Authentic Christian: What does it Mean to Be One?
Who is someone in your life that you would consider to be a good Christian, an inspirational Christian, someone who personifies and lives as Jesus?
What are some of the perspectives that you’ve heard about Christians? Positive or negative.
What does it mean to be an Authentic Christian to you?
To faithfully follow Jesus, we need to personally know Jesus. In order to personally know Jesus, we need to intentionally set time and energy on the work of the Holy Spirit.
Grace & Shame
But Zack, I am not a good, tidy, smiley Christian. I swear, I make bad choices, I do things that I know I should not do. I do not deserve what Christ has done for me. I am too broken, I am too messed up.
This is a grace-denying lie that so many Jesus believing people have deep in their souls - that the grace of Jesus is for everyone, but I am not included - the things that I have done are too dark, too wrong, too far for me to receive the outstretched love of God reach me.
This is shame. This is that feeling that you get when you don’t hand in an assignment, or handing in an assignment late because you were up all night playing Apex. This might be that feeling that you feel when you can’t afford to buy vans, or a hydro-flask, or an endless supply of scrunchies. You might experience this because your grades aren’t what you hoped they would be at Brock. This might be the burden on your heart and mind for your own pornographic addiction or binge drinking mentality. This might be shame for the things you’ve done with the guys or girls in your class that you wish you never had. Or this might even be shame for who you are. For the fact that you don’t fit in because of how you look, how you identify, how you talk, or even which sex you are attracted to. These experiences, among so many other, create shame. They make us feel ashamed. Guilty. Unworthy. Excluded. Undeserved of love. Not only the love of friends, or family, but even the love and forgiveness of Christ himself.
And this shame stuff is powerful. Shame sets out from the beginning to destroy us by isolation. It isolates us from those who care for us. Because it causes us to become secretive. It keeps us in a cycle of making one bad decision after another. It feeds itself on our wrongful actions. Like the demogorgon in the last season of Stranger Things. The more shameful things that we do, or the more people that come to the demogorgon, the bigger it grows. The worse it gets.
Many of us here today are stuck in this shame-cycle. We are stuck in our brokenness. We feel like we aren’t going to be able to get out of this hole that we’ve dug so deep. So why try?
And guess what? This shame is not a foreign idea in the Bible. In fact, in the Hebrew and Greek, the word for shame appears 98 different times. Shame can also be translated as the word ‘filthy’ or a feeling of ‘filthiness’. We see Shame in Scripture, when it’s talked about as a punishment to the enemies of Israel. It is felt by Sarah when she is unable to bear a child to Abraham. Shame is experienced by the Israelites when Moses comes down from Mount Sinai with the 10 commandments to find them worshipping a big ol golden cow. Shame is all over the Bible.
"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:6-8
Yet Scripture tells us that God's love is most on display when it meets us in our shame. We are most powerless when we are most filled with shame.
And yet, an authentic faith names this shame, names this brokenness, and comes to God with a willing heart and trust that God can and will change our broken hearts.
Faith as Trust
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see - Hebrews 11:1
If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. - Romans 10:9-10
We trust that God is not only the one who put us here, who gave our lives meaning, and called us to living for Him -- but that He created us for relationship with Him.
This trust requires that we take what He says in His word, that we obey it, and live in response to it.
Trust in an action word. We are actively seeking to know more about God, to trust more wholly in Him.
This does not mean we cannot doubt or have questions, but that amidst our questioning, amidst our suffering, amidst the difficulties of life - we can trust that God has our best intentions in mind.
Prov 3:5–7: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.”
Hope vs. Faith
Faith believes that it is so now, and hope has confidence that it will come in the future.
“Faith is confidence in what we hope for.” Hebrews 11:1
Biblical hope is built on faith - it is a confident expectation that stems from faith.
It is believing that Jesus is the Son of God, sent for you. It is believing that even though the world is broken, even though we are stuck in our own bad decisions, even though we do not seem to have hope -- through faith in God, we are forgiven, we are loved, and we are given a hope that life is not meaningless.
Being ‘saved’ is acknowledging who you are and what Christ has done for you.
It is a turning of your life toward a purpose outside of our own physical desires.
It is an acceptance of the good news that at no cost to you, God sent his one and only Son to die on behalf of us -- even though we did not and do not deserve it. Jesus died for you. He loves you. He knows you. And He is calling you to follow Him.
Faith > Rules
Not breaking laws is not identical to obeying God’s will. Just as following the ‘rules’ of the Christian faith does not mean that you are a ‘good Christian’ nor an ‘authentic Christian’ it just means that you follow the rules.
A person could live life according to these practices and miss the will of God entirely because one can live a life of not breaking these rules but never live a life in the freedom of the Spirit.
Jesus came not to do away with the rules, but to shift our focus to say that being a Christian is not about following the rules so that you go to Heaven when you die.
Instead being a Christian is an opportunity for a full-hearted pursuit of Jesus, in the love and support of an authentic community.
This does not mean that you will never break the rules, in fact, you probably will every day.
Instead what it means is that Christ calls us to be true to what we believe, to be true to ourselves, and to earnestly seek Him – no matter our questions, doubts, or confusions.
What do you think about the rules or laws of the Christian faith? Do you see them in a positive light, negative light, both?