Sermon Starter: Do You Have It In You?

July 1st, 2011

Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

In most Bibles, Romans 12:9-21 bears the title “The Marks of a True Christian”. The implication is, this is how to spot a real Christian from a fake Christian. How sad is that? To think we even need a category like that! If part of us remains unchanged, then all we will ever be able to do is act like a Christian, and let’s face it, God is not running a stage production.

Looking over Paul’s extensive list of Christian qualities, I am struck by the overwhelming sense of what we are called to be as well as what we are called to do. This is truly a mission statement for the church of Christ as a whole, whether we are united or free or assembled or congregational, independent, or connectional. This is what Christians are. Period.

Look at this list. Is there one entry there you would disagree with, one action you could not imagine yourself doing? Loving sincerely. Hating evil. Loving one another. Holding on to what is good. Serving God. Rejoicing with hope. Accepting suffering with patience. Praying. Contributing to others. Sharing with others. Welcoming others. Blessing others. Rejoicing and weeping with those who do likewise. Living in harmony. Associating with the lowly. Leaving vengeance to God. Living in peace to the best of your ability. Treating your enemies with kindness. Overcoming evil with good.

That last one seems especially important for the church. We are people saved by grace, positioned in a world that has fallen from grace. Are we satisfied to show the world how much we are like them? Or should we be different? Should we not be working on overcoming the evil of the world by means of the good we do? That cannot happen unless we truly subject ourselves to God’s transforming touch. The renewal of our minds allows us to be tested and from that testing to learn what God wants.

I think it is fair to say that pleasing God is in part a process of trial and error. Unfortunately, we may bring the trials on ourselves and we don’t always learn from our errors. The truth us, we assume that the change has to come from within us, that we have to accomplish this on our own strength, which is, of course, impossible. Transformation is God’s job. Accepting and applying the transformation is our job. As someone once said, any recipe for success must include the ability to follow instructions.

Confidence in ourselves is not as crucial to this endeavor as confidence in God. The answer to the question, “Do you have it in you?” is no. You do not have it in you to be all those things on Paul’s list. To be that kind of person is beyond your ability, and yet you are fully expected to be. Jesus said that with God all things are possible. We need to stop trying to do all things ourselves, being disappointed when we fail, then assuming we are incapable and expecting God will just have to take us the way we are. God knows better than that.

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