We’re told that young people in their 20s and 30s crave authenticity. They have grown up with the empty exaggerated promises of advertising. Over-polished superficiality doesn’t impress much. Authenticity and trustworthiness are certainly important values to recover. The danger, however, is that we judge what is genuine simply by what “feels” real to us. Spiritual authenticity is defined by God in His Word. Above all, what matters is that we personally are spiritually real.
Sadly a defective idea of spiritual authenticity has become a trend in some parts of evangelicalism. It has a focus towards others and features a false openness. It means being vulnerable and admitting your failings to the extent of wallowing in them. Making the acknowledgement of imperfection an excuse for continuing in sin. So much so that some writers have questioned whether such “authentic” confessions are really a way of avoiding the demands of holiness.
True spiritual authenticity is focussed on God. Andrew Gray describes spiritual authenticity as the grace of “sincerity”. He preached a sermon on the description of Nathanael: “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (John 1:47). Christ, who spoke these words, is the judge of spiritual authenticity. Gray begins his sermon by posing the question as to whether there were any in the congregation to whom Christ could give this “precious testimony”. Professing Christians pursue many spiritual things more than this particular grace. “There is more true and unspotted religion in one grain of sincerity – it is of more worth and value – than if you would pray half of your time and weep the other half”. The following is abridged and extracted in updated language from Andrew Gray’s sermon.
What is Spiritual Authenticity?
- Our practice conforms to our profession. Usually, we profess more than we practice (Matthew 23:5). Most of us come very short not only of what we ought to be, but also of what we seem to be.
- We are as much exercised in spiritual duties on our own as in company. Many commend Christ to others. Yet if the walls of their houses could speak, they would testify that they do not watch in prayer. They “love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men” (Matthew 6:5). They do not love to pray much in private.
- Our hearts conform to our words. Our blessed Lord Jesus was commended for having no guile in His mouth and His spirit. He spoke nothing with His mouth that was not in His heart.
- We act for the glory of God as well as out of faith and love.
In short, Christian sincerity is a sweet agreement between our profession and practice, our heart and our walk and our walk and our hope. Every Christian grace can be counterfeited by a hypocrite. Whatever we do, have or can have, is empty and pointless without this precious and excellent grace of sincerity. Sincerity is to other graces what the sun is to the planets. They cannot be seen without it.
The Christian has his greatest peace from this grace of sincerity when passing through death to his everlasting rest and home. All our duties will then pass away as a cloud. Sincerity is the way to best resemble God. Is not God sometimes in Scripture called the God of truth? All your other graces will not thrive if they do not grow out of the ground of sincerity.
The Benefits of Spiritual Authenticity
1. It Best Prepares You for Assurance
It is because you are not sincere that you debate with yourself about your assurance of salvation and have so much jangling unbelief. The grace of sincerity best capacitates a Christian to receive intimation of peace. The sincere Christian knows best how to make use of assurance and peace of conscience.
2. It Enables You to Wrestle Against Sin
It engages the Christian to wrestle against predominant sins. There is no grace that enables a Christian more to put predominant sins to death. “I was also upright before him and I kept myself from mine iniquity” (Psalm 18:23). There is an emphasis in these words. Christians may engrave this title on their iniquity: “It is mine”. While iniquity is still living and Christians are under it, while it is not yet put to death, Christ does not have much access to the soul, and has only the corner of the Christian’s heart.
3. It is the Best Evidence that Your Sins have been Forgiven
David says in Psalm 32:2 that the evidence of one who iniquity is forgiven is that there is no guile in his mouth.
4. It Brings You Most Victory Over Sin
It enables a Christian to put his besetting sins to death. What is the blessedness of such Christians? “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord”. Their blessedness is that they hate every false way and their feet do not turn from the commandments of the Lord. I am persuaded that the little we exercise sincerity is the reason we do not succeed in putting sin to death. Is it not often your aim in prayer merely to quiet your conscience? Why do you seek to put sin to death? Is it not to obtain peace and be free of outward offence against the generation of the just? Such motives are due to lack of the grace of sincerity.
5. It Makes You Receive All God’s Promises
God manifests His faithfulness most to those who exercise sincerity most. God is upright with those that walk uprightly (Psalm 18:26). That uprightness consists of faithfulness most of all. “The Lord God is a sun and shield…no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). This promise is to those that walk uprightly and delight in God’s law with their whole hearts.
6. It Best Prepares You for Fellowship with God
“Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart” (Psalm 73:1). Who are those that receive divine influences from heaven? Those that are sincere.
7. It Enables You to Persevere to the End
The sincere Christian will endure to the end of their fight and spiritual warfare without the least spot and blemish on their walk. Solomon says: “He that walketh uprightly, walketh surely” (Proverbs 10:9).
8. It Enables You to Enjoy Christ’s Presence
It is impossible to make best use of Christ’s presence without this precious and noble grace of sincerity. The Christian is to make best use of experiencing Christ’s presence as strengthening towards heaven and putting sin to death. This is not possible without sincerity. “The way of the Lord is strength to the upright” (Proverbs 10:29). We are certain that all the ways of mercy and grace give strength to the Christian that is sincere. Lack of sincerity prevents Christians from making best use of their spiritual blessings.
Gray acknowledges that there are difficulties in the way of spiritual authenticity. It requires diligence, humility and a constant focus on the being and glory of God. We read of “hypocrisies” in the plural in 1 Peter 2:1. This is because it may be in any and all of a Christian’s actions. Before we condemn ourselves altogether, he makes a distinction between having hypocrisy to some extent in our actions and being a hypocrite. The excellent nature of the grace of sincerity should provoke our desires and affections after it. It is like a precious and excellent garment with which we can be robed so that it is clear to both God and man that we are an “Israelite indeed in whom is no guile”.