Saturday, October 22, 2011

Keeping It Real

There are a couple of blogs written by fellow missionaries that I regularly read and one theme that comes up quite often is that of authenticity, or being real in living out our faith.

Being real and authentic is something that I also try to do but is something I believe we will never achieve in this lifetime because we are, at our core, sinners.  That doesn’t mean that living our faith out as authentically as possible is something we shouldn’t strive to do, but our approach towards authenticity needs to the right one. 

Jeremiah 17:9-10 says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”  If that is the case, then even when we think we’re being real, we’re probably not.  Our heart tells us that what we’re doing is real, that we’re being honest, but are we?  Only God knows the true intentions of our hearts.  Maybe instead of striving to be real and authentic, what we should be doing is striving to be holy and in doing that we will arrive at truth, authenticity, and real, or at least as close as we can be in this corruptible flesh. 

In 1 Peter 1:13-16 Paul tells us to “gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’ ” 

I found an excellent writing on the subject of holiness that I encourage you to read.   That which sets the true child of God apart from all others is their faith and trust in God, evidenced by obedience to His commands even when they do not seem to make sense.”  One of the passages I particularly like in this article is “How comfortable we are to add God to our lives with little or no change necessary on our part. Such is not the message of the true gospel or the teaching of the Scriptures on the spiritual life. The Old Testament prophets, along with John the Baptist and then Jesus, called for a radical change for those who would trust and obey God.  Striving to be holy may not make sense because the longer we walk with Jesus the more aware we become of just what huge sinners we really are.  Make sense or not, it is what we are commanded to do.  In a search on I was not able to find any passage where believers are instructed to be "real" or "authentic", not one.  At least not the general definition of being real and authentic.  Holiness, or righteousness though?  The list goes on and on.   

The problem with striving to be real and authentic as I see it, is that too many times when we are “just being real”, what we are really doing is taking our liberty in Christ of not being bound by the law and giving that preeminence over our responsibility to be examples of Christ to all believers and unbelievers alike.  The sacrifice of Christ and the grace imparted to us because of the shedding of his blood did release us from the letter of the law, this is true.  But as followers of Jesus we are responsible for how we represent Him to the world.  As missionaries, whether we like it or not, we are viewed through a different lense and our words and actions can have an affect on other believers.  Again, like it or not, we are an example to others and that responsibility is not to be taken lightly.   Our primary goal should be to seek holiness and represent the love of Christ to the world.  At times, many times, that is going to have an impact on our ability to be “real”.  I’m not suggesting we should be phony, by any means, but what I am saying is that the fragility or stability of another believers faith and how our words and actions will impact our brothers and sisters in Christ need to weigh more heavily on how we conduct ourselves than our liberty to be “real” because we have been set free.  Our freedom in Christ is not a license to broadcast our sins under the guise of being real, resulting in leading others astray or causing them to stumble.  It is not a license to cause division or disunity in the body of believers.  We should, at all times, seek to lift each other up and encourage each other to live our lives striving for holiness.  At times that will include sharing our struggles with sin, but to wear them as badges of our realness, as evidence of our authenticity, is to cheapen the price of grace. 

I was particularly taken aback at one post I read recently, where the writer repeatedly and incessantly points out that only those he has chosen to be a part of his inner circle have the right to say anything about how he is living out his faith, how he is walking his walk.  Somewhat stunned, I sat there thinking “really?”  So let me get this straight, only those that fit into your already determined idea of what it means to be a Christian are allowed to weigh in on your words and actions in the name of Christ?  Well, that pretty much eliminates any possibility of being criticized.  Or corrected.  Scripture calls for believers to hold each other accountable.  Believers.  Not just our close circle of friends.  Which takes me back to the “heart is deceitful” passage.  If we only allow those believers that share the same set of rules for ‘how to be a Christian’ as we do to make any comment or observation about our walk, aren’t we putting ourselves on a self-righteous pedestal?  If we say that the comments of those that we don’t particularly like or agree with are irrelevant and don’t even warrant a nod, we are essentially saying that we have it all figured out, that we’re the ones that have it right.

At a meeting several years ago a man said something that will stick with me forever.  “When we get to heaven we’re all going to find out that part of our theology was wrong.”  Maybe, just maybe, those people that are offering constructive criticism, or comments contrary to what you hold to be true, maybe they actually know something you don’t.  Maybe they are further along in their walk and faith and have learned something that the Lord wants to teach you.  Maybe what they are telling you is that part of your theology is wrong.

Not ever critic speaks truth.  Everything must be weighed against scripture.  But to toss out a contrary idea because you don’t like it, or you don’t want to hear it, or it impedes your right to be real, is short sighted and pharisaical.

Holiness needs to be our focus and our goal.  Not holier than thou-ness, but biblical holiness.  To be like Christ, to be different from the world.  To be set apart for the good works ordained before the foundations of time.  Being authentic and real will be a natural result of striving for holiness. 

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