An undated sermon note… probably sometime around 2003 or 2004.
Sinfulness, if you are Christ’s, is due to who you were, not what you did. If you are not Christ’s, it’s due to what you are. If we continue in sin, it’s because we don’t understand who we are, and what we are becoming.
I heard from one of my best and oldest friends yesterday, Dave Stark. He was in town for the funeral of a mutual friend’s father.
In 1998, Jenn and I (both still single, but “dating”) moved into a house with Dave and several other people in an experiment in Christian communal living. While there, Dave and I went through a videotaped study authored by John Maxwell. One of the key principles in Maxwell’s approach to Christian theology is that we can’t begin to appreciate or live the Christian life if our sense of identity is out of whack. Getting on course means understanding, first, who God is, and then who we are in relation to Him.
From one perspective, that’s the entire lesson of the Bible. As Jenn likes to put it, we are all Israel… and Israel never could figure out that God was God, and they were not. Israel was like the ultimate Burger King customer: “All we ask is that you let us serve it your way.”
Or, Israel was like Popeye: “I yam what I yam.” And we treat God like a can of spinach, power available on demand but safely stowed away otherwise.
Damned if we don’t expect to be able to approach God on our own terms.
We do need to get that identity thing straightened out. I imagine the passage of Scripture I was thinking of when I made that sermon note was the following:
Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit. (I Corinthians 6: 9-11, The Message)
We tend to get too caught up in what our particular sins are… and what the particular sins of others are. But the point is not identifying particular sins; the point is identifying that we are all sinful because we place our own desires ahead of God’s.
It’s who we are, and whose we are, that matters–not what we do.
And we’d best never be content with who we are today; God wants so much more for us than that.