This past Sunday Nick preached over our 3rd Church Value – Be Authentic. This type of authenticity is not about being “real” in a negative sense of defiantly holding our sin up in an air of pride, but by humbly pointing out our sin and struggles and seeking hope and rest in the only One who can possibly completely provide it: Jesus Christ. Christ loves us in the midst of and in spite of our sins, but didn’t leave us there, and as the church we are to be real with one another so we can pray for each other.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”
James 5:16 CSB
The 4 main points from Sunday about what authenticity looks like through Christ and within the church are:
- Determine your starting point. We’re starting in sin, but in Christ we’re freed from the guilt and will one day be out from under the effects of sin in this mortal life. Actually being truthful with your starting and ending point allows you to properly start and end that process and get to work in the meantime.
- Know the goal. We come as we are, but Christ in his mercy doesn’t leave us there. That’s the essence of sanctification, or the work that Christ is doing through the Holy Spirit in our lives now between coming to a saving faith, and eventually being with Christ in eternity. So the goal is to be healed of the effects of sin on us and to become more like Jesus each day. Nick pointed to this with the example of Christ and the adulterous woman in John 8:1-11. He judged her sin but forgave it and sent her out to no longer sin, unlike what the Pharisees wanted, which was to condemn her and put her to death. This brings us to the next 2 points about condemnation.
- An assumption of condemnation, which is the first roadblock to being authentic. The truth the story of Jesus with the adulteress portrays is that there is no condemnation for those found in Him, which is why he responds by telling her to go and sin no more. Likewise, the church is to be a place where we may make Spirit-led judgment against sin, but we do not condemn a person, only humbly invite them back into fellowship with Christ and His church. That’s not to say the fallen people that make up the church will never judge harshly without love, but as a church body we are to hold one another accountable in how we disciple others so that our actions will be Spirit-filled and reflect Jesus, otherwise we get the fourth point:
- Actual condemnation, which is the second roadblock to being authentic. When we allow ourselves or others within the church to be harsh towards others. By not judging them rightly with a humble, Christ-centered spirit, we will be spiritually and relationally harmful towards them, others, and even ourselves. The effects of not being Christ-like towards others are broad and unavoidable if not held in check by mutual accountability within the church body to do all things in Christ-like love. Paul tells us about the primary importance of love in regards to how we as Christ’s ambassadors are to act in this world in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. John tells us in 1 John 4:18-21 that there is no fear in love because anyone who truly loves God cannot hate a brother or sister. Paul and John are both pointing back to what Jesus taught, that the world will know us by how we love one another (John 13:34-35), and that we aren’t to recklessly judge others without being authentic about our own sins and dealing with them first, and thereby being able to help others through a position of humility (Matthew 7:1-7).
Bottom Line: Authenticity requires honesty, grace, and love, understanding the goal is to help each other become like Jesus.
Here is a quote that Nick shared on Sunday by Todd Wilson: “When Christians are confused about what it means to be real and authentic, the spiritual decline of the church will follow.”
I’ll leave you with a list of examples Nick shared of what false vs true authenticity can look like in the church:
False: Getting a load off our chest
True: Honest confession of sin
False: Hiding our real struggles, and putting on a mask
True: Come as you are
False: Being angry with those who try to help
True: Receiving help, with a desire to be more like Christ
False: Condemning people for their sin
True: Make a correct spirit led judgement about their sin, and gently/humbly help restore a person towards Christ-likeness
False: One person is always the confessor
True: Mutual confession and prayer for each other.