Why is there often a disconnect between our knowledge of God and our experience of God? What is the difference between knowing stuff about God and knowing God on a personal level? Do you feel that you have grown content with knowing all the right answers about God, the Bible, and the Christian faith? Have you ever wondered why your head knowledge of God hasn’t translated into obedience to God?
What does it mean to be an authentic Christian? In an Instagram-filter world, we want to put on our best face and present ourselves as Christians to one another and to the world in a cookie-cutter manner. We have our own ideas of what an ideal Christian looks like. Some of those ideas are biblical. Some are more culturally informed. Maybe more than anything, we are afraid to let our spiritual doubts or depression show. We can’t let anyone know we are in a spiritual rut, or else they may doubt the legitimacy of our faith or our God. We believe the lie that true Christians don’t feel spiritually dry.
The truth is that authentic Christian experience comes through a combination of honesty and humility. Authenticity moves into our lives when we are honest with God and other believers about our own doubts, demons, and despair. I believe there are four ways we can move toward greater authenticity in our Christian journeys.
1. Don’t ruin your spiritual appetite for God.
Don’t substitute the source of your spiritual appetite with lesser pleasures (Jer. 2:12-13). What do mothers tell their children when they want to eat dessert before dinner? You’ll ruin your appetite. Don’t eat those cookies! You’ll ruin your appetite! I’ve already learned this firsthand with Jude. Just between us, there have been times when Jude has been really fussy before dinner. When Mama won’t give him anything to eat, trying to teach him patience and to wait for his dinner, the boy knows where to turn. “Dada,” he’ll say. And if he says it enough, I might give him a small snack. I’ve had to learn the hard way that when Jude eats something sweet before dinner, he doesn’t eat his dinner. He doesn’t feel a need to eat broccoli or chicken when he’s had a cookie.
The same is true for our spiritual appetites. We can ruin our spiritual appetite for God by seeking spiritual nourishment in other, lesser sources. In God, we have a feast of spiritual sustenance. But, we are prone to settle for sin, which gives the appearance of satisfying us, but only leaves us wanting more.
The worst thing you can do for your soul is seek in other people or things what can only be found in God. Authenticity begins by satisfying your spiritual appetite with the only source that will do. Don’t ruin your spiritual appetite for God.
2. Meditate on the character of God (Ps. 63:6)
David says he knows he will be satisfied in the Lord and his lips will praise him when he remembers him and meditates on him. So, one important step in moving toward greater authenticity in your Christian walk is to meditate on the character of God. In order to crave and be content in your God is to know him. For Christians, the more you know about God, the more you will know God. The more you think about God with your mind, the more your heart will be kindled with affections for him.
3. Preach the gospel to yourself (Ps. 63:7)
We are prone to forget. Those of us with children are doubly prone to forget. When you are in a spiritual rut and don’t understand why God feels absent, feelings of doubt will creep in your mind and heart. Become a seasoned preacher to your own soul. Use the truths about God and the gospel to your advantage. Remind yourself of God’s righteousness and how he gives it to us freely at great cost to himself.
4. Don’t waste your Sunday mornings (Ps. 63:2)
Jonathan Edwards: “The duty of singing praises to God seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections.”
When we gather as a redeemed community to sing praises to God, read and proclaim his Word, confess our sin, and partake of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we are beholding the glory and power of the Lord. We are able to see the glory and power of the Lord in our weekly gatherings far more clearly than David could in the Tabernacle. We see the glory of God revealed in Scripture and through our songs of praise. We see the power of the Lord’s grace through confession, baptism, and the Table. We behold the glory and power of the Lord every Sunday morning through the ordinary elements of our worship service.
When you see Sunday mornings in this light, they will begin to serve you as reminders of the Lord’s presence and power when you are spiritual despondent. Being satisfied in God begins with beholding God as he truly is. Our goal as pastors is to help lead you to see God as he truly is. That’s why we sing God-centered songs that teach the gospel and preach expositional sermons that teach the gospel—to help you behold the glory and power of the Lord. Our weekly gatherings should create both fainting for and feasting of the riches of God’s grace in Christ. May each Sunday morning be a fresh drink of water for your soul.