“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29)
We’ve all heard stories of over-bearing parents whose unrealistic expectations for their children created great stress on both child and the parent-child relationship. It is all too true that parents often want to realize in their children the life they failed to create for themselves. What is tragic in this is that not only are they failing to take into consideration the dreams and aspirations their children may have for themselves, but they are also trying to make of them something they are not and can never be. While our children may look like us, and share some of our genetic predispositions, they are not us. They are themselves, unique and separate from every other human being on the planet.
Our uniqueness is God’s gift to us, and the sharing of that uniqueness it is our gift to the world. Someone has said that 99% of our DNA is exactly like that of every other human being on the planet. It’s that 1% that makes us distinct. It is from that meager 1% that our unique contribution comes. Handel’s 1% gave us the Hallelujah Chorus, while Monet’s gave us his impressionistic paintings that gave birth to a new art form. Michelangelo’s 1% gave us the painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, while Beethoven’s 1% gave us his famous Fifth Symphony. Our particular talents, gifts, humor, personality, and creativity, all come from that tiny slice of ourselves we share with no one else. It is who we are. It is who God made us to be, and to try to yield up that small part of ourselves for the sake of those who cannot appreciate our particular distinctiveness is sheer folly. We give God the greatest glory when the sound of our distinction plays its part in the symphony into which He has cast us. To do otherwise is to play a discordant note that betrays our true self and deprives the world of our singular contribution.
God is also a parent, and He too has high expectations for us. He is not reconciled to the idea of our being anything other or less than He made us, and the scriptures tell us that He will one day ask us to give an account of what He has entrusted to us (see Matthew 25:14-30). However, God is not asking us to step beyond or outside of what He has made us to be. In fact, while He has called His children to become conformed to the very image of Christ Himself, He has put within us all we need to achieve His lofty ambitions for our lives. In the salvation that comes through Christ, we do not merely receive pardon for sin, but a total rewiring of our spiritual DNA. When writing about the salvation we experience in Christ, Paul says, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
In essence, what Paul is talking about here is a complete recreation of our spirit. In fact, the Greek word, palingenesia, translated “regeneration” in this verse, comes from two Greek words: palin “again,” and genesis “birth,” and literally means, born again. We are literally reborn into God’s family with His life and nature that we might progressively mature into the image of Christ. Not only that, but God has entrusted some aspect of His divine ability to each of us to serve Him in a unique way that glorifies Him.
“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:10-11).
I have known many preachers in my years of ministry, but I have never met any two alike. Likewise, in whatever we are called and equipped by God to do, the outworking of the grace He has entrusted to each of us will take on a distinct quality that will make a unique contribution to the Kingdom of God. As with our natural distinction, we likewise have been given a spiritual 1% that enables us to make a singular mark in this world for His glory.
We have heard since grade school that no two snowflakes or fingerprints are exactly alike. In fact, the more you look, the more you see that diversity is hardwired into all of creation. Likewise, it is built into each new creation in Christ as well (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). God has high expectations, indeed great expectations, for each and every one of us. He alone knows what we are capable of as we allow our unique gifts to find expression in and through our lives. One thing, however, is for certain. He is not looking for any of us to be predictable, commonplace, or redundant. He has not made us to be the latest in a series, but something altogether distinct and different, that we might display the manifold splendor of His grace.