It’s Time To Stop Being Authentic Christians

How many small group/home group/community group/cell group/care group meetings (did I forget any names?) have started out like this:

PERSON 1: I’m really struggling with [insert impatience, anger, lust, discontentment, and any other sin].

PERSON 2: Thanks for being so open and honest about your struggles. We can all identify with that struggle.

PERSON 1: Yeah, it’s just so hard to overcome. I feel like I’m struggling with this all the time.

PERSON 2: I can relate to that feeling. I feel the same way. In fact just yesterday I [yelled at my kids, looked at porn, wasted money, etc.] We’re all broken people. Thankfully there’s grace. Let’s pray and ask God to help us.

Now, is there anything wrong with this interchange? Not exactly. It’s good to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another. Plus, if there’s one thing the world hates, it’s hypocrites. So, in an effort to obey scripture and be “authentic”, we confess our struggles. And we drink fair trade coffee, listen to Bon Iver, and wear faded jeans.

But I think in general, we as Christians need to be less authentic.

What I mean is, we need to identify more with who we are in Christ than our current struggles. We are not primarily defined by our anger, lust, impatience, or discontentment. We are defined by the fact that we are united to Jesus Christ, and that Christ himself lives in us!

So should we talk about our struggles and sins? Yes, of course. But we shouldn’t stop there. We need to remind each other that, because we are united to Christ, we will not be ruled by our sin. As Romans 6:14 says, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

We are united to the almighty Christ. That fact should completely transform the way we talk about our sins. We need to remind each other that our struggles with sin are NOT our authentic identity. Our authentic identity is as new creations in Christ. So our discussions should go a little more like this:

PERSON 1: Man, I’m just really struggling with anger this week!

PERSON 2: Thanks for being open and honest about your struggles. I can relate to that struggle too.

PERSON 1: Yeah, it feels like I can’t get past this! I’m always going to be angry.

PERSON 2: I know that it feels that way, but I want encourage you that this sin WILL NOT rule you. You are under grace. You don’t have to obey this feeling of anger that is rising within you. That feeling of anger is not your identity. You are in Christ and he is in you, and he will give you the power to overcome that sin. You don’t have to give in to it! Isn’t that good news? Now let’s pray and ask God to help you obey.

We are not slaves to sin. Our true, authentic, real identity is as Christians, united to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. Yes we confess and repent of our sins. But we don’t stay there. By faith we embrace our identity and fight against the sin that wages war against us.

  • johnmarkbattaglia

    Strong post Stephen. Thanks for helping us apply the gospel.

    • Stephen Altrogge

      Thanks man!

  • http://www.donorchild.blogspot.com Stephanie

    You forgot "life group" ;-)

    • Stephen Altrogge

      Oh yeah!

  • http://Imkristensphotoblog.com I’m Kristen

    And in fact, what you should dwell on if you are “struggling with anger” is kindness: the Lord’s kindness to you (He is NOT angry with you!), the blessing of kindness, the reward of kindness, the encouragement of kindness, the benefit to your soul and the souls of others when you are kind.

    “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

    Dwelling on anger/lust/greed/impatience will fill your mind with yourself, dishonor, unloveliness, failure and unworthiness.

    Amen to this article! I wish with all my heart that Christian’s would be sharing reports of grace, goodness, joy and laughter far more than they shared “failures.” God has made us new creations and we are NOT who we once were. Dwelling on Him and his goodness will by nature love and enjoy HIM more :)

    Amen amen amen!

    • Stephen Altrogge

      Thanks Kristen!

  • http://pollywogcreek.blogspot.com Patricia

    Very helpful. Thanks.

  • Pingback: So in the meantime… « Pastor George Fike

  • Johanna Russell

    Its true that as Christians we are in a daily battle with the world the flesh and the devil, but through HIM we can conquer and sin doesn't have dominion. I find it funny when you hear people say "come to Jesus and all your troubles will be gone." Really! The biggest battles start when when you become a Christian. Being a Christian is not a new fad to make me happy or something to try out to see if all your happiness comes true. There is a real battle going on, but you are right it doesn't stop there. Through Gods grace and mercy we can live in peace even in the midst of the storm. We have to keep our eyes on Jesus at all times, this is where our hope lies! AMEN!
    I enjoy reading your blogs! It is very edifying!

  • ADV Scribe

    Brother, I have to respectfully disagree with you – in part. Yes, the goal is maturity. Yes, the goal is to be an overcomer. But, Jesus did not expect his disciples to fully understand how to overcome at the beginning. He discipled them. Its a process. His message about taking up your cross and following him did not come until his ministry was nearly finished.

    The goal of a competent discipler is, indeed, to lead people to find wholeness and to fully put their identity in Christ. That takes time and practice. I had heard messages teaching me that for more than a decade before I began to grasp it. The beauty is that Jesus is willing to walk that with us, patiently giving us that time.

    Even when Paul wrote " sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace" he was effectively saying "learn to overcome by the grace of God". He did not rebuke them for not already overcoming it. Sure, we're supposed to be strong in our faith. Sure, we're supposed to walk in victory. But we need to learn to practice that and the way a person first comes to grip with it is to confess those sins, to acknowledge our need.

    We don't want to stay there, but we absolutely MUST start there and this is where I disagree with you: most Christians don't start there. Most Christians hide their sin, fail to acknowledge their desperate need and fail to receive the powerful grace that empowers them to overcome.

    Even Paul did not receive God's strengthening assurance that His "grace is sufficient for you", until after he had prayed and acknowledged his utter weakness 3 times (that is – after three major seasons of prayer).

    There are two truths: 1. we dare not ignore our weakness or try to hide them, for this is the path of hypocrisy and defeat. – AND – 2. we dare not merely talk about our struggles as though they are merely part of the Christian life. Because we are called to overcome, but overcoming absolutely requires that we find our strength in the identity of being "in Christ".

    Overcoming and being found "in Christ" depends on starting with humility to confess our sins, honestly facing our need and dependency on Jesus. Paul did, Peter did, John did. We must also.

  • http://www.2knowtruth.com Dr. J

    Excuses. Excuses. Excuses. Then a weak enabling response. Where is Karl Menninger when we need him?

  • Elaine

    Thanks, Stephen! We should never take sin lightly but what a glorious truth we have because of Him! Thanks again!

  • musingsinmontage

    The stronger view we have of sin, the more desperate we will get for an almighty overhaul. We need less "we're all broken people" and more "in Christ we are not broken." God's power is displayed in our overcoming sin. Thanks for the reminder this morning!