The internet seems like a really good place to write something about living, or trying to live at least, an authentic life. I thought that, because the internet in my experience is full of fake people. Either people with picture perfect lives, or even more commonly people who use the protection of anonymity to be a cyber-bully, to release the pent up frustrations of a broken life on others, but its ok, it’s just the internet right?
Authenticity is very important to me, it is a huge part of this journey that I am on. What got me thinking about the subject again was an excellent sermon last Sunday on the subject by Andy Tilley at my church. I decided to write down my notes and thoughts to share on here. The sermon was based out of Matthew 23, I’ll put the key parts here so you don’t have to run to another site to read it.
Matthew 23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted
The saying practice what you preach is nothing new. In Jesus’s time, the people he was talking about were some of the most respected in society. They were who the people looked to for guidance, they studied and memorized the scriptures more than anyone. They had all the right answers. Unfortunately, while they had all the correct information, they were not putting it into practice. I can relate, there are countless times that I have known what the right thing to do was, only to do something different. Sure most of the times it was not a conscious decision, but a decision born out of rituals of bad practice. Yet it was still the wrong decision.
Matthew 23: 27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
They would whitewash the tombs so that they would look clean, so that they would reflect the light. It made you ceremonially unclean (a bad thing), if you touched the dead, so the paint was a layer of protection. The comparison with the behavior of the Pharisees is clear to see. They may look all perfect and clean on the outside, but on the inside, they were rotting, full of death & Jesus knew it.
How do we apply this lesson to 21st century life? We have to look at ourselves and perform a self-examination of our authenticity.
A great place to start with this is with your online life, how are you presenting yourself online? Is the presentation you are giving of yourself online authentic? Or are you just presenting what you want people to see, or what you think people want to see?
Not only that, but are you judging yourself against other peoples online lives? If you compare your life to the happy snapshots of other people’s lives, the happy smiling photos taken 5 minutes before the meltdowns that don’t make it onto Facebook, you will always feel substandard.
Likewise, we need to examine our face to face encounters. Are you a different person depending on who you are talking to? Do you have one personality at work, another at home, another with your friends and another at church etc, etc. I have lived that life, it is exhausting, you don’t realize you are doing it, yet at the same time you realize you feel so empty inside. The reason for this emptiness is that you are not being authentic, you are not being who you really are.
That is what it all comes down to. We are all called to be the person we were created to be, not a mask wearer, not an expert in the art of using defense mechanisms. We are called to be the individual that we are, warts and all. Why then is it so hard to be the person that we were created to be? Why is it so hard to be authentic, to present our true selves, instead of what we think the world has told us we should be? Where do these defense mechanisms come from?
The single biggest cause is lies that are believed to be true. It could be something that was said to you when you were a small child that has stuck with you ever since, were you called ugly? Were you told you were not good enough? Did someone abuse you? Were you lead to believe directly or indirectly that your life had no meaning or significance? A lie believed to be true, will affect you as if it were true. The pain these lies cause, the hurt, this is what our defense mechanisms are born out of. We decided that we do not want to feel the pain again and so we develop techniques that we believe will prevent us from feeling the pain again. Sometimes they work, but if you decide that you don’t want to feel the pain of a broken heart again by never getting into a relationship again. You might be successful in avoiding another broken heart, but you will also deny yourself a chance at happiness, of love. Many of the common defense mechanisms have similar side effects.
Another cause in the Christian world, is not fully believing scripture. We can believe that God’s word and promises are true for everyone else, but not for us. For me it’s a whole other thing, God can forgive anyone, but not me, don’t you know what I have done? This of course is a lie, a lie that when accepted as truth will act like truth. You know who the father of lies is right? Not the Author of truth!
You have to learn to believe what God says about you to be true, not what people say about you, not what lies say about you and certainly not what the devil says about you. You cannot be fully loved unless you are fully known, this is why authenticity is so important to real relationships. This is also why listening to what God says about your identity is so important. Even behind all the masks, behind the lies, God still and already fully knows you, He made you, He knows you and He loves you. Let Him speak your identity into your life and live from that.
How do we get past being scared of who we are? The fear of being exposed? We trust in the Lord. We trust that the Bible is true, that Jesus is real and no matter what this world throws at us, that He will not abandon us. We must listen to God and not to men in order to find our identity.
25 Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.
Our number one priority needs to be to focus on pleasing God, not people. Funnily enough, personally, whenever I focus on pleasing God and not people, I find myself pleasing a lot more people anyway. There is something inherently pleasing to others about an authentic individual.
10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
I am who I am and that is all. Live from the approval of God, not other people.
1 Thessalonians 2
4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.
You being who you are, warts and all, is the best you that you will ever be! It is ok not to be ok, God wants to receive you right where you are. It is not ok to stay not being ok though, because God wants more for you than that and God’s people, his true people, want to help you.
You want the best example I have of not putting a false face on things, of being truly authentic? Look at Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew what had to happen, He knew what needed to be done, but in a moment of beautiful honesty, he asked God if there was another way. I don’t blame him, I’m out on getting crucified, save the world or not, I’m not up for it. Jesus on the other hand, even in this moment of asking if there was another way, true to form said, Yet not as I will, but as you will
Matthew 26: 36-39 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
You can watch the sermon here, I highly recommend it.