Read at beginning of service:
Matthew 6:1-4 (NIV)
1 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Last week I began speaking a series of messages with the title Authentic Christianity because I believe we are living in a culture that needs Christians who are the real thing. The people we come into contact with in our lives, the people we have relationships with need to ? must see Christ in us! They must see that Christ has made a difference in our lives!
In the first message of the series I began by sharing that authentic Christianity is motivated by a passion for God. Authentic Christianity is motivated by a strong, extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, and desire for God. Passion is essential. It is absolutely necessary if there is going to be any ounce of authenticity in the life of a follower of Christ. Today I?m going to take the next step in looking at authentic Christianity and begin to define what it means to actually be an authentic Christian.
Authenticity is important to me because it quite literally brought me to the place where my life was changed. Although I grew up in a good home, in a family that attended church, church was mostly a social function and traditional affair. [continue story up to attending Rockcliffe and seeing the authenticity in the Christians there, specifically Pastor Barry Risto)
They showed me that God was real! That is what I needed to see and that is what our culture, our family, and our friends need to see! They need to see real, authentic followers of Jesus Christ – not a bunch of empty words, but people who live what they say they believe.
So today, let?s look again at the Great Commandment in a different place this time. Turn with me to Mark 12:28-34.
Mark 12:28-34 (NIV)
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” 32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
This morning we are going to look at what it means to love God with all of your soul and all of your strength.
These two phrases (strength/soul) give us two different pictures.
- When we think of soul we often think about something inward – we think of some essence of being or who we are
- When we think of strength we think of something outward – strength is displayed in action – strength is displayed in something we do.
The soul is known while strength is shown. These two aspects – the inner and the outer are both parts of authenticity.
So what does it mean when Jesus tells us to love God with all of our soul?
In this Scripture, soul refers to your inner life ? that is your will, emotions, and disposition. Soul refers to that hidden part of us that makes us who we are and reveals why we do what we do.
Loving God with all of our soul means that we have sincerity in our attitudes.
This gets to the very core of who we are and God desires truth in our very core.
Psalm 51:6 (NIV)
6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
God wants sincerity because He observes our heart not just our actions.
1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)
7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
When God looks for people he looks for sincerity at the very core.
A person with an authentic, sincere love for God:
1. Wants to please God not man.
Matthew 6:1 (NIV)
1 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
?Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don?t make a performance out of it. It might be a good theater, but the God who made you won?t be applauding.? (MSG)
An authentic follower of Jesus Christ seeks the approval of God not of man.
Deep down our motive must be to please God not man.
Paul gives us an accurate assessment in Galatians 1:10 ?
Galatians 1:10 (NIV)
10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
As followers of Jesus Christ – as servants of Christ – our motivation has to be pleasing God not man and this motivation should be birthed out of our love for Him! (passion for God ? see last week?s message)
A person with an authentic, sincere love for God:
2. Is driven by Who God Is, not by what he/she can get from Him.
In John 6, the morning after Jesus fed the 5,000, many people come looking for Him. When they found Him they begin to ask Him many questions. He responds:
John 6:26 (NIV)
26 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.
You?ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs and for free. (John 6:26 MSG)
The only thing these people really wanted was FROM God! They weren?t after God they were after what He could give them. Their only concern was themselves.
As the people begin to go away Jesus turns to His disciples and asks them if they want to go away as well. Peter speaks up:
John 6:68-69 (NIV)
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We?ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God. (John 6:68-69 MSG)
Peter and the disciples wanted and sought God not bread and fish.
A sincere love for God wants the person of God and not the things God can give him. We seek the giver not the gift.
When we love God with all our soul we will want God and His approval and we won?t settle simply for His gifts of the approval of men. Now when I talk about seeking the approval of God it?s important to always remember that in Christ we are already accepted we are already loved and there?s nothing we need to do to earn that love (apart from believing in Christ?s work on the cross and His ressurection)!
Colossians 3:12 (NIV)
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
1 Thessalonians 1:4 (NIV)
4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,
Yet, it is for this very reason that we should seek to please God ? because of our love for Him (share illustration of Zachary always telling me when I get home from work ?I?ve been a good boy today, Daddy? Even if hasn?t been a good boy I still love Him and I still accept Him, and I?m still pleased that He is my son HOWEVER it pleases me even more when he?s been a good boy?)
Now that s the inner part of authenticity – what about the outer –
What does it mean to love God with all our strength?
In contrast to our soul – which is what we are on the inside – our strength is what we do or our actions or our outward expressions that other people can see.
Loving God with all of our strength means that we have integrity in our action.
Integrity points to the idea of wholeness – that the outside fully reflects the inside.
John Piper says, ?We were made to be prisms refracting the light of God?s glory into all of life. ?
As we love God with all of our strength His glory is seen through our lives.
Matthew 5:16 (NIV)
16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Authentic Christianity points people to God not to ourselves.
Loving God with all our strength is integrity in action This integrity is seen when…
1. We do what we know is right
James 4:17 (NIV)
17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
Loving God with all our strength means that we do what we know we should do.
When we don t do the right thing we fail to glorify God and we sin.
I?d like to talk about the symptoms of something called integrity deficit disorder:
A person who is afflicted with this disorder knows what is right but doesn?t follow through and do what is right. He or she makes a promise or commitment, then fails to keep it. Thus when you meet a person with integrity deficit disorder you?re never quite sure if you can trust that person or not.
A second symptom is also one of the causes: people who have integrity deficit disorder live from the outside-in rather than from the inside-out. They let their feelings and emotional responses of the moment govern their behavior more than doing what?s right regardless of their feelings of the moment.
To put it another way, people with integrity deficit disorder are reactive rather than proactive. Reactive individuals base their decisions and actions on the outward circumstances of the moment, what?s going on around them. If someone is rude to them, they are rude in return. They are affected by their social environment. Reactive people build their emotional lives around the behavior of others, empowering the weaknesses of other people to control them. They let other people decide how they are going to act.
In addition, reactive people are often affected by the physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn?t, they let it affect their attitude and their performance. Worse still, reactive people blame whatever happens to them on someone or something outside of them. They rarely take any responsibility for what?s happened to them. It?s always the fault of someone or something else.
In the syndicated comic strip, FRANK AND ERNEST, two bums are sitting along a wall talking with each other. One says to the other, ?Do you believe in fate?? The other replies, ?Sure. I?d hate to think I turned out like this because of something I had control over.?
On the other hand, proactive people carry their own weather with them. Whether it rains or shines makes no difference to them. They are value driven and if their value is to produce good quality work it isn?t a function of whether the weather is conducive to it or not. Proactive people also do not let the social environment control their actions or decisions.
That?s where integrity comes in. Having integrity is about behaving in the way you promised to behave even though the mood in which you made the promises has changed or the environment outside you has changed. If you have integrity it protects you from changing moods, desires and feelings. It even protects you from the changing moods of other people. It protects you from saying you are going to do something and then not following through. (quoted in the message ?Integrity Deficit Disorder? by Rev. Otis Young)
Integrity in action is when you live out what you know is right when your walk matches your talk.
Integrity is action is also when…
2. We don?t pretend to be something we?re not
Jesus referred to the religious people of His day as hypocrites because they pretended to be super-godly when they weren?t!
Matthew 23:27-28 (NIV)
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 dead men’s bones 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.
These people looked righteous and godly because of their many acts but Jesus likened them to white-washed tombs – they looked good on the outside but inside they were dead.
Righteous acts don t make you righteous. If the righteous motivation isn?t there then the act is empty.
Authenticity is seen when we are sincere in our attitudes and show integrity in our actions. We have to be authentic both in motive and action if we are going to be authentic followers of Jesus Christ. We can?t pretend to be someone we re not.
When you get right to the point, authenticity is all about 1 Corinthians 10:31-
1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Authentic sincerity coupled with integrity directs all the glory to God in everything we do . Authenticity is living your life for the audience and pleasure of God!
So how can you love God with all of your soul and all of your strength? How can you live an authentic life?
1. Be Real! Don?t pretend that you re someone you re not.
Maybe you re acting more righteous than you are. Don?t! Be yourself ? we?re all fellow strugglers along the way
Maybe you re hiding your faith from others in order to gain their approval. Don?t! Be yourself! If they can?t accept you for you then are they really people you want to impress?
Stop pretending! God desires sincerity of heart and integrity of action. Be honest with God, yourself, and others.
2. Check your motives. Ask God to help you be more sincere in your attitudes.
Do you do things for other people?s approval or for God?s?
Normally when pleasing God is our motive others won t have a problem with our performance at work or at home. (They might take offense to our message, but not our mentality!
Don?t try to pass mediocre work off on God. If we are truly motivated to please God then our best is what we will give! We won?t go halfway and say ? ?It?s okay. God loves me and accepts me so its okay if I stop now.?
Motivation to please God doesn?t stop because He?s accepted you or because He loves you! Motivation to please God always seeks to bring Him more pleasure (even thought there may be no such thing as bringing God more pleasure!).
3. Examine your lifestyle. Ask God to help you act with integrity as a Christian.
Are you doing anything that isn?t consistent with your faith?
What do other people see in your actions – hypocrisy or authenticity?
Do people see a love for God or a concern for self?
4. Team up. Meet regularly with someone who will help you to walk with sincerity and integrity.
We need others in our life that we can be honest with and will help us to walk with authenticity in our lives
Authenticity is the external evidence of a sincere, passionate love for God lived out in the integrity of our actions.
Authenticity helps people to see that God is real and that He is indeed worthy of glory, honor, and praise.
Let s ask God to help us be more authentic followers of Him: