Striving to be Authentic
Authenticity is one of the core values of our society. We want people and products to be real and not some cheap imitation. For this reason authenticity should be highly valued. On the flip side is if a person or product is naturally bad, useless, or harmful authenticity is not something to shoot for. We have all witnessed people, in the name of authenticity, be cruel or demeaning. These people will say things like, "I am just the type of person who tells it like it is." When authenticity leads us to be unloving then it is time to rise above simply being authentic to truly becoming the person God created us to be. That is what true authenticity is all about.
While we might be deceived into believing that following certain primal instincts is what true authenticity looks like, the reality is that we cannot be truly authentic until we embrace the person God created us to be. Only God, the Creator, can tell us what it means to be truly human. In Jesus we discover what. It truly means to be an authentic human being. The reason we are so often dissatisfied with the way the people live and act is because in the deepest part of our hearts we know they are not authentically human. We are being deceived about who they really are.
I believe this is why the New Testament teaches us not to be a hypocrite. It is hard for a person to put their trust in God after a self-proclaimed Christ follower has deceived or hurt them. Please understand this: what we accept as true depends on our perceived trustworthiness of the source. Why would a person accept the Good News of God's love and forgiveness when Christians are gossips and grudge holders? If our lives do not bear the fruit of the Gospel then people will reject the Gospel, no matter how will we might present it.
In order to communicate the Gospel we need to do more than just claim to be a Christian, we must demonstrate that we are truly following Jesus. How we live is the most crucial evidence we can offer for truthfulness of the Gospel. Remember what the apostle Peter wrote:
Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ (1 Peter 3:15-16; NLT).
When Jesus sits on the throne of our hearts the way we live will be different. Living lives of hope, peace, and love in the midst of a life filled with tragedy, despair, and broken dreams will compel people to ask about the difference in our lives. To live like Jesus in this world will make us stand apart from everyone else.
How do we begin to live like Jesus? In Romans 12:1-2 the apostle Paul gives us four steps to help us become authentically human:
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (NLT).
The first step is that we must remember (I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you). God has graciously given us many blessings. From the gift of life to the provisions we need to the blessing of salvation. We need to be intentional and reflect on all the ways God has blessed our lives. This will help develop an attitude of thanksgiving in our hearts which will overflow into the way we live.
The second step Paul gives is a requirement we must obey (give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable). If we are to be authentic human beings we need to understand what our Creator requires from us. Paul here uses the illustration that we are to be living sacrifices to God. In the Old Testament we discover sacrifices offered to God were to be without blemish and the best portion of the flock or the harvest. The sacrifice always came at great cost to the worshipper. How does this apply to our lives? We need to recognize that the life of faith is will be costly to us. Being authentic in a world of fakes is not easy. We are no longer pursuing the agenda that the world gives to us, rather we surrender to the original purpose of our Designer. In other words our lives are to be totally devoted to what God is doing. We give ourselves totally over to God's way of life.
The third step that Paul gives us is the reformation of our minds (Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think). We are not transformed or reformed by our own efforts. As we surrender our lives to God He will transform us. This reformation is a reformation of heart and mind. It is a transformation that is noticed in the change of our attitudes, desires, and thoughts. The more we surrender to God the more we are changed from the inside out. Understand that for this reformation to really have an impact we have to use it to change the way we live. Reformation is God's way of directing us to the things He wants us to do. If God transforms our hearts and minds and we do not respond by changing the way we live then we are being poor stewards of His grace. We will return to the old way of thinking and being directed by the old passions. When we respond to God's reformation of hearts that is when we will become more authentically human.
The last step Paul provides is discovering the reason for our life transformation (Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect). The reason we need to be transformed is so we can live out God's purpose for our lives. The bottom line is that is the only way to truly be authentically human. We need to live out the original purpose of the Designer to be authentic people.
To be effective in our communication of the Gospel requires us to be authentic. It is through authenticity that people see the true difference Jesus makes in our lives. People can know what we say is true because they see it in our lives. This is why we need to strive to be authentic.