A number of years ago when I was a college pastor in San Diego, we had a tradition after every single one of our Sunday night services—-me and a few hundred college students would head over and flood In ‘n Out Burger.  We would pack the place out and typically, that celebration would last well into the morning.  One night, I was getting ready to leave about midnight after hanging out with a group of students.  When I had pulled into the space (earlier that evening) there was no one parked in the space directly behind me.  I decided I was going to pull straight back and then pull out, because if you’ve ever been in a southern California parking lot, you know you have to sorta grease up to get out of most parking spaces.  They’re pretty tight.  I went into reverse—with a lot of my college students standing around talking—and hit a brand-new, black Mercedes Benz, as hard as I possibly could in a parking lot.  It still had the temporary license plate tags on it!  I get out of the car and there’s (I kid you not) not even the slightest scratch on this Mercedes Benz, but my Honda Element did not fair quite as well.  There was a nice chunk taken out of my bumper.  The next morning I tried to pop out the bumper.  It didn’t work out that well, but I decided I was going to keep driving the car.  I wasn’t going to spend the money and get it fixed.  I was just going to drive it broken.

I was thinking about the life of Jacob, one of the patriarchs of the Hebrew faith.  We’ve been studying his life over the last eight weeks and I think he’s living in the same way.  He’s living in a way where life is just a little bit off; life is just a little bit broken; life is just a little bit fractured.  Jacob, for the last twenty years, has lived with his crazy Uncle Laban.  Remember, he stole a blessing from his brother and was running in fear because his brother said he wanted to kill him.  Evidently, when you steal somebody’s blessing it doesn’t go over quite that well.  Jacob runs away from the problem.  Because of the way he’s programmed, Jacob is able to overcome a lot of things in his life.  Jacob is sort of a shady character and is able to manipulate situations and he’s able to get what he wants….most of the time.  But regardless of how far he runs and regardless of how much he accumulates, how much he has to his name—how many possessions, how many wives, how many kids, how much stuff—Esau is always in his rearview mirror.  Esau is always this fracture in his life.  Esau is always sort of looming in the shadows, looking to see…..are you going to address me?  Are you going to fix this problem?  Are you going to address this fear and this issue that’s hidden beneath the successes that you’ve and the things you’ve accumulated and the identity that you’ve formed?  Are you going address ME?  Esau looms and cries out from the shadow of Jacob’s life.  For 21 years he’s able to run from the problem.  But you better believe that for 21 years he never forgets.  Although it’s out of sight, it’s never out of mind, because Esau, in Jacob’s mind, is that THING—that person, that event, that decision, that failure—that shapes and forms his identity on a very core level of his soul.  Regardless of how far he goes, he can never outrun Esau.  And regardless of how much he accumulates, he can never get to the point where this person doesn’t matter anymore in his life.

I think a lot of us are like Jacob.  I think a lot of us are driving around with that fracture.  That crack.  Maybe there’s some words that have been spoken to us….some things we’ve heard from a very early age that just shaped our identity.  You and I know that regardless of how much we accumulate to our name, we will never get enough to squelch that name down far enough where it doesn’t determine the decisions that we make and the life that we live.  A lot of us are running from the things we are afraid of, on a very core identity level. There are things that have shaped us, events that have happened to us or decisions that we’ve made that have formed us and we’re trying our best to keep those voices and those names in the shadows as much as we can. But I’m here to tell you, Jacob was not able to outrun those things in his life and {Will you look up at me for just a second?} you won’t be able to either.  The running we often do and the brokenness that we have, the identity that we’re trying to fill up in the accumulation of the things that we have, the failures that we’re trying to out-achieve and the insecurity that we’re trying to build hedges around in our life, we will eventually have to stare those things in the face.  We’ll eventually have to address the fears that so often haunt us on a very deep core level of our souls.  For Jacob, Esau represents his insecurities.  Esau represents the life that he wished he’d had—the blessing that he wished was actually for him.  Esau represents THE thing that Jacob has been hiding from for decades.  And he can’t outrun it anymore.

I wonder if you’ll invite me in a little bit…..and I know that many of you don’t know me all that well, but I would love an invitation into your heart and into your soul and into your mind to just poke around a little bit today.  To allow the word of God to examine us and to ask some questions.  The main question I want to ask you this morning is is there something you’re running from?  Is there something in the very core of your soul that you feel like….man, this has happened to me or I’ve made this choice and therefore I’m unlovable, I’m unknowable and I don’t want anybody to get close enough to me to actually hurt me.  Is there something that you’re running from?  There’s something Jacob was running from.  His name was Esau.  Today we’re going to look at, after 20 plus years, Jacob finally encountering the thing that always lurked in the shadows.  The thing that remained, regardless of how big Jacob got and how many accomplishments he made.

Genesis 32:1-5 — You and I have an Esau in our life.  Turn to the person next to you and say, “You’ve got an Esau.”  We all do.  It’s typically not something we’re going to lead with in a small group.  Our “Esau,” our thing that we wrestle with is typically not something that we’re going to reveal to everybody in our life, but it’s completely unhealthy to reveal it to no one.  Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.  And when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God’s camp!”  So he called the name of that place Mahanaim.  {He’s saying, “Alright God, you’re with me in this.”  Remember, God was the one that said to Jacob, “Leave Laban and go home.  Go to the country that I’m promising you.  It’s your land, Jacob.”  This is God’s initiative.} And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, instructing them, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau:  Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have sojourned with Laban and stayed until now. I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male servants, and female servants.  I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.'”   What an interesting phrase.  What an interesting picture.  See, Jacob is getting to meet his nemesis, as it were, Esau.  What does he say?  Here’s my goal.  Here’s my desire.  Here’s my wish. After 20+ years, after I stabbed you in the back, I can imagine you’re going to be a little bit upset, but my goal in this interaction, seeing you for the first time in over two decades is that I might find favor.  That you might look upon me not in a way where you want to take me out back and kill me like you’ve said you wanted to do when I ran away, but that maybe time has healed this wound…….and isn’t it true that time does heal some wounds?  Some wounds time has a way of expanding.  Some wounds time has a way of healing.  Jacob doesn’t know which direction this is going to go at this point.  So he sends his men with a message:  I’ve got stuff.  I’ve got flocks.  I’ve got herds.  I’ve got people.  I’ve got wives.  I’ve got kids.  I’ve got….stuff.  These decades have been pretty good to me.  That’s the message.

Verse 6 — And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.”  {Now, if this is a movie…pause…slow motion.  Jacob’s jaw drops, his eyes big.  He knows he’s in trouble.  The music changes.  Verse 7.}   Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed.  {We can relate to Jacob, can’t we?  That thing that we have in our life….our Esau.  That pain that we’re running from.  That decision we’ve made that haunts us.  That thing that was done to us that we can’t get over.  I love the reality that the Scripture is grounded in.  Of course Jacob’s greatly distressed and afraid.  The last time he saw this guy he said he wanted to kill him and now he’s got 400 men coming with him, presumably not for a parade to welcome him home.  So yeah!  He was afraid so here’s what he does.}  He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.”  He is making a provision for getting his face kicked in.  He’s assuming…..this is not going to go well for me.  He’s doing what we do.  He’s making a contingency plan to overcome the fear that so often haunts us in our souls.  That’s what he’s doing.  He’s looking at the external circumstances and going, “Whew! I’ve got a battle in front of me that I know I’m going to lose!”

In verses 9-12 he prays.  We’re going to come back to that.  He prays and he asks God to deliver him.  Verse 13 — So he stayed there that night, {He’s encamped with two different camps with all of his stuff….all of his family and the things he’s accumulated:  the herds, the goats, the flocks, the wives, the children.  He’s got it all right near him.} …and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau….  (verse 17)  {He’s going to give his brother a present.  He instructed the people who were taking it to him….} “When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going?  And whose are these ahead of you?’ then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob.  They are a present sent to my lord Esau.  And moreover, he is behind us.'”  He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you find him.  Stop there.  Let’s get the picture in our mind.  Jacob is encamped.  He has two different camps, but at the center of the camp is Jacob.  And around him he has his wives, his children, his flocks, his herds.  He’s got all of his stuff surrounding him.  Here’s what Jacob does.  This is the picture of how he deals with the pain that is in the shadows of his life for 20+ years.  This is what Jacob thinks — I’m going to lob ahead of me….gifts.  I’m going to throw out there the best parts of me.  All my successes and all my strengths.  What Jacob’s going to do is be behind.  I’m going to lob my gifts ahead.  My gifts are going to do my bidding for me.  But me, the real me, the me that’s in pain, the me that regrets that decision, the me that’s afraid….I’m staying back because I’m not sure how I’ll be received.  I’m staying BEHIND. That’s Jacob’s thought.

Don’t you wish the Bible were applicable?  {I love the uncomfortable laugh.}  Yeah!!  We do the same thing, right?  We’ll let people see a certain part of us and typically it’s the good part.  Typically, it’s the part we’d like them to see.  We’ll let them see a certain piece of us, but the real us lags behind.  The real us stands in the shadows.  The real us still refuses to be known because the pain is so deep that we think we’ll be rejected if they know the real us.  So what does Jacob do?  He does what we all do — he insulates his life.  He plays the game.  He puts on the mask.  He continues to run from the thing he needs to face in order to grow to become the man that God is calling him to be.  Before we’re too hard on him, let’s just acknowledge that we often do the same thing.  We arrange the things around us to hide the pain that’s deep within us.  So that’s what Jacob is doing.  He doesn’t want to face it.  He doesn’t know how it’s going to go.  The Scriptures are really, really clear. He is distressed and afraid.  When that happens to you and I in the same way it happened to Jacob, it stirs up fear in our hearts.  The fear that we carry always leads to the facades that we wear.  The masks that you go to are a mechanism to cope with the fears that haunt you.  They always are.

My kids love to dress up and wear masks around our house.  On a daily basis we have a costume dance party in our home.  It’s wonderful.  We have little Batmen, little Supermen, little Spidermen running around on a daily basis.  It’s really cute……when you’re seven or five or three.  It’s not as cute when as adults we do similar things.  It’s not as cute for Jacob.  It doesn’t get the job done in a way that allows us to deal with the realities of life in a way that would lead us to be healthy people.  Jacob’s saying, “I’m going to wear the mask.  You can sort of see a part of me, but you can’t see the whole me.”  He wants to resolve the issue without exposing himself.  So he lobs the gifts ahead.   E.E. Cummings, the poet, said this: “The greatest battle we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.”  Jacob is in this battle.  He’s in this wrestling — Who am I going to be?  What is my life going to be defined as?  He steps into the same pattern that his ancient ancestors set up in the Garden.  Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed according to Genesis 2:25.  But when sin enters into the world, what’s the very first thing that they do?  They hide!  Because they have this conviction:  Who I really am cannot be found out.  If they really see me and if they really know me, there’s no way that they’ll still love me.  If they see the real me, they will run in fear because I’m messed up and I’m broken and so it’s safer to cover myself than it is to reveal my hurt.  That’s what they do.  That’s what Jacob does — he just lobs the best things in his life forward.  He embraces this false self as a defense and a protection.

Did you know that all throughout the Scriptures we’re called to not fear?  As if it’s so easy that we could just put together our to-do list in the morning — Laundry; Go to work; Call that person back; Don’t fear…..  Check! Done! Wonderful!   We know it’s not that easy.  So the Scriptures tie a lack of fear into the knowledge of who we are as children of the Most High God.  Look at the way this plays out in Isaiah 43:1 — But now thus says the Lord, {This is Isaiah the prophet speaking on behalf of God.} …he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:  “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  Don’t fear!  I know you!  Not the mask you, not the gifts you, but the real you.  I know you.  {Will you look up at me a second?} For some of you, you need to hear this.  There’s walls around your heart and you’re running and you’re hoping you can out-achieve that pain that you’ve gone through, that thing you’ve been……   This is a word for you this morning — He sees you AND He loves you!  He knows you AND He loves you!  Not the mask you but the real you.

I started to think through this story.  I started to think through my life and our life as a community of faith and I wanted to ask the question — what are some of the masks that we wear?  What are some of gifts we lob forward and lag behind in the shadows hoping that that thing will just simply go away?  Here’s the first I see in the passage.  It’s the projection of power.  The projection-of-power mask says, “Hey, Esau, in the 20+ years we’ve been apart, you may not realize this, but I’m sort of a big deal now.  I’ve got herds.  And I’ve got flocks.  And I’ve got wives.  And I’ve got people.  And I have….and I have….and I have.  Esau, you don’t want to mess with me.” He’s (Esau) got 400 people?  I don’t want to mess with him!  Initially, here’s the mask — I have…..I have…..I have.  We have this projection of power that we wrestle with in order to not allow people to see the broken us, but to see the best pieces of us.  Here’s the way I’ve seen it played out in my life — I see it play out when I make a sarcastic remark in order to remind somebody I’m better than them.  I see it play out when I say something condescending about somebody else.  Here’s my conviction:  if I can make myself look a little bit better by making them look a little bit worse, well, maybe I can continue to run from the things that really are haunting me.  I see it play out in our culture.  I haven’t gone this direction obviously, but some people are really into their physical strength.  That might be my deal, but it might be yours.  It might be the type of clothing that we wear, the type of bank account we have—this projection of strength—I’m stronger than I actually am.  I have more power than I actually do.  Do you know how many people are in debt up to their eyeballs because they’re addicted to that mask?!  If I just buy a little bit more I’ll be okay.  If I put off this projection of I’ve-got-it all-together then I’ll be okay.  For some people, that power mask or the projection of power is about manipulating all the people and the things around them to do exactly what they want them to do.

That’s one of the masks Jacob wears.  Here’s the next.  He instructs them first.  So he’s sending people out ahead of him.  He instructed the first, “When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’ then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob.'”   And he goes on and he goes on.  Here’s what he wants to do.  He wants down to the very words to control what his servants say in order to project a certain image.   The person whom I serve, Jacob, is not only a big deal, but he is a guy who, in the last twenty-something years, has really got his stuff together. Here’s the mask — the mask is the persona of perfection.   I’ve got all the flocks.  I’ve got all the wives.  I’ve got all the kids.  I’ve got everything I need, thank you very much says Jacob.  What he fails to mention is that there is something that’s been haunting him for 20+ years that he is unwilling to stare in the face and address.

This is my mask—the mask of perfection.  I don’t know where it came from, I’ve done some digging there. I have this conviction that as a pastor I want to be the best pastor I can and there’s something good about that. There’s a weightiness about the calling that I gladly embrace, but can I tell you this is my mask—the mask of perfection.  Anyone else want to say, “Me, too.”  It’s this conviction that if I don’t serve everybody perfectly, I’m going to let them down and then somehow the world’s just going to spin out of control because it all depends on me.  How crazy is that?!  How insane is that?!  But it’s true.  Here’s what this mask says:  You can see my successes, but you cannot view my failures.  I’ll share bits and pieces, but I won’t share the things that really sting and the things that really hurt.  I was astounded as I was doing some research, that Maya Angelou, after writing eleven best-selling books, after being nominated for three Grammys and a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award, said in one of her more recent books:  “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now.  I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.”  That’s the mask.  What are the results?  People who wear this mask are often fairly self-conscious.  They’re often pretty hard on themselves.  They’re often fairly hard on others, because they don’t want others to blow their cover.  The people around them have to play the game also.  Ernest Kurtz in his book The Spirituality of Imperfection says: “Perfectionism is the greatest enemy of spiritual growth.”  Oh man!

Finally, after they go and see him, here’s what Jacob commands his servants to tell him:  …and you shall say, ‘Moreover, your servant Jacob is behind us.'”  {He’s playing the game still.  That’s where he is.}   For he thought, “I may appease him {I know I stabbed him in the back and I know I lied and I know I ripped him off, but maybe, just maybe, I can give him enough stuff to make him forget how badly I betrayed him.}  …with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face.  Perhaps he will accept me.”   Maybe I can be okay after I’ve sort of paid him off.  After I’ve made him happy.  These are the masks we often wear, aren’t they?  The power mask, the perfection mask and then finally, the people pleaser.  I want to appease him.  I want to make him happy.  I want to give enough that what I’ve stolen will be outweighed by the gifts that I deliver.  Instead of being honest, I’m going to try to make him happy.  That’s the core of a people pleaser.  Instead of honesty, I want to try to make the people around me happy, so I’ll give you what you want; I’ll tell you what you want to hear, even if it’s not true; I’ll oversell my abilities in order to earn the validation from people around me.  But if you wear this mask, here’s what you know:  attached to this mask is a huge amount of anxiety, is there not? Because the question always remains—have I done enough to make ________ happy?  This mask in a marriage leads to destruction, leads to pain, leads to hurt.  This mask in a workplace leads to walking on eggshells and constantly wondering, “Am I enough?  Have I done enough?”  It leads us to compromising our integrity, doesn’t it? We tell people what they want to hear instead of what’s actually true.  Paul says if you’re going to be one who is a messenger of the good news, we have to say no to this mask.  We have to say, “Alright, God, I’m not just going to tell people what they want to hear.  I’m going to tell them the truth because I believe the truth is what’s best for them.”  So he’ll write to the church at Galatia: ….am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal. 1:10)  Why? Because the gospel’s offensive.  It’s not what people wanted to hear in Paul’s time and in the church at Galatia and the surrounding areas.  It’s typically not what people want to hear in our time either.  Sometimes it’s easier to wear the mask, isn’t it?  Sure, all roads lead to God, even though that makes no logical sense whatsoever. Sure, we don’t believe Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  We’d rather just make everybody happy and appease everybody than telling them the hard truth—-there’s no salvation outside of Jesus the Messiah.  That there’s no forgiveness of sins outside of the atoning death of Jesus the Christ, who, on the hill of Calvary 2000+ years ago, took your sin, your shame, your guilt, bore it on the cross in order to give you freedom.  There’s nothing outside of that, friends.  Oftentimes though, we will choose to wear the mask instead of delivering the truth…..in a way that’s loving, please hear me on that…..and genuine.  When we wear this mask, we turn life into a performance.  I’ll say it like this:  the things that we want to pacify, that we’re content pacifying……  So, Jacob wants to pacify Esau. He just wants to be okay—-he and Esau.  Let’s just sort of sweep this under the rug, let’s move on.  I’ll lob my gifts forward and you can do with them what you please, but let’s just move forward. The issues that haunt our soul, if we are content to pacify them, we will never make peace with them.  We never will.

The mask of power.  The mask of perfection.  The mask of people pleasing.  Jacob wears them.  Maybe you wear one of them also.  Could we all agree though, that that is an exhausting way to live?  Feeling like we always have to lob our gifts forward and wear a mask and do the masquerade ball every second of every day, in the hopes that we won’t really be found out.  That’s an exhausting way to live.  The Scriptures would invite us to be us….to be us vulnerably….to be us authentically….to be us honestly, because what I continue to hide, God cannot heal.  What we continue to hide, God cannot heal.  It’s interesting to me that this tension resides in Jacob’s soul, in his life.  Look at the way that this plays out, this tension that he’s walking in.  In the very first part of the this verse we read it.  He was saying that his goal was that he might find favor with Esau.  I want to appease Esau.  I want to be liked.  I want to be okay.  I want to sort of sweep this under the rug.  In verses 9-12, he has this really beautiful prayer, where he pauses and goes I have 400 men bearing down on me, but I’ve got a promise undergirding me.  I’ve got 400 men coming to make war, but I have a God who’s declared my worth.  In verses 9-12, he says:  Please deliver me from the hand of my brother….  He turns back to God and says God, you’ve gotta move, you’ve gotta work, you’ve gotta do this.  If you read these verses, you’ll see that they’re admirable.  And you’re rooting for Jacob as he prays these things.  Yeah, Jacob, do that!  Walk with God! Believe His promise!  Call out for His deliverance!  Walk in His way!  Then he reverts back to:  that I might appease him and that he would accept me.  I love this.  Anyone want to say they don’t live in this tension every single day?  I’ve got to make a way.  I’ve got to find favor.  God, deliver me; it’s only by you!  That I might appease him.  That I might be accepted.  Right?  This yo-yo of the life of faith.  One moment we’re down, the other we’re up.  I love that the Scriptures are so honest that they would say to you, even the great patriarchs of the faith struggled with the exact same thing.

It’s in this moment of tension—-Jacob wrestling with what direction will I go? who will I become? will I walk in the way of faith or will I walk in the way of fear?—-he encounters God.  God touches him and God blesses him and God names him and God stirs something in him. {We’re going to spend a whole message on that when we pick up our series in the life of Jacob in the coming weeks.}  God touches him and ignites something in his soul that allows him to live in the way of faith.  Look what that looks like in Genesis 33:1-3 — And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him.  So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two female servants.  And he put the servants with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. {He’s not playing favorites!  Why does he put Leah in front of Rachel?  So she can be a shield, right?  It’s I want to protect the things that are most important to me and put them in the back, which is why heinitially was in the back.}  He himself went on before them…..  So drastic difference from chapter 32.  In chapter 32, he’s behind them.  In chapter 33, he steps out from all of his masks.  He steps out from all of his stuff—-all of his protection, all of his insulation, all of his achievements, all of his wealth, all of his prosperity, all of the things he said I’m using this to shield me from actually being known by the person that has the ability to hurt me more than anybody else.  I’m stepping out from behind it.  Here’s the truth of the matter, friends, you and I can only be valued by others if we’re vulnerable before others.  So he steps out and bows down—-not in a sense of worship, but it would be akin to saying, “I surrender. I’m done. I’m not playing the game anymore.”  He bows down before him in a position of vulnerability, in a position of honesty, in a position of brokenness.  If fear causes me to wear facades, faith is the thing that empowers me to live in freedom.  Ironically, the only thing Jacob needed to do the entire time to live the life God was calling him to live was to step out from behind the mask.  To step out from behind all the stuff he’d accumulated and that he’d built his life on in order to run from the thing that was most painful to him.  The picture in the beginning is Jacob surrounded by his stuff.  The picture in the end is Jacob on his hands and knees and face, vulnerable, honest, open and free.  And free!  Saying to his greatest fear—to the thing that lurked in the shadows for twenty years—do to me what you must, but I refuse to continue to run for the rest of my life.

You know what Jacob finds?  Probably the same thing you found.  But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.  Ironically, what Jacob’s been running from for 20+ years was not Esau.  What Jacob’s been running from for 20+ years is…….himself!  Somehow, Esau had come to a place where he was going to forgive his brother…..that blood was going to be thicker than betrayal.  But oftentimes what happens in situations like Jacob and like us, where we wear the mask, is that we project on the other people the pain that we feel and the way that we think they’ll respond, because we think its the way we would respond.  What we often find, or at least what Jacob found, is that an anticipated attack turned into an emotional embrace.  You might have found the same thing when you’ve been honest about something that’s been going on in your life with somebody who you love deeply.  You may have found the same thing when you came and said hey, this is the thing I’m struggling with….that people didn’t shun you, they actually surrounded you.  That they loved you genuinely in the midst of your brokenness.  Jacob was never really fighting against Esau; he was fighting against himself.  When you stop trying to fix Esau and simply walk by faith, you find the freedom that God designed you to live in.  Friends, here’s been my prayer this whole week—-allow us to see what are the Esaus in our life and then allow us to confront them with honesty, with openness, with vulnerability saying, “This is really who I am!  No masks!  No pretension.  Just vulnerable honesty.  The real me.” {Look up at me just a second.}  The greatest thing you’re running from, that you’re hiding from, has already been handled.  The King of kings and the Lord of lords clothed himself in humanity.  He stepped down into his creation.  He took your sin, your brokenness, your shame, your separation from God upon himself.  He bore that pain, nailed to the hill of Calvary and he took your sin and he gave you his righteousness.  The only way you can be clothed in his righteousness alone is if you come out of the shadows and say, “This is who I am!  I’m broken and yet loved.  I’m in pain, yet there’s provision.  I’m messed up, yet there’s mercy, even for me.”  When you come and you bow prostrate before the throne of God—-in the same way Jacob bows before Esau—-what you recognize is that the thing that you’re running from is already been handled by God himself.  He clothes you in His righteousness.  He declares his love.  Friends, there is no more guilt, no more shame, no more running! Come out of hiding and RUN to the throne of grace.  There’s enough there for you, in the name of Jesus!

Father, that is our prayer this morning.  Before we go running out of here, I want to invite you to take a deep breath.  Is there a conversation you’ve been running from that you need to have?  Truth in your life that needs to be spoken?  A pain or a regret, a failure that needs to be addressed?  There’s no healing if there’s no honesty. Jacob found it.  Father, would you remind us today that there’s enough grace at your throne to cover even the most wicked of offenses, the most deepest of pains, the most consuming regrets.  Father, by your love, would you call us out this morning—out of hiding, out of running—into grace.  As we bow at your throne, in faith, may we find the freedom to no longer live in fear and behind the masks, but to walk with you in the freedom that you have purchased on our behalf.  I pray it over my friends this morning.  Help us step out.  In the name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.