How to Be an Authentic, True Representation of Christ

| Pastor
2021
28 Oct
Woman holding a string of lights in the dark

Of all the things we could say about social media, one thing is certain: it should remind us that our lives are on display for all to see. Posting photos, sharing links and writing comments opens up our lives to be scrutinized by others, often affecting our relationship with them in ways we may never realize. In fact, social media should be a prominent reminder of the age-old truth taught by the Apostle Paul:

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone” (2 Corinthians 3:2).

Photo credit: Unsplash/Josh Boot

Woman holding a string of lights in the dark

What Does It Look Like to Be Authentic?

What we do and say, how we have fun, where we go, how we respond to others' posts – these can affect the credibility of our Christian witness toward others and the attractiveness of our faith in general. The unfortunate truth is that for many Christians, how we have portrayed ourselves as Christ-followers has been anything but endearing to others. This is not how Jesus instructed us to behave.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

On the other hand, sometimes we sanitize our lives so much that we only ever share the highlights of our lives: the best pictures, the flattering news and happy family events. In this case, our Christian image is carefully managed and squeaky clean. The problem with this approach is that it may appear to set the bar too high, and be somewhat discouraging to those who need to know Christ.

Ultimately, people who are far from God are looking for the real deal – neither worldly compromise nor phony religion. God has called us to be authentic in our faith and to be true representatives of Jesus Christ as we attempt to reach people with the gospel message.

How can we bridge the gap between what people see as they peer into our lives, and what Christ said they should see? First and foremost, we must decide to live our lives with authenticity, that is, to live in such a way that people can connect the voice of God and the message of the gospel with the touch of our lives.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “authentic” as “1. conforming to fact and therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief; 2. being so in fact; not fraudulent or counterfeit.” We could say it simply means “not fake” in a world full of posers.

That said, authenticity always begins with an “inside job.” It's a work that only God can do in us. It's a transformation of the heart that makes the billboard of our lives line up with the small print. It's what makes us salt and light; it's what attracts people to Christ.

Photo credit: Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio

Woman holding a string of lights in the dark

Be Real with God

One of the reasons so many people struggle with being authentic in their public faith walk is that they are not being real with God in private. Jesus talked about this issue in Matthew 6:5:

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.”

In fact, one of the greatest areas we struggle with authenticity is in our prayer life, which impacts our entire relationship with God. And Jesus suggested that, like those public hypocrites of His day, we too can be hypocritical in this area.

We all have done it – praying those King James Version prayers that keep God at arm’s length, and those theologically correct prayers that don’t actually express the pain in our hearts.

As if God doesn’t know.

Yet, we often talk to God in the same way we talk to people on social media: superficially, trying to pretend or ignore, the ugly truth. And in some cases, by not saying how we really feel for fear of God getting angry with us.

But God is a loving father and He welcomes us to be real with Him. Consider Isaiah 1:18, in a few different translations:

“Come let us reason together” KJV

“I invite you to come and talk it over” CEV

“Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out” MSG

God is saying... I can handle you being real with Me. I can handle your true feelings, your anger, and your pain. Matter of fact, I welcome it. Be real with Me.

Just remember the father of the sick, possessed child in Mark 9. The demon had thrown the child in fire and water and cut him, trying to kill him for years. The man had taken the boy to Jesus' disciples, but they couldn't help him. So he approached Jesus and honestly asked, “...if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us."

Jesus was not angered by this, but replied this way: "'If you can?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes." Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:23-24).

Notice the man didn't try to hide, but was transparent with God in his need for grace to overcome his unbelief. That was a real prayer. The picture on the outside matched up with the fine print on the inside. And the man's child was healed, because God can handle our authentic prayers.

It's what happens when we dare to be real with God; He helps us move from a place of doubt and unbelief to a place of faith and trust.

When Jesus became one of us, He experienced the pains we go through. He understands us, and therefore, He can handle our authentic prayers.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

So let’s start our journey of developing authentic faith by being real with God in prayer!

Photo credit: Unsplash/Ben White

Woman holding a string of lights in the dark

Be Real with Others

One of the things that draws – or repels – people from our lives is how we express and deal with our emotions.

Many Christians have been confused about how to express their feelings, believing that they should never get angry, express grief, sadness or hurt. Some have even been taught that expressing such feelings demonstrate a lack of faith.

Consequently, they stuff down their emotions and paste a smile on their faces, which leads to   1. Emotional vertigo – a state of such total emotional confusion, that one loses the ability to experience feelings all together; and 2. Other people are actually repelled by their behavior,  thinking the lack of emotions is simply weird.

Friends... it’s okay to get angry, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to express your disappointment and your hurt.

Jesus got angry:

“Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a den of robbers'" (Matthew 21:12-13).

Jesus cried:

Jesus went to the tomb where his good friend Lazarus was laid, having died prematurely of a sickness. When He arrived at the tomb, all Lazarus’ relatives were crying because of their loss, and here is what the Bible says Jesus did…

“Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

And then He raised Lazarus from the dead! Clearly, Jesus' display of emotions didn’t damage His faith!

Our emotions are not evil, but were created by God. In fact, if they are submitted to God, they can help us find direction for our lives.

What we love reveals to us a gift that God has placed in our heart.

What we hate reveals what we are called to correct.

What makes us cry reveals what we are called to heal.

Our authentic emotions help push us in the direction of our divine destiny.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Lorenzo Antonucc

Woman holding a string of lights in the dark

Being Real Requires Authentic Admission

Most of us have mistakenly thought that we should hide our failures at all costs, that our moral missteps will drive people away from God, so we’d better not let anyone find out about them.

But I believe just the opposite is true.

People today are repelled by Christians who act holier than thou and then have a secret sin publicly exposed. But when we are transparent about our struggles, our failures and our faults, people are more attracted to us and to God.

Humbly admitting our lack of perfection and need for grace is a powerful witness to the transforming power of Christ in our lives. It stands in stark contrast to our superficial social media culture, where nobody admits to wrongdoing of any kind, and everybody's life, career and family is utterly fantastic.

Authentic admission stands out as salt and light in our modern, no-fault society; it’s more impressive than a dazzling six-minute testimony, and more relevant to some than spouting off the Romans Road. Authenticity is simply unusual, and therefore attractive.

Being Real Requires Authentic Conviction

Near the end of Matthew's account of the crucifixion is a record of a certain Roman centurion who watched Jesus live out His faith with authentic conviction. He saw this man beaten and tortured on a cross, shamed and ridiculed, but who never wavered. Instead, He made arrangements to care for His mother, He prayed for those who caused Him such pain, and He extended grace to the humble and repentant thief. The centurion witnessed all that had happened, along with the depth of His conviction to die for His mission, and it affected him deeply.

“When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’" (Matthew 27:54).

It's likely that nothing short of Jesus’ willingness to lay down His life would have brought that cynical Roman solider to his knees. Authenticity requires real and persistent conviction.

In fact, there is little that is more pathetic and repulsive than people who refuse to stand up for what they say they believe. In contrast, there is nothing more attractive than someone who will not just proclaim the truth, but step up and live it boldly at all costs.

It’s the pull of genuine conviction.

People today are searching for the real deal – not a fake, not a phony and certainly, not a hypocrite. It's past time that we embrace the lessons of social media and remember that no matter what, our lives –  our whole lives – are on display. Therefore, in order to be a true representation of Jesus Christ, we must develop and demonstrate authenticity in our lives and in our faith. It's how we let our lights shine before men, and they will see our good deeds, and glorify our Father in Heaven!

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Christin Lola

Frank Santora headshotFrank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.

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