Would it surprise you to learn that one of the top enticing scents, when put to a vote, is ‘that new car smell’? I know. I’m skeptical too. Which segment of the population chose new car scent over cinnamon or pine, right? I’m not sure why we would ever gravitate toward the new car scent. As described in Wikipedia, “Most of the interior of an automobile consists of plastic held together with a number of adhesives and sealers…these materials are left slightly unstable, and continue to release volatile organic compounds into the air afterward…fumes may also come from phthalates and other plastic-softening chemicals that evaporate over time. Yeah, that’s exactly the quality of air I want to breathe. Not! In fact, scientists recommend keeping new cars well ventilated while driving due to the emitted chemicals.”
We are immersed in cultures that combine the authentic with the artificial. When we can’t get the real thing, we find a substitute. Don’t get me wrong. We need substitutes; many of them critical to sustaining life. I can think of several; pacemakers, insulin, heart valves, or a whole mechanical heart. But this is different. There are times when artificial comes to us indistinguishable from what is real. We question what to believe, what to support, what acts to perform, or what to do with the hours in our day. We listen to the news or read a compelling article that has all the components of believability. Facts are cited, credible opinions given; it’s solid. Then it happens. In the next hour, the flipside is presented and suddenly what seemed solid crumbles and what we accepted as true becomes uncertain. Which side is authentic and which is artificial? It’s not as easy as picking side one or side two, is it? Our minds become a sorting algorithm: searching what we know to be true, adding opinions we have formed, mixing in outside perspectives, then merging it with our values – mix well, pour into pans and bake till solid. In Luke 6:45 it says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about things artificial and things authentic lately. Not so much in the manufactured products that attempt to replace real with a suitable facsimile. That aspect is a matter of educated (or opinionated) choices. I know there are acceptable substitutes for the real deal, but some can never be replicated or pass for authentic. We know that sometimes, what appears to be authentic is, in fact, completely artificial and at times even harmful. That’s why we need insight from an infallible source, from inerrant scripture to be the blueprint for life that is so ingrained in our minds it comes out in actions. 2 Timothy 2:15 says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who authentically handles the word of truth.”
In the King James Version, it says to study – study to be approved. The more time we spend with God the more we can discern the authentic from the artificial. Recently I ran across this verse while reading the Message translation. I wrote it down so I would remember it when so many opinions are at war in my head. John 7:24 “Don’t be nitpickers; use your head—and heart!—to discern what is right, to test what is authentically right.”
Did you catch that? Use your head and your heart to discern. That’s how to be authentic, to sort out what is good – the Real Deal.
Romans 12:12 describes the process of becoming authentic “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The world is all about substitutes. We know that. What this verse is telling us though, is don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.
If you’re looking for perfect, you won’t find it in me. But I hope day by day I become more and more authentic in my faith and prove it by my acts.
My prayer today is as Paul prays, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11 That’s the real deal.