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August 29, 2010
I’m Not Exceptional
Don’t you want to stand out? Don’t we all? Everyone wants to be noticed in a good way — to be the most notable, to be outstanding, to be the exception to the rule of mediocrity. In fact, Scripture tells us that we should strive to do our best. We should be happy when others recognize our hard work and accomplishments. We should encourage one another in this way. While it is good to try to better ourselves and to grow, it is also vital to understand that in a most important sense “I’m not exceptional” — no one is.
There are at least two senses in which the word “exceptional” or “exception” is used — this according to the American Heritage Dictionary. No matter how hard you or I may try to be exceptional, we will fall short in both cases. Let’s examine how this can be.
The first case to note is: “unusually good, outstanding.” This is probably the first thing we think of when we think of “exceptional.” Images of trophies and blue ribbons pop into mind. We may even have won a few awards, have our name in print, or be in some other way noted among our peers, but in the final analysis, there is no way we will be found “exceptional.”
We are created beings — not creators. Sure, man can re-engineer, reconstitute, reassemble, but we cannot create ex nihilo [out of nothing, AHD]. In the beginning God created … (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-3). Can we, the created, do that?
The Creator does not get tired, His wisdom is inscrutable [impossible to understand, AHD] (Isaiah 40:28). Do I get tired? Is there anything I don’t know?
The Creator deserves recognition and worship (Romans 1:25). Do I deserve worship?
We have a physical nature. God, our Creator, is spirit (John 4:23‑24). God created man with spirit and soul — in His likeness, but man is also physical (Genesis 1:26; 2:7; 6:3). Spirit is life; flesh profits nothing (John 6:63). Children of flesh are not the children of God nor can they inherit the kingdom of God (Romans 9:8; 1Corinthians 15:50). Physical exercise only is good for only little when compared to the greatness of godliness (1Timothy 4:8). Our spiritual self, provided by God, is our aspect that will outlast our physicality, but or flesh perishes (1Peter 1:24; Isaiah 40:6-8). The physical body is not very outstanding, is it?
We have a weak understanding of “doing the right thing.” Does the “created” have a better understanding of rightness than our Creator who is spirit (Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 14:12; 16:25)? Righteousness is powerful; unrighteousness is weak (Deuteronomy 9:4-6; Proverbs 14:34). Sin belongs to Satan and is an enemy of all righteousness (Acts 13:10). All have sinned and deserve its consequences (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Righteousness is keeping the commandments of God (Deuteronomy 6:25). God has revealed His righteousness and following it results in salvation (Romans 1:16-17). Choose righteousness or sin (Romans 6:1-23).
The second case to note is: “excluded from a statement or not following the rule.” Observing, it would seem that almost everyone in existence thinks they are the exception to some rule, i.e., “Road Closed,” “No U-Turns,” “Speed Limit,” “Turn off Cell Phones.” We are not as “exceptional” as we think.
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). This is Jesus speaking. Is there any room that He has left for an exception to those who would be His disciples? “Anyone” and “he” certainly do not create an exception.
“So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6:10). Does the Spirit leave anybody out? No one is left out on either hand; i.e., “everybody with an opportunity” is to do good, and then “all people” are the recipients of good. No exceptions here.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). God has shown “salvation to ALL men.” He has instructed “ALL men” to deny sinful things and to live righteously. He didn’t exclude me, you, or any class from this statement.
“‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets”(Matthew 22:34‑40). Can anyone truthfully say, “These commands don’t apply to me”? If we expect to be pleasing in God’s sight, we know we must love our fellow man and we must love God. If we love God, we will do what He says — no exceptions.
“And He said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer’” (Exodus 15:26). This is God’s statement to Israel. No commands were excepted, no Israelite was excepted. Likewise, all of mankind must do the Lord’s things in the Lord’s ways (Deuteronomy 4:2; Matthew 7:21-24). Solomon found this out long ago: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Where is the exception to “because this applies to every person”? You’re not exceptional and neither am I. Does Scripture show us any exceptions for belief, for turning from sin, for confession of Jesus as Lord, for having sins washed away in baptism, or for continuing in faithful obedience? NONE of this is left out. It all applies. I’M not left out either — it all applies to ME (and YOU).
Ironically, we can be “exceptional” by not being “exceptional.” If we understand humility, that we are not above God, but that we must submit to His will in sincere obedience, then we will be of those who are “exceptional” — the relative few who are “excepted” from the fate of those who tread the broad way. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
— S. Scott Richardson Sr.