October 25: Authenticity; A Good Name Where It Counts

Read Revelation 3:1-6

This week, we are seeking to grow in authenticity. From our reading today, it is my hope that you take away two important truths. Let me introduce both of them here up front:

  1. Our church has a reputation.
  2. What others think is not what matters most.

Now, let’s pause and examine these truths in more detail. As the glorious Son of God spoke to an exiled apostle, He invited John to write seven letters to seven churches that existed at that time…around 90 a.d. The affirmation and exhortation extended to those churches have application for churches today.

As attention was directed to the church in Sardis, Jesus said, “…you have a reputation of being alive…” Reputation is not just a personal thing, you see. This church likely had a history of passionate engagement for the cause of Christ. Others knew of the activity. In fact, as others thought about the church at Sardis, they apparently thought to themselves, “Now, that church is alive!”

I wonder…beyond your own personal reputation…what is the word on the street about your church? What do people say about my church, Grace Church in Wooster, Ohio? How would people complete this sentence? “That church is _________!”

But, as outlined earlier, the word on the street about a person or even a church is not the final word. Even though the Sardis church had a reputation for strong, passionate, attentive service for Christ, the Savior knew otherwise. Even though their reputation may have once been accurate, Christ had the defining perspective. The truth was, they were dead. They needed to wake up, experience revival, and finish what He had called them to do.

If you were to set aside what others think for just a moment, what would be Christ’s assessment of you / your church? Psalm 139 gives us words that express a prayer of vulnerability. Would you pray them today in sincerity?

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23, 24 NIV)

sbk

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October 24: Authenticity; A Good Name Inside and Out

Read 1 Timothy 3:1-13

Church leaders must be authentic . . . as should every believer.

I hope that you would agree with me and acknowledge that all followers of Christ are not exempt from the “good name requirement.” In fact, I would encourage you to consider that there are really very few of the characteristics indicated in this description of elders and deacons that do not carry over to all believers. Yes, you can probably identify two or three, but the overwhelming majority applies to every one of us.

So, let’s take a closer look at the bookends of the elder qualifications. In verse 2, Paul describes the suited overseer as being “above reproach.” In theory, I suppose that accusations of ungodliness may be leveled against the person, but they don’t stick. Sin has been avoided. When it has been committed, it has been confessed. Where others have been involved, reconciliation has been sought. You see, to be “above reproach” does not require absolute perfection, but it does necessitate a pursuit of holiness and godly responses in the face of our imperfections.

As Paul closes his description of the approved overseer, he also points to the need for “a good reputation with outsiders” (v. 7). The person does not just have a “good name” among believers. Colossians 4:5, 6 give us more detail on what that looks and sounds like.

Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

He or she knows how to act and what to say around people who have not yet embraced Christ. His/her life is characterized by acts of compassion. His/her speech overflows with words of grace. As a result, outsiders will hold us in high esteem…even if they don’t agree with our message.

Based purely on the bookends of this passage, would you say that your name connotes authenticity? Would accusations against you stick? Do outsiders have a respect for your life and speech?

sbk

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October 23: Authenticity; Noah’s Authentic Faith

Read Genesis 6:9-8:19

Like his great-grandfather, Enoch, Noah also walked with God. But his walk didn’t lead him straight to heaven without passing go.

Instead, God walked him through throngs of unrighteous people and straight to the construction site where he would build a boat. A boat big enough to house each member of his grown family and two of each animal on earth. That and some extras for a sacrifice when all was said and done.

Hard to imagine. But Noah’s faith was authentic through and through. So trusted what he did not see.

Noah had yet to experience rain in his lifetime. Until that first raindrop that started the great flood, the earth had not seen rain.  Still,

Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark . . .  Hebrews 11:7

It’s a story many of us learned as young children. But a challenge that many of us have yet to fully grasp.

The challenge to take God at His Word and act accordingly. See, just as God commanded the universe into existence, so He commanded Noah into action.  And God uses that same voice, coupled with that same genuine faith, the faith that He gives His followers through Jesus Christ, to continue His work with a word.

Unlike the boat that rocked back and forth with the the rising waters, Noah’s faith stood firm on God’s unshakable Word.

With the faith of His man Noah, God started over with a small remnant of people.  Then He gave His rainbow-covenant Word. His one true Word, Noah’s authentic faith, God’s full-of-grace plan.  Covenant.

This is the sign of the covenant I am making . . . Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.  Gen. 9:12,15,16

Like a string around God’s finger, every time He makes a rainbow, He remembers His promise.

Every time He speaks His Word, do we remember too? Do we remember and act with the same authentic faith that moved Noah into action? When rain falls and wind blows and ground rattles and rolls, do we stand firm in the faith that come by Jesus Christ alone — the only real and authentic faith that trusts His covenant Word for our every step?

brw

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October 22: Authenticity; Love and Faithfulness

Read Proverbs 3:1-35

Let love and faithfulness never leave you, bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.

Authenticity. . . that kind of positive reputation is something we should aspire to possess. We should pursue it with greater passion than we would silver or gold.

When we write our actual names, we write them horizontally on paper. But a good name is two dimensional. It has both vertical and horizontal aspects. While it is of great importance what people think of us, it is of ultimate importance what God thinks of us.

Thankfully, Solomon outlines for us two vital characteristics that assure us of a good name in both directions. Before we look at them, notice that these traits should be enduring (never leave you) and internalized (on the tablet of your heart). In other words, they are not like clothing that we temporarily put on or take off. They are not like a mask that superficially hides our true identity.

So what are these two characteristics? Love and faithfulness. When we love, we reveal that we know God. When we love, we resemble God, for God is love (1 John 4:8). When people experience our love unconditionally, they experience a refreshing taste of the Divine. Those who become a conduit of the love of God to others, have favor with both God and man.

Faithfulness, meanwhile, reflects an undying commitment. The Christ follower who is faithful does not throw in the towel during difficult or challenging times. He is predictably loyal to God. She is consistently true to her faith. And that faithfulness overflows into human relationships where words spoken are binding and promises extended are kept.

When we hold an authentic commitment to love and faithfulness, enduring and internalized, God smiles..and so do others. Make them smile today.

sbk

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October 21: Authenticity; He Walked With God

Read Genesis 5:1-24; Jude 14-15

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away.  For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. (Heb 11:5)

We know little about Enoch.  Of all the verses in the entire Bible, we have a total of seven from which to gather any information about this man. Yet we find him counted among men and women whose lives help us know faith as God sees it.

Four facts and four four words sum up this man’s biblical legacy.

  1. He was 65 years old when he became Methuselah’s father
  2. He was around for 300 years after that.
  3. He prophesied against ungodly men about God’s undeniable justice.
  4. When he was 365 years old, God took him away.

Four words sum up this man’s life.

He. walked. with. God.

That must have been some walk, huh?  I mean, for some reason or another, God chose to fetch His man Enoch from this earth and take him unto Himself rather than let him die here. All he knew was life here and life there.

We see God do this just one other time in Scripture. (See 2 Kings 2.)

A few more words help clarify Enoch’s life.

He was commended as one who pleased God.

See, this walking he did, this walking with God, he did it in such a way that it summed up his life. Just one authentic truth summed up Enoch’s entire earthly life.

He walked with God.  The end.

What more do we need to know? Enoch trusted God to lead his every step. He walked wherever God did.

And God was pleased.

I wonder how what four words God might use to sum up your life or mine. I wonder if such authentic faith might be part of the legacies we leave.

How might that memorial service look? Could the pastor stand up for the eulogy and genuinely say: “He walked with God” or “She walked with God”?  Could he then close his books and sits down?

What more is there, really? The authentic walk of faith starts with God Himself. Being sure of what we hope for. Being certain of Him, which we do not see. So certain, in fact, that our every step starts with Him.

Oh that you and I might live so authentically by faith.

brw

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October 20: Authenticity; How We Are Known

Read Colossians 2:1-23

Have you ever written a letter to someone you don’t actually know? I suppose most of us have written a quick e-mail or a brief correspondence of some kind to someone like that. These are always somewhat awkward to write.

There is nothing awkward about this letter from Paul to believers in Colosse. Although they had never met, Paul had heard about their faith. As an apostle with the unique call of God to reach people for Christ and establish healthy churches, Paul did not hesitate in sharing his joy and concern with these believing men and women.

One of Paul’s greatest concerns for this infant congregation was the infiltration of false teaching. They were surrounded by others who held that Jesus had not become man, that angels were to be worshiped, and that adherence to legalistic rules was the way to true spirituality. Paul made his concern very clear.

So what is wrong with having certain rules by which we live? I have built a few in my life. Here is my short list: I exercise every day. I never watch R movies. (Many PG and PG13 are questionable enough!) I do not drink alcohol. You would likely applaud, criticize, or add to my list. While the rules may have some positive elements, they cannot restrain what goes on in my heart.

If we are not careful, we can boil down our faith as Jesus followers to a list of things we don’t do. This can trickle down into our reputation as well. People may know us more for what we don’t do than for our heart for God and those made in His image. Don’t get me wrong, there will and should be those things that we should always steer clear of. I hope, for example, that people will recognize me as one in whom there is not a hint of sexual immorality (Eph. 5:3). Meanwhile, I want them to see beyond the fact that I don’t go to that movie or won’t listen to that joke. I want them to know that Christianity is more than things I don’t do.

sbk

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October 19: Authenticity; Faithfully by Faith

Read Daniel 6:1-28

When Daniel’s jealous enemies got the king to make an edict against worshiping the One True God, they weren’t trying to turn Daniel into a pagan.

In fact, their intention was quite the opposite. Daniel’s enemies wanted to fault him for his faithfulness because they knew his faith was immovable. Day after faithful day, Daniel served his God, and they could see his righteousness. The kind that came by faith in Almighty God. And they didn’t like it one little bit.

So for Daniel, it might have looked like his faith brought him trouble. Had Daniel’s faith been anything less than authentic, he might well have given it up — the kneeling to pray three times a day, the giving thanks to God Almighty.

Clearly, thought, Daniel’s faith was sincere. Authentic to the core. And so he proceeded, faithfully by faith, to go before God and trust Him wholly.  No matter what the king said. Because he trusted his God.

Daniel’s no-matter-what faithfulness was not out of compulsion.  It was by faith.  Faith alone.  Because he authentically trusted the One Who sees what he did not. And in the end, the king, who by his own decree sent Daniel to the pit of hungry lions, saw the faith in his faithfulness.

That’s why King Darius couldn’t sleep that night.  He didn’t just really like Daniel, he respected him.  King Darius was learning to revere Daniel’s God.  The One True God.

When it was all said and done, the King who had decreed that all his subjects bow to him, was proclaiming the sovereignty of God the Lord.

Because, by faith, Daniel was faithful.

So God brought glory to Himself.  Through Daniel’s very real trust, He spread His Name throughout a Gentile nation and made Himself known.

God wants to work that way in us. He uses our trust in Him, our genuine faith, to bring others to Himself. When someone opposes us at work, our boss might see our authentic, unruffled faith and notice God in us. When a neighbor shuns us for sharing the truth of Jesus Christ in our neighborhood, another one might notice the faithfulness of our faith and somehow want to know more about the One True God.

Maybe, just maybe, God will use our faithfulness like He used Daniel’s, to do His bidding and attract someone to Himself.

brw

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