Biblical Values: Who We Are
For us to fulfill our mission of reaching every street with the good news of Jesus, our core values must shape who we are. Even though these core values can stand alone, we believe that they also work together to create a dynamic difference. Understanding and embracing authenticity, intentionality, generosity, and tenacity will be the key to transformation in the Tampa Bay area.
Living authentically is a trait in our culture that is highly praised but I believe, unfortunately, severely misunderstood. What’s praised in our culture is a type of authenticity that merely reflects one’s preferences yet has nothing to do with what’s actually true. For instance, we often confuse sincerity with authenticity. Like when Kyrie Irving, a famous NBA player, stated last year that he believed the earth was flat instead of round. Obviously, the vast majority of commentators laughed at such a statement, calling out his ridiculousness. However, others praised his “authenticity” for making public a controversial belief. If we allow for someone’s false revelation to go unchallenged, however sincere they may be, we diminish both the truth and the idea of authenticity. Even though our first value suggests that we live true to ourselves, for a believer, our true-self is found in Jesus Christ. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
So, if you by faith have confessed Jesus as your Lord and Savior, Scripture identifies you as a “new creation.” Paul makes it explicitly clear that what used to be true of you has “passed away.” Since we haven’t experienced any immediate physical changes, Paul must be referring to our inner person, what we often refer to as our “heart.” Also, this new creation represents the truest form of authenticity: being re-made in the likeness of God. Paul also instructs us “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).
So, here are a few ways to live an authentic lifestyle:
1. Take whatever represents your “old self” and get rid of it
2. Take time to be with God and His people
3. Take action to apply what you’ve learned through being with God and His people.
As a result, we will we reach our truest form of authenticity. This process should not diminish the personalities and preferences that God made us with but should only refine and enhance us to bear the image of God in the way He originally intended.
Paul tells us that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).
We find from this passage how Paul expects the grace of God to transform how we live. Grace, then, trains us to do the following:
- Fight against desires and actions that would hurt our relationship with God and His people
- Decide to live with purpose and discipline to foster godliness.
We call this type of living, here at Bay Cities, intentionality. Otherwise, we are subject to a lifestyle of impulse, responding to what feels or seems good in the moment. For example, I find spending quality, undistracted time with God challenging unless I get up early in the morning. Waking up early in the morning takes intentionality. I need to get my act together the night before if I’m going to make this a reality. So what do I do: I get my coffee ready, set out what I need for breakfast, iron my clothes, set out my Bible on the table, set my alarm for when I need to get up, set my other alarms for when I need to get up, and then pray I get up. If I don’t follow this routine, most likely for me, I will not get up and spend time with God. Why do I do this? Because God is worth it!
Let’s look again at our text: 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).
Jesus, the one died on the cross to make us His, expects us to prepare for His return. Paul calls the appearing of Jesus our “blessed hope.” In anticipation of this blessed hope, we prepare intentionally to meet Him. We completely understand this concept in our culture. Imagine, for a moment, about how a girl prepares for prom or a woman preparing for a wedding. These women take great measures to prepare for these occasions: special dresses, shoes, jewelry, makeup, and even someone else doing your hair. Why? The greater the occasion, the greater the preparation.
Now, consider this: we are preparing to meet Jesus. One day you will stand before God. Are you ready for that moment? Outside of God’s grace instilling intentionality in us, there’s no way we are ready for that moment.
Our value of generosity is demonstrated in any and every aspect of our lives—our time, our talents, and our treasures.
When we speak of generosity, we often exclusively refer to money. Yet, our value of generosity goes so much beyond our finances. Let’s look at the instruction of Paul and the example of Jesus.
Consider the instruction of Paul:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4)
Paul states clearly that none of our actions or thoughts should come out of selfish ambition. Instead, we must look to others and consider them—their needs, thoughts, and emotions—more significant than ourselves. This is radical and counter-cultural. Our culture champions individuality and honors those who are winners, even at all costs. The type of person who genuinely seeks the benefit of others receives little to no glory. My response to this is “who even does this?!” Well, we find out in the next two verses in the example of Jesus
Consider the example of Jesus:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7).
Jesus possessed the qualities and traits that demanded all men to worship Him. Yet, He chose to take the form of a man to serve others more “significantly” than Himself. Jesus humbled himself so we could be exalted. Jesus is generosity personified.Paul calls us to possess the “mind of Jesus.” This mindset looks at other’s needs and then moves to action. This mindset considers others better and then demonstrates tangibly. This mindset gives up preferences and then gladly adjusts to others.
Our authenticity and our intentionality will only fuel our generosity. We will be the type of person who has prepared to demonstrate the love of God to others. Otherwise, our generosity becomes impulsive and self-promoting. Our final value is tenacity. This value can be seen as the glue that keeps the other values together.
When we realize that we are on this earth for a purpose and that purpose changes our perspective.
Over the past four weeks, we’ve discussed our identity, our vision, mission, and our strategy. These biblical purposes demand us to live in a specific manner. Hence, we are discussing our values—“who” we are. Without these values, we don’t gather, grow, and go. Without gathering, growing, and going, we don’t reach every street with the good news of Jesus Christ. Without reaching every street with the good news of Jesus Christ, our dream of a celestial city living in contagious community remains non-existent.
Listen to how Paul describes this tenacity:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Paul uses the tenacity of an athlete physically to demonstrate how we ought to live spiritually. We are not to run “aimlessly” but “under control” They type of personal sacrifice needed for this living requires our tenacity—an unrelenting commitment to pursuing God. However, we cannot forget that any tenacity we demonstrate flows from what God has already begun in us—“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6). Our tenacity flows from what God is doing in us and not from what we can do for God.
I’ve got amazing news for you. God lives within you and has given you the ability to live like Him in every aspect of your life. What would the neighborhoods and workplaces look like if we started living like God? The presence of God in the person of Jesus radically changed the course of human history. Yet, Jesus said to His follower it would be better for them if He left the earth since the Spirit would come and dwell with them. Now, the followers of Jesus, know as Christians, have the presence of God with them wherever they go. Just think about the possibilities! The presence and power of God can impact every street on this earth.