Monday, November 16, 2015

Christian Authenticity

Authenticity is contrasted with going along with the crowd. It is often regarded as lazy, thoughtless, and a being imprisoned by what others think. It is what Disney calls us to, saying "be yourself".

There is something very dangerous about this. It leads, in the form it is in today, to an individualistic rejection of authority, of doing things one's own way without much thought to how it will affect others, which is contrary to what the Bible teaches. It is, then, solipsistic in the end.

But we desire something in this. What is right and true and good in this which is now perverted?

The end of the above article sparked the thoughts to follow. In brief: it is when we recognize that we are under the good authority of God that we may ignore what others may think and truly find ourselves. It is only then that we may truly pursue what is truly mot valuable to us, to love the sweetness of God.

As Christians we are authentic in that we recognize who we truly are, as in the image of God, yet sinners, and are freed from sin, so that we are now justified sinners. We need not be concerned with what others think of us, for it is the judgment of God with which we are concerned.

We are enabled to do as we desire, and to desire what is truly good for us. Do what you want! But only once the Spirit has changed your hearts so that you want what is good. This is freedom: to love what is good.

Certainly, freedom is not to be found in mere legalistic obedience. The obedience to what others--not ourselves--desire is legalism. "Affirm this" "belittle that" this is the law of our age: to affirm all those who let anyone be, lest you be shamed and hated. The obedience to what God commands is an obedience born out of love for God and is therefore a free obedience, and because we know that our lives are hid with Christ, we are not afraid of the merely human punishments. Thus we are freed to do what we desire, when we desire the holiness of God.

This is not a freedom from right and wrong, but a freedom to do the right and avoid the wrong, as the Holy Spirit empowers us. And it is a freedom to admit when we do wrong, for our Father who is in heaven forgives us--even cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

This is not a freedom from authority, but a freedom found in the right authority. We will regard someone as the authority. If we regard others as our authority, then we will be enslaved to them. If we see ourselves as the authority, then we can never be wrong, and we deny our experience of life as finite and fallible. If you are the authority, then why do you feel guilt or shame? Why is there any need to apologize? Why do you submit to teachers who grade what you write, or to courts which say "do this"? If you are the authority, then what about me? If you are the authority, then truly "no rights, no wrongs, no rules for me"--or anyone else. Then why are you bothered by famine and war and terrorists?

Then to whom shall we submit as the rightful authority? Some say we must muddle along, doing as best we can. Then there is no one to adjudicate right from wrong, no court to which we may appeal for justice on the earth. In the end, we must appeal to some authority, and we must hope that someone will bring justice.

Do you appeal to the right side of history? How do you know that it will not turn out bad for you? Come, we expect justice. We all yearn for justice. If there is no one who will finally bring justice, then we yearn in vain. If it is up to us to bring justice, then we make ourselves the authorities.

Is there no way out? Is there no authority? Is there no one who will bring justice?

We proclaim that there is one to whom all authority has been given, who died to save us from our sins and brings justice, who will come again to judge the living and the dead. We are not the authorities, but we submit to the one who is. In this we find freedom from oppression, freedom from striving, and freedom from guilt and shame. Yes, even freedom from sin.

Therefore we proclaim the one who is greater then us. We proclaim because we are under compulsion, for so great is our love for him who saved us that we cannot resist but are burdened for those who have not heard that there is a king in heaven who will bring justice.

And because the one who saved us was regarded as a sinner, as accursed, so if we are counted sinners and accursed for his sake we will rejoice in that we are counted worthy to share in his suffering. I say "for his sake" for we do not desire to be counted sinners and accursed as those who are truly sinners and accursed are, those who reject our Lord and refuse his mercy. But if the world calls us evil for obeying the Father who made us at the first and who remade us in the image of Christ, then we have no reason to repent for we know that the God of justice calls us good and righteous and perfect in his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

So we do what our God commands, and we can do nothing else without being inauthentic to the new nature which has been placed within us by the Holy Spirit. For we see that we have been made a new creation, and are now called to live like it, to live in the truth in which we have been called. Indeed every command which we have from God is this: to be who we now are, his people, holy and blameless. To do otherwise would be the true being false to ourselves. And so we call out with the Gospel to those lost in darkness, to those who do not know themselves, that they are lost and in need of a savior, and in that savior they will find themselves.

The world is desperate to find themselves, but we have found ourselves in Christ. The world thinks it is free because it is a slave to its passions, but we have been freed from worldly passions, having been given the desires fit for us, the true love which is from God, and which has been evidenced in Jesus Christ who died to save us from our sins, not being willing to lose his handiwork, but being merciful towards us. The world does not know this love, and yet calls out "love, love" where there is no love.

Surely, their hatred devours them. For we hear how depression is on the rise, and though we know that we remain troubled by such things even as Christians, yet we also know what the world also knows, that depression is often an anger turned in toward oneself. But who are we to judge ourselves in this way? The Lord judges and he has justified us. But the world knows nothing of this justification, and so they  hate themselves for their imperfections and even for their finitude, for they think they are right to judge themselves, being their own authority. Behold, if we they have no grace toward themselves, how will they show grace to others? For this is why many commit suicide: because they have no hope. Yet we do have hope, and so let us cling to that hope and share that hope that some might be saved, and not only from this death but from the one to come. For it is by this hope that we hold on to the truth, not submitting to the falsehood which surrounds us, but keeping ourselves holy in the Lord.

We ourselves are not yet wholly purified, though we are pure before God, and God holds out mercy to us when we fall. So, then, if we find that we judge ourselves as if we were the authority in such matters, we must reach out to receive the grace which we received at first, to receive forgiveness from sins and remember that God has loved us with an unfailing love, not because we were good but because Christ is good and paid the debt we owed. Indeed, see how unlovable we find ourselves in such times, and know that we are more unrighteous in ourselves than we know, and then behold the grace of God, that he should love us so much that he would save us by sending his son, Jesus Christ our Lord, that whoever trusts this Jesus for forgiveness of sins is forgiven.

So it is that we are free, because when we sin we have forgiveness through Christ, and because we are being made perfect like Christ. So that when we find ourselves perfect in heaven--what we cannot imagine now--we shall say "this is who I truly am and was, and now I will be" yet now we must die to ourselves according to the flesh that we might become more like we will be, as we eagerly anticipate that perfection which is now so alien to us that we grasp for our old selves, though they are not who we were made to be. We find ourselves in this age so inauthentic that we do not know what true authenticity would look like, but in the day to come we will be fully, as we were meant to be, and as we are growing into, remade in the perfect image of Christ.

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