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Authenticity
Matthew 6:1-18 

 

"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 

[2] "When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. [3] "But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing [4] that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. 

[5] "And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. [6] "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. [7] "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. [8] "Therefore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him. [9] "Pray, then, in this way:

'Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. [10] 'Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. [11] 'Give us this day our daily bread. [12] 'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. [13] 'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.]' [14] "For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. [15] "But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. [16] "And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. [17] "But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face [18] so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. 

Immediately after Jesus set the standard for the Christian's behavior in Matthew 5:13-48, He emphasizes the importance of authenticity in the Christian's lifestyle in Matthew 6:1-18. It isn't good enough to live right, Jesus calls His followers to authentic living. Not the kind of righteousness religious men demonstrate, but a genuine, authentic righteousness. 

He contrasts self righteousness with authentic righteousness in this passage. There is a difference between prayer for show and heartfelt prayer. There is a difference between heartfelt stewardship and giving to get men's recognition. And there is a difference between keeping religious vows like fasting as a "religious obligation" and as a result of an authentic relationship with Christ.

Does authenticity matter? William Shatner, forever etched in the public mind as the futuristic Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek is the highly visible spokesman for Priceline.com, he admits, "The truth of the matter is that I don't know how to operate a computer." Shatner says he has been involved in some Internet chats, but "I had someone typing my answers for me. I'm a second-hand user of technology. I'm not a fan." (Http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html) Does it matter to you that Shatner is the spokersperson for something he knows nothing about?

How do you spot real authenticity? Sometimes a forgery is easy to spot. Like the time Western Union became suspicious of a young dockworker who tried to cash a check made out to "Roadway Express," a shipping company in Dallas. When asked for an ID, the 18-year-old produced an ID with the name Mr. "Roadway V. Express."

The manager at Western Union asked him to wait while he got him his money. He went in the back and called the police.

http://www.newsoftheweird.com

The manager simply sensed something was wrong. And he was right. Authenticity isn't always easy to get a grip on and explain, but most people have a real sense when someone isn't being authentic. 

An authentic person will be one with obvious integrity. 

What is integrity? To a builder, integrity means strength. To an ethicist, the word means consistency. To politicians, integrity means . . . well, we won't go there. What does the word mean to you? 

Daniel was a man of integrity. He was so consistent, even his enemies could predict what he would do and used it to their advantage. Daniel 6:4 NLT says, "Then the other administrators and princes began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling his affairs, but they couldn't find anything to criticize. He was faithful and honest and always responsible." 

Daniel's enemies decided the only way they could accuse him was by setting a trap. They convinced the King to sign a law that no one could pray to anyone but the King alone. Flattered, the King gladly signed the law without thinking how it would affect his friend Daniel.

Daniel's enemies knew he would break the law before he would pray to anyone other than the God of Israel. They spied on him, and sure enough, at the appointed hour for prayer he faced Jerusalem and prayed, just like he did every day. They caught him "in the very act" of prayer and ratted him out to the King.

Why did they know he would defy the King's law? Because Daniel was a man of integrity. He was consistent and strong. Daniel didn't pray to show his integrity; he prayed because of his integrity.

Does authenticity mean a person doesn't fail? Is it possible for a person to ever be totally pure? If we will all fail, what does an authentic believer do when they fail?

King David was a man of contradictions. He was a hard working man who was equally comfortable playing a musical instrument or fighting in a war. He was a tender-hearted poet, with musical talents that could soothe the souls of his listeners. He was a "man after God's own heart"-- a spiritual man.

Don't think that David was a softie. He was a warrior without peer. The people said of him: "Saul has killed his thousands, but David his ten thousands." Even the smallest child in a Sunday School class can tell the story of David defeating Goliath.

David a strong man, a leader of men, a man that anyone would feel safe walking beside. David was a spiritual man who penned many beautiful psalms that were sung in his day and read in ours. Yet, David had a severe moral lapse.

It was the time of year when Kings lead their troops to war, but David was no where to be found. Instead of assuming his place in front of his troops, he stayed at the palace. One night while walking around the palace roof, he spotted a beautiful woman taking a bath. Instead of turning his head and walking away, he stayed and watched.

Later, he sent for her and consummated his sin with her in the palace. She became pregnant. He tried to cover it up, even resorting to murder, but to no avail.

His sin began when he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Why wasn't he at work where he belonged? Why didn't he run when he was tempted? Why didn't he show self control and remain righteous?

David's sin became a defining moment in his life. It is too bad that he didn't finish his reign as strong as he started. He could defeat countless Philistines in battle, but was overcome by the seduction of a solitary woman.

When David's sin found him out, he didn't cover it up. He brought it out in the open. As an authentic believer, he confessed his sin and cried for mercy.

In Psalm 51:2-7 David said, "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. [3] For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. [4] Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, And done what is evil in Thy sight, So that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, And blameless when Thou dost judge. [5] Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. [6] Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom. [7] Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 

Authenticity does not imply perfection. It is a lifestyle of consistency that doesn't try to hide imperfections. It is a lifestyle that lives for the approval of God, not of men.

The things Jesus discusses in this passage: prayer, giving and fasting, are deeply personal matters. They are the things deeply devoted followers of Christ do because of their faith, not to impress others. Jesus does not prohibit public prayer, giving or fasting here, but he does warn the believer against doing any of those things for man's approval.

I love to listen to the prayers of new believers. They lack the rhythm or flow of a seasoned Christian. But what they lack in beauty, they make up in sincerity. They are the kind of prayers that touch heaven, even if they don't impress people on earth.

An authentic Christian lives her life before God, not man. Her goal is to please her heavenly father, not impress her friends.
 
 

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