“Authentic or Fake?”

 

Hello and welcome to ““Key to the Kingdom”.” My name is Bret McCasland. Lots of advertisements warn against purchasing something that is not real. They advise us to carefully read the fine print and to not get trapped into purchasing something that is fake. The same is true when it comes to things spiritual. We cannot run the risk of being led astray. We are to constantly make sure that what we read and who we follow is legitimate, for those things shape the way we live. In our lesson on “Key to the Kingdom”, our study takes us to 2nd Corinthians. The apostle Paul's life as a Christian, and as a minister, is called into question. Some wonder whether or not he is the real thing. He lets them know, however, they can tell that he follows Jesus when they look closely at the life he is living. That is important for us to consider, as well. When people look at the way we live, can they tell we live for Jesus? Can others see the light of the Lord living in every aspect of our daily lives? That is the message we will consider in our study today. I hope you will join us.

 

>>LESSON

When a group of people decide to start a church, they ask a number of questions. For example, what kind of church do we want to be? What kind of leaders do we want to lead us, and what do we want our church to look like to others? Those questions, and many others just like them, are important to ask, and to answer, when trying to find, and also to share, a church's identity. Yes, a great deal of thought goes in to developing a church, it's ideas, and philosophies, and what it will look like once it gets started. I came across a parable, not long ago, describing the status of some churches today, and I want to begin today by reading that parable. It's a parable about a life-saving station. The station was established on a dangerous seacoast where ships were frequently wrecked. Volunteers repeatedly risked their lives while rescuing men from drowning. As the life-saving station grew, the members put up sheds for the boats and for the shelter of those who were pulled from the sea. Then they erected a building, where the shipwrecked victims could be comfortable. The members took great pleasure in the building, especially after they had added a restaurant, game room, and a lounge for themselves. The station then grew in prestige and more influential members joined them. After a while, the members then hired workers to do the life-saving work for them so they could enjoy the club. Well, this development disturbed some of the members of the life-saving station, so much so they decided the purpose of the original station had been lost. Consequently, they resigned and started a life-saving station farther down the coast. As the years passed, the new station went through the same development as the original station, until another group pulled away and started their own station. If you visit that seacoast today, you will find a whole series of exclusive clubs on the shore. Not one of them, however, is much interested in life saving, although many shipwrecks still take place in those seas. Yes, that is a parable, a little short story, and yet it seems to describe the status of many churches today. In fact, a church, or for that matter any institution, can very quickly lose or forget its original purpose, even though they may still have signs of life and strength. For example, a church may offer lots of programs for young children, perhaps even older adults. Large numbers of people may come on a regular basis to hear a dynamic speaker and to be involved in worship and praise. A church may claim to have the right doctrine and follow exactly the teachings of Jesus Christ, and some of those things certainly are important, but the ultimate question, however, is this. What is the church's purpose, and is it alive and well? Oh, before decisions are finalized, about what kind of church it will be, decisions also need to be made about what kind of people will be there. What will the people look like to others? Now that has nothing to do with one's social status, or economic standing, or the color of one's skin. Rather, are those people authentic or fake? Are they genuine or artificial? I have discovered that those who question Christianity are not so much questioning the Christian doctrine or belief as they are questioning the genuineness of the Christians themselves. Yes, people look at a Christian's life and determine for themselves whether or not they want that for themselves. Does what happens in that church building make a difference in that person’s life? Does it offer something of meaning and value? Oh, it might be very easy for some people to say and do all the right things, to attend those church services, or to read the Bible, or to pray, or other religious things, but yet still not be authentic, and genuine Christians. Oh, in reality, most of the people considering a church today ask the question; what is the identity of those who attend there and has that church made a difference in the way they live from one day to the next? Now I say all of those things by way of introducing our lesson today, which comes from 2nd Corinthians. In this letter, we call 2nd Corinthians, written by a man named the apostle Paul, he writes as one who is under attack by people in the city of Corinth. He is being criticized for living according to the standards of the world. He is being accused of not living up to what he is preaching and proclaiming. Paul's opponents do not question his convictions. They believe that he is very interested in serving the Lord and being a disciple of Jesus Christ, yet they question his actions. They question what he is doing as a minister of Jesus Christ. In fact, they even claim to be more successful and to have more influence than does Paul. Well, in chapters 10, 11 and 12, here in 2nd Corinthians, Paul identifies several things that his critics are saying about him. For example, they say he is weak and has no courage. They say he acts in a worldly way. They say his letters are too forceful and he is not much of a public speaker. They say he suffers from bad health and over all he really is not all that impressive. They say if Paul really was an apostle of Jesus Christ then his letters would be more powerful; there would be some kind of persuasion in his speech, and there would be some kind of record of success in the things he has done in the past. Yes, those questioning Paul and his ministry have come to the city of Corinth with their own letters of recommendation. Evidently, other people have said, listen to these individuals because they have done this, or that, in the past. They claim to be servants of Jesus and they compare themselves with Paul, and they conclude he is not authentic. He is not as genuine or as special as they are. They accuse him of acting in a worldly way and not living by the Spirit, who is supposed to live within him. Yes basically, Paul fails to pass their test of authenticity. He does not measure up to their standards. He does not measure up to their expectations of what they want Paul to be. Well on hearing all of these things, Paul decides to defend himself. He doesn't want to. It's not his way of dealing with problems or dealing with critics. It's not his choice. He's not in the business of comparing himself with other people, because he knows that it is before the Lord that he will have to give an account. He even wrote that, back in 1st Corinthians chapter 4. – I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court, because it is before the Lord that I stand and will give an account of my life. – And so, Paul is not in the business of comparing himself with others, and yet he is forced to do so. He is forced to lay out his credentials and to show that indeed he is an authentic Christian and a genuine servant of Jesus Christ, so he writes this, in 2nd Corinthians chapter 10:12. – We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. – We can hear the sarcasm in those words, can't we? Paul says you're not very smart. You're not very wise when you compare yourself with other people because who says that your standards are the right standards and who says that you are living by those standards better than other people. Well, using this as his basis he now begins his defense. He tells these people in Corinth, you don't need letters about me. You don't need these letters of recommendation that other people have brought to you because I was with you. I spent almost 2 years in your presence, teaching you about Jesus, and establishing your church, and working among you. You know who I am. You know I am real and authentic. Then, Paul begins to go into a lengthy description of his credibility and all of the things that make him a genuine and authentic Christian, and disciple of Jesus Christ. We won't take time to read it all, but I do want to notice 3 verses here, beginning in chapter 11 of 2nd Corinthians, verse 21. Paul writes, – What anyone else dares to boast about (I am speaking as a fool) I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. – And that list continues on. By listing these things, Paul was not bragging. Rather, he is defining who he is. He is defending his life as a servant of Jesus Christ. He isn't boasting. Rather, he is reminding them of the ministry he carried out while he was in their midst, and that ministry revolved around one thing; it revolved around serving them. That was the mark of Paul's ministry. He worked with his hands so as not to be a burden to any of them. Paul was a tent maker. He made tents with his own hands. He sold those tents and provided for his own needs. He lowered himself by getting his hands dirty. He became as one of the people in Corinth so that he could relate better to them. Now to his critics, all of that was a sign of weakness. An educated teacher like Paul was not supposed to do such things. In fact, he had those things hired; and he would sit above other people, and he would have people serve him, but that wasn't Paul. Paul did not wear any special titles. He did not try to exalt himself above other people, like these impostors were doing; who had come into Corinth after Paul left. And as we just read, Paul could match any of them, boast for boast, on almost anything. However, that's not what Paul wanted to do. In fact, he considered all of that as absolutely worthless and unnecessary compared to the great value and joy of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And he wrote those very words, in Philippians 3:8. He also writes this, in 2nd Corinthians 10:1 and 2. –  By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you. I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. – By worldly standards, to be meek and gentle were signs of weakness, or signs that you are not very credible as an apostle or minister. To be weak and gentle was not a sign of power, but rather it was humiliating. Yet for Paul, they were marks of a Christian. To be meek and gentle among them were some things that characterized his life as a servant of Jesus Christ. Oh, Paul realized he had no power of his own. He had no reason to exalt himself. In fact, he offered a ministry to the people of Corinth, and everywhere else he went, that was shaped by the cross of Jesus Christ, and it revolved around serving. They may have been signs of weakness in the eyes of the world, or in the eyes of these critics in the city of Corinth, but in the eyes of God they were signs of discipleship and they characterized one who was following the example of Christ. Paul even wrote that very thing in 1st Corinthians 11:1, when he wrote, – Follow my example, as I follow the example of Jesus Christ. – And what was that example? A life of service, an attitude of meekness, and gentleness, and humility; and we read that in Philippians chapter 2; a familiar passage to us as Paul includes these words beginning with verse 5. – Your attitudes should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped; but, made Himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross! – Paul's example was Jesus Christ. Paul ministered and served like Jesus ministered and served. The word minister, or ministry, is used some 15 times here in 2nd Corinthians, alone, and that is almost as many times as Paul uses that word in all of the other 12 letters he writes, combined. So Paul lets them know that authentic ministry and service for the Lord is the true identity of a Christian, and that is Paul's primary message. Through his own example, he encourages these Christians to follow him as a minister and servant to others. He longs for them to display a lifestyle of humility and sacrifice, and he suggests that in order to be a true and authentic disciple of Jesus Christ you live with a spirit of humility. Now, these Christians here in Corinth, upon receiving this letter, have to ask themselves the question; who will we follow? Will we follow Paul, who was with us for such a long period of time, who served us, who ministered in our midst, who took care of us, who shared with us the good news of Jesus Christ for almost 2 years or, will we follow these impostors, these people who exalt themselves above us, who have all of these letters of recommendation, who say they are somebody special and important that we need to listen to and follow? Yes, they have to ask them self what their church will look like to others, as they think about their own individual lives and whether or not they truly represent Jesus Christ. Oh, Paul's claim that he is a true Christian reminds us again that sometimes the major issues involving the church and its members is not about its beliefs and its doctrines, but rather, it is about one's behavior and one's attitude, and ones lifestyle, and how that person ministers to and serves other people that he or she encounters in their every day life. Paul lived out his ministry to the Lord, and to the people, not only in Corinth but wherever he went, and in most everything he did. The church at Corinth was made up of these Christians trying to figure out; who will we follow? What will we look like and who will we represent in our daily lives? They were struggling with what they would look like; the example of Paul, who followed the example of Jesus, or will we look like these other people who exalt themselves? The same thing is true with the church today, isn't it? It is called upon to make some decisions as to what we look like; not the color of our skin, or our social status, or anything else, but rather what we look like to this world. Will we look like ministers and servants, living in a spirit of humility and gentleness, or, will we look like people who exalt ourselves and make ourselves better than all the other people around us? Will we find our significance in the numbers who attend or in the programs we offer, or in our beliefs, or in our doctrines? Or, will the church find its significance in representing Jesus Christ; who came to this earth, not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many, as he wrote about himself, or as he said about himself in Mark 10:45? What example will we follow as we exemplify Jesus every day? Take a look at this short video clip, as it illustrates our lesson today.

 

>>VIDEO CLIP

You may be wondering why I am standing by this motorcycle. Well, this motorcycle is not mine. In fact, I do not even own one. This belongs to a friend. But this is a special and unique motorcycle. It is a Harley-Davidson, and it has some special features about it. But yet, all motorcycles on the market today have special and unique features about them as well. But there is at least one thing that is common to all motorcycles and that is this; whenever you turn on the switch the headlight automatically comes on and the headlight remains on as long as the switch remains on. That allows the drivers of other vehicles to see a motorcycle is approaching. As I read my Bible I realize that is the way it is to be with Christians; that we are to always let our light shine. Jesus tells us, in Matthew 5: 14, that we are the light of the world, and in verse 16, that we are to let our light shine so that others may see our good deeds and give glory to the Father in heaven. Yes, it is important for other people to see Jesus living in us, through the words we speak, the actions that we do, the way we live from day to day. I want to ask you a question today. Are people able to see Jesus Christ living in your life? Is your headlight always on? Is your life shining to the rest of this world? Oh, I hope and pray that it is. I hope that you are living the kind of life that gives glory and honor to the Lord God Almighty, and that other people are able to do that very same thing because Jesus is living in you. The next time you see a motorcycle, and a headlight shining, I want you to give some careful consideration to your life, and make sure that your Christian light is shining as well.

 

Yes, it is important for our light to always be on, and to represent Jesus wherever we go and in whatever we do. Finally, Paul comes to his conclusion in chapter 13, and in verse 5 he writes this. – Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you, unless of course you fail the test? – Paul is not the only one on trial. They, too, need to examine themselves. They, too, need to think about their authenticity, and their genuineness as a Christian. Are they true disciples and servants of Jesus Christ or are they like these impostors who have tried to lead them astray? Every day, we, too, face a test. Every day, we, too, have an examination that we need to pass, and we will either pass or fail that test. There is no middle ground. It is an examination with 2 parts. Part number 1 is, do we believe in Jesus Christ with all of our heart, is He the Savior of our soul and have we made Him the Lord of our life, and we know the answer to that question, don't we? That is part number 1, but here is part number 2. If we are following Jesus Christ then do we allow others to see that Jesus has made a difference in the way we live? That perhaps may be the most difficult part of our examination. Oh, our identity and our authenticity as a Christian is important, and the people of this world can very quickly tell whether or not we are real or fake, whether or not we are genuine or artificial. They begin to make that determination as they see whether or not we are living with meekness, and gentleness, and if we have the spirit and attitude of humility, like Paul had as he followed the example of Jesus Christ. That is the ultimate question concerning our identity. Is our Christianity real or is it fake? I hope we think very carefully about the answer that we would give to that question, but yet more importantly, let us consider the answer that other people might give to that question when they look at our life. Today, let us not be like some of those life-saving stations referred to in that parable, that seemed to have lost their identity and their purpose out there on the seashore, but rather let us have our identity and purpose as a genuine and authentic disciple and servant of Jesus Christ, characterized by gentleness and humility, as we let our light continually shine throughout our life.

 

>>CONCLUSION

Thank you for taking a few minutes to watch today's program. I hope it gave us the opportunity to think about the influence we have on the people around us. Is there a way we can assist you in your walk with the Lord? If so, we want to help. We offer a free Bible study, either through the mail or the Internet. It comes without any commitment or obligation. There are a number of resources available on our website and we hope you will take advantage of them. They are all free and designed to offer encouragement and hope. Remember, you can have quick access to our ministry through a free app loaded onto your smart phone. Take a minute to put it on your phone, if you have not already done so. Thank you again for taking time to join us for today's broadcast, and please join us again next time as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom”.