Sacrificing Holiness for Authenticity

sacrificing holiness for authenticity

It was Saturday morning. Driving home from an early morning run, I stopped by a yard sale and snagged the classic game of Battleship for the low, low price of $1. I had fond memories of playing this game in elementary school and looked forward to wowing my family with my incredible skills.

Only that’s not quite what happened.

After Jonathan taught our oldest how to play, we suggested she watch Dad and Mom duke it out so she could really get the hang of the game. With great excitement, I set my battleships up and prepared to dominate my unassuming spouse.

But no. Instead, my husband had the greatest guesses in world history and won the game with only 3 wrong guesses. At first, I thought he was cheating. He had to be cheating! But he wasn’t; it was just a maddening game composed mostly of chance. By the end of the game, I was upset. I had only sunk 2 of his ships while he sunk all 5 of mine. This was a dumb game and I had no idea why I ever thought it was a good idea to purchase it.

My sinful attitude of being a poor sport (AKA pride and not knowing how to admit loss) was on full display for my 7-year-old, a fact of which I was well aware. In fact, I told her, “See honey, this is what it looks like to be a bad sport.” I even thought, “This is a really good thing for her to see Mommy act this way because then she knows I struggle to be a good sport too.”

Fast forward to bedtime.

We were talking about the day as I tucked her in and she mentioned, “Mommy, it’s kind of like two members of the family struggle with anger – you and me.” I started talking to her about the importance of confessing her sin to God, then suddenly realized I had never confessed my sin of anger from that morning.

I was so consumed with being authentic in front of my daughter that I forgot about holiness.

As I sat on her bed, I confessed to her as well. “Honey, Mommy was wrong this morning when I got angry about losing that game. And I just realized I never even asked God to forgive me. Do you want to pray with me now?” We prayed together and I kissed her goodnight.

But as I walked away, I kept thinking about how blinded I had been to think that I was doing my daughter a favor in letting her observe my sinful reaction. On the contrary, the greatest favor I can do for my children is to help them view life (including themselves, God, the world, and sin) in the same way God views it.

The fact is that during my time of “being a bad sport,” I was not viewing sin as God views it. Instead, I saw it as making a bad choice. Getting upset. Losing my temper. I wasn’t viewing it as what it truly was: an offense against a holy God that required nothing less than the sacrifice of Jesus in order for me to obtain forgiveness.

So, here’s the question:

Do I have to choose between holiness and authenticity?

Do I either seek to live a holy life and obey God’s command to “be holy as I am holy” or just be myself?

Is it either be real or be holy?

Can I only choose one or the other?

For heaven’s sake, no.

Authenticity is being true to who you really are. So if who you are is a child of God, then the trajectory of your life is pointing towards complete holiness when Jesus Christ returns. That means that right now your life should be trending towards holiness. Dying to yourself; living for God. More like Jesus; less like sin. Captured by Christ more than your desires.

But dying to ourselves doesn’t feel natural or authentic, does it? I mean, just think about that statement for a second and it’s obvious. Put myself to death? Pretty sure that’s the opposite of “natural.”

I think Paul and God sum it up pretty amazingly in Romans 7: “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. […] when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.”

Many times, when I seek to live a holy life, I can feel the angst in my soul as I die to myself instead of lashing out in anger. I want my own way. I want to hurt someone with my words and actions. These facts point to the underlying truth that I have a sinful nature.

Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Living a holy life is entering a war zone. There is victory promised through Christ. But you’re on the battlefield fighting yourself. Even though it does not feel natural or authentic to fight yourself and live a holy life, it’s the right choice because God says to strive for holiness: “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

We can live holy, authentic lives for God’s glory.

So let’s strive to live holy lives as the people of Christ. Not in a fake way, but authentically. Not in an “I used to sin, but I don’t do it anymore” sort of spirit, but with humility and the spirit of gentleness. (See Ephesians 4.) Living a holy life is not pretending we have zero sin problems and responding in shock when others confess their sin to us: “Oh! You think/do that? I would never even think of doing such a terrible thing!”

Authentic holiness is living out the truth of the Gospel. It is saying with Paul, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”
I’m a wretched sinner; Jesus is a wonderful Savior. Because of those two things, we can and must seek to live both holy and authentic lives in order to glorify this Jesus who has given us life.

 

 

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Take Time to Build

This past weekend, my sisters and I took time to build our relationship with God and each other. It was refreshing, instructive, encouraging, hilarious, and convicting: all in less than two days.

Before my sister, Sarah returned from the Philippines, we talked about attending a conference together. But as we looked at the conferences available during the months she would be in the States, we had a different idea: What if we planned our own conference? We could get an Airbnb rental, do our own cooking, and take advantage of the plethora of free resources available on TGC’s site. (I contributed the idea of having snacks, just like a real conference. I’m always a great idea harvester, ya know?) We narrowed down the options of what we could study and decided to watch 7 sessions on the book of Nehemiah, presented in 2014. (See all the sessions here.)

Should I call it The Sister Retreat? Or maybe a Do-It-Yourself Conference? (sidenote: no crafts were attempted during this getaway. except for the craft of food creation.)

Maybe I’ll ignore the naming part and just show pictures of what we did. First of all, meet my sisters, Becky & Sarah:

Of course, you can’t see us very well because of our large sunglasses. We try to keep our identity hidden when we’re out of doors. This picture was taken during our $10 paddleboat experience which turned out to be simultaneously beautiful and a bit sweaty.

But the majority of our time was spent right here at this little table:

We like to call this Breakfast with Kathy Keller. We didn’t share any pancakes with her, but she shared the Word with us while we ate some delicious pumpkin pancakes prepared by Becky.

During session #2, I sent the following picture to my husband and he commented that Tim Keller looked like he was smelling our bacon:

I can’t blame him. It smelled delish.

After one more session, we made some amazing sandwiches (using farm fresh eggs our hosts gave us), headed out for paddle-boating, then finished the night with 2 more sessions.

On Saturday morning, we ate breakfast while watching the last two sessions, then packed up for home. Of course, we stopped at some cute little shops on the way home (including a delicious Indian restaurant), but then we sped back home to kiss our husbands and babies.

 

I debated about sharing this event with you. But the reason I’m sharing it is to encourage you with this:

You can take time to build your relationship with God, His Word, and others.

Maybe it means you’ll get up earlier or stay up later to read God’s Word.
Maybe it means you’ll pause scrolling social media to pray for and text that friend who just shared a burden.
Maybe it means you’ll snag some free resources online (so many quality, Biblical options here… especially Teaching Our Children About Jesus and Intro to Biblical Theology) and take an afternoon to apply them to your heart.
Maybe you’ll attend a conference or create your own like we did.

But whatever you do, let me encourage you to take time to do something (no matter how small it seems!) to further your relationship with the only things that will last forever — God, His Word, and people.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”
James 4:8

 

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Stop Looking for the Perfect Friend

 

“I think you have a skewed view of friendship.”

These words came from my husband after I had just bemoaned to him for the umpteenth time about my friendship struggles. I received his words in the best possible way, of course, and replied, “You don’t understand. You’ve always had a lot of good friends.”

I wanted friends like he had. People around my age and stage of life who had similar interests and desires. He kept telling me it seemed like I had this vision of “a perfect friend” in my head, along with a bunch of friendship rules this individual must follow.

This husband of mine. The one who has been a groomsman in a million weddings and has had close friends since college days. He couldn’t understand my friendship struggles.

There was a time several years ago when it seemed that every blogger and author I followed was writing about friendship. How to find a tribe of girlfriends. The weekend trips they went on with said tribe. 5 Easy Ways to Make Friends.

Meanwhile, in the Land of Loneliness . . . there was Christa.

Quick solution? Stop reading the blogs and books.
Hard, but long-lasting solution? Deal with my heart.

Initially, I went the quick solution route.

A few years passed. During those years, I had resigned myself to never having the perfect friend. I started to reach out to those God placed around me; serving, listening and sharing my heart.

 

Then something crazy happened.

We moved.
Only that wasn’t the crazy part.

During the whole moving process, I had many conversations with my husband that went like this:

Me: “I’m so sad to leave all our friends.”

Him: “I thought you always felt like you didn’t have many friends.”

Me: “yeah…”

Apparently, sometime between the years of my looking for the perfect friend(s) and the time we moved, friendship just kinda snuck up on me. You see, God had done this really cool thing in my heart. He showed me how selfish I was acting in wanting someone to be the perfect friend for me and how, in my selfishness, I was refusing to show Christlike love to people right around me. Christ’s love is one that gives without expecting anything in return. I had a love that sometimes gave (albeit stingily), but only if I felt like I would get a decent payback. As a result, I felt frustrated in my relationships because none of them could ever match my exceedingly unrealistic expectations.

 

Maybe you’re like me.

Maybe you have this vision in your head of the perfect friend. The ideal person who is eerily similar to you, yet different. The perfect complement to your personality type. Someone you can go with on weekend trips. Someone who will come to your aid at a moment’s notice.

But you know what? Maybe God wants to blow your definition of friendship out of the water.
Maybe He wants to teach you that friendship is not about you and your skewed definition (props to my husband for calling that out for me even when I wasn’t a great listener), but about loving and serving the people God places around you.
Maybe friendship isn’t about one specific person you’re friends with for your entire life, but multiple people God brings along for different times and reasons.

Maybe God wants you to be a friend to someone who gets on your nerves. Perhaps He wants you to show love to someone who will never reciprocate. And maybe most often, He wants you to just serve those around you, regardless of whether they fit your “perfect friend requirement.”

In my case, I had this picture of what my ideal friend looked like. Then God mercifully worked in my heart, taught me to love those around me, and showed me I did indeed have a skewed view of friendship. And the crazy part? While I was working to show Christlike love to people around me, a funny thing happened: all these friendships just snuck up on me. They snuck up so gradually that I didn’t even realize all these people were my friends until I faced moving away from them.

They didn’t look like the “perfect friend” I initially wanted. They were so much better. Many of them were old enough to be my mother, several could have been my grandmother, and still others could have passed for my daughters. They were perfect. Perfect for me and my stage of life. Perfect because God had given them to me.

 

God has given you perfect friends too.

If you go into life looking for the perfect friend, take it from someone who found out by trial and error –
you’re not going to find anyone who meets your requirements.

BUT! If you go into your days serving and loving those around you, one day you’ll discover a deeper and better definition of friendship. In fact, you’ll discover you’re absolutely surrounded with perfect friends. Perfect, not because they meet your perfect friend requirement list, but because God has perfectly and providentially placed them in your life for this season. So love them, just like He loves you.

 

 

 

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