Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

 

"I was born this way!"

Newborn baby

by Dennis Pollock

Sometimes we hear that a newborn baby is like a clean chalkboard – waiting for his parents to write upon him whatever they like. That may sound good, but anyone who is the parent of several children knows it is a blatant lie. Many years ago, when I was teaching middle school students, I was having a conference with some of the other teachers, discussing which student should receive a special award for achievement. I recommended a particular girl from my math class who was in my mind both the model student and the ideal young lady. She was smart, hard-working, and very likeable, the type of girl any parent would be proud to call their daughter. I told the others, "I don't know what her parents are like, but they surely must have done something right in raising her." One of the other teachers told me, "You should see her brother!" It turned out that she had a brother who was a terror to his teachers, as much a trouble-maker as she was a model student. There went my great parenting theory!

Because the Bible speaks much about choosing to do the right and shun the wrong, we sometimes pay little attention to the role of genetics in our lives. By genetics I simply mean the particular mix of strengths and weaknesses that we were born with. We do not start life as a blank chalkboard. In reality we come into this world with all kinds of things written on us and hard-wired within us. Some are positive and some negative; some we are happy with and others we despise. And the thing that seems so unfair is that we had absolutely no say in this. Without so much as an "if you please" our strengths and our weaknesses, our talents and the lack thereof were established and fixed from the moment the doctor slapped our bottom and we took our first breath of air. Of course we can improve on our strengths and seek to minimize our weaknesses, but we will never change many aspects of our basic personality and aptitudes, any more than a mule can turn himself into a thoroughbred racehorse, or an apple tree can will itself to bear oranges.

We gain insight into this area from Jesus' parable of the talents. In those days a talent was a significant amount of money, several hundred thousand dollars by today's standards. In Matthew 25 our Lord tells us:

For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. (Matthew 25:14,15)

Notice that the servants had no say in the number of talents they were given. No vote was taken; no one was consulted beforehand. With servants and masters there is no democracy. Masters command and servants do. And the master determines not only the work to be done, but the tools and equipment to be provided each servant. So it is with all of us who trust in Christ and become servants of the Most High God. In one sense we chose Christ, but in another very real sense He chose us and determined before we were born the gifts we should possess, and the talents that would grace our lives. The nature of our personality, our physical stature, our beauty or plainness, our athletic ability, our ability to relate to others socially, our aptitudes, our willingness to take risks or our tendency to play it cautious… all these and more were determined as the invisible finger of God fashioned yet one more unique creation in directing the combination of sperm and egg, and the multiplication of cells inside a woman's womb.

DNA

Not only were we given certain talents and withheld others, but we came into this world with certain predisposed weaknesses. Because we live in a fallen, sin-saturated world, the newborn baby arrives far from perfect. Although he or she is the handiwork of the Creator, they are also infected with the virus of sin, and affected by the many complications, flaws, and limitations that always accompany it. The result is a package of good and bad, strengths and weaknesses, the capacity to be a blessing and the potential to bring ruin and misery to many.

On the right track?

In a popular song, the singer repeats over and over "I'm on the right track, baby. I was born this way." According to this pop-philosophy whatever you are, (and she includes in the song "gay, straight, or bi") you can be at ease. You were born to be the way you are. It would be fine if she were referring to our personalities and aptitudes, but when she speaks of moral choices and sexual expression, she goes too far. Many have decided that to be "born this way" means we must fully indulge in whatever whims, lusts, passions, and urges we feel. And especially if we have felt these passions from our earliest years, we assume they must always be legitimate, and that to fight against them is to fail to be true to ourselves. But this could not possibly be true. If it were, Hitler, Stalin, Jack the Ripper, Osama Bin Laden, and every serial rapist could all justify their monstrous actions and murderous proclivities by their DNA. Every liar, thief, adulterer, murderer, cheat, drunkard, drug addict, child-abuser, pickpocket, terrorist, pimp, and pusher could all join in one great chorus: "Baby I was born to be this way."

The composite of all we are born with, our pluses and minuses, our abilities and disabilities, are essentially what we have to work with and what we have to struggle against in our short seventy or eighty years that are allotted us on this earth. And when we are born again by trusting in Jesus Christ these things do not cease to exist. If we had a horrible singing voice beforehand, even after being born again and receiving the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit, we will probably still screech and hit sour notes when we open our mouths to sing Amazing Grace. If we were quiet, thoughtful, analytical types before giving our life to Jesus, we will now be thoughtful and analytical as we go to church, fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and read the Scriptures. Salvation is not a transformation of personality, but a transformation of spirit and of direction.

More than all

We do not have to wonder about how God evaluates the measure of our service to Christ. Jesus spells it out clearly in a few brief comments he made about a poor widow who threw a couple of pennies in the offering box at the temple:

Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."  (Mark 12:41-44)

If we ignore the context of her life and her means, her giving was paltry. She probably gave less than almost everyone they saw dropping money into the box. But Jesus was looking at more than the total money given – He was considering money given in relation to money available. And in her case that came to exactly 100 percent. By considering her means and her ability to give, her gift was enormous in the eyes of our Savior. It would seem God is more concerned with our devotion than the sheer quantity of our gifts. This situation had to do with finances, but it surely applies to every area of our lives.

For this reason we cannot possibly judge accurately, and are in fact told emphatically that we must not judge our brothers as they strive to serve God. Paul writes, "Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls" (Romans 14:4). While we can pretty accurately measure how much someone is giving or doing, we cannot possibly see as God sees and know the measure of devotion that is involved. No doubt the day of Christ will yield some major surprises. There may be some pastors of mega-churches, highly gifted men who could make their people laugh one moment and cry the next, who could string beautiful phrases together with unmatched eloquence, that will receive less reward than some pastor who never could build his congregation above 80 people. Because the small church pastor was giving all he had to serve Christ and minister to his people, while the mega-church pastor was holding back some of his immense talent and enjoying the good life a little too much, it may be the small church pastor who receives the greater reward.

There may be women who never preached, never sang, and never impressed anyone but God that will be honored for their pure and total abandonment to Christ, while more beautiful, talented, and impressive women will find much of their works burned in the fire, due to having their eyes too focused on themselves and their own egos.

We must be careful not to judge our brothers who struggle. Due to our genetic makeup, some people struggle in areas where others are not the least bit tempted. Many a person who has been slim all his life will look on someone who struggles with their weight, and say to himself, "These folks are always talking about diets. They don't need a special diet; they just need to do like I do and not eat so much." But someone born with a propensity to be on the slim side cannot even imagine what it is like for those born with the tendency to overeat. Likewise, there are people who struggle with terrible fears and anxieties, which those who have never had such struggles cannot understand. These folks did not ask to be born this way. They had no vote in the particular difficulties which hound them day and night. Outgoing extroverts will never be able to identify with the fears of the shy; intelligent individuals will never know the terror that exams are to the mentally slow. People who love to read cannot imagine the nightmare it is when a poor reader is asked to read a few Bible verses in a home Bible study. And so our Lord tells us, "Judge not."

The Power of Justification

God resolves all our differences and weaknesses and strengths with something He calls justification. In Romans we read, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). When we receive Christ, we are justified and made acceptable in the sight of God. There are no levels of justification. It is the highest position any man or woman can attain to: complete blamelessness in the sight of God. From this place of justification God simply asks us to give what we have to Him and allow Him to do with it as He wills. The measure of our success, the degree of our gain, and the level of our fruitfulness are in His hands, as we abide in Jesus. Justification does not mean that God ignores our weaknesses. We must fight and war against them through faith in Jesus, but our weaknesses do not make us second class Christians in His sight.

One thing we all have in common: we were all born in sin and desperately need a Savior. There are outgoing sinners and introverted sinners, beautiful sinners and ugly sinners, celebrity sinners and common sinners, sinners with beautiful voices and sinners who can't carry a tune in a bucket, American sinners, European sinners, African sinners, Hispanic sinners, and Asian sinners, wealthy sinners and poverty-stricken sinners, but we are all in the same boat; we are all drowning in an ocean of selfishness and greed. Without Jesus we will face everlasting destruction in that place where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.

Success and fruitfulness for some believers may not look as impressive as it does for others. On the Day of Jesus Christ we shall see how we have done. And no doubt there will be some surprises! Perhaps some, who seemed to have little and do little, will hear Jesus say, "This man or woman has put in more than all…"

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