You have the opportunity to hear Nancy speak in a conference setting like we just heard. Revive Our Hearts is presenting True Woman '12: Seeking Him Together for Spiritual Awakening. I hope you'll join us September 20-22 in Indianapolis. You'll hear Nancy along with Priscilla Shirer, Joni Eareckson Tada, Mary Kassian, and Janet Parshall.

Tickets are going very quickly and we expect that the conference may sell out soon. So don't delay in getting the information at ReviveOurHearts.com.

A woman once heard Nancy teach on the woman at the well on a Friday night at a conference. She was so moved that she wrote a song about it. So she told Nancy about her song the next day and suddenly found herself put up on the platform to sing. Hear more of the story tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless othewise noted.

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