Sermon delivered October 24, 1998

by Pastor Kent Crutcher, our youth pastor

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonadl, Tennessee

Quotations from the Bible are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Be Different

Have you ever seen a chameleon? If you have, the chameleon was a failure! A chameleon's claim to fame is its ability to not be seen, but you saw him. This particular lizard has the talent of changing its color to match its surroundings in the hopes of remaining unseen, anonymous. We have some of these creatures that live around the church. I had an occasion to catch one. I was coming into Elder Gettys' office and something came in with me. I caught it out of the corner of my eye. A chameleon! It ran right in the door! Well, I say a "chameleon." This lizard or Green Anole, to be exact, or Anole Carolinensis, to be even more exact, or American Chameleon, to be practical. This chameleon was quite elusive. Pastor Gettys and I were finally able to help the creature to see the error of its ways and that the church is no place for Chameleons, and out the door he went.

Blending in, giving the impression that one does not exist is fine for a lizard, but it ceases to be remarkable for a Christian! The church is no place for chameleons. Something is happening in this world that is disturbing to me. The power of individual thinking is being replaced by group thinking. In fact we talk about group think, think tanks, and all such things. Today a man is held suspect if he does things differently. We have become afraid to express an opinion different from others. I remember being with a good friend in seventh grade. He said, "I like Camaros." Well, I didn't really like them, I liked Mustangs, but I wanted to fit in with the crowd.. So I said, "Yeah, I like 'em, too." I wanted to fit in, to be like him. We become afraid to express something that's different from somebody else. We go along with the ideas of others when our better natures worn us not to. We are afraid to stand alone lest someone ridicule us. Because of this fear we go along with the crowd. We conform to the standard of others.

On person stated it this way; "I'm just a collection of mirrors reflecting what everyone else wants me to be." Our age emphasizes the things which we do as a group. We buy health insurance on a group plan; we engage in group therapy; we turn to group dynamics. Business, labor, and government are emphasizing the work done by groups as opposed to that which is done by individuals. They appoint a study committee and then send in a research team to determine if there is a need for a special council with an advisory board to investigate the other group.

Togetherness has been emphasized out of proportion to its importance! I heard a story, I don't know if it's true, but it's good, of Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company, of course. (Like I said, I like Mustangs.) Henry Ford was walking through his factory one day and he saw a worker standing at the window, looking out at the rain. He was a little disturbed that one of his workers wasn't on the assembly line. He went up to the man and said, "What are you doing?" The man said, "I'm watching that poor person turning the crank on the front of that car to get it started in the rain. I was wondering if there was a way that he didn't have to do that. Well, Henry Ford, being a wise man gave that man a desk in an office. From what I understand, that man invented the electric starter inside the car. Sometimes it's doesn't take a group to have a good idea.

A Viennese psychiatrist says, "At present, instincts do not tell man what he has to do, nor do traditions direct him toward what he ought to do; soon he will not even know what he wants to do. He will be led by what other people want him to do, thus completely succumbing to conformity."

Whether we like it or not, we are growing more and more alike The things we wear, the things we eat, the places we go, what we drive, our tastes in general, even our basic ideas. Television, the radio, the inter-net, the newspaper, magazines all tend to standardize individuals. You must be this way to be acceptable. We do things because others do them. We buy this, we sing that, we eat certain food because it has become popular to do so. If we don't, we are afraid that someone will think we are a bit odd.

Some time ago, one of the popular magazines called our time the "Silent Age." People are afraid to express their convictions. They don't want others to know that their beliefs might be a bit different. They remain silent instead of living and expressing fearlessly their convictions, which I think is pretty sad for a country that was built upon individualism and self-reliance.

Can a person be an active Christian and live as a chameleon at the same time? Open your Bibles to Romans 12. I have a friend who is not longer in the ministry because he married a chameleon. He told me about this a couple years ago when we had the opportunity to talk for a few hours. He said, "I realized that I married a conformist. She had been brought up to conform to certain standards and she was doing a good job at by blending in with the people around her, very conservative young lady. But then she got new friends at her work and began to conform to their standards. Soon, I didn't know who I was married to. And she went away. She did not know who she was." She was busy being a chameleon, blending in with those around her. For a while it looked proper, and then for a while it did not. Are we guilty of blending in with those around us because we want to fit in? Or is it something that comes from the heart? Can a person be an active Christian and live as a chameleon at the same time?

I heard yesterday of a man that was trying to do so. He is a leader in a nearby Christian church and an attorney. He stated that when he leaves for work, he leaves his morals at home! Romans 12:1,2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I looked this text up in several different translations:

Phillips Translation puts it this way: "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God remold your minds from within so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves toward the goal of true maturity."

New English Bible says: "Adopt yourselves no longer to the pattern of this present world, but let your minds be remade and your whole nature thus transformed."

Modern New Testament simply says, "Do not imitate the way of this world."

Moffat's Bible: "Instead of being molded to this world, have your mind renewed, and so be transformed in nature, able to make our what the will of God is, namely, what is good and acceptable to him and perfect."

Apostle Paul's plea, "Be not conformed to this world," has new meaning for us today. The forces for conformity have reached proportions unreached before. Powerful forces were in effect in the Roman Empire during Paul's time and have not diminished in the least. The pressures that we face to conform today are political, social, financial, moral, educational, physical, and spiritual. All combine to say, "Unless you do as we do and look as we look, you are a nobody." That is why it is do difficult for our youth today to live above the practices of their friends. Peer pressure is almost overwhelming.

I recently asked some eighth graders in our church what it meant to be cool. I remembered what it meant to be cool in my day, and I wasn't cool. But I was trying to learn. I wanted to become cool, so I was asking our eighth graders, "What do I have to do to be cool?" I listened to all the things that one must have, and do, and say to be cool. I was amazed at just how uncool that I was. I don't own a pair of jeans that has enough material in them to make an evangelistic tent. I refuse to wear my pants so that what I wear under them is visible. I do not own a pair of shoes that are considered cool. Oh I do, though, but only because I bought them at half price table at a discount shoe store. I could not afford to be truly cool.

Unfortunately, pressure to conform goes far beyond appearances. Drugs, sex, violence and anything else imaginable is not just knocking on our youth's door, it pounding it in trying to get them to conform. Many of these eighth graders say, "I don't really want to be a conformist. I want to do this, but what they're actually going to do is conforming to somebody else's will. Not their own, and not God's While talking to these eighth graders, I pointed to a boy across the room, who also didn't seem to measure up the standards they had given, and it's a lengthy line of standards, believe me, to be cool. And I asked, "Is he cool." "Oh yes," was the answer. "Why?" I asked, "He doesn't have this, this and this." One girl said, "He's the ultimate in cool, because he is himself no matter what anyone thinks." Well, that could go either way. That could be good or bad.

But remember that God has given all of us identity. We are all different and God made us that way. It would have been much easier for Him to create us to be all alike. One strand of DNA is all it would take. We would all look alike and be alike and do alike. I saw something on twins the other day on television. These identical twins had been separated at birth and had gotten back together in their later years and they were amazed at they had done almost the same things all of their lives. But we are not clones. God did not go in the business of cloning. He made each of us each of us. We are all different from one another; we all have different talents, different gifts.

After the cloning of sheep that we heard so much about a while back, a few choice words of wisdom were to be found on the inter-net. This one was sent to me:

Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was slightly grey,
It didn't have a father, just some borrowed DNA.

It sort of had a mother, though the ovum was on loan,
It was not so much a lambkin, as a little lamby clone.

And soon it had a fellow clone, and soon it had some more, 
They followed her to school one day, all cramming through the

It made the children laugh and sing, the teachers found it droll, 
There were too many lamby clones for Mary to control.

No other could control the sheep, since their programs didn't
So the scientists resolved it all, by simply cloning Mary.

But now they feel quite sheepish, those scientists unwary, 
One problem solved, but what to do with Mary, Mary,

God made each of us differently! He places a high value on us because we are different. Since He knows from one day to the next the number of hairs on our head, He knows our ideals, our ambitions, and our abilities.

I used to be an accomplished Chameleon. It was easy to blend into the large church that I had grown up in. That was the way I liked it: unnoticed, nothing required. But as a Freshman Theology Major, I was assigned to a small church on the other side of Chattanooga. I walked in on my first Sabbath and I realized that I could no longer blend in! It was a church with seven members, all of which were up in years. The only male in the church besides myself was in his late eighties and he was the deacon and he took up the offering. I did everything else! It forced to shed the skin of being a chameleon. I remember those days: being there for church service, hopping from the piano to the pulpit, back and forth, doing everything it took. It was a drain on me. And it was the best experience that I had. Because the Chameleon was dead! I was forced to find whatever talent God had given me and put them to use.

When Moses said, "Who am I?" to God in the wilderness, he preferred to remain anonymous. Perhaps he was surprised to have God find him in that wilderness area anyway. When he was discovered, he knew that it was no longer possible for him to live an irresponsible life or to be mixed in with unidentified humanity. God needed him for a specific assignment and was willing to demonstrate it in a remarkable way. What it take for a man to find himself. And what man can do when he has the courage of his convictions.

All of us can be champions like Moses. There is one thing you can do better than anyone else in the world: You can be who God made you to be, yourself! Our individuality is of Divine origin. It isn't fair to our Creator to act like everyone else. He gave us skills and talents which make us unique. If we stagnate our individuality and refrain from saying and doing that which makes us different, we will eventually become incapable to have an original thought. Someone has said that the prayer of modern men is: "Thank God that I am just like other men!"

The Apostle Paul knew that it required courage to stand alone for Jesus Christ. It was not popular nor easy to be a disciple for Christ in his day. Many gave their lives because of their unwillingness to be conformed to the thinking of the multitudes. When in Rome, they did not do as the Romans did!

Telemachus, one of those who had received Jesus and believed on His name, did much to make the Roman world aware of his born again status. He was the Asian monk that was attending the games in the coliseum in Rome where gladiators were brutally killing each other for the entertainment of the crowds. Telemachus, a born again Asiatic monk jumped out of the stands onto the floor of the arena shouting, "In the name of Christ, forbear!" The crowd laughed and jeered at him. The he tried to separate two gladiators. Amused at first, the crowd soon grew tired of this nuisance. "Run him through," somebody shouted, and a gladiator took his sword and did just that. But, as the martyr's blood reddened the sand, one man rose and left the coliseum, then another man rose, and then another. The games became less and less attended, and very quickly what had been so popular at the coliseum was at an end because one man stood up and was different. The solitary soul of a fool had set itself with God against Caesar and the mob, said its solitary word, and died its solitary death: and the shows were soon over.

The welfare of the church depends upon individual action. Its strength lies in personal participation. When everyone performs according to his ability, there is a completeness and a unity which can come in no other way.

Did I say unity? Yes I did! Just because I have been speaking about individualism doesn't mean that I'm for anarchy! Unity does not mean uniformity! We can have unity in diversity in Jesus! This is the Biblical ideal for God's church. Look at 1 Corinthians. Here we see the wonderful biological description of the bride of Jesus The Church. The church is His bride. Let's see what the bide is like.

1 Corinthians 12:12-27 The body is a unit, though it is made of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

Yes, we are many parts that make up the body of the bride of Christ, the church. If each part of the body is trying to do the same task nothing gets done. And I am amazed!

I've talked to people who have lost the smallest part of their body, the little toe. And they've said, "I never even noticed the little toe until I lost it. That's what kept me walking straight. That's what gave me balance. And I didn't even know it." So we can't say, "Because I'm a small part of the body I have no significance." Every part of the body is as God created it. God gave each of us talents to do specific works in the church. If one of those talents is missing the church suffers, the bride of Christ is deformed.

Each of us has been given gifts of the Spirit for the operation of the body. I was watching the bell choir play. What if there was just one person there? That would be one tired individual running back and forth. All these bells, and it probably wouldn't be a good job. We are made up of many parts; each one doing his own part in his own time. If one person just stood right here and played his part and nobody did theirs, it would be a kind of pleasant ringing sound, but there would be no melody, no harmony. One body, many parts to do the task. Each part doing that part as he knows how to do it as God gave him the ability to do it.

I was pastor of a small church when one of the leaders of the church moved to a different church. Many were worried about the talent that was now gone. This person had held very important offices in the church and had done them very well. Another member of that church was a wonderful chameleon. You have to be good to be a chameleon in a small church, but she was good. She blended in. I hardly knew her name. She'd walk in and would walk out, and you'd get no more than a "hello," or a "Yes, sir, goodbye." One seldom carried on a conversation with her because she was so shy. You could visit her home, but it would be a very short visit because there was nothing that was said. She was grateful that you were there, but that was it. When her name came up during nominating committee it was like, "Can she do anything?" "I don't know. Can she even talk?" We didn't know. But we were discussing the needs of the church and the void that was left by this leader and gone away. And everyone was shocked when she stood up and said, "I will help in any way that I can." They were even more shocked this person that had been a chameleon in the church did the jobs that were given her better than her predecessor had. She had received from the Spirit the gifts that were necessary for the body. And I've noticed that when a member of the ceases to exist in that body God replaces them with someone with similar talents and gifts.

Will you be different from the world in which we live? Will you be the person that God created you to be? Will you be the much needed part of the body you were intended to be? Will you stand for Jesus while the world mocks?

Martin Luther said: "Here I stand; I can do naught else." Many of our modern leaders are saying, "I don't know where I stand; I can do anything that anybody suggests."

Jeremiah asks an important question that we might ask ourselves: Jeremiah 5:30,31. A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?

What will you do? Will you do as Paul says? Romans 12:1,2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Opening Hymn:#82, Before Jehovah's Awful Throne 
Scripture: Romans 12:1,2
Closing Hymn: #615, Rise Up Oh Church of God


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