Last Sunday evening I called your attention to the fact that there are two basic definitions of what it means to be human.

First, there is God's definition, His intent for us when He brought us into being. When God created us, there was a specific existence, character, and nature that He envisioned for us. For a period of time [we are not told how long] humanity fulfilled God's vision.

Second, there is humanity's definition of what it means to be human. We form our definition of what a human existence, character, and nature should be from many different sources. Human cultures, human societies, and human politics have powerful, basic influences on our definition of humanity. Also need, stress, and possessions can powerfully influence that definition. Sometimes greed, destructive attitudes [hate, jealousy], and selfishness powerfully influence the definition of humanity. Depending on the situation, there are lots of sources we humans use in allowing humans to teach us how to be humans.

This is my central point: God's definition of what it means to be human and humanity's definition of what it means to be human are fundamentally different. It is in that difference that Christians struggle with a basic, never ending tension: "Will I allow God's definition of humanity to determine who I am, or will I allow humanity's definition of what it means to be human to determine who I am?"

The basic objective of being a successful Christian is not found in "measuring up to God"--none of us ever "measure up to God." It is impossible to place God in our debt. It is impossible to make God "owe us." It is impossible to make God dependent on us. That is not even the goal.

The basic objective of being a successful Christian is found in journeying toward God's nature and character. Our conscious objective is to adopt God's character, values, and priorities as our human character, values, and priorities. Why? We realize that adopting God's character, values, and priorities is the greatest form of good and the highest level of humanity that exists.

  1. Allow me to begin by noting that God's definition of being human and humanity's definition of being human are fundamentally different.
    1. I wish to illustrate this truth with an example that came from highly motivated religious people.
      1. Jesus was the spokesman.
      2. He spoke to people who regarded these religious people as being God's ultimate representatives on earth--yet Jesus said they were not!
    2. The illustration I call your attention to is found in Matthew 5:43-48.
      You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
      1. Humanity does not define being human as showing kindness or compassion to an enemy.
        1. If a soldier shows an enemy kindness and compassion, it is interpreted as aiding the enemy.
        2. Prisons are not noted for prison keepers showing kindness and compassion to the imprisoned.
        3. Just stop and think: when do people in general think it is appropriate to give kindness and compassion to someone who truly is an enemy?
      2. The way God defines what is human and the way even the religious defined what was human was distinctly different.
        1. Even the religious said, "Love your friends and hate your enemies."
        2. Jesus said God's focus included loving your enemy.
        3. What were the circumstances when Jesus made this statement?
          1. Israel was an occupied people living in their own country while it was controlled by Roman troops.
          2. A system of conscription was in force--a Roman soldier could compel a Jew to carry his pack for a mile just by ordering him to do it (how exasperating and inconvenient!).
          3. The people to whom Jesus spoke had real enemies--not hypothetical enemies!
      3. What did loving your enemy involve?
        1. It involved praying for those who persecuted them.
        2. And I do not mean praying that God would swallow them up in hell or that the enemy would "get what was coming to him."
        3. They were to request their blessing and benefit!
      4. Why would they do that (even we have real difficulty with that!)?
        1. They did that to imitate God their father; they did that to be sons of God, in God's family.
        2. God gives the blessing of the sunshine to everyone--even those who do not deserve it (in an agricultural society the gift of sunshine is essential!).
        3. God gives the blessing of the rain to everyone--even those who do not deserve it (in an agricultural society the gift of rain is critical!).
      5. God's people are as unique as is God!
        1. Everyone, even the ungodliest person and the atheist, knows how to love people who love them.
        2. Where is the reward in being kind to people who are kind to you? You are just reacting to their kindness!
        3. God defined humanity does more than merely react to kindness received!
        4. God defined humanity uses God Himself as the standard!

  2. Allow me to use some visual illustrations on our screen to challenge and increase our understanding.
    1. First, consider a basic Christian understanding.
      1. The "C" stands for creation when God brought us into being.
      2. For a while [scripture does not say how long] the people God made were what God intended humans to be.
      3. Then Adam and Eve rebelled against God and humans were no longer what God intended us to be--that commonly is referred to as the "FALL."
      4. Once we ceased being what God intended us to be as humans, we never again placed God in the role of being Who He should be as our Creator.
      5. The "J" stands for judgment when all who have ever lived will appear before God, and God will be restored to the position He rightfully should occupy.
      6. At that time God will again be the "all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).
    2. Second, let's look at the same basic understanding from the perspective of what should have been true.
      1. God always should have been honored as the Holy God Who brought life into existence.
      2. There should have been no "FALL."
      3. There should not be a need for "JUDGMENT."
      4. God always should have been in His rightful role as Creator.
      5. There should have been no need for God to be restored to His position as the "all in all."
    3. Third, I want us to consider our second opportunity as human beings.
      1. Jesus came to do more than provide us redemption and salvation.
      2. While he came to redeem us and save us, he also came to teach us how to be human by God's definition.
      3. When we respond to Jesus' cross, we respond for three basic reasons.
        1. We respond to declare our faith [our trust, our confidence] in what God did in Jesus' death--we really believe in the redemptive power of Jesus' blood (Ephesians 1:7); we really believe he died carrying our sins in his body (I Peter 2:24); we really believe that God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:24).
        2. We respond because we want redemption and salvation.
        3. We respond because we want God to teach us how to be human.
      4. When we come to Jesus' cross, we come to two things.
        1. We come to salvation.
        2. We come to learn how to be the humans God always intended for us to be--that is the basic focus of transformation.
        3. By responding to Jesus and his cross, we begin a journey toward "JUDGMENT," toward being the human God originally intended for us to be, to placing God in His rightful position in our lives.

  3. To emphasize that our objective as Christians is to journey toward the humanity God intended to characterize us [before sin was a human reality], I want you to read with me Romans 12. Listen carefully or read with me as I read without comment. Take careful note of the new humanity of Christian existence.
    Romans 12:1-21 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
    1. If we are in Christ, note what we embrace.
      1. We embrace personal transformation.
      2. We embrace a sense of togetherness with all who are in Christ.
      3. We embrace a different way of looking at each other and treating each other.
      4. We embrace kindness expressed toward people who are not Christians.
      5. We embrace a complete unselfishness.
      6. We embrace God's way to defeat evil. [The expression of power is not in controlling others, but in letting God control who we are.]
    2. The question: is that what you are doing in your life as a Christian?

As the Christian matures spiritually in Christ, being a Christian involves much more than accepting the benefits of salvation. It also involves allowing God to transform us into the person God intended people to be as creation.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 13 June 2004

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