Nobody likes a fake. Fake people who pretend to be something they're not. People like genuineness and authenticity. Sincerity. We tend to gravitate toward people who have an atmosphere of sincerity about them. We sense this, and it makes it easier to connect with that person. We look at Proverbs 18:24 and see that "a man who has friends must himself be friendly". In the King James Version (that was the NKJV) this portion of the verse reads: "a man that hath friends must shew himself friendly".
Using the KJV's own built in self defining dictionary (for more information on that see the book In Awe Of Thy Word by G.A. Riplinger) we look for other places in Scripture where the words "shew himself" are used. Not surprisingly we find related to "shew himself" the phrases "a worthy man" (1 Kings 1:52) and "strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him" (2 Chronicles 16:9). Looking up the words "that hath friends" brings us to John 15:13, which tells us that there is no greater love than one laying down his life for his friends. Thus using Scripture to interpret Scripture, a friend is "a worthy man, strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him, and who would lay down his life for his friends"! Doesn't that sound a lot like Jesus?! I love it how every time we study the Bible everything points to Him.
In other words, the Bible associates friendship with sincerity. But what is sincerity? We're familiar with the word, and use it in our speech, but what does the Bible have to say about sincerity? Culture today twists so many words up that we think it changes the meaning of the word in the Bible. Take the word "love" for instance. The word love appears hundreds of times in the Bible. Yet love is a word twisted and warped by culture so much that its often hard to define what it actually is. Love could mean anything from "lovin' this pizza" to love between friends, to love between married couples, etc. And in English one four letter word covers it all. Terrible, isn't it? But I'm getting off track. Let's take a look at what the Bible has to say about sincerity.
Let's first look at Paul's letters to Timothy. Timothy was a young pastor under the tutelage of Paul, and for sure one of the important things Paul would want Timothy to know is genuineness in his service and faith. Let's take a look at 1 Timothy 1:3-7:
As I urged you when I went to Macedonia--remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk.
In verse 5 we see the phrase "sincere faith." One of the beautiful things about the Bible is it's tendency to repeat the same things over again using different words to drive the point home. Truly it is a double edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Here "sincere faith" is coupled with "pure heart" and "good conscience". Sincere finds its synonyms in "pure" and "good".
When we think of the word "pure" what often comes to mind is an unblemished white goat or a spotless white robe. Something white that has not been tarnished. Apply that to friendships. A genuine friend doesn't try to fit in with the crowd to gain recognition and friendship. A truly sincere friend doesn't mask himself/herself but is open, ready to help and be helped. As Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor, for if they fall one will lift up his companion."
Let's move on to 2 Timothy 1:3-5.
I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.
Where do "sincere", "genuine" or synonyms appear in this passage? Verse 5 mentions genuine faith. Again! Is this a coincidence that Paul begins both of his letters to Timothy by bringing up sincere/genuine faith? I think not. In this passage we see genuine faith being passed down from generation to generation. Sincerity breeds sincerity. If you are sincere and genuine to others, they will want to be the same to you. And what else is mentioned here? Prayer! Yes! Of course! Prayer is always vital! If a Christian sincerely wants the best for others, will he/she not pray for them?
Our next passage is 1 Corinthians 5, verses 6-8:
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Sincerity and truth go hand in hand. They are opposites of malice and wickedness. The passage compares sincerity and truth to unleavened bread, and glorying, malice and wickedness to leavened bread. Leaven "puffs up" bread to make it larger. Glorying, or boasting, is often the result of a "puffed up" head. That seems to be the analogy here. Malice often comes from the thought of being better than the person the malice is directed at. Sincerity and truth are not like that (James 3:17 & 2 Corinthians 1:12). Sincerity and truth do not pride themselves in being better than others, rather they sincerely seeks the genuine good of a friend. And we cannot forget what the passage says: "For Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us". Let that be the ultimate reason for sincerity, for was not Christ's sacrifice the ultimate of sincerity in His love for us?
Moving on we come to Philippians 1:9-11:
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
What is the fourth word in this passage? It is "pray". Once again the Bible emphasizes how essential prayer is to be in every detail of the Christian life.
The phrase "be sincere" appears in verse 10 along with the synonyms "approve the things that are excellent", "filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ" and "without offense".
Now this does not mean that because Christianity offends some people that we should be sincere and abandon it; not at all! The Greek word translated "without offense" is aproskopos. Aproskopos is a compound word formed from the prefix of negation, "a-", and another Greek word, proskopto. Proskopto is used in John 11:10 where it is translated "stumbles". Therefore another Scripturally defined synonym of aproskopos is "not stumble". A sincere friend is not going to want to do something that is going to cause his/her friend to stumble.
Sincere people approve the things that are excellent. Philippians 4:8 tells us that "whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things." These are excellent things. To drive the point home, a genuine friend is not going to talk about junk. Why? Because it is not approved.
Sincere people are filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ. What are these? What else but the fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5?
Wow, if you're thinking what I'm thinking, it looks like the Bible has set up an impossible to attain definition of sincerity! Which would make it look like the only sincere person is Jesus! And that is indeed true to a point. Let's look at love again. Who is the true perfection of love? Jesus. Does that mean we are incapable of loving? No, but Jesus is who we are called to imitate. If you are familiar with asymptotes in math, you know that an asymptote is an imaginary line that the values of a function come infinitely close to without ever touching. Such is it in this case. We can never be capable of loving as Jesus loved, but as we grow in our faith and become more like Him, we will learn more and more what His love and His sincerity is like as we grow in doing those things ourselves.
Let's take a look at another verse, 1 Peter 1:22:
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.
Notice the trend here? Sincerity doesn't just apply to friendships, it applies to every kind of relationship, whether that be family, spouse, significant other, and even God. Is not the God who proved the genuineness of His love deserving of that kind of sincerity from us? Let's take a look at Joshua 24:14:
"Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD!
Joshua is about to die. He is making his final speech to the Israelite people. This speech is filled with exhortations to serve God and not fall away. Only in God could they succeed, and they needed to serve Him genuinely. They needed to be so on fire and so in tune with God that there would be no chance of them falling away.
Such should it be in our lives. We can't just go through the motions of serving God. He wants our whole hearts. He wants us to be so on fire for Him that His passion burns within us. Simply "OK" is not enough. Halfhearted service is not genuine, as we have seen. Remember, part of our definition of a friend was someone who was strong on the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. And is God not perfect toward us?
Romans 12:9 tells us to "love without hypocrisy". Hypocrisy is getting after someone for doing what you do yourself. Like demanding good iron while being rusty iron yourself (See my blog post As Iron). It says love without hypocrisy! Love sincerely! Let His passion so burn within you that sincerity, authenticity, and genuineness so radiate through you that people are attracted to you and ask you what makes you different! And it's a good way to build friendships too, is it not?
People, this is the God who redeemed our souls from everlasting damnation in hell and reconciled us to His one and only Son Jesus Christ to live with Him for eternity in His kingdom! We need to be all the way on fire, not partly. Sincerely, genuinely, wholeheartedly passionate for Him and His will. At the end of my life I don't want be lying on my deathbed thinking about my life and saying, "What if I had given everything?" What if I had always been there for my friends? What if I had been a better father to my kids? What if I had put more effort into my relationship with my wife? What if I had served God with my whole heart instead of mere lip service? What if __________? Fill in the blank.
No regrets. Not this time. I don't want any. I'm not going to fake it. Are you with me on this? Let's roll.
Matthew West wrote a song called The Motions, a very applicable song to the content of this post. It's still one of my favorites today. Take a moment and listen to it as this post comes to a close:
Blog Post IndexWhat Is Christmas? He Said Be Still Don't Fake It As Iron Trusting God With Goals True Friends You Have Been Called To Liberty We Overcome Memories With God All Things Are Possible Is Our Light Shining? Paul's Last Words #10: Conclusion Paul's Last Words #9: Our Faithful Lord Paul's Last Words #8: Who Are We Like? Paul's Last Words #7: Loving His Appearing Paul's Last Words #6: Keeping The Faith Paul's Last Words #5: Running The Race Paul's Last Words #4: Fighting The Fight Paul's Last Words #3: As A Drink Offering Paul's Last Words #2: Your Ministry Paul's Last Words #1: I Charge You Unicorns in the Bible Riches: Good or Bad? Do We Know Him? If There Was No Tomorrow As I Have Loved You Following Christ Forgiveness Faith and Works #4 (Final Part): Dead Faith Faith and Works #3: Works Are Your Witness Faith and Works #2: Works Aren't It Faith and Works #1: What Does It Profit? A God Who Approves Cannibalism? Happy The One Who Dashes Not Everyone Who Says To Me, "Lord" Rightly Dividing The Word?