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By David Jeremiah

His name was Justin, and for all practical purposes he was an atheist. His parents were wealthy, so Justin could afford a prestigious education and pursue his favorite subject—philosophy. But by age thirty, he had no inner peace. Every philosophical system seemed more bankrupt than the last. One day while walking on the beach, he met an older man whose demeanor seemed happy and peaceful. The two struck up a conversation, and the older gentleman began talking about Jesus. He explained how Christ had fulfilled Old Testament prophecy and had come as a sacrifice for sin. The man urged Justin to turn to God in prayer.

Justin was not only saved; he went on to become a powerful apologist for the truthfulness of Christianity. His background had prepared him perfectly to convince a skeptical world of the reality of Jesus Christ. He wrote books, traveled widely, started a school, and lectured about Jesus with great power. At length he was arrested for his faith and challenged with this question: “If you are killed, do you suppose you will go to heaven?”

“I do not suppose it,” Justin replied. “I know and am fully persuaded of it.”

His accusers took him at his word, and Justin was beheaded along with several of his students in Rome about A.D. 165. History has given him the name Justin Martyr.

Interestingly, in New Testament times the word “martyr” didn’t simply refer to those who were slain for Christ. It was a term for anyone whose faith was so authentic they would rather die than abandon it. Our English word “martyr” actually comes directly from the Greek term martyr (or martys), which occurs many times in the book of Acts. It’s often translated “witness.” For example, in Acts 1:8, Jesus said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses (martyr) to Me….”

When the Jewish Ruling Council threatened the apostles for continuing to preach Jesus, Peter told them, “We ought to obey God rather than men.… We are His witnesses (martyrs)” (Acts 5:29-32). In Acts 22:15-16, Ananias told the newly converted Saul of Tarsus, “You will be His witness (martyrs) to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why are you waiting?”

Well, why are we waiting? We may or may not be required to die for Christ, but we must certainly live for Him, to be His witnesses, His martyrs, and demonstrate our faith each day. REAL Christianity is always backed up by authentic godliness. Our witness isn’t just verbal; it’s visual. People see how we live, discern our values, observe our habits, and notice our good works.

Many people have a skewed picture of Christianity because they’ve been disillusioned by so-called Christians who don’t live life accordingly. A recent poll by asked the question, “If Jesus suddenly came back to earth today, would He approve or disapprove of modern Christianity?” Phrased like that, I’m not sure how I’d answer. But of those who did respond, 87 percent said “disapprove."The point is that many people view Christianity negatively, and sometimes it’s because those calling themselves Christians don’t represent our Lord with integrity.

Authentic is the A in REAL; and REAL Christianity is practicing what we preach. In ACTS, there was no faking it. The authenticity of the early saints paved the way for the Gospel, and the world could clearly see the difference between faith and unbelief. Our lives are the only definition of a Christian many people will know, so we need the marks of authenticity.

Authentic in Your Commitment

We must first be authentic in our commitment. As we read through Acts, we occasionally find people who tried to follow Jesus halfheartedly.  In chapter 1, Peter recounts the story of Judas, who initially gave every appearance of following Christ. “He was one of our number and shared in our ministry,” said Peter in Acts 1:17 (NIV). But his commitment was hollow and came to a tragic end. Acts 5 tells of Ananias and Sapphira, part of the church in Jerusalem, who ended up lying to the church and to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4). In Acts 8, we’re told about Simon the Sorcerer, who “believed and was baptized,” but then tried to bribe his way to godliness (Acts 8:13, 18-20). The book of Acts is littered with hypocrites, critics, and false teachers. Sooner or later their insincerity was exposed.

If we’re going to replicate the power of the apostolic age, it requires an unbroken, undaunted, undiluted commitment to Christ. He must be first, last, and always. He must be Lord and Master; and without an authentic commitment to Him, we cannot be REAL.

Authentic in Your Conduct

The second mark of authenticity involves our conduct. When we’re authentic in our commitment, we’ll live out that commitment in our conduct. We’ll treat others with gracious humility, and we’ll be known for our integrity and honesty.

Did you hear about the man arrested by police officers some time ago at the University of Louisville? He had swiped a book from the library, and its title was Resolving Ethical Issues. How ironic! But it’s not as ironic as Christians who claim to follow Christ but whose conversations are filled with white lies and whose behavior is riddled with selfish reactions.

What if you had a mirror in front of you all the time? What if you could constantly see yourself as others do? REAL Christianity is practicing what we preach, for you and I may be the only exposure to Jesus that others will have. Lots of people will never pick up a Bible or study the Gospels. Their perspective on Christianity will be gleaned from our lives. Our walk must match our talk, and we should be increasingly growing into the image of Jesus Christ and reflecting Him to a lost world.

Authentic in Your Compassion

That leads to the third mark of authenticity. We must be compassionate and full of good works. One of the understated heroes of Acts is the woman named Dorcas in the city of Joppa. Acts 9:36 says, “This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did.” Dorcas wasn’t an apostle like Peter or a missionary like Paul. She wasn’t wealthy like Barnabas or persuasive like Apollos. But she did what she could, serving others with compassion and charity. She poured her energies into meeting the needs of others. That’s the essence of Christlikeness in our daily lives.

There’s no such thing as a great church that doesn’t have great people. Great people make great churches. We gather each Sunday for worship in our respective auditoriums, and we say we’re going “to church.” But when we leave the building, it isn’t a church anymore. It’s just a building. It becomes a church when God’s people come inside. We are the church, and the church is not some conglomerate thing that has no personality. The church is made up of men and women, just as the early church was made up of people like Dorcas and Barnabas and Justin Martyr who are people after God’s heart, people to be emulated. We must be REAL and authentic.

Great debates are raging today regarding authentication of antiquities and pieces of art. In the world of archaeology, certain renowned artifacts cannot be authenticated with certainty. Scholars often disagree on whether a masterpiece is authentic or a forgery. Jesus said the same would be true in the world of church life. As the good seed of the Gospel is sown, the enemy will sow tares (weeds), and it’s hard at first to tell the difference. Both grow together until the harvest (see Matthew 13:24-30). But God knows the difference; and as time goes by, so do we. So does the world. They see it in our commitment, conduct, and compassion.

Dr. L. Nelson Bell told of a little girl who once prayed, “Dear God, make more people Christians and more Christians nice.” Dr. Bell followed up by saying, “Only too often we Christians seem to overlook the niceties of human relations at the personal level. In so doing we are of little credit to the faith we profess.”2

 Let’s pray that God will help us to be like the early church—REAL, authentic, and a credit to the faith we profess. Whether we live or whether we die, we are His martyrs in a lost and lonely world. May those around us see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. (accessed January 7, 2015).

2L. Nelson Bell, Convictions to Live By (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966), 35.

This article was first published in Turning Points Magazine & Devotional.
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  • If we’re going to replicate the power of the apostolic age, it requires an unbroken, undaunted, undiluted commitment to Christ.

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