I want to begin by talking to everyone who has loved someone enough to marry them. Whether you did or did not marry the person, or whether the marriage was a success or failure is not my present concern. I want to talk to every person who loved someone enough to marry him or her. I want to ask you some questions.

  • Can you remember the first time you met this person?

  • The very first time that you met him (or her), did you say to yourself, "I want to marry him (or her)"?

  • Can you remember the first time that you knew that you were in love with this person?

  • What happened between that first time you met the person and the moment that you knew that you would marry him (or her)?
  • A lot of powerful things happened. Among them was a simple but important thing: the way you looked at the person changed.

    1. Why are Christians unique?
      1. I cannot answer that question until I understand what you mean by "Christian."
        1. By the word Christian, do you mean:
          1. People who have a religious background and call themselves Christians?
          2. People who go to church?
          3. People who have placed membership in a congregation?
          4. People who believe the Bible is the word of God and are religious?
        2. To be honest, if that is your definition of "Christian," there probably is very little that is unique about such people.
          1. Many of them believe that they are religiously unique. But...
          2. Many of them rarely read the Bible and never actually study the Bible.
          3. Many of them seldom pray to God.
          4. Many of them attend church assemblies either because they feel it is necessary or because it is a life long habit.
          5. Yet, many of them rarely worship when they attend.
        3. Or, by the word "Christian," do you mean those people who see the eternal God working through Jesus Christ?
          1. These people believe God actually put His work to produce salvation "in gear" when evil first expressed itself in human life.
          2. They believe God's work will continue until the moment comes when God through Christ will judge all people who have ever lived.
          3. They believe that all the total work and purposes of God are tied together with the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
          4. They actually live their lives on a daily basis by placing their trust and confidence in Jesus who was raised from the dead.
          5. They govern their daily lives by understanding Jesus' teachings.
          6. All their definitions of right and wrong, of good and evil are based on faith in Jesus' teachings.
          7. Therefore, they commit themselves to Jesus' purposes.
          8. They rejoice in their forgiveness and welcome both the responsibility and the privilege of being God's son or daughter.
          9. They declared their faith in the power of Jesus' cleansing blood by being baptized into Christ.
          10. And they honestly redirected their lives.
        4. If you are asking what is unique about these people, there are too many unique things to list.
      2. I want us to look at just one basic way that people converted to Jesus Christ are unique: it changes the way they look at people.
        1. When Jesus lived on earth, he looked at people in a way that Israel's religious leaders never saw people.
          1. When Jesus called Levi the tax collector to follow him, Levi gave a huge banquet for tax collectors, and Jesus attended (Luke 5:29-32).
            1. The Pharisees saw a group of dishonest, thieving men who collected taxes for the Romans, men to be shunned and rejected.
            2. Jesus saw people who needed a spiritual doctor; Jesus saw people who needed to be called to repentance.
          2. When a prostitute washed Jesus' feet, the Pharisee saw a prostitute who was known to be a prostitute by everyone in town; Jesus saw a woman who grieved as she repented (Luke 7:36-50).
            1. The Pharisee saw a horrible sinner and said to himself, "If Jesus knew who she was, he would not let her touch him."
            2. Jesus saw a grief-stricken person who was repenting, and he said to her, "Your sins have been forgiven."
        2. As you read the gospels, it is amazing to note the times the Pharisees saw sinners to be shunned and rejected when Jesus saw people hungering and thirsting for direction and forgiveness.
      3. But changing the way people look at people was hard even in the early church.
        1. It is obvious in the New Testament letters we call epistles that changing the way people looked at each other in the church was one of the greatest challenges of early Christianity.
          1. Jews looked at non-Jews and saw a bunch of spiritual heathens who had worshipped stone images and were incredibly ignorant about the living God.
          2. People who were not Jews looked at Jews and saw a bunch of stuck-up, arrogant people who thought God loved them more than anyone else.
        2. In the church, it was very hard to change that, but Paul made it clear that Christians must change the way they looked at people.
        Galatians 3:27-29 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      4. If a person has been genuinely converted to Jesus, if he or she has been baptized into Christ and thereby clothed with Christ, that person must change the way that he or she looks at people.

    2. How can that happen? How does being converted to Christ lead you to change the way you look at people?
      1. The first thing conversion does is change the way that you look at yourself.
        1. This is what the conversion process does:
          1. First, conversion shows you the evil that exists in your life--in living color.
          2. Second, conversion makes you fully aware of the fact that God knows everything about you--everything you think, everything you feel, and everything you do. God knows you better than you know yourself.
          3. Third, conversion reveals to you that God, who knows everything about you, loves you and in Christ will gladly forgive you.
            1. God does not love and forgive us because we are worth it; we are not!
            2. God loves and forgives us because of His goodness.
          4. Fourth, conversion creates an undeniable drive and determination to change the direction of our lives.
            1. Conversion opens our eyes and makes us see self.
            2. We don't like what we see; in fact, we despise what we see.
            3. Through the forgiveness and strength of God, we are determined to change who we are.
        2. All of that happens because we see ourselves differently.
      2. When we change the way we look at ourselves, we will change the way we look at other people.
        1. Why? It is very simple.
        2. God tells us, "You must understand that I love every other person as much as I love you."
          1. "I do not love you any less than I love anyone else, but neither do I love you more than I love anyone else."
          2. "If you love Me, if you love My son Jesus, you must dedicate yourself to learning how to love other people like I love other people."
          3. "I seek the present salvation and the eternal good of every sinner, and that includes you. If you love Me, you will do the same thing."

    3. Seeing other people differently is a fundamental uniqueness of any congregation that belongs to Jesus Christ.
      1. Conversion creates the desire for Jesus to use our lives.
        1. If Jesus is to use you or me, we must change the way we see self.
          1. If you cannot see the evil in your life, Jesus cannot use you.
          2. If you cannot see God's grace in your life, Jesus cannot use you.
          3. If you cannot see your dependence on God's mercy, Jesus cannot use you.
          4. If you cannot see and appreciate Jesus' forgiveness in your life, Jesus cannot use you.
        2. Men and women converted to Jesus Christ yearn to see our world change in basic ways.
          1. Converted people hunger to see the pain and devastation of stereotyping end.
          2. Converted people hunger to see the pain and devastation of prejudice end.
          3. Converted people hunger to see the pain and devastation of racism end.
          4. Converted people hunger to see the pain and devastation of abuse end.
          5. Converted people hunger to see the pain and devastation of hate end.
        3. But these things are not ending; they are growing.
      2. How can they be reversed?
        1. The reverse will begin when Christians have the courage to let God teach them how to look at people.
        2. Nothing good can happen until we change the way we look at people.

    4. What do you spiritually expect of yourself?
      1. I am a grandparent with four grandchildren.
        1. I want every grandchild to be a first grader--for one year.
        2. I want every grandchild to be a sixth grader--for one year.
        3. I want every grandchild to be a senior in high school--for one year.
        4. I want every grandchild to be a wiser, more mature person each year of his or her adult life.
      2. Are you converted to Jesus Christ? If you are,
        1. You belong to the eternal God who created you.
        2. You belong to Jesus Christ who died and was raised from the dead for you.
        3. You are committed to understanding the mind of God and developing the mind of Christ so that you can better understand life every year that you live.
      3. What have you learned, what do you understand about yourself, about your God, about your Savior, about your salvation that you did not know and understand two years ago? five years ago? ten years ago?
        1. This year, what has God taught you about yourself?
        2. This year, what has God taught you about other people?
        3. Do you want God to teach you anything? Will you allow Him to?

    [Prayer: Teach us to be unique by reflecting the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.]

    Every Sunday morning we have visitors. Some of our visitors have never visited a congregation of the Church of Christ before. If a visitor who has never worshipped with a congregation of the Church of Christ visits us this morning, what would you want him or her to say about us?

    "They did not use a musical instrument" ?
    "They took communion" ?
    For certain, those are very obvious. Is that the number one difference you want them to see?

    As a converted Christian, let me share the most obvious difference I pray they could see.

    "Those people are unique in the way they cared about
    us and the way they obviously care about each other."

    David Chadwell

    West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
    Morning Sermon, 26 September 1999

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