Chris Thayer is the Director of Discipleship at Good Shepherd Church in Charlotte, NC where he oversees adult life groups and Biblical education. On Thursdays I share his weekly “Thayer’s Thoughts” for small group leaders, which are based on the previous Sunday’s sermon. Click HERE to watch or listen to the accompanying sermon.
I love storms. There is something incredible about being surrounded by something so powerful and dangerous. They provide a rare perspective of just how small and weak I am as a human being. I find an almost paradoxical comfort in experiencing my own insignificance in this way. It is the closest I’ve come to being able to comprehend how great and vast God is.
For this reason, I’ve always wanted to see the Redwood Forest in Northern California. They are some of the largest and oldest trees in the world. My wife and I just had the opportunity to visit them for our tenth anniversary. The experience was indescribable.
For a sense of perspective—the blue dot in the picture above is my wife!
Standing next to trees that were growing near the time of Jesus which towered above us was truly amazing. It reminded me just how small I am and how short my time is.
This is healthy perspective to have. However sometimes people use this as an excuse for sin. “I’m only human” they say—implying that due to their inherent weakness as a human being, they have no other choice. However, like most erroneous thinking, while there’s a kernel of truth it reaches an incorrect conclusion. We see why in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church.
Throughout the letter, Paul’s teaching is built on the reality that the Ephesian believers are ‘in Christ.’ Through their union with Him, though they were once dead in their transgressions and sins, they are now alive with Christ. Part of this reality is that their humanity has changed. Through their acceptance of Christ, they now have an ’old self’ (literally ’old humanity’) which they are to take off and a ‘new self’ (’new humanity’) which they are to put on.
Taking off the old self includes putting off falsehood, stealing, unwholesome talk, and the like. In place of this they are to put on our new selves—being kind, compassionate, and forgiving—imitators of God. As Talbot addresses in his sermon this week, this isn’t trying to come up with some sort of self-help scheme to achieve who God wants us to be. No, it’s living into the new identity God has already given us.
Our humanity can no longer be used as an excuse for sin. Quite the opposite, our new humanity is the very reason we shouldn’t sin.
And here’s the kicker: when we live into this reality, we are more truly human than we ever were before. The distortion of our humanity caused by sin is removed and we are who God has planned for us to be, a reality that will reach its fullness when we are resurrected as Christ returns.
I marveled at my insignificance when compared with the immense trees of the Redwood Forest. Yet when I realize what Christ has done for and in us—that He has made us not “only human” but “true human,” the crowning jewel of all of his creation, God’s image bearer—I realize that the greatness of storms and trees also serves to highlight the glory He has given us through His son Jesus Christ.