I’ve noticed something about our generation recently. We value authenticity above most other things. For example, many people would much rather hear a preacher honestly tell about his or her personal struggles than preach black and white statements about right and wrong. Not that this is bad necessarily …
Being intelligent, thinking people, we don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past. When we look at the religion of America’s past fifty years, we see ample legalism, judgmentalism, hypocrisy and the like. Many times these people were faithful church attenders, Bible readers, intercessors and Sunday school teachers. So what happened? Why were they so religious and, well, fake? Why didn’t the things they did all their lives sink below the surface and cause real change?
This might be the question we’re trying to answer for ourselves. Maybe it’s the question that keeps us from reading our Bibles on the days we don’t feel like it. Maybe it’s the question that keeps many from becoming an active part of a church. After all, we don’t want to be legalistic! We’re scared to death of reliving the dry and empty religion of past generations.
Here’s my thought: authenticity doesn’t mean acting on our feelings and desires. It is quite simply living out truth. For example, sometimes I don’t feel like going to work. It doesn’t sound like fun, and my attitude stinks. I go anyway. No one would refer to that as legalism, but it is a discipline. Similarly, sometimes I don’t feel like reading my Bible. Parts of it are dry and seemingly lifeless. I know all the verses about God’s Word being “living and active,” but some days it reads more like a textbook. In spite of the way I feel, I am living authentically when I do what I know is right. If I don’t spend frequent time reading my Bible, I am much more susceptible to false teaching. Not only that, but when I spend time in God’s Word, it has the power to change the feelings that don’t line up with my convictions.
Not everything about our grandparents’ faith was solid, but parts of it were. They probably had their names engraved into the church pew where they sat every week. Belonging to a church with this kind of faithfulness brings incredible stability. We were not made to attempt Christianity alone. Being involved in a church gives us relationships with people that will come to our weddings and buy us crock-pots, sit with us for hours at a Village Inn talking about life, or trade babysitting duties. Yes, this is old fashioned, but it is something many of us are missing. There is no new truth – truth is as ancient or even timeless as God Himself. The things that help us learn to live truth are just as timeless.
In order to live authentically, we must have three issues worked out in our lives:
1. KNOW WHAT YOU BELIEVE
Whether you were raised in a Christian family or just realized your need for God last night, your faith has to be your own. If you have the freedom, year-long Bible study programs are a great place to gain Bible knowledge (and make life-long friends in the process). Find books on apologetics, read your Bible daily and attend conferences. Become a well-informed, educated person who can explain the reason for the hope that you have. Being a Christian requires faith, but it doesn’t have to be blind faith.
2. LIVE WHAT YOU BELIEVE
Once you know what you believe, act accordingly. The world is full of people who don’t want to rock the boat. Don’t be one of those. Be willing to make tough decisions. Jesus had trouble in this world. If He did, His followers will also. Looking back through history, people that made the biggest difference in the world usually had the most difficult lives. Not to say life can’t be fun and exciting, only that it won’t always be comfortable.
3. BE A WORK IN PROGRESS
It’s all a process. Our thoughts and feelings are not what we wish they were. In fact, they won’t ever be perfect because our sinful nature will remain intact here on earth. This doesn’t make us hypocrites it makes us human. We know we are not what we ought to be, but our failures should drive us to humility and greater reliance on God rather than to compromise in the name of “authenticity.” Even the apostle Paul mentioned this problem in his, “I do what I do not want to do” talk in Romans 7. In the end he states, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” God is so merciful to us.
It’s going to be a long road to the place where feelings and truth match up. But here’s my hope: by the time I’m sixty years old, and have lived authentically my whole life, maybe I’ll be closer.
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