When you interact with other people, who are you? If you had to describe yourself as a person when you interact with others, how would you describe yourself?

Are you "the mystery person"? The "mystery person" never allows anyone else to see the "real me." He or she works carefully to create and display a facade. What others see is what he or she wants you to see--not the real person existing on the inside. Others see only what the "mystery person" wants them to see.

Are you the "chameleon"? The chameleon is a lizard that among other interesting things can change his skin color to match his surroundings. If, in your interactions with others, you are a chameleon, who you are depends on the people you are with. What you "show" people about yourself depends on who they are, not on who you are.

Years ago I knew a man well who always met with the church. He had not decided to be a Christian, but he rarely missed. A prominent member of the congregation lived near him. One day he walked in a store and heard this prominent member using horrible language that revealed terrible attitudes. The man who was not a Christian was shocked and disillusioned. The prominent Christian was a chameleon. Who he was with determined his language and his attitudes.

If who you are is determined by the people and the circumstances around you, maybe you are a chameleon.

Are you someone who says, "What you see is what you get!" This person says, "I am who I am, and I am not going to change." He or she has decided that honesty is being course and abrasive in every situation. This person says, "I am not a hypocrite. The honest thing is to be who and what you are regardless of people or circumstance."

  1. Let me ask you a simple question and hopefully challenge you to give yourself a simple answer: what does the way you interact with other people have to do with being a Christian?
    1. For some people being a Christian has to do with belonging to a church.
      1. If you ask, are you a Christian, he or she says, "Yes, I go to church."
        1. "I'm a Church of Christ."
        2. "I'm a Baptist."
        3. "I'm a Methodist."
        4. "I'm a Presbyterian."
        5. "I'm a Lutheran."
      2. Being a Christian is a matter of affirming church membership or church attendance.
        1. Being a Christian does not really have anything to do with who I am.
        2. It has to do with the fact that I attend church somewhere.
    2. For some people being a Christian has to do with being basically a good person.
      1. If you ask this person if he or she is a Christian, there is a pause as he or she thinks about what he or she is.
      2. This person thinks within themselves, "I do not rape, or steal, or murder, or abuse my family, or create problems for other people."
      3. "I am a good neighbor, a reliable employee, a responsible member of the community."
      4. "I never make things difficult for any church and I don't oppose religion."
      5. "I believe in God."
      6. "So I must be a Christian."
    3. Does being a Christian have anything to do with who a person becomes? If a person becomes a Christian, is there any change in the person he or she is? Is the only noticeable difference seen in the fact that I attend church?
      1. For too many people, being a Christian has nothing to do with who the person is.
        1. It has to do with what he or she believes.
        2. It may have something to do with what he or she does or does not do.
        3. It might even have something to do with his or her habits.
      2. But for too many people, being a Christian has nothing to do with "who I am."
        1. Christianity and being have little or no connection.
        2. What I believe and who I am are two separate considerations.
        3. In no way is Christianity about personal change, or growth, or maturing, or actually being something as a person.
        4. It is about membership or affiliation or belief system, not about who I am.
        5. It is about doing the right things at the right places.

  2. Jesus had enormous difficulty with most of the people he taught during his ministry with this very same problem.
    1. Jesus was a Jew, an Israelite.
      1. All twelve of his close disciples were Jews, Israelites.
      2. He primarily worked with the Jewish people, the nation of Israel (Matthew 15:24)
      3. Once as he sent his disciples out among the towns and villages, he sent them only to Jewish people (Matthew 10:5,6)
    2. But the Jewish people of his day had an attitude problem that prevented them from seeing what they needed to see.
      1. Consider a hypothetical conversation between Jesus the Jewish people of his day.
        1. "Who are you?" "We are Israelites."
        2. "What does that mean?" "That means we are God's people."
        3. "How do you know that you are God's people?" "We have the right ancestors. Abraham is our forefather. We are descendants from Abraham through Isaac."
        4. A key element in their religious confidence was their ancestry.
      2. The gospel of Luke emphasized this problem when John was preparing the nation of Israel for Jesus' ministry.
        1. John the son of Zacharias was preaching to Israel in the wilderness area of the Jordan River.
        2. Luke summaries the thrust of John's preaching by stating John was preaching "the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."
        3. He was not the kind of preacher that most American audiences would appreciate.
          1. As the crowds came from the cities and towns to the wilderness area to hear John's message, he called them a bunch of poison snakes and asked who warned them to flee from the coming wrath?
          2. He urged them to repent, to be so dissatisfied with who they were before God that they turned their lives around and become different people.
          3. He knew some would say, "We do not need to repent; we are the descendants of Abraham."
          4. He said they were not to think that having Abraham as an ancestor eliminated their need to repent.
          5. Then he made a very interesting statement: "I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham."
        4. Jesus dealt with the same attitude in John 8:31-33.
      3. The problem: placing confidence in the wrong thing; creating security where there is no security.
      4. It is much too easy for us to be unaware of what a powerful, dramatic statement that was. Allow me to put it into today's terms in a way that helps us see what a powerful, dramatic statement that was.
        1. Suppose a messenger from God asked us, "Are you sure you are Christians?"
        2. Suppose we all said, "Yes!"
        3. Suppose the messenger asked why we are so sure.
        4. Suppose our answer was, "We are sure because we are members of the Church of Christ."
        5. Suppose this was his reply: "God can make members of the Church of Christ from the rocks around your building."
        6. How would you react to his statement?
      5. John told them they trusted the wrong thing; they needed to repent.
        1. Men and women who belong to God change.
        2. Because a person belongs to God, he or she becomes a different person.

  3. Let me illustrate the truth with two of the most prominent Christians in the New Testament.
    1. The last night that Jesus was physically alive as a man, he told his disciples all of them would desert him that night. (Matthew 26:31-35; Luke 22:31-34)
      1. Luke records this statement from Jesus to Peter:
        Luke 22:31,32 "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."
      2. Peter said he would go to prison with Jesus and die with him.
      3. Jesus told him he would deny him that night before the rooster crowed.
      4. Matthew records Peter's response: it would never happen.
      5. After Jesus' resurrection, John records a conversation between the resurrected Jesus and Peter. (John 21:15-17)
        1. Three times Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved him.
        2. Each time Jesus asked Peter to tend his lambs, shepherd his sheep, and tend his sheep.
      6. The Peter we see in the book of Acts is obviously a changed man.
    2. The second illustration begins with a man who was among the most violent enemies Jesus had. This angry man did not believe Jesus was God's Christ.
      1. Acts 9:1,2 makes this statement about the man:
        Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
        1. He got the letter.
        2. He was on his trip to Damascus to arrest Christians when he met the resurrected Jesus.
        3. To say that Saul's (or Paul's) new understanding that Jesus was the Christ totally changed him is an understatement.
        4. Did he ever repent!
      2. Allow me to illustrate the change by reading a statement this man wrote to the Christians at Thessalonica years later.
        1 Thessalonians 2:7-12 But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
        1. The man who wanted to murder Christians became the man who was as gentle with Christians as a nursing mother with her own children.
        2. The man changed!

The living God loves you so much that He is willingly to bless you in ways that go beyond your ability to comprehend. There is no question that He loves you. There is no question that He can bless you. The question is this: will you let Him love and bless you?

Whether or not He can bless you, even how He can bless you, depends on your willingness to repent, to change who you are. That involves becoming. That involves growing. That involves maturing.

And that leads each one of us back to the same question: "Who am I?"

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 25 August 2002

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