Summary: Four reasons authenticity with other Christians is absolutely essential to the spiritual life.
Barb’s life is a mess. Her drinking problem is out of control, and her husband Ken refuses to cover for her anymore. Everyone around her sees Barb’s problem, but they all pretend like everything’s just fine, a classic case of denial. Every Sunday Barb and her family dress in their Sunday best and go to church as the perfect family. Everyone at church looks at Barb and her family as the model family...they look so…perfect.
Sitting in the row behind Barb at church each Sunday morning is Joe. Everyone likes Joe, especially all the guys, because he’s a man’s man. Joe played football in college for a PAC 10 school, and he’s filled with stories of athletic conquest. But when Joe’s all alone his heart is filled with emptiness because of his inability to sustain long term relationships. His marriage only lasted six months, and over the years he’s driven away everyone close to him with his sort fuse. But that Sunday when a friend asks Joe how things are going he quickly says, "Great…never been better."
Joe and Barb have both learned that church is a place for plastic people, a place for perfect people. So Barb’s become Barbie, complete with her husband Ken and her perfect plastic children. And Joe’s become G. I. Joe, a plastic action hero everyone admires but no one really knows. But inside Barb and Joe are dying, because they’re not made of plastic.
Churches throughout our culture today are filled with Barbies and Joes. We’ve learned that image is everything, that what counts is how you look, the impression you make. So we in the Christian community have perfected the fine art of faking it. In his book What’s So Amazing About Grace Christian author Phillip Yancey, talks about meeting a prostitute on the streets and sharing the message of Christ with her. When Yancey gently suggested that she might seek out a church, she looked at him and said, "Why would I want to do that? I already feel awful enough about my life?" In her mind, walking into a room full of perfect Barbie dolls and G. I. Joe action figures would only accentuate her own failures and inadequacies.
If being part of the Christian community is merely putting on a good front, pretending to be something we’re not, then we might as well sleep in. Last week we started a new 12 week series through the New Testament book of 1 John called A ROADMAP FOR THE JOURNEY. The book of 1 John was a letter written by the apostle John because of his concern that the Christians in Asia Minor were losing their way in the spiritual journey. John knew that the spiritual life was a difficult journey filled with danger, so he wrote his letter to help Christians navigate the unexpected twists and turns in the road. Last week we looked at "Joy In The Journey," and how we find authentic joy in our spiritual journey when we build it on the right foundation, share it with the right companions, draw truth from the right source, and focus on the right goal.
Today we’re going to look at God’s call to authenticity. When God’s people cease to respond to God’s call to authenticity, the church turns into a social club. In fact, many followers of Christ today have given up on the Christian church because of the lack of authenticity, as one person told me, "I find more honesty in one Alcoholic’s Anonymous meeting than in an entire year going to church."
Throughout church history you can see various low points in the church when authenticity has waned…and every time it resulted in spiritual destruction to the work of God in our world. Authenticity with each other in the context of the Church is absolutely essential to the spiritual journey. This morning we’re going to look at four reasons why this is true. Then after we look at these four reasons, I’m going to challenge you to take a step out of our comfort zone to respond to God’s call to authenticity.
1. We All Struggle (1 John 1:8)
The apostle John is going to give us a series of "if" statements to reveal God’s call to authenticity. Last week we looked at the fact that some people John was writing to who claimed to be living in intimacy with God yet they were living lives of moral and spiritual darkness. Here we find that some were claiming to "be without sin." This text literally reads "to have no sin." Since John uses the singular word "sin" instead of the plural "sins" it’s likely that he’s talking about having a sin nature, an inward disposition to do things our own way instead of God’s way. So to claim to have no sin is the equivalent of claiming that our inner lives no longer have that propensity to sin, claiming that our battle with sin is no longer raging.