Authenticity. It’s a buzzword that’s everywhere. It’s in business. It’s in pop culture. It’s in the church. And while the term isn’t found when doing a word search in the Bible, the idea of being genuine and honest certainly is. The problem with authenticity is that it’s morphed into a cover for brazenly bad behavior even amongst Christians. People use crass language in the name of “keeping it real.” They treat others like dirt because “I’m tired of faking it.” They brag about – even glamorize – unwise decisions because “it’s who I am.” That’s not authenticity. It’s sin masquerading as authenticity.
True authenticity never requires crass language, putting others down, or bragging about sin. It simply means admitting our shortcomings and not pretending to be someone we’re not. But there is a right and wrong way to do that. The wrong way makes it all about us. Our “authenticity” is really just a cry for attention. The right way makes it all about God and others. That kind of authenticity comes when we maintain a posture of gentleness, humility, and repentance.
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously lived according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.” – Ephesians 2:1-3 (CSB)
Paul doesn’t mince words when describing our spiritual condition before Christ. You were dead. I was dead. We weren’t in need of a pick me up. We weren’t sick. We weren’t on life support. We were unable to do anything to change our condition. We couldn’t even want to be alive again because we didn’t know we were dead. We can push back and self-justify all we want. But the objective evidence from our lives was clear. We were spiritually dead and without hope apart from a supernatural intervention.
“When you enter the land of Canaan that I am giving you as a possession, and I place a mildew contamination in a house in the land you possess,” – Leviticus 14:34 (CSB – emphasis mine)
Mildew is a part of nature. Like all aspects of the universe, it is squarely under the control of the Creator. It cannot exist apart from the one who upholds the universe by the power of his word. Jesus said that God cares for both the birds and the flowers and therefore we need not worry. If God takes care of them how much more will he take care of us! Worry consumes us and yet nothing – not the birds, the flowers, or even mildew – is outside the control of our sovereign God. How different our lives would be if we remembered this truth.
“Yet he was compassionate; he atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them. He often turned his anger aside and did not unleash all his wrath. He remembered that they were only flesh, a wind that passes and does not return.” – Psalm 78:38-39 (CSB)
Even though Israel’s repentance was not genuine, God displayed incredible patience and compassion with his people. Although they did not keep their part of the covenant, he did. The infinite remembered the finite. Despite our relative insignificance in the grand scheme of eternity, God is gracious and merciful with us. So deep is his love and care for us that even in our sin, he did not destroy us but instead made a way through Jesus for us to be with him.
“But they deceived him with their mouths, they lied to him with their tongues, their hearts were insincere toward him, and they were unfaithful to his covenant.” – Psalm 78:36-37 (CSB)
When their situation turned for the better, Israel again wandered back into sin. Their repentance was not sincere. It was merely an effort to avoid the consequences of their sin. It’s easy to shake our heads at Israel but if we’re honest, we do the same thing. We honor God with our lips in an effort to get him to act on our behalf. But our motives are twisted. We want something from him so we feign contrition. In doing so we rob ourselves of the joy that comes from true repentance. May we honor God with our lips and in our hearts.
“Despite all this, they kept sinning and did not believe his wondrous works. He made their days end in futility, their years in sudden disaster. When he killed some of them, the rest began to seek him; they repented and searched for God. They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God, their Redeemer.” – Psalm 78:32-35 (CSB)
Despite God’s miraculous provision of food in the wilderness, Israel was not satisfied. The nation continued to grumble, complain, and long for Egypt. Only when faced with calamity did some turn back to God. We too have a tendency to leave God out of the picture until we feel that we have exhausted all the other options. When our backs are against the wall, we are suddenly willing to cry out to God. Oh that we would remember God’s work on our behalf when times are good and when times are bad.
“I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:12-13 (CSB)
Often times these verses are read in light of finding contentment in the hard times. That’s certainly part of what Paul says. But he also talks about being content in times of abundance. I’d argue that it’s as difficult – perhaps more difficult – to be content in times of abundance. The more you have, the more you realize what else you could have. Instead of enjoying the good gifts God has given, you tell yourself you need just a bit more to be satisfied. Ultimately, contentment is not about what you have. It’s about what you value. And the only way to value the giver above the gifts is through the enabling work of the one who strengthens you.