Keepin’ It Real
Our culture puts a high value on authenticity. From popular culture to Christian culture, being authentic is definitely in vogue.
Christians applaud this. Truth is good. The truth will set us free. No more fakes. No more hypocrites. Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t. Be honest with yourself.
This is all well and good, but it is not enough. Authenticity alone will never be enough to satisfy our souls.
Let me briefly sketch 3 reasons why authenticity is not enough:
Our authenticity is limited to our ability to understand our own being.
Jeremiah 17:9: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
At its best, authenticity is just an attempt to display our true identity. It’s an attempt at honesty with ourselves and others. If this attempt is genuine, it is a good start. But even when genuine, it is limited by our own ability to understand our own heart.
Who am I, really? “I’m a stubborn person—just keeping it real.” But is that really the source? Is stubbornness really my problem? Doesn’t the problem go much deeper than that?
Modern notions of authenticity tend toward self-centeredness.
We are open and honest in order to be accepted and loved as we are. This is important. We don’t want someone to change us. We want someone to value us. We want them to affirm us in our identity. We want to be accepted and loved because we are good. Our authenticity it an attempt to be found good and righteous in the sight of another.
Jesus didn’t die to make us authentic, He died to make us holy.
“Be true to yourself” will never be found on the pages of Scripture, yet the truth will set us free. Truth, when accurately perceived and accepted is life-giving.
The truth is that I am an authentic selfish sinner. It’s not only who I am—it is how I live. It is my nature and my home. I am my greatest proponent.
Jesus knew this. As he ministered on the earth, he encountered two different kinds of people—authentic and inauthentic. The Pharisees and religious leaders were inauthentic. They had a plastic righteousness. Some of the tax collectors and sinners were authentic—and they were graciously saved.
But, they were not saved because they were authentic. Jesus didn’t validate Zacchaeus as a fraud. He didn’t accept the prostitute “as she was.” Their authenticity didn’t save them—the righteousness of Jesus saved them.
This is where authenticity is valuable, but not ultimate. We must be honest about who we are, but we must go all of the way. We must be honest that our behaviors are not our identity, but point to a deeper, more wicked identity. When authenticity leads us to see the true ugliness of our souls, we will no longer cling to our own goodness, but run for the cross.
True satisfaction will not come through being accepted as we are, but by being satisfied with who He is.
True satisfaction does not come inside of us. I will not become less empty by accepting my sinful identity. I will not become more whole by being more true to myself. Your acceptance of me will never be enough, because the truth still lingers—my soul is ugly.
Defining my sinful inclinations as my true identity will not produce a healthy soul. True soul health comes as I recognize the filthiness of my own goodness.
My soul cannot be satisfied in self-authenticity, but true authenticity will lead me to the Savior. Consider Paul’s words in Philippians:
Philippians 3:7-9 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith…
Paul became authentic. But his authenticity did not lead him to celebrate himself. His honesty led him to flee his own righteousness and cling to Christ’s!
That’s what real authenticity does. It scares us. When we see the true ugliness of our souls, we no longer seek to vindicate ourselves. Instead we seek cleansing in the blood of our Savior.