The trouble with only being human

Only_Human“Hey, I’m only human.”

I hear that a lot, and I get that. We often say things like this in order to elicit a graceful response for our poor behavior.

Let me say up front, we should have grace for our own failings, or anyone else’s.

Unconditional love has no conditions, which means we don’t turn our love off just because someone has disappointed us, or even failed us.

But when we say we’re “only human” so we can stay stuck in our brokenness, resigning ourselves to being “just a sinner saved by grace,” we’re actually fortifying our unbelief. This kind of thinking only serves to build a solid wall of ignorance around our true identity. It actually moves us further away from the grace we seek.

Bill Johnson said something about this that was simply profound.

“The person who believes they’re a ‘sinner saved by grace’ sins by faith.”

This statement says it all because we will always follow what we believe. Faith acts like a self-fulfilling prophecy, either confirming what God believes or what we prefer to believe. As Jesus told the Centurion (bold-type added):

“Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” (Matt.8:13b NKJV)

I’m not saying that my shortcomings end with faith; I’m saying that when I do something contrary to God’s nature, I’m not my real self. Simply excusing myself by saying that I’m “just a fallen human being” denies my new nature in Christ.

I’m actually appealing to the wrong “me”…or should I say, the dead “me.”

Do we understand that Paul actually chastised the carnal Corinthians for acting like “mere humans”? (bold-type added)

 “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” (1 Cor.3:3 NIV)

Paul isn’t telling them to “knock it off” and get with the program. He’s saying that they still don’t know who they are; they’re still not walking in “newness of life” (Rom.6:4-6).

They’re still acting like they’re only human.

To show you that this is the context, here’s what he said to them earlier…

For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor.2:2 NKJV)

What did Paul mean by saying “among you”? Did it not mean that he was determined only to relate to them according to their new nature, not the old one that was crucified with Christ? Look at what he tells them later in another letter (bold-type added):

“Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh…17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor.5:16-17 NKJV)

“New creation,” in this context, meaning that an unprecedented species of God-inhabited men and women, empowered by the Spirit, are now walking as Jesus is in this world (1 John 4:17).

new: καινός (kainos) – new in species, character
creation: κτίσις (ktisis) – a spiritual creation

This is quite a different thing than the “self-help” version of Christianity we often see offered to us in the West.

God isn’t interested in making you a better person; He seems to think He nailed your sorry “human self” to the cross and placed you in His glorious Son.

The old “you” isn’t even relevant anymore. Paul is saying, stop acting like it is.

But this is also quite different than the “just quit” version of grace we also see embraced by many Christians today.

We need to understand something about grace. When a Christian says they’ve given up on “trying to be perfect,” they are simply saying that they’re getting off the treadmill of performance-based Christianity, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re now walking in grace. They may have just given up altogether.

Walking in grace means living like you’re dead to sin and alive to Christ (Rom.6:11-14), it’s learning how to walk in His perfect life and in His performance. God’s grace is active and powerful, teaching us to “put off” who we’re not anymore (Col.3:8-10; Titus 2:11-12).

This is not “trying harder” to walk out a godly life; it’s the fruit of walking in the Spirit (Gal.5:22-23).

You’re not walking in grace until you are empowered by His life, to live His life.

This is what grace looked like in Paul’s life:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Cor.15:10 NKJV)

So let’s stop saying things that only serve to disempower us and keep us from living in the freedom that only the Spirit can bring. While we’re at it, let’s stop saying things like, “He’s God and I’m not,” like we’re separated from Him, forgetting that He now lives in us and Christ is our life (Col.3:3-4).

It really is time we woke up and shed this religious veil, this pretender masquerading as humility that’s nothing more than self-pity. We’re not just human beings anymore; we’re God-inhabited men and women, imperfectly, yet gloriously, growing up into the perfect Christ (2 Cor.3:17-18; Eph.4:13). Amen.

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Rom.8:14 NASB)

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 41 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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18 Responses to The trouble with only being human

  1. dcummuta says:

    Reblogged this on The Life of Living Above and commented:
    Are we scared to believe what the Gospels really said about us? Check out Pastor Mel Wild’s blog here and while you’re at it check out his other blogs too!

  2. Juanita says:

    I’ve been catapulted to the next level. Good, good word and loved this particular scripture reference, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” (Matt.8:13b NKJV)

  3. Heidi Viars says:

    Dear Brother, I have to disagree with you (ok, only just a little 🙂 ) … I hear your heart in what you are trying to say, (and for the most part say a hardy, “AMEN!”) yet I see the Word of God speak to our “just human” condition as well. After we turn our lives over to Christ, most of us still have a long way to go. At the point of receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, not all are immediately freed from the many fleshy desires which raged in our being before God took residence. There are certainly many promises of the Word which point us to holiness, and you did an amazing job pointing those out.
    But here is my concern…
    Paul considered himself a chief sinner (present tense!)
    1 Timothy 1:15-17
    15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

    Humility is a tricky thing. At the moment we think we walk in it, we pride ourselves in it. It’s all God. The saving faith has nothing to do with us. People have always sinned, and will do so, even with the Spirit living in them. I think we have not even understood the meaning of grace. I know from my own walk with Christ, I have to continually repent of sins in my life. We have to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16) and hold each other accountable, show each other the wrongs, and point constantly to the finished work on the cross.

    I am sorry, dear brother, but I here on earth I am a sinner, saved by grace 🙂 … and yes, I do sin, not in faith, but in ignorance. But praise be to God, whose Spirit dwells in me and lets me still see my own short-comings and how truly amazing His grace is. My future is secure and my hope is a reality in Heaven.

    Proverbs 24:16 tells us that though the righteous fall, they get up. Let’s pray that God would continue to show us how to help one another up, in true love, as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

    THANK YOU, for this wonderful post. It made me think!
    In Christ,

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thank you for your comments, Heidi, and for your gracious disagreement. 🙂 Actually, I’m very glad you brought these points up because they’re probably questions others will have about what I said. I believe God is having us wrestle through these things these days because they are important to our growth in Christ.

      First, I think we’re on the same page on a lot of what you said. I agree that we still commit sins and may still have a long way to go in our understanding of who we are in Christ.

      However, calling myself a “sinner” creates an identity problem. I’m identifying with my old nature, not my new nature. I’m looking in the wrong direction and actually disagreeing with God because He says He crucified my old nature with Christ (Rom.6:6). This distinction in identity makes a difference because behavior always follows what we believe about ourselves. Thinking I’m a sinner puts me on a performance track in order to attempt to remove the contradiction in my life. On the other hand, seeing myself “in Christ” transports me forward, toward my life in Christ. I’m not in denial about my current state, but I’m “no longer regarding myself according to the flesh” (2 Cor.5:16-17). This is how we begin to walk in the Spirit; our focus is on where we’ve been placed (Col.3:1-4). I’m sure you agree with that last point.

      True humility is simply agreeing with God, nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t make us humble to call ourselves the “worst of sinners,” and I don’t think that’s what Paul meant about his present state as a saint.

      Your reference to 1 Tim.1:15-16 is the traditional view of most evangelical Christians, and was mine for many years, but I now I’ve come to see (and a lot of others smarter than me) that it’s traditionally been taken out of context. Briefly, here are a few points.

      First, we have some translation problems. The Greek word πρῶτος (prōtos, where we get the word, “prototype”) was never used by Paul to mean “worst” or “chief” anywhere else in his writings. Paul always used this word in its primary meaning, as “first” (first in time, place, in any succession of things or of persons.” – Rom.1:8. 16; 2:9-10; 3:2; 10:9; 1 Cor.14:30; 15:45.47; Phil.1:5; 1 Tim.2:13; 5:12; 2 Tim.4:16). For instance, in the same letter, Paul uses the word to say that “Adam was created first” (1 Tim.2:13).

      So, why “worst” or “chief”? The translators possibly translated it “worst” or “chief” because being the “first of sinners” didn’t make sense and “worst” fit their current theological paradigm. Regardless of the reason, Paul couldn’t possibly have meant that he was the worst sinner in the Roman Empire (worse than Nero!). It makes more sense, in light of his other teachings on our identity in Christ, that he was using his former life as a prime example of the depths of God’s mercy to save someone like himself, for he had just finished saying he WAS a blasphemer, persecutor and violent man (see vs.12-14). This seems to be the context. He was basically saying, if God can save someone like me, He can save anybody!

      To go further on this would require a separate post, which I may do since it’s an important subject. Thanks again for bringing this up, Heidi. Even if I’m not convincing you, I really appreciate how you share your disagreements with love. 🙂 Blessings to you.

      • Heidi Viars says:

        I don’t want to take all this time from you with this (for I believe we are basically saying the same thing).
        My only concern is that we ignore the sins in ourselves and in others and won’t hold each other accountable.
        If out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, we need to pray for the Lord to change our hearts first, not necessarily speak our way to a better heart. While our mouths tremendous power, they speak out of the abundance of the heart.

        If a “saved sinner” then tells himself he is a sinner (and confesses his sins to another) and that turns him from his sin, that can be such a good thing.

        BUT, if being called a “sinner” will only perpetuate him in his old shame and guilt, let it not be so, and let everyone tell him that he indeed is redeemed, living with the power of the Holy Spirit and as a new creation.

        The goal would always be holiness and Christ-likeness, whatever means it would take to get a soul to go that route.
        Maybe we are speaking of the difference between conviction and condemnation?

        Thank you for the exposition on 1 Timothy. That was very helpful.

        May the Holy Spirit give us the wisdom to walk with Him with a surrendered heart, made new in the power of God.
        Thanks for your teaching heart, dear Brother! It’s so good to discuss these matters in peace. I love coming here and love reading your posts 🙂

        • Mel Wild says:

          Thanks again, Heidi. No problem on the lengthy discussion. As I said, this subject is an important one. One that deserves thoughtful and graceful discussion.

          We do have the same intent and goal in what we’re saying. My emphasis is that the means to change behavior is in the new creation. Your emphasis is more on dealing with the behavior, which I agree with. Both are valid and true. Having said that, I do believe I need to clarify why identifying ourselves in Christ is important.

          What we say (confession) is critically important because confession leads to behavioral change. In fact, we’re always making confessions, they’re just not always good ones. To “confess” (ὁμολογέω – homologeō) literally means to “say the same thing.” In this case, to say the same thing that God says about who we are in Christ. This is how I renew my mind, which must happen before I will actually change my behavior, or even expect any change. For instance, if I identify myself as a sinner, I will tend to continue acting out of that identity (my normal expectation). If I know that’s not who I am, I will continue to seek revelation on what I’m still missing in my understanding so that my experience will line up with my new identity in Christ (what God says). Faith in what God’s says must come first. Experience follows faith, not the other way around.

          So, I agree that we should confess our particular sins when we commit them in order to be freed from the shame, condemnation and brokenness they cause (James 5:16), but that alone doesn’t transform us. Revelation transforms us. Transformation is no longer seeing sin as a forbidden fruit (tempting me to continue in it, even though I know it’s wrong), but now seeing it for what it really is, a toxic poison. At first it took faith to believe this, but once I’m transformed in that area of my life, it becomes experiential reality.

          Paul said, “knowing this” (revelation knowledge), that our old nature was crucified and we’re no longer slaves to sin” (Rom.6:6). But until we “know” this, our behavior won’t really change (at a heart level). Our confession of faith is the vehicle to get us there. But when I identify myself as a sinner, I’m looking the wrong way, living circumstantially instead of by faith.

        • Heidi Viars says:

          That makes good sense! Thanks again for discussing this with me. I appreciate your time and love for God’s truth and the true transformation of believers!

        • Mel Wild says:

          You’re welcome. Thanks again for bringing this up. 🙂

  4. Cindy Powell says:

    Hate that treadmill, love grace. Though I’ve been moving in that direction for some years now, I feel like I’m still just beginning to see how truly empowering grace can be. And by the way – that is one of my favorite Bill-isms 😃 If no one has put together a book of his most profound one-liners yet, they should!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yup, with every upgrade encounter with God it seems like I’m born again, again. 🙂 And I agree about the Bill-ism book. I’d buy it. He’s one of the most quotable speaker/authors around (along with Graham Cooke, who has some of the funniest).

  5. Lance says:

    God’s grace is active and powerful, teaching us to “put off” who we’re not anymore

    Mel, good comments with Heidi. Surrendering to the grace of God can be the most intense experiences of our lives. We have so identified with lies and deception and fallen thinking and what Kruger calls the “I am not.” Laying naked on the surgeons table of grace and letting the Holy Spirit reveal the truth of our identity and His loving infinite mercy can hurt as the weeds of our dead identity are pulled out. It takes way more faith in His faithfulness to trust His healing hands in our broken lives. I know after so many years hiding in the bottom of a bottle believing God was trying to teach me a lesson. What a crock. When I surrendered to His faithfulness and embraced my death I found sin wasn’t my issue at all. Hiding was. A wrong image of a monster God was my problem. When I stopped worrying about my sins (since He forgot them) I could trust Him to pull out some lies. Guess what? No more bottles or guilt or condemnation. Freedom. Accountability is loving someone into the truth of who they are and who Jesus is in them and their absolute assurance of acceptance in the family of God. We are His kids.

  6. Mel Wild says:

    “When I surrendered to His faithfulness and embraced my death I found sin wasn’t my issue at all. Hiding was.”
    Amen on that one, Lance! Jesus is kissing His beautiful bride awake with love and grace. As Jonathan Helser said in one of his songs, “She’s not dead, she was only sleeping, and now she’s waking up!” Papa is saying with a great big smile on His face, “come out, come out, wherever you are!” What a crazy, wonderful place to be–in His embrace! It’s so good to be His kids. 🙂

  7. Daryl Billings says:

    This is the message the world is dying to hear. Every God-given spirit longs to walk in the truth of our divine destiny. Our true identities are not established by the rulings of a worldly court but by the One in Whose image we are created. Good word, Mel! Keep them coming.

  8. Pingback: Did Paul consider himself a sinner? | In My Father's House

  9. daniel says:

    Reblogged this on Daniel Lovett and commented:
    I wanted to follow up that last post with this one… this certainly deserves more attention and consideration.

  10. secretangel says:

    Amen!! To walk as Christ walked means just what it says… Just as He did, operating under the Power of our Precious Holy Spirit. Let His true sons arise and walk into the fullness of our inheritance with Him.

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