Wayfinding Week 5

Pastor Jim Graham

Authenticity – Let’s be Real!

Introduction
I remember what it felt like when we first moved to Payson and were looking for a church home.  I realized that this was the first time that I had ever looked for a church to attend.  

So, we started attending Payson churches.  None of those seemed to fit until we attended Expedition.  What appealed to me, what made Expedition a good fit for me?  It was the list of core Values that were listed on the Web Site.

VALUES
Community | Life's better together
Simplicity | Less is more
Authenticity | Let’s be real
Compassion | Tangible demonstrations of grace and mercy
Intentionality | On purpose and with purpose


I had pastored the same church in the valley for over 40 years.  And the experience of a long pastorate of the good and the bad created in me a strong conviction of what I was looking for in a church.  And Expedition’s values resonated with me.  

When Donovan asked me to teach in this Wayfaring Series, I immediately went to Authenticity, Let’s be Real.

I am going to point out two Bible texts this morning that will serve as guides for my thoughts on Authenticity. The first is Romans 5:8.

Romans 5:8
But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

This has become an important verse for me in my journey to understand Grace and the freedom that comes from Grace.
God loves me…loves us.  When I was the most unlovable…When we are the most unlovable…God loves us.

When we didn’t believe in Him…When we had rejected Him…God loves us.

In our weakest moment…God loves us.  

His love is not based on what we do!

His love is not based on how well we do it.  God’s love is perfect love based on who we are and where we are in our Christian walk.

It is a love so great that it required a great sacrifice.  So, He expressed the ultimate proof…He sacrificed his one and only Son.

That is how much we are loved.

Therefore, God’s love is not diminished when we displease Him.

It is not increased when we please Him.

I John 4:9-11
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.
     
  • When we begin to grasp this love…
  • When we begin to understand this love…
  • When we begin to comprehend this love…
     
It transforms how we live, how we understand forgiveness and how we forgive.  It frees us to love God and one another.

Make sure our faith is based on this great love.
   
I did some research on entry doors when we were doing some work on our cabin.  I ran across a website that pointed out that the color of entry doors communicates a lot about who we are, our personalities.  For instance:

  • A Red door tells the world to “look at me!”  It is a bold choice for those who are not afraid of standing out from all the others on the block.
  • White is a crisp door for those who are (or would like to be) organized, neat and clean.
  • Green indicates that you care about your home, your community and have more traditional values.
  • Black indicates you do not waiver, you are consistent, conservative, and reserved.
  • Blue means you are easy going and people flock to you.
  • Yellow reveals a sunny disposition.
  • Purple says you will take risks and dream big, a free spirit.
     
I am not sure who made these conclusions? Nor am I confident that those conclusions are correct.
     
I wouldn’t go and buy paint based on this evaluation and would encourage you to paint your door any color you want.  It just doesn’t matter.  
     
But what does matter is our understanding of God’s love.  It is that understanding which forms the basis of our relationship with God and also forms us.  
   
Our faith is colored, enhanced and magnified not by our ability to be perfect or holy.  It is based on the perfect love expressed by God when we were worthy of it the least.
If you ever have to take a Systematic Theology course, you will cover the attributes of God.  
 
God is Omnipotent
He has unlimited power.
Nothing can limit or hinder our God
We cannot stop God or prompt God
God works with many or with a few.
We may be limited…God is not.

God is Omnipresent
He is present everywhere…
And at the same time
In Good times…he is present.
In Bad times…He is present
He is present with those of Great Faith.
With those of little Faith…
With those of no faith…

He is Omniscient
He knows everything…
He knows who we were…who we are…
And who we will be tomorrow.
He knows…

Let me add one more truth about God…and therefore about the nature of His love.

God does not change

Malachi 3:6
I the Lord do not change.

Numbers 23:19
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever!

So let me challenge you this morning to consider this…
If God is all powerful…
If God is everywhere present…
If God knows everything…
And if God never changes…

Then the love that He had for us before we accepted Christ…A love that was not dependent on our being worthy or holy…
   
Then it is a love that comes from a perfect, all knowing, ever preset, all powerful and never changing God and Is the basis for our living an abundant life.

And it gives us the freedom…it allows us to be Authentic and Real.

There is great power in this… This is the power of the Gospel.

It is not based on our perfection but on the purity of the Love of God.
 
In the Bible this love is seen when Paul, the apostle who was one of the pillars of the Early church, writer of the majority of the New Testament portion of the Bible, church planter, missionary and mentor of countless early Christians describes himself as the Chief of all Sinners.

In another moment of authentic and real testimony, he encourages others by admitting…

Romans 7:15-20
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

That’s real and authentic.

Unfortunately, when we forget this, our testimony is limited.  The power is in the need for God’s love.
 
One of the individuals who helped introduce this graceful testimony to me is Roy Errett.  He was a Deacon, or leader, in the church.  And he is the man who taught me to fly fish.  I knew him in church but it was fishing that I saw something special about his faith.  I looked over in his tackle box and noticed a package of Mail Pouch…In my 12 year old mind, I was not disappointed in him but rather encouraged that he was a follower of Christ and still human.  Still loved by God and still liked to have a chew every once and awhile.

Let’s be real…
 
At different times, 2 young girls in the church during my ministry, became pregnant outside of marriage.  Both were Elder’s daughters.  The elder’s and their wives were embarrassed and hurt.  Guilt and regret challenged their faith.  

The girls were experiencing guilt greater than their faith.  But here is the good news, God had already prepared someone to show love, grace and forgiveness to them.  

A current elder and his wife came along side of them and showed God’s grace to them.  The power of their testimony…they had become pregnant before they were married.  But they were not burdened by guilt.  They were empowered by God’s love and grace.

Let’s be real…

I remember when a man in a Bible study asked for prayers as he tried to quit smoking.  I wrote the request down and encouraged him by admitting that I knew how hard it was and that there were times when I would smell someone smoking a pipe and remember how enjoyable I found it to be.  So, I told the man that I understood his struggle and would pray.

One of the saints raised her hand and told me that she did not want to know that her pastor ever had that filthy habit.  Well…he did, and I prayed for the one bold enough to admit he needed help.

It is important that we see the church in light of that love expressed by God while we were yet sinners.

Expedition is about redemption and not justice.  Rescuing and not punishing…
Encouraging and supporting and not excluding.

And that is why we can be Authentic.

Because Love, which is unmerited and flows from the heart of a perfect God, is our foundation and motivation to become more like Christ.

We can be real because God’s love is greater than anything in our past, in the present or in the future.

The second guiding text?

Philippians 1:6
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

God does not leave us where he meets us.  The moment when we respond to His love, He takes hold of us and leads us on a journey to be more like Him.  
     
Our humanness, our shortcomings, our failures - never stops Him loving us or leading us to become the person His love desires us to be.
     
Our journey, no matter who we are, will always be empowered by our authentic expressions of our need for His love.  

Conclusion
 
During times when I allowed Guilt to limit my authenticity, I would remember the refrains of a hymn that was sung in the church.

It was written well before my time but the words would celebrate that Love that started my faith.

Here are the words of the chorus…
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!
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