When an appraiser on the PBS program the “Antique Roadshow” examines one of the items brought to the show for evaluation as to authenticity and then to determine its dollar value, there is a process they all go through no matter what the object might be. It doesn’t matter if it’s furniture, jewelry or a piece of pottery, the process is the same. The expert appraiser looks for markings and indicators that will help him determine the item’s authenticity. Sometimes it’s a nothing more than the type of wood used on the bottom of a drawer or the shape, size and finish of a piece of pottery or porcelain; in every case there are indicators or markings that assist them in making their final conclusion.
One thing I’ve learned about determining the authenticity and value of an antique “anything” is that first impressions can often be deceiving and simply wishing for something to be real, is irrelevant. Although the team of appraisers employed by the show is the best in the business there is one thing that makes me a bit suspicious of their conclusions. In all the years I have been watching the program, I have never seen one of the appraiser’s just throw up their hands and say, “I just don’t know and I don’t think I can ever know for sure.” I suppose if that was their conclusion, it would ruin the program, but it does make me question, even doubt their judgment as to an items authenticity and value. Can anyone know for sure unless they have seen with their own eyes or heard with their own ears or touched the object during its creation?
Seeking God, in the hope of gaining faith and then enjoying the benefits, is not unlike the process described above in that we often search out the advice and counsel of experts when attempting to acquire or validate our faith. Sometimes it’s a parent, a grandparent, a friend and if we are really serious, a pastor or priest. In fact, we’re often very specific as to who we will believe, even if they have impeccable credentials. If you were raised by Catholic parents, only a Catholic priest will do. The same can be said of a person raised Lutheran, Baptist or any denomination for that matter. It also seems that most denominations claim to be the authentic or one true faith, often to the exclusion of others. Perhaps this is why when most people are asked to identify their “faith” they refer to their denominational affiliation, rather than simply responding, Christian.
So why are these distinctions or faith identifiers so important to us? Some would say that it’s nothing more than what we have been taught, a tradition; but there is something else at work here as well. Inside of each of us is a desire for authenticity and when it comes to faith in God, authenticity is everything. God is not just something or someone old with a significant or interesting provenance. God is eternal and of infinite value and if we were to place our faith or belief in a false God or no god at all, it has both temporal and eternal consequences. When man was created by God he was given an innate desire to seek Him, in the hope of having a personal relationship with Him. This is not only our desire but God’s as well, so it should come as no surprise that we will go to great lengths to make sure we’ve made the right choice. Even the self-described atheist has considered the alternatives and made a choice as to God’s authenticity. We are all compelled to make a choice and if we think we can ride the fence and not commit, we have already made it.
Let’s first deal with the subject of God’s authenticity and more specifically that of Jesus. In America today and most of the world for that matter, the claims that Jesus made about Himself, the miracles He performed, even the historicity of the resurrection and ascension is accepted by millions as fact. Yet, most continue to live their lives as if they didn’t. If I were to stand out front of a church or a shopping mall on a Sunday morning and asked people randomly if they believed in Jesus, an overwhelming number would respond, “Of course.” But if you were to follow them home and listen to their words and observe their behavior you would be compelled to doubt the veracity of their claim. So what’s the problem, why the apparent disconnect?
The answer may lie in our own confusion as to what belief is and how it relates to faith. A helpful way to think about belief and faith is that belief can exist without faith, but faith is can never be independent of belief. Satan believes in Jesus and that He is the Son of God, yet it is obvious that he is the enemy of men and no longer one of God’s faithful (Matthew 4:1-11). Scripture describes Satan as having been created beautiful, but Satan rejected God and made war with God’s faithful in heaven. We too are beautiful in God’s sight, each and every one of us, having been created in His image. But in order for us to maintain a relationship with God in Christ, faith is required. Belief, much like beauty, is only “skin deep.” This is important because if we want to enjoy the benefit of a saving relationship with God in Christ, faith is what is required and is what makes us truly beautiful in God’s sight.
Another way of thinking about the relationship between belief and faith is that belief is what we think and faith is belief in action. This is what the apostle James meant when he wrote, “faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that…and shutter (2:17-19).” If faith is not accompanied by works or actions that demonstrate our belief and faith, then they are simply the beliefs that even the demons possess. Now this may sound like an exercise in semantics, but it does explain why so many say they believe, and perhaps they do, but their lives tell a whole other story.
If we are seeking authenticity in our faith then it is incumbent on us to model what the author of our faith, Jesus Christ, has shown us to be true. How much more real or authentic can it get than God sending His only Son to earth to show us the way to the Father, and then making the journey possible by being crucified for our lack of faithful obedience. What are the markings or indicators we should look for when looking for proof of Christ’s authenticity? Just look for the nail holes in His hands and feet and the gaping hole in His side where He was pierced by the soldiers spear. You need not look any further. Jesus told His disciple Thomas (the one who doubted the authenticity of Christ after the resurrection and at Jesus’ request placed his hand into the Jesus’ side and fingers into the nail holes) along with his friend Philip, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing (John 14:12, 20:27).”
Tool #363 If you want to have authentic faith in the only living and eternal God, simply know what He says and then do it. It’s just that simple.