Authentic Christian Living

2 Peter 1:3-11

 

These days it is very easy to create an amazing image of ourselves. We craft our Facebook posts, Tweets, and Instagram posts in such a way that portrays us as being flawless or as having our lives perfectly together. We often market ourselves as something better than we are.  God has called us to genuinely live out the faith we speak so loudly of. To be authentic with God we must remove the masks we have given ourselves and others. We are authentic when we view ourselves as who we really are, the good, bad, and ugly.[i] At the heart of every believer should be a desire to please God in all of life. An authentic believer constantly strives to become more like Christ.

Free Super Bowl Tickets

Imagine you have just received a pair of Super Bowl tickets from a friend.  Your favorite team is competing for the national championship. Without checking into the validity of the tickets you begin the process of reserving your hotel and booking a flight. You are excited about attending your first Super Bowl ever. Game day arrives and you check in at the ticket gate only to discover that your tickets are phony. In fact they came from the Lucky Charms cereal box.  At this moment your temper begins to rise. Your friend gave you an artificial ticket. You wanted the real thing, but instead have been given an artificial representation.  The world is waiting to meet the real Jesus while you and I live out artificial lives. The world outside the church desperately needs the Truth that you and I know is found only in Jesus, but their eyes are clouded by our artificial lives. An authentic Christian constantly strives to become more like Christ.  

Living an authentic Christian life: 3 Keys

Just like no one wants the fake game ticket, no one wants to see an artificial person of faith. Peter knew that the Gospel was seen as powerful when people genuinely lived a different life.  He also knew that the Gospel was adversely affected when Christians failed to live up to the demands of the Gospel. 2 Peter 1:3-11 gives us three keys to living an authentic Christian life.

  1. We must recognize that God alone is the source of our new identity. vv.3-4

It is impossible to live an authentic life if we fail to acknowledge to source of our new nature. The work of Jesus Christ in the Cross/Resurrection event is the only means we have of being made right before the father. Peter writes, “His divine power has given to us all things pertaining to life and godliness.” (v.3)  Peter emphatically connects what he is about to say with God’s power and grace. In fact, Peter is writing to those who have obtained a like precious faith by the righteousness of God. (v.1) The new nature enjoyed by the believer is possible only because of the work of Christ on our behalf.

In Genesis 1:26 we read that we were created in the image of God. Something happened to cause His image in us to be seriously damaged. We sinned against him and His image was marred, almost unrecognizable to us. God, in Christ, is restoring His image in all of creation. Our nature is contrasted with the perfect and holy nature of God. Peter writes that by the virtue and glory of God we have been given promises that we may take on a new nature. (v.4) This new divine nature enables us to escape the lustful corruption that is in the world. Living an authentic Christians life requires that we first acknowledge God alone as the source of our new nature.

  1. We must intentionally decide to become more like Christ. vv.5-9

Our new nature is a result of God’s working on our behalf. His image will not be perfectly restored in us until Jesus returns. However, that is no excuse not to make a clear decision to grow spiritually. An authentic Christian is one who intentionally decides to become more like Christ.

Many people neglect holiness in their own lives because they love the excuse, “No one is perfect, so why should we try?” Truly none of us are all that God has intended us to be, for we have all fallen short of his glory. (Romans 3:23) We are absolutely correct when we insist that our justification comes only through the work of Christ, but sometimes we forget the second aspect of our salvation sanctification, or the process of becoming more holy. Justification deals with the problem of guilt caused by sin and sanctification deals with the problem of our sin nature, also called depravity. Remember what Peter said in verses 3-4, His divine power has given us all things relating to life and godliness. God has given us all we need to become new creatures. Because God has graciously worked in our hearts and made them new, we must work at becoming more like Him. Peter gives us 8 attributes of holiness that we should work to develop within our own lives. These 8 attributes exist together and cannot be separated.  Peter encourages us to “diligently pursue” these things.

  1. Deepened faith: Faith is the foundational Christian virtue. Growing faith is an increased trust and dependence on God.
  2. Virtuous Character: God has called us to faith by His own glory and virtue. Because God is perfectly good and virtuous, as His new creatures, we should be also. Virtue entails all that refers to a high moral standard. God does not make a standard, He is the standard.
  3. Knowledge: This is the specific ability to discern God’s will and orient one’s life in accordance with that will. It is the wisdom referred to in proverbs-it is knowing the right thing to do and why. We grow in this knowledge as we expose ourselves to solid Bible teaching and submit ourselves a supporting community of faith.
  4. Self-Control: Self-Control enables us to avoid falling into various temptations that seem unavoidable in our world. This virtue is also listed in the “fruit of the Spirit” passage.
  5. 5. Increased perseverance/endurance: This refers to the ability to remain steadfast under trial. There are many trials in the Christian life, like loved ones being diagnosed with cancer, financial pressures, and death. Jesus promised his followers that they would indeed have persecution if they chose to follow him. Authentic Christians will not flee at the first sign of danger, rather they will rest in the hope and power of God to deliver them. You and I may see a day where we are called to stand up for our faith. Will we have patient endurance?
  6. Godliness: Authentic believers work at developing a love for God and His standards. This is the goal to which knowledge of God should lead. Godliness is the behavior expected of those who have come to know and love the God of the Bible.
  7. Brotherly Kindness: Peter should not have to tell us to treat fellow believers kindly. The way we treat each other is noticed by those who are outside our community of faith. Christian people do not run over each other. They treat each other as those who have been redeemed by the marvelous grace of God. We treat each other with respect because we have been made in His image. If we are arguing and fighting among ourselves, we are not representing Jesus well. Will Harmon has said, “No more! It’s time for us to say ‘No More’, ‘No more fussin’, fight’n, and feudin!”[ii]
  8. Love for God and others: This attribute of authentic godly living connects all the others. The Greek term Peter uses refers to brotherly love. The same term is used for brotherly kindness and brotherly love. That is we treat everyone like they are part of the family, like they belong with us. All of the Christian life revolves around love for God and love for others. We cannot love others properly if we don’t first love God. We love Him because He first loved us. Authentic Christian living is motivated by love.
  9. If we refuse to live an authentic Christian life we will not be granted access into Christ’s eternal kingdom. vv.10-11.

In our text Peter presents the positive side of the above claim, “If you do these things you will never stumble and an entrance will be abundantly supplied for you to enter Christ’s kingdom.” There must certainly be a negative side to that claim as well. Our faith is not works based, but there is a work to be done. James 2:24-26 tells us that faith without works is dead. Trusting in Jesus is the means by which we enjoy the blessing of union with Christ, but it is not all that is required of Christians. We must work at becoming more like him. An authentic Christian will desire to do this work. Our lives must consistently reflect that we belong to Jesus. Belief always determines practice. Authentic faith must be lived out every day of the week. Every moment we are striving to become more like Christ.

Authentic belief affects our actions

People are tired of seeing fake Christians. They are tire of those who regularly attend church on Sunday but act like heathen on Monday. The world is longing for Truth understood and lived out by its followers. We can only make an impact in the world if we are authentic, if our faith translates to action. God has redeemed us in order that we might be agents of redemption in the world. Authentic believers constantly strive to become more like Christ.

This week we will have opportunities to show others that we belong to Jesus. Eternity is at stake and people are watching us. They are waiting for someone, anyone to be authentic.

 

 

 

[i] This information was retrieved from http://verticalthree.com/fwbnyc/theme/, accessed at 7:00 PM on August 6, 2014.  Being authentic was the theme of this year’s National Youth Conference for FWB in Fort Worth Texas.

[ii] Will Harmon at the National Association of Free Will Baptists at the National Convention in Fort Worth Texas.

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My Lighthouse: When Jesus’ role becomes our own

I was recently exposed to the song My Lighthouse by Rend Collective Experiment. The song reminds us that Jesus is the lighthouse, pointing our way back to Shore, the place of God’s peace and presence. As humans we have drifted far from the shore of God’s presence. We identify ourselves with Adam’s sin in Genesis 3 as well as the sin in our own lives. None of us can claim that we are righteous before God. Sin has darkened our hearts and minds, but God’s radiant Light has illuminated His Safe Shore. The Safe Shore is a place of rescue and peace, but most importantly it is the place where God himself dwells. Jesus Christ is the Lighthouse and he is actively pointing us back to the Father’s shore.  Before I proceed, I want you to read through the lyrics of My Lighthouse.[i]

In my wrestling and in my doubts

In my failures You won’t walk out

You’re great love will lead me through

You are the peace in my troubled sea

You are the peace in my troubled sea

 

In the silence You won’t let go

In the questions Your truth will hold

Your great love will lead me through

You are the peace in my troubled sea

You are the peace in my troubled sea

 

My lighthouse

My lighthouse

Shining in the darkness I will follow You

 

My lighthouse

My lighthouse

I will trust the promise

You will carry me safe to shore

Safe to shore

 

I won’t fear what tomorrow brings

With each morning I’ll rise and sing

My God’s love will lead me through

You are the peace in my troubled sea

You are the peace in my troubled sea

 

Fire before us You’re the brightest

You will lead us through the storms

 Did you notice the line “You are the peace in my troubled sea”? This description of the Lighthouse vividly connects with the heart and mind. Picture a boat tossing side to side by boisterous wind. As the captain gazes into the horizon he visualizes light beaming from the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse stands tall in the midst of the storm and points us back to Shore. This alone should prompt us to worship. Light always triumphs over darkness.

Jesus identified himself as the Light in John 8:12.

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)

As I reflected on this song, I couldn’t help but think about our proper response. Indeed, Jesus is the Lighthouse, but as his followers shouldn’t we be a type of lighthouse to the world? Our lives are filled with chaos, trouble, and various storms. That reality pales in comparison to the life of faith and following God. You see, when we follow Him we are not promised a life free from storms or difficulty, but we are given a promise that we will not have to face those storms alone. In fact, those who follow Jesus must suffer, for this is the way of Christ’s cross. If you have become a new creature by putting your faith in Jesus you are called to be a lighthouse to the world. You cannot help but radiate the glory that has changed your life forever. Matthew 5:14-16 attests this claim.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)

Jesus clearly tells his disciples, “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Followers of Jesus are called to reflect Him in all they say and do. A lighthouse can never entangle himself with the things of darkness, like sexual immorality, false worship, fits of anger, or anything of like nature. A person of the Light must have genuine love for God and others and he or she must have joy, peace, and self-control. (Galatians 5:19-23) We give glory to God when our lives magnify His greatness.

 

To this point I have tried to connect two strands of thought, the first being that Jesus Christ is the Lighthouse who points our way back to God. The second is that, as followers of the Light, we must be a lighthouse to those around us. Jesus is the Lighthouse, but we can serve as a lighthouse. C. S. Lewis has said that Christians are essentially “little Christ’s” in the world.[ii]

Our every thought and action must reflect that we belong to the Light. We have an opportunity today to make an impact on someone’s life. We have an opportunity to point weary vessels back to the Shore. I want to be used to draw others to Jesus.

 

[i] These lyrics were retrieved at http://www.klove.com/music/artists/rend-collective/songs/my-lighthouse-lyrics.aspx.

[ii] Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis.