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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Authenticity

 This world is craving authentic people. It so desperately wants those who are genuine, who are real, who will radiate goodness into the lives of others. If we are honest, we would probably say that we desire this as well. And yet, when we continue to hide in our darkness, we are the farthest thing there is from authenticity. 
 I am attracted to authentic people. So, probably, are you. But strangely, while we are still behind the door, authentic people intimidate us. We feel inferior because we think we can never be like them. They almost appear to be too good to be true, to happy to be "normal." It seems impossible for us to be that real when we feel like we are always having to act like  something different from what we truly are. To a certain extent this is true because we can't open our eyes to a new reality until we know the One who Himself is reality. Unless we are willing to allow God to disrupt our world, to interfere with the false reality we have created for ourselves, we will never be able to experience true love, true acceptance, true wholeness...nor can we expect to give the same to others. The door that we hide behind is a barrier between us and the source of true life - that of a relationship with Jesus Christ. Most of the time, I don't think we ever stop long enough to truly ponder how much it must pain the God of the Universe to watch us living such an empty existence. He knows that, in order for us to have hope, to gain love, we must surrender. We must give Him the permission to come into our darkness and to bring us to something better beyond what we know. 
 The key to fully understanding and obtaining an authentic life is child-like faith. Children take almost everything and everybody at face value. Children are extraordinarily perceptive and extremely trusting. It's really hard to fool kids. The reason is because they haven't yet learned the opposite - they don't know what it's like to mistrust, to misunderstand, to mislead. Anytime, anywhere, what you see is what you get with a child. It's often not until the adolescent years that the genuineness leaves. In Matthew 18:3, Jesus told His disciples, 


"...Unless you change and become like little children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

He was trying to get them to realize that the one characteristic of a Christ-follower is the unity between the inner and the outer. Everything outward stems from the inward. Hypocrisy doesn't work - you can't claim to live one way and then go live another. On the outer side of the door, people live a whole life, a full life. Because they know how much they are loved, therefore they love. Because they know they are accepted, therefore they convey security. For them, there is no need to hid or defend themselves. They know how God sees them and feel no fear in His presence. Behind the door, however, is the exact opposite. Nobody can be genuine. Nobody is considered a "safe person." Everybody is called into question.
 There is an old Latin saying: "Esse Quam Videri." Translated: "To be, rather than to appear." If we desire to open the door, to leave the darkness and to be led toward the Light, we have to be humble enough to look into the eyes of Jesus and say, "Make me alive. I'm ready."
 Several years ago, I picked up a book that a friend recommended to me titled Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. I wasn't sure if I really needed to read the book or not, but I soon realized in the first few pages that it was going to change my life in a powerful way. 
 Idleman's premise is that there are two main groups in Christianity today: those who are fans of God and those who are His completely committed followers. Many times, the fans can seem as though they are followers, that they are all-in on what it takes to pursue God yet, when Go begins to really get to the heart of what following Him is all about, fans have a hard time with that. Most of the time, they turn their backs on Him and leave. Idleman states that, for Christians, 

"...Jesus wants to turn our lives upside down. Fans don't mind
Him doing a little touch-up work, but Jesus wants complete
renovation. Fans come to Jesus thinking tune-up, but Jesus
is thinking overhaul. Fans think a little make-up is fine,
but Jesus is thinking makeover. Fans think a little decorating
is required, but Jesus wants a complete remodel. Fans want
Jesus to inspire them, but Jesus wants to interfere with their lives."

This concept was essential for me in the rebuilding of my faith following my years behind the door. I realized that, for much of my life, I had lived the life of a Jesus fan. Thus, when hard times hit and my belief in God was tested, I had nothing to hold onto. I didn't want a Jesus who would interfere with my reality. And so, for a long time, the act continued while a patient Savior waited outside and door and kept knocking...and waiting...for me to decide to let Him in. 
 Each of us must come to terms with the choice we are faced with: are we going to be all-in or all-out? Are we really willing to truly do what it takes to follow Christ, or are we content to just be fans? Maybe we are even one of Christ's enemies...
 Perhaps one of the most thought-provoking passages in the Bible is found in Luke 9:23-25:

"Then he [Jesus] said to them all: If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses
his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the
whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?"

Here is where the real question lies. The shafts of light are shining into our darkness, penetrating with rays of intensity. We see them. We hear God calling. We know He's there for us but, in order to receive His life-giving hope, we're going to have to sacrifice. The part of us that wants to hold onto the script, to continue the act, to stay behind the door, is going to have to die. Our need for God, our desire for His love must overrule the fear of His judgement and trust that we will gain far more than we will lose. Yet still realizing that what we do lose will cost us dearly. The world may tell us that we have everything, but we feel so empty...we feel like we have...nothing. Jesus tells us that if we want to follow Him, if we want to leave our years of despair and searching behind, we will have to die - and to do it daily: die to our feelings of entitlement, die to our desire for control, die to our need for revenge, die even to our need for answers. We must come to the end of ourselves in order to find God. He cannot be discovered in the artificial, in the fake reality. This is not where He is. We will never experience God for who He is until we accept and understand our own emptiness...until we see our own need. 
 Fans want a little dose of god but still want to hang onto the old life - to be independent, self-sufficient, self-reliant, to be master of their own destiny. Followers simply desire God completely - to be yielded to Him, confident in Him, trusting in Him, to let Him control their futures. In letting go, they find the love they've always wanted. As Tullian Tchividjian points out in his book, Glorious Ruin:

"Only when we come to the end of ourselves do we come
to the beginning of God. This is a common theme in the
Bible - desperation proceeds deliverance. Grief proceeds
glory. The cross proceeds the crown. Powerlessness is the
beginning of freedom."

 The chaplain and the quarterback introduced me to a faith so warm, so radical, so inviting that I couldn't stay away. In short, through them, I came to know God. Because of the forgiveness and grace I was introduced to, I knew I wanted for myself the authentic faith I'd so powerfully witnessed. I didn't want to be a fan anymore. I was ready to be Christ's disciple. I was ready to follow.
 Before we can even consider opening the door, we must choose, for ourselves, what this means. Going forward, will we be numbered with the enemies, the followers, or merely with the fans? Will the shafts of light remain as they are, or will we let in the Light of the World? 
 God is calling us. Where do we stand?