Devotionals by Dr. James MacDonald

The Real Deal

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps(1 Peter 2:21, esv).

Wouldn’t you love for someone to describe you as authentic?

“She is authentic—completely true to herself.”

“I think of him as authentic—the real deal.”

Authenticrefers to the original article, the real thing—not a phony knock-off or cheap imitation. Authentic doesn’t necessarily mean unique. A craftsman may produce many authentic pieces. These objects conform to an original ideal or pattern so as to faithfully reproduce the essential features. They’re true, genuine, and real.

Being described as authentic is a high compliment. Those who are authentic are truly themselves, or who they are meant to be, in the best sense of the idea. We instinctively want to emulate authentic, genuine human beings—but these people are often hard to find.

Becoming an authentic person is an easy goal to set but hard to live out under scrutiny. Our standard for authenticity is Jesus Christ. He’s the real original. This is not only true because He is our Maker and therefore qualified to tell us how to live authentically, but He is also our ultimate model. Humanly speaking, He was in every way our perfect example. In fact, the Christian life could be described as learning to live faithfully as an authentic imitation of Jesus. When Jesus called the disciples, He simply said, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19). And after the Apostle Peter betrayed Jesus in a humiliating episode of personal failure, Jesus reinstated him and echoed the original call in no uncertain terms: “You follow me” (John 21:19, 22). Peter passed that same wisdom on to us: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). We can’t duplicate what Jesus did, but we can imitate Him. Jesus said, “It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master” (Matthew 10:25). Will we ever perfectly imitate Him? No. But it’s enough for us to be like Him, and the more we become like Jesus, the more we will be living an authentic life.

Committed Christians across the centuries have demonstrated that there are certain practices that can lead to a deepening and sharpening of our likeness to Christ. The goal isn’t frantic performance to prove a point. Authenticity isn’t forced. In fact, human authenticity includes room for failure. Admission of error and genuine repentance are definitely marks of authenticity.

The disciplines of a sincere faith are practical ways to “follow in his steps.” Authentic Christians don’t drift in and out of His steps or wander in roughly the same direction as His steps—we “follow in his steps.” Jesus taught and practiced certain spiritual disciplines, which is how we know they’re worth repeating. When we practice them as He did, we are setting our feet in His very footprints.


  • Would you describe yourself as an authentic person? Would others? Why or why not?
  • Compare who you were a year ago to who you are today. How are you growing in your likeness to Christ?

Father, if we are imitations of one thing, may it be of Your Son, Jesus. We will never be perfectly like Him on this side of heaven, but we can become increasingly like Him. In fact, “it is enough” for us to be like our Teacher. Teach us to “follow in his steps,” to practice spiritual disciplines as an expression of love and admiration for Jesus, not as an empty attempt to earn Your favor. God, You are the one who sanctifies us and works in us to make us more authentic imitations of Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose name we pray, amen.

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Pastor James MacDonald preaches without apology straight from the pages of Scripture, provoking Christians to think and act on their faith. His Bible-teaching ministry, Walk in the Word, launched on as a radio broadcast in 1997, with the mission of "igniting passion in the people of God through the proclamation of truth."

About Dr. James MacDonald

James MacDonald (D. Min., Phoenix Seminary) is the founder and Senior Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel. He has led the church from the time it began with just 18 people in 1988 to the present, where 13,000 people attend seven campuses in the Chicago area weekly. His practical teaching of God’s Word is broadcast daily around the world on radio and TV through the program Walk in the Word, and more than 160 vertical churches have been planted on four continents under Dr. MacDonald’s leadership. Pastor James has authored several books and Bible studies, including: Act Like Men; Vertical Church; Lord, Change Me; Lord, Change My Attitude; When Life is Hard; Always True; and most recently, The Will of God IS the Word of God. He and his wife Kathy live in the Chicagoland area near their seven beloved grandchildren, and three adult children who serve alongside them in ministry.

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