Faithlife Sermons

The Age of Authenticity

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In the Age of Authenticity, the world says that authentic living is to be “true to your self” but the only authentic life is be “true to Jesus”.

Notes & Transcripts


Tourism Victoria ran a TV advertisement series a few year ago set to the beautiful old African American spiritual “Down to the River to Pray”. The advert featured a beautiful young woman dressed in a simple white summer dress strolling through the equally beautiful Victorian landscape under the summer sun on her way to be cryptically baptized. It evoked a simple, beautiful, innocence that was captivating.
But that was only half the advert. Interwoven with the story of youthful innocence was a different story. In this story, the same beautiful woman was no longer wearing her simple white dress, but rather a tight black evening dress with dark make-up. She was no longer strolling through the Victorian countryside in the sun, but rather living the wild and exciting night life of wine, dancing, men, and thrills. All the while, the song continues calling us to come down to the river to pray and contemplate the great and weighty things of salvation.
The advert concludes with the slogan “Lead a Double Life.” So who is this young girl? Is she the simple innocent youth enjoying her simple glorious pleasures, or is she the wild vixen living for the moment? Or is she one thing in the day light and another at night?

Opening Connection

The advertisement is brilliant because it forces us to ask the same questions of ourselves? Which half of the advertisement resonates most within us? Which scenes are the most enticing or alluring? If we were touring Victoria, where would you find us?
To tell the truth, the wild nights looked pretty fun – good food, good laughs, fun people, no responsibilities, no worries. The days were looking pretty good too, though. Simplicity, innocence, peace.
Like we ask of the girl in the advertisement, we must ask ourselves, “who is the most authentic me?”

Opening Transition

The Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor, who is a master at studying and understanding our current secular culture, has labelled our present time – “The Age of Authenticity”. I’ll paraphrase his definition this way,
the age of authenticity is an understanding of life that has developed over the last 200 hundred years in which each of us has a unique way of realizing our true self and that it is important for each of us to find that way out and to live it out – without surrendering to any models that might be imposed on us from outside ourselves, including other people, society, previous generations, religious systems, or political authorities.” (BAM paraphrase of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age, pg 475)
In other words, we are all trying to get in touch with our inner-selves and to live an authentic life defined only by what we find inside of us.
The Bible, however, has a different view of the authentic self inside of us and a different view of what it means for us to life authentic lives.
Let’s turn to Ephesian 4:17 and listen to what God, through Paul, has to say about living an authentic life and let the Word of God cut through all the messages that surround us and tell us a different story.


Opening Thesis

Our passage in Ephesians describes two ways of living an authentic life. One way is to live out the authentic “Gentile” life – the life of the secular, natural person. The other way is to live out the authentic Jesus life – the life of God through Christ. We all live out the first life by nature of our universal sin natures – our total depravity, as it is often called. The only way to live the second life is to “put off” – vs 22 – the “old self” and to “put on the new self” – vs 24. To reject what “feels right” and to embrace what God says “IS right”. This takes place in the mind, in our actions, and in our community. We will look at each of these in turn.

Authenticity and the Mind (vs 4:17-24)

Living authentically starts in the mind. Charles Taylor picked this up. In his definition of the “Age of Authenticity”, he describes how each person is trying to realize their own way of being human. You can picture this as the spirit of the age gazing at its navel trying hard to figure out who it is. It is the Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek who, after coming up out of the billabong mud, sits on the bank all night muttering, “Who am I, who am I, who am I?” This is a work of the mind, of thinking.

The Old Self and the Mind

But straight away in our passage, Paul lights a rocket under this type of thinking. He calls the “Gentile” way of thinking – the natural man way of thinking – the secular way of thinking futile (v 17). This is because the secular mind is darkened (v 18). It is groping around in the dark in an unfamiliar house, bumping into the furniture, tripping on the cat, and knocking over the Ming vase.
The natural human mind is more than just in the dark, it is dead. It is alienated, estranged, from the only source of life - God (v 18). The secular mind possibly could have known life, but, rather, it has chosen ignorance of genuine life because the natural human heart is flint.
Indeed, the natural person prefers to have crusty, cracking, thick piles of dead skin over their consciences so that they can live true to themselves (v 19) – so that they can greedily and sensuously give themselves over to their every impure lust and desire. These desires are ultimately deceitful and corrupt the mind (v 22). The old self is not in a good place. Being “true to yourself’, then, is akin to being a zombie wandering around in the everlasting night getting into all sorts of evil mischief.
We all have this same natural, secular mind within us. We call this a worldview, a shared perspective of the world and how we should live within it. We know the script inherently. If I rolled out a long white runner on the floor, put some flowers on podium here, had a table over there with two chairs, and bucket of rice at the back – you all would immediately know that there was wedding on. I wouldn’t have to tell you that. However, if Genghis Khan walked in, he wouldn’t have any idea what was going on. His worldview script doesn’t include brides in white and grooms in black. Rather, he might come in, grab the pretty girl in the back row, throw her on his horse, and ride off. We would all be calling the cops and reporting an abduction; the whole while, Genghis would be thinking that he just got legally married.
We all, in here, share this darkened, ignorant, lifeless mind by nature of our sinful humanity.
But Paul calls us get our old kit off!

The New Self and the Mind

Instead, we are to “put on” an infinitely better wardrobe. This outfit is “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (v 24)”. This sounds like a much better start than thick crusty skin. But how do we put these new garments on? It comes back to the mind. The new mind is to be renewed (v 23). The quest of a truly authentic life – one that is in true righteousness and holiness, one that is like God’s – begins in the mind and through its renewal. This renewal comes as we hear the truth about Jesus and learn Jesus (v 21).
That’s right. You didn’t mishear. Learn Jesus. The authentic life is not just about a set of principles, behaviours, or truth statements. It is about a real living person. It is about a real, intimate relationship. It is about sitting at Jesus’ feet as one of his disciples and soaking up his teachings. It is learn Jesus, intimately, not learn about Jesus, sitting on the sidelines.
The renewal of the mind at the feet of Jesus is a work of the Holy Spirit through faith. We cannot do this for ourselves. Jesus extends to us his free gift of forgiveness and salvation, wrought at the highest cost by his death and resurrection, and we can only accept this gift by faith. From there, the Holy Spirit works to renew our mind and to enable us to chuck the old self, our former manner of living, in the bin and to instead put on the glorious raiment of a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.

Authenticity and Our Actions (4:25-5:5)

If the authentic life begins in the mind, it doesn’t stay there. What begins in the mind always comes out in what we do. Whether our mind is framed by the “be true to yourself” thinking or framed by the “be true to Jesus” thinking, it will be evidenced by our actions.
Paul connects verses 4:25 and following to our previous discussion by that little word “therefore.” He wants us to see that what is in our minds plays out in what we do. And then Paul highlights 5 ways that an authentically “be true to yourself” or secular person lives versus 5 ways that an authentically “be true to Jesus” person lives. They are:
1. the secular person see no problems with telling lies or half-truths went it is convenient or helpful to meet their purposes; whereas the Jesus-person speaks the truth (v 25)
2. the secular person allows their anger room to simmer and fester and doesn’t reign it in when it comes to the boil; whereas the Jesus-person gets angry, but only within the bounds of appropriateness (vs 26, 27)
3. the secular person has no qualms over cutting corners here and there, seeing what they can get away with at another’s expense in order to make their life easier; whereas the Jesus-person seeks to live honestly, to work fairly, and to share with others who are in need (v 28)
4. the secular person gives great licence to their tongue, allowing it to gossip, to tell off-colour jokes, and to tear others down; whereas the Jesus-person speaks in ways that infuses life into other people chooses their words carefully so that they are the right ones and the right time (v 29)
5. the secular person holds on to bitterness and allows it to terribly affect their relationships with other people; whereas the Jesus-person has a soft heart that seeks to bless and forgive others (vs 31, 32)
Our “be authentic”, “be yourself” world loves to trumpet all the positive effects of following its worldview. It loves to claim that everyone will live at peace and get on with one another. It loves to cast the hero as the one who at last finds the real self hidden inside. This is the subtext of every Disney and similarly animated film. In the Shrek films, Shrek discovers that he is not just a rude swamp ogre but a noble hearted champion while Fiona is forced to decide whether she is a beautiful princess or a fashionable ogre at heart. In Mulan, one of the featured songs that expresses the theme of the movie quite candidly includes these lines which drip with this worldview,
Why must we all conceal what we think, what we feel? Must there be a secret me I’m forced to hide? I won’t pretend that I’m someone else for all time, when will my reflection show who I am inside?
But this isn’t how the Bible sees our true selves. There is nothing heroic about bitterness that damages relationships. One of my former colleagues had been telling my company that one of the customers he was dealing with was just a bad egg and that we shouldn’t have a bar of him. It eventually came out that my colleague held a grudge from his footy days 30 odd years ago and that it was actually my colleague who was the bad egg. It cost my company a lot of money to fix the issues that ancient grudge caused.
There is nothing lovely or beautiful about off-colour speech, lying, or anger. These are all ugly. These all stem from our natural hearts and minds. They all spring from the sin that lies at the root of all of our hearts. In chapter 5 verse 8, Paul says that we are either darkness or light. He doesn’t say we have darkness or light within us, but that we ARE either darkness or light. Like the zombie, in our natural state, we are dead and in the dark. But with Christ, we are light because we are joined to the perfect light.

Authenticity and Community

For those of us who reject the “be true to yourself” worldview of today and celebrate the “be true to Jesus” worldview, what do we do with this?
The third place that authentic living is played out, after the mind and our actions, is within our community – a particularly within the community of the church and, specifically, Exchange Church. Paul gives a number of applications, but we will focus on just a couple.
The first is that people and messages will come along from time to time that are living with a “be true to myself” worldview and they will want a platform to speak and share their ideas. This may be in a Bible study, in church, or over dinner after church. Paul warns us in 5:6 that these people or messages have empty words and that God’s wrath is one their heels. So he admonishes that we as a community have nothing to do with them, that we as a community avoid partnering with their ideas and views, and that we expose the worldview as corrupt and filled with darkness. The reason for all of this is that we all were once filled with the same darkness, with the same evil, with the same corruption. And each of us can easily be deceived and fall back in to that same zombie lifestyle. We need each other so that we can see truth and stick with it and see error and flee from it.
The second is that we should be filled with the Holy Spirit. And from this Spirit-fullness, we should worship the Lord together, point each other constantly towards Christ, practice deep continuous thankfulness, and sacrificial service to one another as an act of Christlikeness (vs 18-21). What an amazing place Exchange Church could be if we all, myself included, lived this out more and more. This is a community outcome from each of us putting off the old self and putting on the new self. This is a community outcome of renewed minds and Jesus-life being lived out.
The final and most important is that we all imitate God and walk by love (vs 5:1-2). We do this because we are his children. We have the same DNA. And we are loved by Him. We are so deeply loved, Jesus gave himself up to suffering and death – the God who created everything and is Lord Supreme over all things – he died so that we could live. And this was a beautiful, fragrant offering and sacrifice to GOD. And so our response is to walk in love. We are to lovingly participate in the activities of God. This is for our community right here at Exchange and it is for everyone not in here too.


So welcome to the Age of Authenticity. Every one of us is searching for our true selves. We can’t help it; it’s the flavouring in the water at the moment. However, we can choose what an authentic life means and looks like.
We can choose to be the star of our own zombie flick, in which our authentic life is dark, cruel, dead, and ultimately hopeless.
Or we can choose to hide our identity in Christ and live out his life authentically in righteousness, holiness, and love. This is who we were made to be until sin rewrote our story. But Jesus offers the truly authentic life to us once again. He will renew our minds, transform our hearts, purify our actions, and reform our community, if we will but accept in faith what Jesus has done for us on the cross.
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