Artificial vs. Authentic

by Pastor Keith Knight

It’s all the rage – the draw of moving more towards the ‘real’ instead of the ‘artificial.’ People are more aware than ever of monitoring which products are more natural and less processed. Honestly, it is at the point where ‘artificial’ is a word that is looked on as something that is actually doing damage, once we figured out that even real sugar is better for the body than ‘high fructose corn syrup’ or even artificial ‘low-calorie’ sweeteners.

But….what about our families, and especially our faith? How can we tell when we are seeing the artificial, and when we are seeing the authentic? For example, there are many families all over America that would say that they have faith, and even that they are committed to being in community with a local church. They would say that their kids love coming to church and love Jesus, but upon closer inspection we would find many of these families as spectators of a weekend experience and consumers of a product, and not mature and growing participants in a faith community on mission. THIS is artificial, and not authentic, community. This is the same pattern that has created a new generation of young people who have many surface indicators of being ‘mature,’ when in fact they actually have a substitute ‘artificial’ maturity that often fools many. Even themselves.

Just because our kids may have access to good information, even good theology, doesn’t mean that even the retention of that information creates maturity. In order for an authentic maturity, there has to be a consistent and appropriate application arising from the information they have. Knowledge can be a good thing, but knowledge without Jesus can be a very dangerous thing.

Here are some indications that our young people may have an ‘artificial maturity’:

  1. Independence without Responsibility.

–       there is a trend of parents giving kids (especially teens) access to independence without having to put any ‘skin in the game’. For instance, what responsibilities do you require of your kids in return for their privileges? (And if there’s none – this is bad news.)

  1. Advance without Sacrifice.

– One of the things I’m constantly pointing out to our oldest kids is the reality that it is a Biblical principle that there is no growth or reward without sacrifice. Even Christ made this point, ‘if anyone would be my disciple, they must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.’ If you aren’t in the process of giving up lesser things for better things, you are NOT growing. For example, allowing young people to ‘date’ without understanding that a God-honoring relationship means literally forsaking the things you desire most for the better of another person, is artificial maturity. If they aren’t ready to care for another person sacrificially, giving up their autonomy to present a beautiful view of Christ and his church, they aren’t ready for serious dating.

  1. Community without Commitment.

–       This is one that unfortunately gets passed down from us….I see so many young people struggle with feeling excluded and isolated, and having been one of those young people, I understand. But the biggest roadblock to students really experiencing Christ-honoring radically real community, is the unwillingness to place a high priority on building real and honest relationships of accountability with other committed believers. If your kids best friends and most consistent influences don’t know Jesus, it doesn’t matter how social they appear to be – they are lacking Biblical maturity. If they are unwilling to make sacrifices to commit to other believers even at the cost of social status, they are missing an essential part of spiritual growth, and they will grow up with the idea that the church exists to ‘feed them’ and meet their ‘spiritual needs’ while they are trying to live a life in which Jesus is peripheral. If YOU are not consistently meeting together with other believers, then YOU as well are operating on a definition of community that is artificial, and not authentic.

The answer really is to be satisfied with the REAL THING. The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why would we point our kids to things that won’t satisfy the eternal programming of their heart before we point them to the Authentic Jesus, and His life-declaring Bride? If you want to see your kids REALLY grow in an Authentic faith, then start stripping away the artificial preservatives of a self-based religion, and tell them the truth about the cost of discipleship.

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