Authenticity and the Identity Thieves, Part 1: Finding Authenticity Where Darkness Once Ruled

2 photos of a man with one half of his face normal and the other have a reverse image

We live in days where some people pretend to be people they are not. They do this for their own gain, often with some sophistication of stealth. “Oh, dread.  Somebody stole my identity!” We also encounter people who pretend to be something they are not. For example, they might appear to be well-to-do, only to disguise dwindling bank accounts. We see only what they allow us to see. And still others don’t really want another person’s identity at all, but they would rather discredit us and shatter the noteworthy elements in our character. I hope I have not just described any of us.

On second thought, I described myself sometimes (I mean often), at least when it comes to the second example, and I’m struggling to write this article because of it. I delayed the publish date two times because I’ve written just a couple paragraphs per day, only to rewrite them later. In fact, this article didn’t really start to come together until I wrote this confession.

I guess the same is true for many of us. We slip up, but I hope it’s not a regular thing and I hope we always mean well.

Identity thieves run rampant. We protect ourselves with inherent caution, but maybe the more subtle thieves slip by: those who try to peel away our identities in Christ until we are eventually back to our old selves. What they don’t understand is that God cleanses our hearts and we are made new from the inside out. If these types of identity thieves peel off our layers of Christlikeness, they will find more Christlikeness. Any flaws they discover are eventually repaired because the Author and Finisher of our faith is at work in our hearts (Hebrews 12:2). This is how it is with authentic Christians.

John wrote about authenticity in his New Testament letters: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John.  In these three letters we find everyday, practical truth about how to live authentic Christian lives. The basis for this truth is simple. It’s described in 1 John 4:13-15.

  • Jesus is the Son of God who paid the penalty for our sins. He is the Savior for all who believe in Him.
  • After we trust Jesus as our Savior, God lives in us and we live in God.

In his letters, John taught us how to be authentic and how to protect our identities in Christ. I write about this in two posts.

  • Finding Authenticity Where Darkness Once Ruled
    (this post, basis is 1 John 1:1-2:2)

Finding Authenticity Where Darkness Once Ruled

The basics of our faith always remain the basis for our lives, so it is not redundant to begin there (see 1 John 1): When we trust Jesus as our Savior, who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, we become children of God. This is also when God gives us the gift of authenticity. Yes, authenticity.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you:
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness,
we lie and do not live out the truth.

1 John 1:5-7

If we are truly children of God, our identities are in Jesus Christ, the darkness that once ruled in our hearts was replaced with light, and we became righteous through the atoning sacrifice of Christ (see 1 John 2:1-2). Of course, we still struggle to walk in the light, but God helps us work out the kinks as we go. You see, living with authenticity does not mean living without sin. It means being honest about ourselves and living in humble dependence on the Holy Spirit.

That’s authentic Christianity.

John offers a formula for authenticity…

To truly live as children of God, we obey Him as an expression of our love for Him. And, the harder part of the equation: Our love for God is validated by our love for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Authenticity = Obedience = Love for God = Love for Christians

As children of God, we should soon realize we are different than we used to be. Our standards for living come from God and God alone. With the righteousness of Christ, we live more and more in alignment with His standards. We are also influenced less and less by the things of this world that pull us away from God.

So, if we don’t feel a tugging to be different, if there is no prompting to bow before our God in humble obedience, and if we don’t love the Christians in our circles, we have to ask ourselves: Are we really children of God?

The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them.
And this is how we know that he lives in us:
We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
1 John 3:24

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.
No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them;
they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.
1 John 5:6 and 9

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.
Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar,
and the truth is not in that person.
1 John 2:2-3

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,
and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.
This is how we know that we love the children of God:
by loving God and carrying out his commands.
1 John 5:1-2

This is how we know who the children of God are
and who the children of the devil are:
Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child,
nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.
1 John 5:10

These are sobering words, aren’t they? They’re God’s words, not mine, and they urge us to ask critical questions:

Do we love God?
Do we love His people?
Do we care to obey Him?
Are we authentic Christians?
Are we even Christians at all?

Our love for God is validated by our love for fellow Christians

The capstone of our authenticity is our love. Jesus said God’s law can be summed up by loving Him and loving people (Matthew 22:34-40). And our love for God is especially validated by our love for His children (1 John 2:9-11).

Our obedience is embodied by our love for God’s children, as difficult as that may be at times. Our love for each other tells the world we belong to God and we are serious about living for Him. It can also be our gauge. How much we love, or how much we struggle to love, is an indication of how true we are to God. How much do we love our Christian brothers and sisters: those we bump shoulders with each Sunday, the members of our small groups, the friends and strangers we interact with online, and the ones who live with us in our homes.

How much do we love them?
Do we listen as they share?
Do we encourage them?
Do we pray for them?
Do we pray with them?

Actions speak louder than words

All of the above is straight talk, but it is just talk. If we don’t act on it, we are essentially walking in darkness as 1 John 2:9 suggests, as if we are not children of God. Love is demonstrated by actions and measured by sacrifice.

How much do we give up for others?
How much of ourselves do we give out for the benefit of others?
Authentic Christians who truly love others make sacrifices.

Read John’s discourse on Christian love:

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:

Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child,
nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.
For this is the message you heard from the beginning:
We should love one another.

Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.
And why did he murder him?
Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.

Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other.
Anyone who does not love remains in death.
Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer,
and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

This is how we know what love is:

Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them,
how can the love of God be in that person?

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

1 John 3:10-18

Authenticity = Obedience = Love for God = Love for Christians

(Be sure to read Part 2 for a discussion about identity thieves,
those people or things that attempt to rob us of our authentic identities in Christ.)

Read more blog posts here.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Popular Posts

Stone Cold Truth about the Grave, Grace, and Honor

A Gift for Jesus (A Short Poem)

Boarding and Deboarding Noah's Ark
The Ride of Your Life!
(Episode 4: Our Response of Worship)