Authenticity and the Identity Thieves, Part 2: Protecting Our Identities by Upholding God's Truth

2 photos of a man spliced together showing a normal upper head matched with a lower head that is a zombie hockey player

What determines our next steps? Who do we listen to? Do we follow God’s truth? Are we careful to discern and turn away from persuasive lies? We can choose truth. Even in loneliness. Depression. Addiction. Our values can align with God’s. Even in difficult situations. Fear. Disappointment. We can walk confidently. Even when people ridicule us. Turn on us. Bully us. And we can rally around the truth because that’s what God’s children do.

In my previous post, I wrote about living an authentic Christian life. An authentic child of God obeys Him, loves Him, and loves His children. Simple prescription. Hard to swallow. But, if that isn’t hard enough, the letters of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John also warn us about people and things that directly oppose our authenticity. Identity thieves try to rob us of it and replace it with anything contrary to God.

Identity thieves are in our midst and they are cunning and intentional. If we’re not careful, we could adopt and even thrive on false truth; and, based on 1 John 2:12-17, that which consumes us, defines us.

Who are these identity thieves?

“Don’t be surprised…if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13).

Jesus said we don’t have anything in common with the world and, because the world hates Him, it also hates us who follow Him (John 15:18-19).

The world is an identity thief to every Christian in every generation.

But the world is where we live.
It is what we see and hear.
It delivers our consequential experiences throughout each and every day.

And the world has an agenda.

When Jesus spent His last meal with His disciples before He would hang on the cross, He referred to the ruler of this world (John 14:30). No doubt He spoke of Satan, the same ruler who, three years prior, offered Him all the kingdoms and their glory (Matthew 4:8-9). The world’s agenda is Satan’s agenda.

1 John 2 contrasts love for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with love for the world and things in the world. In verses 12-14, John directly addressed children, fathers, and young men, as if to say, “Wake up! Love each other, but be careful not to love the world in the process." And then he wrote...

Do not love the world or anything in the world.
If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.
For everything in the world—
the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—
comes not from the Father but from the world.
The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2:15-17

Loving God and loving the world are opposing affections. It’s not that we don’t find good in this world. We do. But we need to proceed with caution because there is much that separates us from God. Things our bodies crave. Things we wouldn’t need had we not seen them. Things which feed our egos. Anything that competes against our authentic love for God and our obedience to Him. The world is a bottomless source of such things.

Read what Matthew Henry* wrote about 1 John 2:15-17:

“The things of the world may be desired and possessed for the uses and purposes which God intended, and they are to be used by his grace, and to his glory; but believers must not seek or value them for those purposes to which sin abuses them. The world draws the heart from God; and the more the love of the world prevails, the more the love of God decays.”

Let’s think about the things we love. Do they lead us closer to God or away from Him?

Remember, the world hates us.

But we have overcome the world because we have faith in the Son of God who overcame all that the world dangles before us. He died to pay the penalty for sins, those things that displace our love for God. We have new life, and life in tune with the Spirit of truth. We don’t need to believe the lies of this world. (See 1 John 5:3-12.)

“Those who are trying to lead you astray” (1 John 2:26)

False teachers are strategically placed among us by the organized system put in place by the ruler of this world (1 John 2:18-19). Where the temptations of this world don’t succeed, there are people who intentionally confuse God's truth and draw us away from it with their persuasiveness. They do this in places like our churches and our social circles, both face-to-face and in the electronic world (social media, emails, web pages...).

Our discernment matters. Many will come to us. Many will influence us. When we welcome false teachers, we work against God’s truth and may adopt their false teaching (2 John). But when we welcome fellow believers, we uphold God’s truth and advance His work (3 John).

We have what we need to discern the truth. We already understand the importance of reading God’s Word and communing with Him throughout our days, but it is the Holy Spirit who makes sense of God’s Word in our hearts. And when it comes to identity thieves, He provides truth to protect us against the convincing lips of deceivers, or antichrists, as John puts it.

Do we shortchange the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives? He is God, with all understanding, and He gives us the ability to discern false teaching. The Holy Spirit helps us evaluate what is being taught about Jesus, whether He is upheld as the Son of God who came to earth as a man to sacrifice His life as payment for the sins of mankind. See 1 John 2:22-26, 3:7-10, 4:1-6. We rally together around this truth, and this truth turns false teachers away from us. This is the truth that has conquered the world.

As I started writing the next paragraph, someone began to follow me on Instagram. She (he/they?) beckoned me to indulge in her posts. Thankfully, this “follow” was so obviously timed with the writing of this post that I recognized it as coming from the world. But such attacks are often subtle and we aren’t always on our best guard. Sometimes we claim to belong to God and we find ourselves amidst the darkness.

"See that what you have heard…remains in you” (1 John 2:24)

While we may be watchful and wary of false teaching, hypocrisy is still present in our Christian circles.

(Hypocrisy is a harsh word, but we don’t want to water it down to where it becomes acceptable.)

John wrote about people who were part of his fellowship (his church, if you will) who didn’t really belong. Similarly, in John 8:44, Jesus confronted some Jews who were in the temple courtyard. He claimed they were children of the devil because they didn’t believe or even understand His truthful words. The surprising part of this story is they were supposedly people “who believed in Him.”

How many times do we read Scripture and find ourselves on the wrong side of the narrative? I find myself at the edge of darkness far too often. John wrote that there are those who claim to love God, yet love the world at the same time. Some of us teach and uphold the truth one moment, and lead brothers and sisters the wrong direction in another.

We may know some people who give Christianity a bad name, but we may also be those same people who defame our God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts.

Do our values uphold biblical truth, or do they counter God sometimes?
Have we tried to encourage friends in despair and unwittingly misspoken God’s Word because it was not what our friends wanted to hear?
Do we offer our opinions out of the context of Scripture because it makes us sound intelligent or wise?
How often, instead of studying for deeper understanding, do we use phrases like, “I think…,” or, “I’m not sure, but…”?

We must protect God’s truth – His truth in our hearts and His truth in our communities. It's better to be unclear on the meaning of a verse than it is to pretend that we understand it.

It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.”
It’s okay to be at a loss for words.
It’s okay to admit that our hearts are not in the right place at the moment.
We're human.

It's better to be honest and real than it is to teach what sounds like biblical truth but is really a lie. We have a Helper who teaches us God’s truth. We can speak the truth. We can follow the truth. And we can do so with confidence, because that’s what truth gives us (1 John 2:28); and when we do, our brothers and sisters will rally alongside us.

As we strive to live authentic lives, remember that,
    through Christ, we have overcome the identity thieves.

We have the power to know and live God’s truth.

We can love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ according to biblical truth,
   a truth that helps us live honestly and confidently, and in unity.

Read more blog posts here.

*Henry, Matthew.  Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible.  Thomas Nelson, 2003.

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


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