Get Real

“Authentic” is a popular theological term in the church these days. You might not have a clue what propitiation or sacerdotalism means, but all you have to do is talk about being authentic and you have trumped the conversation. I actually really like the word. But I’m afraid it is losing it’s meaning, and it may become as outdated as supralapsarian if we’re not careful. Authentic has begun to take on a cartoonic flavor. You can spot an authentic Christian five pews away (hold on a second, would an authentic Christian sit in a pew?) with their wrinkled clothes, unshaven face, and flip-flops. They have the “good to see you” nod down, and can give a one-armed man hug without even spilling their salted caramel latte. In small group they are better at asking questions than offering answers. And they are really good at pointing out when we are asking the wrong questions. Obviously I’m having a little fun here picking on the new authentic class. Sometimes I find myself playing the role quite well. As a matter of fact, even while I am typing this article on my MacBook Pro I am using chalkboard font on the notebook layout view so that I can feel just a little more authentic as a writer. I don’t want to be one of those stale bloggers who love being in front of the computer. I want to be the reflector scribbling in her journal under a tree. It’s all about the flavor. In many ways this was bound to happen. A bit of a protest was needed. I grew up in a church where the costume was a forced smile and the perfect life. It turns out that practically all the marriages in the balcony were falling apart. Nobody even knew until we all started dropping from the church like flies. But in reacting against the frozen chosen fuddie-duddie, or the fundamentalist Baptist with his over-starched tie, we have done something very dangerous. We have tried to downplay holiness. In our efforts to get real, I’m afraid that we have invented a new costume. The question is (see how much of a hypocrite I am?), how can we go to church and value it as a holy activity, without pretending that we are something we’re not? First, we need to recognize that as believers, we are a holy people set apart for God. Michael Horton likes to call the church “holy people and holy place”. Let's not profane this by making our covenant renewal service like any other common activity. It is a taste of our eternal Sabbath, where we worship our Creator and Savior as his bride. Here we receive Christ and all his benefits in a special way through the sacraments in which God has promised to work. This is real and this is amazing! Which brings me to my second point: I can’t believe that I am privileged to be there! Really? Really! In addressing the church in Ephesus, Paul gets real about himself even while exhorting others:
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (4:1-3).
This is a weighty charge. It calls for behavior that is worthy of our calling, without forgetting who we really are. I am a sinner who has amazingly been declared righteous on the basis of Christ’s work on my behalf. I have been fully forgiven because Christ has placed his special love on me, taking the full curse of God’s wrath for my sin. The Holy Spirit is now applying his work to me, transforming me into the likeness of Christ! Because I am confident of this very thing, I can be honest with my fellow believers. This is a concern of mine. Are we really behaving like we believe this? Are we able to ask for prayer in the areas we are struggling? How many in prayer request say, “Please pray for me, I have become so overly critical of my husband when I know that I should be encouraging him.” Or, “I constantly compare myself to others, what does this reveal about my heart?” And one that I need to be asking, “Why am I convinced that I am running the world?” And if not in a small group or Sunday school class, do we have relationships with those in the church real enough to share? Or are we just pretending to be authentic by wearing the costume? Lastly, the church is made up of more than just me. I don’t attend just to consume and go on with my business. The exhortation that Paul gives involves a relationship with Christ’s bride. Do you love his bride? Maybe my own costume is getting in the way of helping others who struggle. If I’m busy running the world, who’s going to be comfortable telling me that theirs is falling apart? Unity of the Spirit is a blessed thing. We are all sinners dependent on Christ for our righteousness. We are all desperate for the gospel everyday. Let’s encourage one another with this good news. That's as real as it gets.