The Person Behind the Mask: Living an Authentic Life
This is the next Sermon in our current series, “Different”.
In Luke 8:17 we read, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”
How do we live when no one is watching? What do we listen to? What are we watching? What are we looking at on the internet? How do we treat our family behind closed doors? Here’s a question for all of us. Would we live the way we living right now if we knew that our family and friends could see it? We need to ask, “Is my faith a façade? Is it external? Is it a “put on”? In this post I want to talk about living an authentic faith. I want to talk about what it means to be set apart for God when no one is watching. Now, right up front, I want to say that what we’re talking about will not happen overnight. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Building spiritual character is a process.
Phil. 3:12-14 says, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Each of us has to decide on a daily, and sometimes hourly basis – will I be obedient to Christ or not? I think we’ve all heard the saying, “Our character is defined by who we are when no one is watching.”
But before I move on, I need to make a clarification. Character is not the same as reputation – what other people think about us. Character is who we really are. The question is, do we want to have godly character or not? Do we want to be set apart for God or not? Most people would say Yes! But that’s easier said than done. Let’s be honest. Living for Christ is easy when we’re surrounded by godly people. It’s easy to be holy on a retreat or a missions’ trip. But what happens when we’re around those who are not so godly? Or when we’re by ourselves and we have to deal with our own sinful nature?
We all struggle in different areas. Most of us face temptation on a regular basis that can compromise our godly character. Maybe that’s why the Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 4:7-9, “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.”
Paul says we need to “train ourselves.” In the Greek the words “Train yourself” is gumnazo. It’s where we get our English word gymnasium. The word literally meant, “to exercise naked,” which was the way ancient Greek male athletes usually exercised. In this passage the word is used figuratively to make the point that Christians need to train themselves inwardly, where we are naked before God. In other words, people may not see what’s going on in our lives, but God does. Even on the inside, our thoughts, attitudes and motives are seen by Him. So, in our most inward, private lives, we are called to exercise our faith. We need to train ourselves to be godly. And this is not just a one and done activity. The form of the verb used here is present imperative, which means you keep on doing it. It’s an ongoing command. We keep on training ourselves to be godly. When we say, “godly” it describes a lifestyle that honors God. It means we are trying to be like Him. Living a life of love, purity, generosity, kindness, mercy, and grace. “Godly” doesn’t mean that we’re perfect. It means that we are struggling toward perfection. It means we’re doing the best we can to live lives that please God.
And here’s why we do it. 1 Tim. 4:8 – “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
Physical exercise is good for us. It improves our health inside and out. So, it has some value. But no matter how much you work out, no matter how diligent you are in your routine, someday you’re going to die. It doesn’t have eternal value. Spiritual training on the other hand produces godly lives – which has eternal value. Paul says, “for all things” because it has value in this life – it produces a God-honoring life, that impacts the lives of others, but also creates value for the life to come in the new heaven and new earth.
Ok, so let’s shift gears. For the remainder of our time I want to talk about how we train ourselves to be godly. How do we develop the type of godly character that stays true to God when no one is watching? Let me share two principles:
1. Make a Commitment
Remember what David said to Solomon?
1 Kings 2:2-3 says, “Be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.”
In Psalm 119:106 it tells us, “I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.”
We need to make a spiritual commitment to be godly. We need to choose godliness every day. Think about it. Have you ever made a commitment to godly living? Have you ever truly made it a priority? We make that commitment when we exercise and want to lose weight, so why not in our spiritual lives? If you’re wondering why you can’t overcome that sin or grow in your faith it may be that you have never made a commitment to do it.
The Bible says in James 4:7, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
James is saying commitment will help you resist the enemy and find victory in your desire for spiritual maturity.
2. Make self-reflection a part of your everyday life
In Daniel 1, it tells us that the Jews have been exiled to Babylon. In this time of transition, they had every opportunity to compromise their beliefs. Most did, but Daniel held onto his integrity, his godly character and didn’t give in. Let me share three things that Daniel did that can help us in our quest for holiness.
First, Daniel RESOLVED not to defile himself (Daniel 1:8a).
Daniel implemented what I call the principal of prior choice. In the Hebrew the word for RESOLVED contains the idea of making a decision long before you’re faced with the temptation. We need to do the same. Decide beforehand what you will do in a given situation because if you wait you will usually compromise.
For example: If I go to this party and I’m asked to ____________. What will I say?
Second, Daniel SPOKE his intentions aloud (Daniel 1:8b).
The moment Daniel found out about the food and wine he would be given he went to the chief official and asked permission not to eat it. He didn’t want to break God’s law and defile himself. Why would he care? No one was there to hold him accountable. You probably recognize the sayings, “When in Rome… Or, whatever happens in Babylon stays in Babylon.” There wouldn’t have been much accountability, but he made his intentions known. He created the accountability! Listen, we need to make people AWARE of our convictions, and values right up front. When I sit next to a woman on a plane, or in another environment…like in a line on vacation, I always lead with, “I’m a Pastor” and…” So I create an atmosphere of accountability. We need to speak truth, share our convictions and quickly establish who you are.
Third, He TRUSTED His God.
Daniel asked the chief official to test him along with his friends for ten days. (Daniel 1:11-14) He said feed us nothing but vegetables and water and see what happens. Daniel was confident that God would reward their faithfulness. When the ten days ended, Daniel and his friends were healthier than those who had eaten the royal food. (Daniel 1:15-16) We need to have confidence that our God will reward our faithfulness. We also need to have the conviction and passion to live a life that honors God. I know this is taking our series to a new level, but I also know that if we make a commitment to be set apart, God will walk with us every step of the way.
Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”
We need to remember that this is a process…it’s called sanctification. Start where you are and move forward, take baby steps and Jesus will be with you every step of the way.