You know, in the weeks after 9-11, a very curious thing happened. According to a survey by the Barna Research Group, there was a massive increase in church attendance all across the United States, but I'm afraid that Barna's survey does not have a happy ending because it also found that within several months, church attendance had dropped right back down to where it was before 9-11.
And Barna himself had an insight into why this happened. And here's what he said, and I quote, he said, Now friends, to put this another way, when all these people showed up at church and got around Christians, the problem is they didn't see enough spirit-filled, And what does this teach us? Well, it teaches us that when it comes to influencing people towards Christ, the thing that matters most is not the oratory of our words.
I'm sure these people heard some wonderful sermons when they went to all those churches, authenticity of our lives as individual followers of Christ, people being able to see a transformation in our life that could only be produced by the Lord Jesus Christ. Now this is what we want to talk about today as we continue our verse-by-verse study in the book of Genesis. So are we ready?
Alright. A little bit of review, we're in Genesis 21 and if you remember in the beginning of this chapter Abraham moved his family south into the Negev of Israel, the southern portion, to a city named Gerar. And here the king of Gerar, a fellow named Abimelech, took Sarah into his harem because Abraham said she's my sister. But God personally intervened and delivered Sarah before Abimelech could sexually defile her. And then Abraham continued with his family living there in Gerar with Abimelech and Abimelech's people. So that's where we've been.
Here we go. We pick up at verse 22. The Bible says at that time, Abimelech said to Abraham, God is certainly with you in all that you do. Now therefore, Abimelech said, please swear to me before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my descendants. As I have dealt kindly with you, Abraham, please swear to me that you will deal kindly with me here in the land where you've been living. And Abraham said, I will swear. And not long afterwards, Abraham confronted Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech's servants had seized from Abraham. Then Abimelech said, I don't know who has done this.
You did not tell me about it, and nor have I heard it until this day. So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a covenant. And Abraham set apart seven baby lambs. And Abimelech asked Abraham, what's the meaning of these seven baby lambs you've set apart? Then Abraham said, please take these seven baby lambs from me as a witness that it was I who dug this well. Therefore, the place was called Beersheba, which in Hebrew means the well of the seven. In this case, the seven lambs. So the two men swore an oath together and made a covenant at Beersheba, which still exists to this day, is just a little bit south of where Abraham was living there in Gerar. Verse 33, then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God, and Abraham lived there for many days. Now that's the end of our passage, but it leads us to our most important question for the morning.
And I know that this is a little early. So I kind of got you caught off guard just a tiny bit, don't I? Yeah. But you can recover.
Yes? I know you can. Can you all recover? All right.
So all of you guys at Louden, all of you guys at Bethesda, all of you guys at Prince William, everybody down in the edge and around the world on the internet at Tysons, are we ready? All right. Here we go. Come on. Nice and loud.
One, two, three. Yeah. You say, Lon, so what? I mean, honestly, I have to tell you, I don't see one single thing in this chapter that has anything to do with me. You're going to have to really pull a rabbit out the hat on this one, Lon. No I'm not.
No I'm not. There's a lot in here for you and me. Let's go all the way back to the beginning of our passage to something that Abimelech said to Abraham. He said at that time, the Bible says, Abimelech said to Abraham, God is certainly with you in all that you do. Now therefore, please swear to me before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my descendants as I have dealt kindly with you, Abraham.
Please swear to me that you will deal kindly with me. But what I want you to notice is what Abimelech said, God certainly is with you in all that you do. What this tells us is that while Abraham was living there in Gerar, Abimelech was watching his life. Now Abimelech already knew that Abraham was a worshiper of Jehovah God. As a matter of fact, everywhere Abraham went, everyone knew that he was a worshiper of Jehovah God. And what Genesis 21 tells us is that Abraham just didn't talk the talk, Abraham walked the walk. In fact, Abraham lived such an authentic godly life that even Abimelech, an unbeliever, was forced to confess that God is certainly with you in all that you do. Now we find this very same dynamic going on when we look at the early Christians in the early church.
Watch. Acts chapter 2 verse 46 says, And they, these early Christians, continued daily with one accord in the temple, breaking bread from house to house with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, watch now, and having favor with all the people. Remember the people here that are around them in Jerusalem. These are unbelieving people and yet the behavior of these early Christians was so above reproach, so Christ-like, and so authentic that it impressed even these people in Jerusalem. And not only did it impress them, it also drew them to Christ. The verse goes on, and the Lord was adding to the church, what's the next word, daily. Daily those who were being saved. Hey, do you remember what Barna said at the beginning of our message? And I quote, he said, Few people who showed up at church experienced anything that was sufficiently life-changing to capture their attention.
End of quote. My friend, the early church did not have this problem. When people showed up at one of those churches, when people got around those Christians, they knew that something authentic was happening, which is why people were coming to Christ in Jerusalem every single day.
Now what does this have to do with you and me? As followers of Christ in the 21st century? Well to quote the Bible, much in every way. Because you see, God calls us to this same kind of authentic, godly living. Listen to the scripture, 1 Timothy 3 verse 2 says that Christian leaders should live a lifestyle that is above reproach, moreover they must have a good reputation with those who are outside the church. But this is not just for Christian leaders, it's for all of us. Jesus said, Matthew 5 16, Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify your Father who's in heaven. And Peter said, Make sure your behavior before non-believers is honorable so that even if they speak against you, they will behold your good works and glorify God. And then a couple verses later he says, For this is the will of God. What's the will of God, Peter? That by doing right, we may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
All of these verses, my friends, are calling you and me as followers of Christ today to live an authentic Christian life in front of a watching world that will have an impact on how they react both to us and to God. You say, all right, Lon, I got that. Understand what you're saying.
But I got a question. My question is when you talk about living an authentic Christian life, I mean, what exactly do we mean by that? Well, it means two primary things. There are two primary components to living an authentic Christian life and I want to tell you what they are. First of all, the first component is personal integrity. And let's define integrity. Integrity means doing the right thing in the right way for the right reason. And I want to dissect that definition for just a moment.
So let's take it apart and then we'll put it back together. First of all, integrity means doing the right thing. You say, but Lon, in a world like ours full of moral relativism and all these complicated issues, I mean, how do I always know?
How can a person always know what the right thing is? Oh, friends, Psalm 19 verse 8 says the precepts of the Lord are what? What is that?
What were they? Right. Correct. Psalm 19 verse 151 says all your commandments are what?
Right. Folks, listen, if you and I want to know what the right thing to do is in any given situation, we must go to the Word of God. We must go to the Bible. The Bible has commands for many areas of life. Don't steal.
Don't lie. Don't covet. Honor your father and mother, and it has principles that cover every other issue in life. Forgiving others who've hurt us, having compassion for those in need, caring about the poor and the downcast, being generous with the resources God's given us, being faithful to our spouse, being upright in our behavior towards the opposite sex, being a man or a woman of our word, and I could go on, but the point is clear. The point is when we say that we are living a life of integrity, when we say we are living an authentic Christian life, that is synonymous with saying that we are living a life of obedience to the Word of God that is doing the right thing.
Now second, integrity means doing the right thing in the right way. You know, in Acts chapter 20, the apostle Paul was on his third missionary journey. It was 56 AD, and the believers that were back in Jerusalem were having a tough time financially. And so the apostle Paul decided to take up an offering from all the Gentile churches that he had started, Thessalonica, Berea, Ephesus, Corinth, Galatia, all of them, and then take that offering to Jerusalem and give it to the poor believers there. And the Bible says it took him nine months to collect that offering, and then he headed for Jerusalem, Acts chapter 20 verse 4. And as he headed for Jerusalem, Paul was accompanied, the Bible says, by Sopater of Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia where Ephesus was, and Timothy also.
You're like, woof, wow. I mean, he's got like a cast of thousands here. Why has he taken all these people along with him? Well, folks, if we look and see where each of these men were from, the cities they came from, it will make perfect sense why the apostle Paul had them along. Look, Sopater was from Berea where Paul had started a church and from where he had asked for money. Aristarchus and Secundus were from Thessalonica where Paul had started a church and had collected money. Gaius was from Derbe in Galatia where Paul had started churches and asked for money. Tychicus and Trophimus were from Ephesus where Paul had started a church and asked for money. And Timothy was representing the church of Corinth where, say it with me, Paul had started a church and asked for money.
Yeah. But the point, and this is so important, is that the apostle Paul took these men along so that they could return back home to their churches and certify to their churches that the offering those churches had given had been handled in a righteous, godly way. He says, 2 Corinthians 8, 20, I'm doing this, taking all these people along to make sure no one might discredit us in, what's the next word, in how we handle this generous offering.
Friends, the operative word here is the word how. In fact, we could say that when it comes to being people of integrity, how we do something is just as important as what we do, which is precisely why Paul said in the very next verse, 2 Corinthians 8, 21, for we have regard for what is honorable not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of men. Do you understand what he's saying here? He's saying, I could have taken the offering to Jerusalem all by myself. I could have done the right thing with it. And before God, I could have said, hey, I did the honorable thing.
But no person would have been able to verify that. So I also care about doing things that's honorable in the sight of men. That's why I brought all these people along, so that every one of them could certify to other people that I did the honorable thing. So friends, doing things with full disclosure, doing things honestly and ethically and forthrightly and generously and kindly and compassionately. You know, integrity is doing honorable things, but doing them in an honorable way that people who are observing can see.
And finally, third, integrity means doing the right thing in the right way for the right reason. I love how Jesus addressed this. He said, Matthew chapter 6, verse 1, be careful not to parade your acts of righteousness before men so that you may be seen by them, otherwise you will have no reward from your Father who's in heaven. Now here, the Lord Jesus is not talking about what.
He's not talking about how. But He's talking about why people did something to be seen by men. And my friends, it really does matter why we do things. People really do care about why we do things. When we do things with ulterior motives, when we do things with impure intentions, when we deceive people for personal gain, people smell this kind of lack of integrity a mile away and it stinks, it stinks, and it stinks. And we know all about this because we live in a town that stinks because of this, yes? And how refreshing would it be in this town to meet anybody who did something not for themselves but for the real good of other people.
What a breath of fresh air that would be. Well folks, that's what you and I are supposed to be in this town. And not just for the good of other people. As followers of Christ, we even have a deeper motive why we should be doing things. Paul said, 1 Corinthians 10 31, so whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the good of people. No that's a good reason.
But here's the best reason. Do it all for the glory of God. And I love what we read about the early Christians in Acts chapter 2. The Bible says that they did things with singleness of heart, with singleness of motive. They didn't do it for self-glory and they didn't do it for self-exaltation and they didn't do it for personal reputation. They did it for the glory and the exaltation and the reputation of the Lord Jesus Christ. And this is the ultimate why that we as followers of Jesus ought to do everything for the glory of Christ. So let's summarize. What's it mean to live an authentic Christian life?
Well number one, it means to live a life of integrity, which means doing the right thing, biblical obedience, doing it in the right way, honorably and ethically before men, and doing it for the right reason to bring glory to God. You say well Lon, I mean that's wonderful. But no matter how hard I try, I'll never be able to do that 100%. I mean nobody can get that right all the time. It's true.
No. And remember I said at the beginning there were two components of living an authentic godly life. The first one is seeking with everything we've got to live a life of integrity. The second one though is when we fail, living a life of humility. And friends, the truth is that very often our greatest opportunity to demonstrate our authenticity comes not when we get it right, but when we mess up, when we get it wrong, but we respond to that in humility and honesty. To be a person of integrity doesn't mean we always have to get it right. It just means we have to have enough honesty and humility when we mess up to make it right.
Listen to what Jesus said, Matthew chapter 5. He said if you're bringing your gift to the altar, if you're coming to church to worship God, praise the Lord, and dare you remember that your brother has something against you. He said well it's not my fault. He started it. It was his fault. I mean I didn't do this. He was the one who caused all that.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. And what Jesus said. Jesus didn't ask who started it or whose fault it was.
Does your sister have something against you? Leave your gift before the altar and go. First, be reconciled with your brother or your sister and then come and offer your gift to God. Then show up at church. Now according to these verses, I figure about two-thirds of this auditorium ought to be empty today. Those two-thirds of us or maybe more ought to be out there seeking out people who have things against us, humbling ourselves in front of them, being honest about how we messed up, asking for their forgiveness, and trying to do whatever we can to make it right. We don't belong in church.
We belong on their front doorstep ringing their doorbell, amen. And Jesus says this is how you restore your authenticity. Yeah, nobody gets it right all the time, but when we mess up, we go humble ourselves and say we were wrong. That doesn't hurt our authenticity, folks.
It helps it. You're not telling people something they don't know. They know you got it wrong. They know that. They just want you and me to be honest enough to admit it and be humble enough to say we're sorry.
That's authenticity. Now, you know, I don't like the Dallas Cowboys, sorry. Anybody agree with me? I don't like it. And let me tell you why I don't like the Dallas Cowboys. I don't like the Dallas Cowboys because I don't like Jerry Jones. And let me tell you why I don't like Jerry Jones. I don't like Jerry Jones because I don't like what he did to Tom Landry, firing him on national television without even telling the man he was going to get fired after that man had given 32 consecutive faithful years to coaching the Dallas Cowboys.
I didn't like that. You say, well, Lon, what would, if he cared about it, Jerry Jones have to do to restore his authenticity and his credibility with you? I'm sure he doesn't care about it, but if he did, what would he have to do?
Well, it's very simple. He would have to go on national television and apologize to Tom Landry, Tom's of course already died, but apologize to him anyway in his family and ask them to forgive him for the wrong that he did to this man. You say, why would he have to go on national television?
You know? Well, it's easy because we always match up the scope of the forgiveness to the scope of the sin. If he'd sinned against the man in private, I would say go in private. He's sinned against the man on national television. He apologizes on national television. Now, as I say, it's not that he's telling us something we don't know. If he goes on television and says, I was wrong, ha, I know that. You don't tell me that.
It's the idea that he'd be humble enough to admit it. Now, I've got to tell you, if Jerry Jones did this, I still wouldn't be a Cowboys fan. No way. But I tell you what, I would be a Jerry Jones fan. Yeah, I would.
Man, that guy would grow in my eyes and I'd have respect for him. And folks, there are people like that in our lives everywhere where we let down, we don't live authentic lives, we make mistakes. Okay. How do we restore our authenticity with them? Folks, we go back and do just what Jerry Jones has got to go back and do.
Remember, they already know you messed up. They just want to know if you're humble enough and authentic enough to admit it. So let's conclude, shall we? Authentic Christian living, what's it mean? It means, number one, being a person of integrity, doing the right thing in the right way for the right reason as much as we possibly can.
And then number two, when we fail, being a person of humility who's willing to go and make things right. That is an authentic Christian life. And remember our mission here at McLean Bible Church, it's to make an evangelistic impact on secular Washington with the message of Jesus Christ. And if it's really true that the most important single factor in drawing people to Christ, it's not programs, it's not parking lots, it's not buildings, it's not preaching, but it's authentic Christian living being done in front of people. If that's really true, then friends, the only way we can accomplish our mission is to be a community of disciples who go out and live this way.
Why? Well, authentic Christian living is what separates disciples from pew sitters. You understand what I'm saying? Pew sitters don't worry about living authentic Christian lives. Disciples do.
And we're here to help you with that. And that's why we're changing the culture here at McLean Bible Church. That's why we're determined to make this a culture of discipleship, where we bleed discipleship at this church, because it's the only chance we have to go out and achieve our mission in Washington. And in studying the early church a lot lately, what I've figured out, and I don't know why I didn't figure this out a long time ago, is that they did not blow their cities apart with programs and buildings. They didn't even own any buildings or with fancy speeches. No, no.
They blew their cities apart with authentic living on the part of Christians every day. And that's what we have to be. We have to be that community of authentic livers here in Washington if we're going to make an impact on our city. So come this fall, we're going to ask you. I'm going to ask you, if you're not already in a group, to join a discipleship group and let us start turning you into a disciple. As your pastor, this is my heart for you, that you and I will all aspire to be disciples who live authentic lives in the sight of an on-looking world.
So get ready. That's what we're going to ask you to do. You say, well, okay, smarty pants, are you going to be in a discipleship group?
Well, yes, actually, we are. My wife, Brenda, said to me a few weeks ago, I'd already been thinking about it. She said to me, you know, we can't ask people at McLean Bible Church to do what we're not doing.
We need to lead a discipleship group. Don't you hate it when your wife's always right? Don't you hate that? Well, maybe you don't have that problem.
I have that problem. And I said, I know, Brenda, I know, I've already been thinking about it. And so our group's all formed up. We're ready to go. I'm going to do this right along with you. We're going to preach it in the pulpit right along with you. We're going to do this together.
This is all of us. So I want you starting to pray and thinking about it now, because that's come the end of this summer, we're going to start enlisting you. You ready to do this? You ready to do this?
Okay, good. Let's pray together. Heavenly Father, thanks for challenging us today about authentic Christian living. Now we don't have to wait until we're in a discipleship group to live authentically.
We can start right now. But Lord, it's certainly easier to do this when we have community around us who are all trying to do the same thing. So make us that kind of a community here at McLean Bible Church. And send us out every single day into Washington, D.C., like the early Christians went out. Living lives that are so transformed and so conspicuously authentic for Christ that people are drawn to Jesus all over this city.
Just like that barista there in Starbucks. God, we commit our church family to You. And we ask all of this for the glory of Christ. Not for the glory of McLean Bible Church, but for the glory of Christ. And we pray these things in Jesus' name. What do God's people say? Amen. All right.
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