Being R.E.A.L. Matters

Have you ever asked, “If I were a first time visitor, what would be my impression of this church?” Would you feel so welcome? Does the church have to resort to gimmicks to attract visitors? Charles Swindoll, one of my favorite authors, wrote: “I can assure you, when people discover that a church promotes authenticity, when its leaders model it on a consistent basis, they cannot stay away. It’s like an invisible magnet that draws them in.” This morning we will talk about “Being Real Matters.”

Charles Swindoll defined “authenticity” this way: “Authenticity occurs when real people say real things about real issues with real feelings. When you’re authentic you live what you are.” So, to be authentic is to be real. What happens when we are not real or authentic? We wear masks. We pretend to be what we really are not. Bruce Larson questioned this sad situation: “What’s wrong with the church in our time? It’s the place you go when you put on your best clothes; you worship; you eat together—but you don’t bring your life! You leave behind all your pain, your brokenness, your hopes, even your joys. The church, unfortunately, has become a museum to display the victorious life or finished products.” Now, why do we pretend that we are strong when we’re in fact weak? It is because we think people won’t love us if they know what we’re really like, that they will only accept us if we follow a certain standard or behavior. That’s why we make it appear that we are super-spiritual. Yet we are actually struggling. We’re afraid people will think we’re not “good” Christians. We wear a mask that says we are okay. But we are actually crumbling inside. We don’t like it. But we think people don’t care. We don’t open up because we’re afraid of gossip.

But for us to be intimate in fellowship, we need to be authentic. It is hard to be intimate if there is hypocrisy. The Bible spelled it out for us in Ephesians 4:1-7...
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.[1]

How do we become real? To make it easy to remember, I came up with the acronym R-E-A-L.

First, RESPOND to your calling. Verse one says, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Note the word “then.” From chapters 1 to 3 of Ephesians, Paul talked about “the calling [we] have received.” Then from chapters 4 to 6, he discussed how “to live a life worthy of the calling...” Remember that the Jews and the Gentiles were enemies. Then when they became believers, Paul told them in Ephesians 2:16-17, “Christ brought us together through his death on the Cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders.” [2] During those times Gentiles, who became members of the Jewish religion, worship in the Court of the Gentiles. The Jews prohibit the Gentiles from entering the temple grounds. They will be stoned to death if they do enter. That’s why they called the Gentiles “outsiders” and the Jews “insiders.” But Paul declared that Christ on the cross “treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.” (v. 18)[3]

This is our calling. We are called to a community. We are called not just to believe but also to belong. Let us respond to our calling by being authentic.

Second, EXERT every effort. Verse 3 says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” In the Greek, “make every effort” can be translated “do your best.” Therefore, we must give it our best shot to reach out to each other. We are already united. Paul commanded us to “keep” it. Let us stay united. We should not let anyone or anything to divide us. How do we do that? Verse 2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” To be humble means to consider others more important or better than you. To be gentle means to give up one’s rights for the sake of others. One commentary says that gentleness or “meekness is a virtue of the strong, those who could exert force to get their own way but choose not to.” To be patient means to accept the fact that we all have our shortcomings. Instead of giving up on each other, we are “bearing with one another in love.” Rick Warren wrote, in his Fellowship: Protecting the Church, “The sooner we give up the illusion that a church must be perfect in order to love it, the sooner we quit pretending and start admitting we’re all imperfect and need grace. We must remember that the church is made up of real sinners, including ourselves. Because we’re sinners, we hurt each other, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. But instead of leaving the church, we need to stay and work it out if at all possible. ... This is beginning of real community.”

Third, AFFIRM the truth. Let us look at Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Remember that Paul was talking about unity. Now why would he shift to doctrines? It is because these truths are the basis for us to be intimate with each other. Look at the Trinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are united. Someone observed that “the Trinity pictures for us the pivotal concept of relationship within a group.” That’s why our Lord Jesus prayed, “I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me. I also want them to be one with us. Then the people of this world will believe that you sent me.” (John 17:21)[4] We are also “one body” in Christ. Honesty is essential to any relationship. If we are not honest about our needs, we can’t receive help if others don’t know we need it. Our honesty frees others to be honest. Note the reason Paul gave why we should tell the truth: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.As a body, when we tell a lie, we affect others, not just ourselves. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26) We are to live up to what the Bible says about us.

Fourth, LEVEL-UP together. We have to grow together. A couple drifts away from each when they grow apart from each other. The same thing also happens in the church. Verse 7 says, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” Note the word i From verses 2 to 6, Paul was talking about unity as a whole. Now he points out the fact that the Spirit gave gifts to each one of us. What’s his point? That unity is not uniformity. There is unity in diversity. We can be close with each other even if we are different from each other. In fact, we are so different that we have so many things to share. But always remember that, according to 1 Corinthians 12:7, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Our gifts are for what? For the common good! In another version it says, “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!”[5] Note what it says: “Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits.” God desires us to work together. I like how the Contemporary English Version translated Ephesians 4:11-13. Christ “handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.” Note these words: “until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other”. When we grow together, we are drawn closer to God and to each other. Howard Butt, Jr. of the High Calling Ministries wrote, “Our Christian life is a life in community. God wants all to be more like Christ, but I can never be more like Christ without your help. I will never fully be myself without you to help me.”

So how do we become R.E.A.L.?

RESPOND to your calling

EXERT every effort

AFFIRM the truth

LEVEL-UP together.

What is it that is hindering us from each other? Maybe there are wounds or hurts in the past that is keeping us from being intimate with each other. Allow me to end with this story from the book, Little House on the Freeway by Tim Kimmel:

“One group singled out for concentrated oppression during World War II was the Christians. When the Japanese conquered Korea one of the first things they did was board up the evangelical churches and eject most foreign missionaries. They refused to allow churches to meet and jailed many of the key Christian spokesmen.

"One pastor begged his local Japanese police chief for permission to meet for services. They were allowed only one meeting. That day many Korean Christians flocked to the church to worship. They grabbed the chance to worship God as a church once more.

"While they were singing, the Japanese chief gave the orders. The soldiers locked the door of the church from outside. They doused kerosene on the building and set it on fire. They shot anyone and everyone who tried to escape through the windows. Knowing it was the end, the pastor calmly led the congregation in singing. With smoke burning their eyes, they instantly joined as one to sing their hope and leave their legacy. Their song became a serenade to the horrified and helpless witnesses outside. Their words also tugged at the hearts of the cruel men who oversaw this flaming execution of the innocent. Then the entire building collapsed on them.

"In 1972 a group of Japanese pastors learned of the tragedy. When they read the names of the spiritual brothers and sisters who had perished, they were overcome with shame. They returned to Japan committed to right a wrong. There was an immediate outpouring of love from their fellow believers. They raised ten million yen ($25,000). They went back to Korea to build a church building on the site.

"During the dedication, though the Koreans were civil, they could not bring themselves to forgive the Japanese. At the end of the service, someone suggested they sing the last song that those who perished sang. The Japanese kept on begging the Koreans for forgiveness. One Korean turned toward a Japanese brother. And then the floodgates holding back a wave of emotion let go. They clung to each other and wept.

"Japanese tears of repentance and Korean tears of forgiveness intermingled to bathe the site of an old nightmare. Heaven had sent the gift of reconciliation to a little white church in Korea.”

Brethren, we are called to be real... to be authentic... to be close to each other. Let us pray...

[1] All Bible verses are from the New International Version, unless otherwise specified.
[2] The Message: The Bible in Cotemporary English
[3] Ibid.
[4] Contemporary English Version
[5] The Message

Note: This is the message Pastor Eyriche Cortez gave last Sunday, July 23, 2006, at the 11AM and 630PM services of the Capitol City Baptist Church as part of their 47th anniversary celebration.


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