“Being Who You Are”
Matthew 16: 21-28; Romans 12: 9-21
Pearl: Kingdom character as a result of the structuring power of grace
Function: To aspire to the kingdom character that results from the structuring power of grace in Jesus Christ.
The body follows the head. This is no more evident than when you ride a bicycle. No matter how steady you try to keep your bicycle going forward in a straight line if you turn your head to the left to look somewhat behind you the bike will veer left. This is why the safest thing to do is to keep you head straight ahead and maybe mount those rear view mirrors on your bike helmet so that you can see what is coming behind you. The body follows the head.
- In the same way “as the mind thinks, so we are.” Our minds are so very important. Christ is changing and transforming our minds.
- Romans 12:2; “…be not conformed to this world; but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….”
- Last week I preached about “being who you think that you are;” today’s sermon is Part II of that message. The scripture directly follows last Sunday’s reading. Today’s passage from Romans is describes the resultant character of the person whose mind is being transformed by Christ.
- Most outstandingly it is about the resultant character of people who are impacted by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Biblical commentator Paul Achtemeier calls it the “structuring power of grace.”
- Faith is a gift. It is a gift, graciously given. It is similar to the powerful love that two people discover for each other. You realize that you have received an amazing and wonderful gift. So is the reality that we have through Jesus Christ. We understand that what God did in Jesus Christ is pure and simple, amazing gift graciously given.
- As your conscience (mind) is shaped by the gift of Christ you become different persons. As you mature in Christ it is evident in your character. Once you begin a relationship with Jesus Christ he gradually molds you and shapes you all through your lives. Your character changes and your works change.
- Following Jesus Christ is partaking of the kingdom of God right here and now in this life.
- How open are you right here and now to Christ’s transforming work on your character? This is a constant project for Christ followers. As “reformed” people this means “reformed and always reforming.” By the way this October will be the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation!
- Sometimes it is thought that some aspects of the Christian way are impossible or unrealistic. I am thinking of the mandates such as: “blessing those who persecute you,” “not returning evil for evil or taking vengeance,” and “being patient in suffering.”
- Such standards are by no means easy but they are your calling.
- They are done as the result of the “structuring power of grace.”
- There is a very good reason that you should be able to live within this power. Paul spelled it out clearly in Romans 8: 11: “The same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us to enable us to live a new life.”
- There you have it. The One who was raised from the dead, Jesus the Christ, is your Head. He is present in you. He is molding and shaping you by the power of His resurrection reality.
- The power that raised Jesus from the dead is in you and by that power you can live up to the standard of Christ. By that same power you can align yourselves with the ways of the kingdom of Christ! Where the Head goes, so follows the Body. You are the body of Christ (I Cor. 12: 27).
- Thinking that Christ’s way is unrealistic or impossible denies the resurrection! The fact is that Christ is raised from the dead and the kingdom is present and growing. Nothing will thwart the kingdom of God! All things are possible with Christ who strengthens you (Matt. 19: 26; Rom. 8: 28; Phil. 4: 13).
- How will we live out what our sign across the street says? (“LOVE ONE ANOTHER”).
Returning love for evil does not come easily.
- Myron Augsburger, tells the following story in The Christ-Shaped Conscience.
- In 1941 his family moved to Newport News, Virginia to spend the winter months in that area for his dad’s health. He had a job as a foreman on a construction project. Having a German name and being a conscientious objector to participation in war, Dad was the brunt of considerable criticism. One fellow Bob was particularly harsh and was laid off by another foreman one day.
- Some days later Dad created a few work places and went up to the gate where men were waiting, hoping to get work. Dad hired two men, including Bob, who really needed the work to care for his family. This deed was not unnoticed.
- Fifteen years later Myron was a young pastor and was invited to Newport News for a series of evangelistic meetings. The first Sunday evening, when he gave the invitation to respond to Christ’s call, an older man came down the aisle. When he stepped out to meet him, he asked, “Do you know Clarence Augsburger?” Myron said, “Yes, he’s my dad.” With tears in his eyes he said, “That man is why I’m here.” That is the resurrection power of love impacting a life! (The Christ-Shaped Conscience, Augsburger, p. 41).
- That is the “transforming or structuring power of grace” which enables you to return good for evil. Clarence was living and working in response to grace!
The structuring power of grace continuously manifests itself in multiple ways.
- Grace enables you….
- To hate evil
- To cling to the good
- To love one another
- To keep your spiritual fervor
- To serve the Lord
- To be patient in suffering
- To persevere in prayer
- To contribute to the needs of the saints—especially in Texas—and to so many other worthy causes—Mud Run next Saturday for Team Marcia!
- To weep with those who weep
- To practice hospitality
- To not be proud, but willing to associate with those of low position
- To live at peace with everyone
- To feed your enemies and give them drink
- These are not binding laws but ways in which the structuring power of grace manifests itself in those who follow Jesus Christ.
Are you being convicted in some way in which you are not operating out of grace? The fact is that we all have work to do, to “Be Who We Are!”
- Perhaps there is the need for confession and repentance.
- There always is the need for confession and repentance because we are always reforming.
We are always battling sin. Sin remains a condition of our existence. We are to by no means be defeated by this. Rather, we are in Christ and in him we have the victory. Augsburger stresses, “Fallen-ness is our condition but not our confession.” He wrote, “The supreme expression of salvation is our participation in the kingdom of God…we find our direction not from our fallenness but from the community of the redeemed” (Christ-Shaped Conscience, p. 29).
Our fallen-ness is our condition but not our confession! In seminary I worked with other seminarians painting houses. We had great theological discussions while working! Often was heard the comment “We live in a fallen world” almost as a declaration of surrender. The fact is that we live among the redeemed in Jesus the Christ, the One who was raised from the dead!
You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you! Not only can you do all things but you must do all things according to the standard of Christ Jesus. Romans 12 retells Jesus’ teaching as found through his sermon on the mount.
You can and you must “be who you are in Christ Jesus!” There will be much more on the topic of “Christian Identity” in October as we dig deep to “Live the Story” and “Share the Story.”