Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Bible Doesn’t Say That: “That’s Just the Way God Made Me”

Sometimes the things we say can come back to bite us! A father I know recently learned this lesson the hard way with his son. It all started out very innocently. He was watching through the kitchen window as his son was playing in the yard with some friends. As young boys will often do, they found a way to compete. The father had seen this scene develop many times before, all of the boys lined up in one long line. There were six of them. The father couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he could see. One boy pointed to a fence at the far end of the yard. Someone yelled, “Go,” and they were off! My friend’s heart sank as his young boy struggled to keep up and finally came in last. A few minutes later, the party outside broke up, and his son came inside. The conversation was inevitable, “Dad, why am I so slow? I never win!” “Well, son, God made us all with different gifts. You may not be the fastest kid, but I’m sure you will find something that you are REALLY good at. There is probably something you can do better than anyone else! Try not to get too upset about the things you can’t do, and try to find the things you were created to do well. Remember, God made you just the way you are!”

Great lesson, there is much truth in those words, but a few days later, it backfired! Same father; same son, Sunday afternoon. The boy’s room was an absolute disaster of epic proportions! You literally could not find the floor through the clothes, toys, and—yes—food. My friend repeatedly told his son: “You need to go clean your room.” “But dad, it’s the weekend!” “Go clean your room.” This went on for several minutes. Finally, that wonderful lesson came back to get him, “But dad, I’m not good at cleaning my room. I’m really good at making messes in my room, but not at cleaning it. And I’ve decided not to be too upset about the things I’m not good at. And remember, dad, that’s the way God made me!”

Moms, dads, ever been there? “That’s just the way God made me.” Wow, how many times have we heard that one? A lot of bad behavior has been justified with this one little phrase. Some have used it to cover up their sins, others have used it to help them cope with their own challenges in life. And you know, there is a way to kind of add biblical weight to a statement like this one. Remember what Paul said in II Corinthians 12? He wrote that God had given him a “thorn in the flesh.” He prayed and prayed for God to take it away, but Paul was stuck with it. We don’t even know what “it” was, though there have been hundreds, maybe thousands, of books written on that subject. But we do know it was something that plagued Paul his entire life. And, as far as we know, it never went away. Or what about that lengthy passage Paul wrote in Romans chapter 7?
I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate. But if I’m doing the thing that I don’t want to do, I’m agreeing that the Law is right. But now I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it’s sin that lives in me. I know that good doesn’t live in me—that is, in my body. The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I don’t want to do. But if I do the very thing that I don’t want to do, then I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it is sin that lives in me that is doing it. (Romans 7:15–20 CEB)
I want to do good, but something about the way God created me, I guess what the Bible is trying to say, what the Bible says over and over again, is “That’s just the way God made you.”

The problem is, church, the Bible doesn’t say that. Yes, there is an evil, powerful spiritual force at work in this world, without a doubt! And, yes, temptation comes and makes life exceedingly difficult at times. And, yes, each of us has unique struggles that pull us in directions far away from God. But let’s get this straight from the very beginning: When life doesn’t go your way, and you mess up, or, when you feel incapable of taking courageous steps in your life, you must remember this:
That is not how God made you!
That is not who you were called to be!
That is not who you are!
Your identity is not defined by any sin in your life.
Your identity is not even defined by any choice you might make in life.
The question of your “identity” goes much deeper than that.
I told this story to you a couple of years ago, but let’s be honest, you do not remember. And to this day, it is the best illustration I have ever heard about identity. Primarily because it is so real to me, because it happened to me! As a child, my mother always drove us to school. We never took a bus, we never walked. She always drove me and my three other siblings to school until we could drive ourselves. And every day, the same script played itself out. Just as we were exiting the car, she always, ALWAYS, said the same thing. “Remember who you are!” I was in middle school before I knew what that was all about. I thought she wanted us to remember we were Crawfords. “Don’t do anything stupid today. Don’t embarrass the family!” But that is not what she meant. She meant, “Remember, you are a child of God. Remember, you are special. Remember, God created you to do something great!” If you really want to know who you are, just listen to what this letter to the Ephesians says:
God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.
Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:8–13 NLT)
Are there any more special words in all of the Bible? You used to be Gentiles; you used to be outsiders, but you have been created anew in Christ Jesus to do good things. We are God’s masterpiece! Brothers and sisters, the possibilities for your life are limitless! Because you have been united with Christ Jesus. Because God’s Spirit lives inside of you, giving power and direction to your life. So never sell yourself short, never utter those untrue words when you feel inadequate: “That’s just how God made me.” Because the reality is: God made you alright! But He made you for something special. You are God’s masterpiece!

You may really need to hear this. There is someone reading this that has been hurt; maybe you were hurt physically as a child. Maybe you were hurt emotionally as an adult. But the wound is so deep that it has altered the landscape of your life. And because you were hurt so badly, you have a real difficult time letting others get close to you, because you are scared to death you will get hurt again. And because your life has become so desperate at times, you’ve said in your heart or maybe even out loud, I wish I could change, but that’s just the way God made me.

There is someone reading this that keeps sinning that same ol’ sin over and over again. Maybe I should say there is “more than one person reading this…” Every time you find yourself in that situation, you swear you will resist. You have every intention of being better. You love God, and you want so desperately to be the person God has called you to be. But there you are again, following that same path down the road that leads to your sin. After awhile, it’s a lot easier to justify your actions by giving credit for your sin to God! “I guess God just made me this way.”

Someone reading this is addicted to pornography. In our age, this has become the silent killer. It’s breaking up marriages. It’s destroying self esteem. And I say silent killer because we have no idea how many people struggle with this because it is so private. No longer does someone have to go to the store and buy a Playboy. We can access any amount of pornography on our computers or cell phones. And I’ve never heard of a filter that is 100% effective. I recently had a young person tell me in all honesty, I know there is a filter there, but I know how to get around it. It is tempting after awhile to just throw up your hands and say, “I guess I’ll just always struggle with this. I guess that’s just the way God made me.”

Someone reading this is suffering from an eating disorder. You make yourself sick because you feel like any amount of food you eat will make you look too fat. You’ve convinced yourself you must look like those models on the covers of magazines. You see the way people glamorize those seemingly perfect bodies. You have come to believe that if you don’t have that perfect body, no one will love you. Yes, you wish you could change. But you don’t know how, and you wonder if it is even possible. Maybe God just made you this way.

Someone reading this is an alcoholic. You started drinking just to have fun. A way to bond with friends. But somewhere along the way, you began to drink more and more, and then, you began to drink when you were alone. Not just to enjoy yourself with friends, but because you couldn’t help it. Maybe your craving for the next drink has already made it difficult for you to do ordinary, routine things in life, or, maybe you are not there, yet. So many folks have walked that road, and so many have finally thrown up their hands and said, "I guess this is just the way God made me."

We’ve talked a lot over the last several weeks about what the Bible does NOT say. Now, let’s talk about what the Bible does say. I know there are more voices in this world than we can count that tell you who you are. And some of these voices are even cloaked in the language of God. And some of them even claim to be from the Bible. As we wind up this series, my prayer is that you will be able to hear this truth from God’s Word. The truth is:
God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so that everyone who believes in Him won’t perish but will have eternal life. (John 3:16 CEB)
The truth is:
Nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. (Romans 8:38–39 CEB)
The truth is there is no temptation too great for you to overcome, because God’s Spirit, the life giving force of this entire universe, is living inside of you!

The truth is God loves you and God will do anything to help you succeed in life. Let me rephrase that: God has already done everything He can do to help you succeed in life.

So, let’s stop lamenting our shortcomings. Let’s stop wishing we were someone else. Instead, let’s celebrate who created us to be. We are God’s masterpiece. You are God’s masterpiece.

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