One of the characteristics of my generation (the Millennials) is the desire for authenticity. We love seeing someone who is genuinely passionate about what they do and is truly committed to it. We yearn for close friendships where we can be “real” with each other and fully known. This is especially true in Christian circles.
We also loathe hypocrisy. If we even get the slightest whiff that someone is being disingenuous (especially religious or political leaders), then we will probably not listen to what they have to say.
There are certainly many benefits to having such instincts and desires, especially when it comes to forming close and intimate friendships. But I often find that it can be a double-edged sword when it comes to our spiritual lives.
I Want to Want…
Because we desire authenticity in others, we also desire it within ourselves. Have you ever heard this said or said it yourself? “I want to want to pray.” Or “Lord, give me a desire to read your Word.” These statements aren’t bad. In fact, they usually come from a recognition that praying and reading the Word are good for us. It certainly would be nice if we didn’t have to fight within ourselves to do these things, right?
Because this conflict exists within us, this can cause us to feel inauthentic to some extent. If I’m a Christian, shouldn’t I want to do these things? And if I choose to do them anyway, does that make me hypocritical in some way? This feeling of inauthenticity can cause many Christians to give up on praying, reading the Bible, going to church, etc. because we highly value feeling authentic. Yet, this isn’t the proper response. So, how do we respond to this feeling of inauthenticity?
An Authentic Christian Life
First, we must realize that a life free from internal conflict is an unrealistic expectation of the Christian life. So long as we live in this fallen world, there will always be sources of competition between our love for God and others and our love of self (Galatians 5:17). Authenticity in the Christian life here on earth does not look like an absence of competing desires but an absence of opposing actions (James 1:22-25; Also see Romans 7, although the meaning of the passage is debated). Whether or not we have a genuine or undivided desire to do what is right, this should never stop us from doing right.
Second, we have to be aware of the condition of our own heart and be honest with God about how we feel. When we can be honest about our feelings and bring them before God through prayer; when we read the Word and receive its truth and wisdom; when we are truly known by a local church body—it is then that we open ourselves to the sanctification of God’s Spirit. This is what ultimately will lead to any change in our desires.
Lastly, we have to realize that any lasting change in our desires will ultimately come from God and not from our own willpower (Romans 8:13). This does not negate the importance of the choices that we have to make every day to obey God. In fact, God often uses our choices and our obedience to shape and train our desires to align more with his will. But we cannot fall into the trap of thinking that we can change our desires for God with human willpower.
"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good." (Romans 12:9)
Only through God’s Spirit can our love be genuine because there is no division, conflict, or disingenuity within God. Therefore, if we don’t feel like praying, reading the Word, or going to church, these are precisely the times that we need to do such things because these are the very means God has given us to open our hearts to the work of the Spirit. It is this very conflict and disingenuity within us that reflects our heart’s cry for its need of God.