Jesus Is Precious Because Through Him We Become Authentic
This is the fifth in a series of seven messages on "Why Jesus Is Precious." The series has two purposes. I argued in January that the motivation of believers to tell other people about the value of Jesus will rise or fall in direct proportion to how precious Christ really is to you. If he is precious, there will be no holding your tongue. If he is not, no gimmicks will loose it. And since we want to be a people whose mouths are filled with accolades for Christ, my first purpose in these messages is to fill your hearts with the preciousness of Jesus, "for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." I want us to come to love him more than our dearest human friend, and delight in him more than we delight in our favorite pastime.
The second purpose for the series is to give evidence for Jesus' truth and value which, God willing, will persuade unbelievers to trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. These two aims don't require two rifles because the truth of Jesus which deepens our faith is the very same truth that kindles that faith in the first place.
The series began with two messages on why we may reasonably believe that the biblical portrait of Jesus is true. For the things about Jesus that make him precious would be of no lasting value if they were not true. Then in the third message we saw that Jesus is precious because he removes our guilt. He solves the universal problem of a guilty conscience and the even worse problem of our real guilt before a righteous God. Then in the fourth message we saw that Jesus is precious because he gives us eternal life. He solves the problem of death. Now today I want to try to show that Jesus is precious because through him we become authentic.
Two Levels of Authenticity That All Desire
My assumption is that a fundamental human need and a widespread longing in our day is the need and longing to be authentic people. There are two levels at which we feel the need to be authentic. The first level is the relationship between what we are inwardly and how we act and appear outwardly. Authenticity is when these two are in harmony. And the opposite of authenticity at this level is hypocrisy. Now I know that all of us, at one time or another, strike a pose. We try to appear differently to others than what we really are inside. We try to appear confident when we're scared, poised when we are shaken, peaceful when we're anxious, happy when we are grieved, enthused when we are bored, healthy when we are sick, intelligent when we are ignorant, concerned when we are apathetic, skilled when we are clumsy, devout when we are indifferent.
On and on goes the list of hypocritical poses which all of us strike from time to time. Some people are more clever at it than others. Some have done it so long they are enslaved to inauthenticity. You look again and again but never can seem to find a real person in all their words. But in spite of the fact that we all do this from time to time, we don't really like to do it. We don't have a deep sense of peace and fulfillment when we have successfully deluded everybody about who we really are or what we really feel or think. There is a deep (and I believe God-given) longing to be authentic, not to be hypocrites. Except for those who are utterly enslaved to self-deception, we all long for integrity, we want there to be harmony between (what Paul Tournier calls) the inner person and the outer personage. It creates tremendous stress and guilt when your energies are devoted to appearing rather than being. We don't like it. We want to change. We want to be authentic.
I have no quarrel in principle with the effort of psychotherapy to help people be authentic in this sense. It is legitimate to help people, as they say, "get in touch" with their feelings, know who they are, and give consistent outward expression to that inner reality. But I am not optimistic about the success of non-Christian psychotherapy to satisfy our longing for authenticity because there is a second, deeper level of inauthenticity which secular psychology simply can't address. There is nothing wrong with our quest for harmony between our inner person and outer personage. I long for that. It's just inadequate. Even if we all succeed and express perfectly what we are within, our deepest longing for authenticity will not be satisfied. Because there is a deeper level where authenticity is missing.
If authenticity in our daily outer life demands that there be harmony with our real inner person, then the authenticity of that inner person demands that there be harmony with . . . what? At this point the secular psychotherapist is at the end of his resources. If it is true that what we long for is integrity, not only between outer and inner reality, but also between inner reality and ultimate reality, then no longer does psychology, but only theology, have the answer. (And there are many psychologists who are indeed able to go beyond the first level of authenticity and help people at the second level precisely because they are good theologians.)
I appeal to your own self-knowledge. Does not your heart instruct you that if your inner self is the end point and measuring rod for all authenticity and purpose, apart from anything ultimate, life is meaningless? If there is no ultimate reference point by which you can gain your bearings in the world, then your inner life is a pointless bubble on the ocean no matter how much harmony there is with your outer life. Is it not true that the authenticity you desire is to fit perfectly with some ultimate reality? Isn't what we long for that our inner life not drift and float and be tossed and blown, but that it have a genuine, permanent identity, by virtue of being rooted in and formed by some ultimate reality? The great irony of secular humanism is that it can never satisfy the human heart. For it is written on our hearts that we are inauthentic until what we are within corresponds to the eternal reality that gives meaning to all things.
And my main point today is that Jesus is precious because through him alone can our longing for authenticity be satisfied. He not only gives the freedom to be outwardly what we are inwardly, but he also, and more importantly, enables us to be inwardly what we were designed to be by God. Jesus brings to an end our frustrated quest for who we really are in the universe. He does this by showing us that there is a holy God, that he created us to live for his glory, that we have sinned against him and deserve judgment, that in love God sent Christ to die for our sins, and that by trusting him as Savior and Lord we become inwardly and outwardly what God aims for us to be.
Don't Pass Judgment, Be Convinced in Your Own Mind
In Romans 14:1–9 we have a text which shows how Jesus gives us the authenticity we long for.
As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand. One mans esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let everyone be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
The situation behind the text is given in verses 2 and 5: "One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables (v. 2) . . . One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike" (v. 5). The believers in Rome couldn't agree on what was right to eat or which days were to be regarded as holy days. The way Paul goes about handling this problem reveals the doorway to authenticity.
His main point is stated negatively in verse 3 and positively in the last phrase of verse 5. "Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats . . . Let everyone be fully convinced in his own mind" (v. 5). Fully convinced of what? Verse 6 gives the answer: "He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God." Therefore, whether we eat meat or not, or whether we keep holy days or not, what we must be fully convinced of is that our choice is for the Lord. "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do," Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:31, "do all to the glory of God." We are not finally accountable to follow any man's opinion about food or drink or solemn days; we are accountable to the Lord whose will is that our hearts are pure and that we do what we do out of gratitude to him and for his honor.
There is a radical orientation on Jesus as Lord running through this passage. Another example is verse 4 which gives the main argument for why a Christian vegetarian shouldn't judge a Christian meat-eater. "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own Lord that he stands or falls." Every believer is personally accountable to Jesus as Lord, and we do well not to try to take Jesus' place and pass judgment ourselves on a brother or a sister. Instead, we should accept one another in spite of our differences.
Now in verses 7–9 Paul does something very characteristic (and I love him for it!): he makes a theological mountain out of an ethical molehill. He moves from eating and drinking to living and dying and brings his argument to a climax with the death and resurrection of Jesus and God's purpose in it. "None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living." Why do you suppose that in the midst of discussing such insignificant matters as food and holy days Paul gets so serious and makes the whole issue a matter of life and death? I think the reason is that Paul wants believers to be authentic even in the smallest details of their lives. That is, he wants us to know who God intends us to be, what the divine purpose for our lives is. He wants to establish a harmony between what we are in our heart and what God created us to be.
Made to Submit to the Lordship of Christ
Verse 9 tells us what that divine purpose is: "For to this end (for this purpose) Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living." God's purpose in sending Christ to die for our sins and rise again was to purchase us out of slavery to the lordship of sin and bring us over as servants under the lordship of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; 1 Peter 1:18). We are called to be servants of Christ, and there will be no abiding sense of authenticity as long as we strive against this submission and allegiance. We were made to bow before the Son of God and to live for his honor. Until we do, we will feel adrift in the universe and be plagued by a deep sense of inauthenticity.
But, lest we misunderstand God's call, notice three things in the text that the lordship of Christ implies. Verse 9 is the ground or basis of verse 8, and so we find the meaning of Christ's lordship spelled out in verse 8. Look at the end of the verse: "Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's." Lordship implies possession. He owns us. "You were bought with a price," Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:20. We are Christ's possession. And that is an unspeakable privilege. For Paul teaches in another place that all things are yours because you are Christ's and Christ is God's (1 Corinthians 3:21–23).
Therefore, Christ's lordship not only implies that we are his possession, but that as his servants God supplies all our needs. Look at verse 6: "He who observes the day observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God." How do we acknowledge Christ as Lord and live for his honor? By receiving what we need from his hand and giving thanks to God. The lordship of Christ, therefore, implies that he will take care of us and provide our needs.
The third thing implied by the lordship of Christ is that we do everything we do with reference to him. Verse 8: "If we live, we live to the Lord; if we die, we die to the Lord." If we keep a holy day, we keep it for the Lord. If we decide not to keep it, we decide for the Lord. If we eat meat, we eat for the Lord. And if we abstain, we abstain for the Lord. Living under the lordship of Christ means aiming to please him in absolutely everything we do (2 Corinthians 5:9). And we please him by doing what we do for his honor (1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31; 1 Peter 4:11).
In summary, then, the lordship of Christ over our lives implies that he possesses us, that he provides for our needs forever, and that we do everything to please him and honor his name. To that end God sent Christ into the world to die and rise again. And since that is the destiny which God wills for the world, you and I will never enjoy true authenticity until we yield to the lordship of Christ. We were not created to be independent, self-sustaining people who simply do what is right in our own eyes. We were made for God, to depend on him and to be sustained by him and do what he advises. And, O, what a sense of rightness and fulfillment and freedom and authenticity, when we yield to his lordship! The discovery of authenticity—of being within what God created you to be—is one of the most precious discoveries a human being can make. And the text teaches that Christ died and lived again so we could have this gift. Therefore, Jesus is very precious and worthy of all trust and allegiance.
Whatever You Do, Do for the Lord
There is one more thing I want to draw out of the text. Remember that there are two levels of authenticity that we long for; not only the harmony between our inner self and God's ultimate purpose, which we gain by submitting to the lordship of Christ, but also the harmony between our inner self and our outer lives. We don't want to be hypocrites, striking one pose after the other, always controlled by what others will think of us. And on this our text has a very helpful word for us in verse 5. "One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let everyone be fully convinced in his own mind." Be fully convinced of what? That what he chooses to do will get most approval from people? That he will be thought smart or in or cool? No. Let him be fully convinced that what he does, he does for the Lord. Determine your lifestyle, your conversation, your habits by what pleases the Lord, and let other people think what they want. Paul said in Galatians 1:10, "Am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be the servant of Christ." And in 1 Thessalonians 2:4, "We speak not to please men, but to please God who tests our hearts." Be truly convinced in your own mind that what you do, you do in dependence on Christ for his honor, and hypocrisy will go. There is a wonderful freedom of authenticity that comes with living under the lordship of Christ. It simply doesn't matter what other people think if you have pleased the Maker of the universe.
And now in conclusion notice this: the two levels of authenticity that we long for are both attained in the same act of submission to the lordship of Christ. At the deepest level we long for our inner life to fit in with some ultimate, eternal purpose. Jesus reveals that the ultimate purpose of God for humans is that we bow under Christ's lordship—that we yield to be his possession, depend on his provision, and aim at his honor. Thus when we repent of our rebellion and submit to Christ's lordship, we become authentic people at this deep level of harmony with God. But by virtue of that same submission we are given an authenticity at the second level. There begins to emerge a harmony between our inner and outer lives. We discover that when we are possessed by Christ, we are the slaves of no man (1 Corinthians 7:23); when we trust the provision of Christ, we fear no man (Hebrews 13:5, 6); and when we aim above all to please Christ, we are no longer controlled by what others think.
It is a glorious and exciting way to live—authentic through and through. And it is a gift purchased for us by Jesus Christ alone who died for us and lived again that he might be our Lord, now and forever. Submit yourself to Christ as Lord and you will be authentic.
I have prayed that some of you who have been circling the Kingdom of Christ, eyeing it from the edges, will come on in this morning. If you want to make that commitment public and begin this morning to honor Christ as your Lord openly, then would you come and shake Glenn's hand as we sing verses 1 and 2 of "Have Thine Own Way, Lord"?