Cleaver: An appraisal of authenticity 

A female artist works on an abstract oil painting

Gainesville’s Harn Museum of Art is home to many beautiful works of art. Yet the exquisite nature of those works isn’t merely due to subjective aesthetic assessments, but also objective appraisals of authenticity.  

This evaluation of its worth is ultimately performed for one purpose: to substantiate its true artist. 

A similar concept is intrinsic to the Christian faith. Followers of Jesus are called to assess the authenticity of their faith—or rather, evaluate whether that faith clearly attests to Jesus as its true artist. 

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The subject of a genuine faith is inherent to the commonly asked question, “Is belief enough?” Is our verbal profession of allegiance to Jesus Christ sufficient for salvation, or does authentic faith fundamentally entail action?  

James, the brother of Jesus, addresses this question in his transcendently practical New Testament letter. 

“But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” – James 2:18 

People have often misunderstood this verse to imply that James is somehow promoting a works-based salvation, or even the notion that our deeds in any way impact our salvation. James is actually explaining that good works are a natural facet of faithfulness to Jesus. James is offering an appraisal of an authentic faith. 

I recall a particularly difficult time in my life, in my late 20s, where I was forced to ask myself “Is my faith in Jesus real? Is my life representative of what I profess?”  

It was during this time that the Lord used the ministry of the late Pastor Adrian Rogers of Love Worth Finding Ministries to help me settle that question and realign my priorities. Listening to one of Pastor Rogers’ sermons, he said, “It’s not the perfection of your life, but the direction.” 

There’s no doubt that our spiritual journey with Christ will entail times of unmitigated zeal, and occasions of spiritual apathy. But that’s why the Bible gives us verses like the one from James, to take stock of our faithfulness and when needed, regain focus, and get back on the right pathway. 

If you do an appraisal of your faith and believe you need some help, here are a few useful tips:  

1. Persist in prayer. Prayer is our primary mode of communication with God. It cultivates a trust in Him, despite our circumstances, in all aspects of our life. Openly ask for opportunities to serve Him and others.  

2. Prioritize reading your Bible. Scripture helps us to continually grow in fellowship and communion with God by better understanding the Christian life and the nature of God.  

3. Seek service opportunities. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. This involves intentionality. We should seek out opportunities to love others, no matter their religious backgrounds, because all people are image bearers of God.  

Whether it’s in the arts or in the Christian life, authenticity is crucial. It not only reveals the true artist but honors them.  

While art has various kinds of monetary values, our worth, as image bearers of God (Gen. 1:27) is incalculable. Christian apologist Abdu Murray once said, “You know the value of something by how much you’re willing to pay for it. Christ showed that we’re of immeasurable value by paying the ultimate price on the cross for us.”  

Living an authentic faith honors our divine Artist.

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