Can a man be what he, in reality, is not? It’s a tricky question, so give it time to ‘soak in’. Can greatness spring from the small and mean; sweet water from a bitter spring?
I believe the answer is “No!”. Our true character is not the veneer we wear externally, and by which casual acquaintances think they ‘know’ us; but “the hidden man of the heart”. We may pretend beautifully, convincing many people and almost convince ourselves; but what we are, deep inside, will prevail. That noble philosopher, Popeye, was correct in asserting, “I am what I am, and that’s all I am”.
Is this a shocking revelation to you?. Haven’t you really suspected it all along?. Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit”. And again, “How can ye, being evil, speak good things” (Matt.7:18, 12:33-35). The authority of truth is involved here — what really is asserts itself through every cloak of sham and pretense. Many lives are storms of confusion and conflict, as people try to live at cross-purposes with themselves; to be (in the eyes of others) what they are not. Nor is this charade alwanor& deliberate deception. Many have lived a “false front” so long that they can no longer “know themselves” honestly. We see in ourselves what we want to see; and this conflict of the heart and our false front makes a scrambled mess of our lives. Verily, “What fools we mortals be!”
At this point it would be easy to draw some false conclusions. One may say, “All right, I am not a great man, nor even a good man, and there is nothing I can do about it. I will be true to myself, and live out my life in smallness and meanness”. Another, having caught a glimpse of a better life, and desiring heaven, may become despondent. “I have tried and failed. I am hopelessly lost!”
Historic theologians say man inherited a depraved nature from Adam, and is incapable of anything good. They would leave the true nature of man as they believe it is — dark and evil — and simply hide it beneath a cloak, the righteousness of Christ. To be brutally frank, they would make His righteousness our false front. This is a popular conception, with some scriptures that seem to favor it; but I do not believe it accurately presents the truth.
Genuine Christianity is not a plot to make us appear something we are not. Instead, it gives us the opportunity to be what God wants us to be.
Jesus Christ makes possible the forgiveness of our past sins and continues, under proper circumstances, to forgive our faltering steps. This, alone, is marvelous; but there is more. Christ places before us the divine image, and we may be “changed into the same image from glory to glory — ” “partakers of the divine nature” “conformed to the image of His Son” (2Cor.3:18; 2Pet.1:4; Rom.8:29). Further, this change begins now, in the Christian life (2Cor.5:17).
It seems God has greater confidence in man, despite man’s sin, than most of us have in ourselves. True, our lives are transformed only thru trust in Him, but God holds man capable of having such a trust — of receiving His truth and conforming to its demands (Jno.6:44-45). Too long have we listened to this Calvinistic pessimism — “born in sin, wholly and totally depraved” Man was made in the image of God (Gen.)” and was intended to be “crowned with glory and honor.” (Study Heb. 2:6-18) His original state was purity, not sin; and although we are far fallen from such purity “for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12) We retain the capacity to be touched by the love of God. We CAN DO better, because we CAN BE better than we are.
The gospel God gave is admirably suited to the man God made. No one had to tell the Creator the depths to which His creatures had fallen; and yet God loved us. With a sacrificial love that defies understanding, He gave His only Son to die for us. His Holy Spirit revealed, in its fullness, His message of love which, through the Apostles and Prophets of the New Testament, is preached unto us. And by this gospel, man is invited to come. These things clearly imply man’s ability to hear, believe, and obey.
If we are unaware of our sinful condition we are deceived by our own pride. If we can not understand God’s truth we have shut our eyes. If we do not obey, our stubborn will rejects. But deep inside, God-likeness longs to answer the heavenly Father’s call.
Robert F. Turner