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.