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As I was growing up with a younger brother and sister, one of our favorite games to play was baseball. We had a plastic bat and ball, and we would team up with some of the neighborhood kids and play ball in the back yard.
On one particular occasion my mom took our bat away from us because we were arguing, like all brothers and sisters tend to do. But this did not deter us from playing our favorite game. Mom took the bat, but not the ball. So we took the metal brace from the swing set (the metal bar that is used to brace two legs together on each end) and started using it as a bat.
I was at bat when I swung at a pitch and felt two distinct points of contact; one was with the ball, and the second was with my sister’s head. I didn’t realize that she had walked up behind me, and on my follow through I clobbered her on the forehead with the end of the brace.
I turned around only to discover that my sister was screaming and bleeding profusely. In fact, not much of her face was really visible because she was covered in blood. I knew I was in trouble, so while my sister bled and cried, I pleaded with her not to tell momma. I figured that washing her down with the water hose to get rid of the blood would be enough to take care of the situation. Once the bleeding stopped, I would be in the clear. But in my panic to discover a way to keep from getting a good whipping, I couldn’t see that the greater need was for my sister to receive medical attention. She had to be taken to the emergency room where she received several stitches to bind up her wound.
The point of this story is this. When my mom came out to find out what was going on, she didn’t stop to dwell on how guilty I was for disobeying her, or to find out every detail about what had happened. As soon as she saw the blood, she swept my sister up in her arms, carried her into the house to put a bandage on her head, and drove her to the hospital so that she could get the medical attention she desperately needed. As a matter of fact, the whipping I deserved never came. My mom’s actions showed that her concern for my sister’s health and well-being was more important than trying to blame somebody for the accident that had caused her injuries, or for punishing the one who was responsible.
Pastors need to learn that lesson.
So many times we have been guilty of preaching on sin just so we can point a finger of blame at someone who has stumbled under the load of temptation that Satan brings to bear upon us. God forgive us for our arrogance and our shortsightedness. Forgive us for falling short of our God-given responsibility to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke 4:18). Our obligation as pastors is not only to warn people of sin and the consequences it brings, but also to bind the wounds of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been victimized by the enemy, and to tell those who have never known the washing of regeneration that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay their sin debt, that His blood can wash away all of your sins, and that He rose from the dead to prove that He has power over death, hell and the grave.
Christians need to learn that lesson.
How many of us have been guilty of shooting our wounded? How many have kicked a brother or sister when they were down, rather than bearing their burden, and helping to restore them back into the sweetness of full fellowship with our Lord? We ought to be ashamed, for the Church is to be our refuge, our safe haven, and our place of restoration. But all too often it becomes a place of torment and ridicule because of those who have forgotten to “consider themselves, lest they also be tempted.”
Some of you this morning have been through the ringer in your battle with sin this week. You’re battered and bloodied from the near lethal blows that Satan has inflicted upon you, and you desperately need medical attention, the kind of medical attention that only Jesus Christ can give. So I stand before you today, not with a pointed finger, but with outstretched hands, pleading with you to come this morning and be washed in the pure refreshing waters of God’s abundant grace and mercy. You need to be washed, to clean your feet. You’ve already been bathed in His loving grace and mercy. But you need to come to Jesus, confessing your sins and you will experience complete and total forgiveness and cleansing. Your fellowship will be restored, and your hope will be renewed. You’ve struggled with sin long enough. Now is the time to come back into the grace and mercy of the Lord.
Others of you may just simply be lost. You’ve washed your feet many times. You’ve turned over a new leaf only to find the same old dirty sin on the other side. You’ve attended church, and maybe even been baptized and joined the church. But you’ve never trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ to save you from your sins. Friend, let me tell you, because I love you, that if you don’t come to know Jesus Christ in the full pardon of sin, your eternal destination is hell. But if you come, you must come trusting in nothing but the shed blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse you all of your sins. You can’t do anything to earn His favor, and you can’t bring anything with you but a broken heart and a contrite spirit. You can’t get better to come to Him. You can only plead with Him to forgive you as you are, a worthless sinner begging for mercy and pardon. You can only come to Jesus Christ in absolute unworthiness to ask Him for His free gift of salvation.
“Every generation needs regeneration”
Charles H. Spurgeon
"A world without children is a world without newness, regeneration, color, and vigor."
"No sermon is of any value, or likely to be useful, which has not the three Rs in it: ruin by the fall, redemption by Chri...
Seven year old Tommy had been asking his parents for a dog but they were not convinced that the family needed one. After Tommy’s repeated pleas, his dad told him if he would help his mother with chores around the house he could earn enough money to buy a dog. Tommy was more than eager to accept this challenge. He didn’t mind working if it meant that he could get a dog.
His parents took Tommy to a pet store in town to see what they had in the line of dogs. Near the rear of the store was a cage containing a beautiful black and white puppy. For Tommy and the puppy it was love at first sight. While Tommy was occupied visiting with the puppy that he was sure you would own, his dad was negotiating with the store owner regarding the price. Finally it was agreed that $100 was a fair price.
Now Tommy’s dad knew that his son’s earnings, plus his allowance, wasn’t up to that figure, so he wrote the owner a check for $90 with the provision that Tommy would be told that he had to come up with $10 if he wanted the puppy, which just happened to be the amount of money Tommy had amassed. Tommy eagerly counted out his ten dollars, paid the owner, and then waited with great eagerness as the proprietor opened the cage and handed him the puppy. Before the family had gotten back home, Tommy had already named his dog “Spots”.
For a couple of years whenever you saw Tommy, you saw Spots. One weekday morning, as was his custom, Tommy gave Spots a big hug before he left to catch the bus to school. What Tommy did not realize was that he failed to latch the gate. It did not take much of a wind to blow ajar the gate. Spots was out to explore the neighborhood.
When Tommy got home from school he immediately headed to the backyard to play with his much loved friend. But Spots was nowhere to be found. Tommy looked under every scrub and bush with no success. His mother joined the search but to no avail. She called their neighbors and nearby friends to see if Spots had been seen. None of them had, but one friend mentioned seeing a city animal control truck in the area that day.
Tommy’s mother called, and sure enough, Spots had been picked up and was being held in the dog pound. Mother and son left immediately to free Spots from his sad plight. When they arrived they found that Spots had already been put in a small cage. Tommy asked the attendant if he could have his dog back. The attendant replied that he could but he had to pay a $25 fine for Spots running loose. Tommy’s mother reminded him that his carelessness had caused this problem but that she would loan him the money and he could, once again, do some chores around the house to repay the loan. Tommy agreed and paid the fine, then anxiously waited until Spots was brought out to him.
Soon Spots and Tommy were reunited. On the way back home, Tommy hugged Spots real tight and told him he loved him. Then he said, “I bought you when you were a puppy, and now I have bought you out of the pound. Spots, you are my dog two times over!”
Redemption is the act of buying back. Man is God’s by creation but when sin entered the human race that relationship was broken. When Christ died for our sins, and we claimed His sacrifice, we were bought by His blood and born again into the kingdom of God. Thus we are God’s property twice-over. First by creation and later by regeneration!
Trouble in the Church
I. Decision 15:1-4
A. Men 15:1
B. Method 15:2
C. Messages 15:3-4
II. Demand 15:5-6
A. Demands 15:5
B. Deliberations 15:6
III. Declaration 15:7-12
A. Choice 15:7
B. Comparison 15:8-9
C. Conversion 15:10-12
Peter had seen the grace of God fall upon the Gentile believers when he went to minister at the home of Cornelius, the Roman centurion in Caesarea. He did not demand that they keep the Mosaic Law, and this had generated opposition from Judaizers in Jerusalem (Acts 10:1-18). Paul and Barnabas had seen the grace of God fall upon Gentile believers when they ministered in many lands during their first missionary journey (Acts 13:42-43, 48; 14:23).
The Judiazers, who came up from Jerusalem to harass Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria threatened to split the church there. A delegation composed of Paul, Barnabas, and others were chosen to go to Jerusalem to get a ruling from the apostles and elders on this matter. The church council which resulted produced a clear decision favoring salvation by faith alone, apart from the works of the law. Gentiles have benefited from it ever since.
Do you realize that most Christians in the world today are Gentiles? That was not the case in the early days of the church. Most believers at that time were Jews who had been convinced that Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah and Savior. It was through the ministry of men like Paul, Barnabas, and others that Gentile converts began to outnumber Jewish converts. Controversy was bound to happen and it would take a decision by the church leaders in Jerusalem to resolve it.
I. DECISION 15:1-4
A. Men: 1 And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
Paul and Barnabas had just returned and finished giving their report of the hundreds of souls saved and the starting of many churches.
Satan heard what was going on and did not this progress to continue and did everything in his power to hinder this work that had begun.
At this point “certain men came down from Jerusalem” and tried to pull everyone else down with them.
Who were these men? Jews from Jerusalem labeled Judaizers, meaning that they expected even Gentile believers to be governed by Judaism (law). They taught that physical circumcision after the Jewish manner and Mosaic Law was required for men to be saved from their sins.
This was an attempt to mix law with grace and works and faith. They said, ”Except ye be circumcised, ye cannot be saved.” (v1)
Where did these “certain men” come up with this idea? God Himself. Exodus 12:48 – “And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.”
To share in the Passover, one had to make themselves part of the people of Israel. Receiving the covenant of circumcision and taking Passover were all part of the same package.
Perhaps these men from Jerusalem were sincere and devout. They may have said, “This is the way we have always done it, and we are not about to change now!” To these “certain men” the way into the Church led through the door of Judaism.
The most unspiritual are usually the greatest sticklers about form and ritual. There counterparts can be found in the world today, and we need to be on guard against them.
These nameless men, which disturbed the peace of the church with this controversy, were the forefathers of a group still in existence, who are not known for their spirituality or success in the Lord’s work, but who are ever-ready to put those in their place who ARE being greatly used and blessed by God.
Today we have those who are saying, "Unless you have been baptized after the manner of the Church of Christ, you are not saved." Others who are saying, "Unless you have been baptized in the name of Jesus only, you are not saved."
These are the same types of people as came to the church in Antioch.
a. The one is preaching circumcisional regeneration.
b. The other is teaching baptismal regeneration.
c. Both are teaching salvation by rituals.
A ritual is a work, thus both teach salvation by works.
There are those who say that if you do not worship on Saturday, you are not saved. They declare that Sunday worship is the mark of the beast. This also is salvation by works.
Here is the pivot point. Must I do something other than believe and repent in order to be saved? God alone has the power to save us from our sin. There is nothing we can do to merit salvation.
B. Method: v2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
We are not told the specific things said as Paul and Barnabas argued with the Judaizers from Jerusalem.
The author tells us that there was “no small dissension” after these heated discussions reached an impasse, it was decided in Antioch that an appeal be made to ah higher authority for resolution.
Paul, Barnabas, and others were chosen to go to Jerusalem. It can only be assumed that Judaizers agreed to this and may have gone on home.
In the early days of the church, the Judaizers did not deny the facts of the Gospel, for there were too many witnesses. The question arose then over the interpretation of the facts.
Though dispute and debate were undesirable, the presence of serious doctrinal error made it necessary. There are times when the absolutes of the Gospel must be defended.
See the Church – divided – torn by disputation – yet still reached a resolution.
C. Messages: v3-4 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.  And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.
It appears that members of the Antioch church escorted the delegation during the first part of the trip toward Jerusalem or at least helped finance the journey.
As they traveled the overland trip southward, Paul and the others stopped at various places to meet with the “brethren” sharing the news of the Gentile conversions. The response was one of excitement and joy.
These messages were but a prelude to the message given by the delegation from Antioch after they reached Jerusalem.
When they got to Jerusalem, “They were received of the Church and the apostles and elders.”
Opportunity was given to report their message on “all things that God had done with them.”
Paul and the others had the opportunity to tell all, to let everybody know of the Judaizers who had come down to harass these Gentile converts. But they said nothing of the Judaizers, they did not attack them, there was no reference to the dispute brought by those who objected to salvation by grace through faith.
Today we would have told everything we knew and made up the rest.
It is always good to hear reports of what God is doing in the lives of people.
II. Demand Acts 15:5-6
A. Demands: v5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
It is interesting to see that there were some super-conservative Pharisees in Judaism who cam to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.
Still, there were some so entrenched and indoctrinated in Judaism that they could not leave it behind and embrace Christianity.
The moral principles found in the law were required for Christians, but the ceremonial principles fulfilled by Christ were no longer binding on them. The Judaizers could not or would not accept this and battle lines were drawn.
They wanted to add something to the Gospel, something that had worked for them before. But whenever you add something to the Gospel you no longer have the Gospel but now you have a religion.
Paul, who had been a Pharisee, saw things differently. Why?
B. Deliberation: v6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
“The apostles and elders came together” – Church leaders heard the demands of the Judaizers and the reports of the missionaries, and they decided to hold a council to resolve the matter.
The outcome was crucial to the continued success and expansion of the Gospel to the world.
If the Judaizers had their way, missionary work would have been hampered, shut down, or possibly a split would have taken place.
III. Declaration Acts 15: 7-12
A. Choice: V7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
We are not told specifically if the apostles met in private or in public for this counsel. There were evidently differences of opinion among them for there was much arguing that took place over this issue.
Peter, who at one point may have had these same feelings and ideas, saw first hand what God did among the Gentiles. How that God poured out His Spirit on all people.
Peter stood up and reviewed the fact that God had chosen him to go to the Gentiles at Caesarea and give them the Gospel so that they might be saved.
It had already been agreed upon by the Church that God had opened the door of salvation to the Gentiles by faith apart from the Mosaic Law.
This matter had been settled nearly ten years before when God led Peter to Cornelius’ house. Sometimes you will never realize why God led you through something until time is right.
This was probably not the first time Peter had spoken on this issue. Can you imagine Peter sitting back quietly, patiently, waiting for his turn, while this heated discussion was taking place?
The Council would listen to Simon Peter because he himself was considered a Jew among Jews. He said of himself, he had never eaten anything unclean, and he would have never considered the thought of entering the house of a Gentile.
Peter stuck as close to the Mosaic Law as any other.
Now he testifies that the Gentiles had heard the Gospel from his own lips and had believed.
They were saved by grace through faith. Peter himself had to learn that salvation was not decided by whether ones eats meat or doesn’t eat meat. Whether one eats pork or doesn’t eat pork.
Salvation was not and is not dependent on observation of the Sabbath or Sunday on any other day.
B. Comparison: v8-9
v8 = And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
Peter reminds them of the fact that God knows the heart of all men, Jew and Gentile.
See that God’s knowledge of the heart is:
V9 = And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Peter rose up and addressed the Council as one clothed in the authority of God. Peter spoke up addressing what his eyes had seen of the power of the Gospel among the Gentiles and how God had “given them the Holy Ghost, even as He had did to us.”
Does Peter say that their hearts were purified by keeping the law? NO! By going through a ceremony? NO! By joining a church? NO! Peter says if was by FAITH!
“God had put no difference between us and them”, said Peter. They were just as welcome to the grace of Christ as the Jews. Where did this come from, his vision of the sheet and the clean and unclean animals.
“Purifying their hearts by faith” = Peter shows how the heart is purified: “By faith.”
So, it would stand to reason. if they were purified by faith, then there was no need to be purified by submitting to ceremonies found in the Mosaic Law.
As a Christian, we are not only saved by faith, we are made pure by faith.
When we are saved, we are justified, and our hearts are purified, and we begin the process of being sanctified.
If your heart is purified by faith, you are being sanctified (or set apart) to resemble others like you. We resemble one another so that whatever the difference we may have between us, there is nothing to keep us apart.
C. Conversion: v10-12
V10 = Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
The law was a yoke which neither their fathers nor them were able to bear up under.
Had the children of Israel been able to follow ALL the rules, regulations, and requirements?
V11 = But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
Peter, as Bro. Randy says, “put the jelly on the very bottom shelf.”
= Some of you need to quit trying to keep a law that was fulfilled.
= Some of you need to quit trying to carry around a yoke that was never designed to carry.
= Some of you need to quit trying to trust in yourself and what you can do.
> Believe that through the grace of Jesus Christ we can all be saved.
V12 = Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.
There was great silence in the courtroom when Paul and Barnabas finished speaking.
The river of God’s grace is too broad to flow through the narrow minded channel of man’s pride, prejudice, and presumption.
THE LESSON FOR TODAY
These Jews had a problem that is common to all of us. They were more comfortable with others who shared their point of view. They were willing to bend enough to allow the Gentiles to come into the church, but they wanted the Gentiles to become more like them first.
We also tend to be more comfortable with people who will become more like us before they come into our fellowship. I myself do not feel comfortable in a place where they is a lot of emotional show. I realize that there are places where you will never hear an “AMEN”, hear where you will hear “Sic’em Preacher.”
Another lesson we need to learn from this passage is that can be vigorous differences of opinion and they can be strongly expressed without destroying the fellowship of the body of Christ.
The Church at Jerusalem is an example to us in the way differences should be handled. They did not panic but called for calm consideration. They were clear on the fact that the admission of the Gentiles was not a debatable matter. It was a matter of the revelation of God and could not be debated. However, what should be expected of new converts was a matter of legitimate difference of opinion and could be strongly argued.
Even severe controversies can often be settled without alienation. Some principles that will help us are:
1) Areas of agreement should be carefully sorted out. Both Jew and Gentile in this passage could rejoice at the advancement of the Gospel.
2) A determination should be made of what differences can be tolerated with violating the very fundamentals of the faith. There are some things that all of us can tolerate in others that we ourselves would not do.
3) All possible concessions should be made to another’s opinion in a spirit of Christian charity. We must go beyond what we see the requirements to be to allow others an area of grace.
Jesus, the Only Way to Heaven
Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going... I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:1-4, 6)
The Holy Scriptures teach clearly that heaven is a real place, a permanent place, a personal place, a holy place, a place only for the born again and a place of reunion. Jesus proclaims that He alone is the way to heaven.
The Holy Spirit moved the apostle Peter in his discourse about salvation to the Sanhedrin (the religious leaders of his day) to boldly proclaim, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). There was no compromise or accommodation in Peter's preaching. In this anointed declaration, Peter wholly commits to Christ the unique status of being the one and only Savior. Peter and the other apostles never watered down the fact that apart from Jesus there is no salvation for anyone.
From the earliest beginnings of His earthly existence, Jesus was proclaimed to be the Savior. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that the child conceived in Mary was from the Holy Spirit. He also told Joseph, "She [Mary] will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). (The name "Jesus" comes from the Greek form of "Joshua" which means "Yahweh [the Lord] saves.")
Some may say that Jesus is a dogmatic and narrow-minded teacher when He says, "I am the way and the truth and the life." As Truth embodied however, the Lord alone can reveal truth to His people and unbelievers alike. He is our guide to living an abundant and fruitful life. His promise to the disciples who followed Him was that they should know the truth, and by the truth should be set free (John 8:32). When the crisis of His ministry and the hour of His sacrifice arrived, he summed up the whole purpose of His mission in the declaration that He had come into the world in order to "testify to the truth" (John 18:37). Jesus' own declaration is, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies" (John 11:25).
Jesus is serious when He says, "...No one comes to the Father except through me." No one is able to go to God and enjoy Him as their "Father who is in heaven" apart from having Christ as High Priest, Advocate and Mediator of their lives. Unrepentant sinners will face God as Judge, but they will never enjoy the benefits that are available to the children of God, such as eternal salvation, regeneration, and sanctification.
Jesus gives an allegory to particularly represent His ministry that could be named "The Shepherd and His Flock." In this parable Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep...whoever enters through Me will be saved... I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me..." (John 10:7-8,14). The Lord uses the word "know" (Greek ginosko) which refers to a relationship of trust and intimacy.
Do you know the Christ who is the only way into heaven?
Does He know you?
I Surrender All – Judson W. Van DeVenter, 1896
Van DeVenter beautifully describes the process of absolute surrender in his timeless hymn I Surrender All. If I may impose my perception of this hymn, I would suggest that He reveals the struggle involved in surrendering all that he is to the Lord. And with each progressive step, the refrain embraces a more heart-felt and deep-seated passion to give himself totally to the Savior.
All to Jesus I surrender; All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.
· He begins where most of us begin, with a willing heart that desires to abide in the presence of the loving Savior. But all he offers at this point is a feeble promise. His attitude is almost flippant as he arrogantly proclaims what he is going to do. His commitment consists of empty words derived from an idealistic faith. He wants to give all to the Lord, but his thoughts are too self-centered to allow him to make the commitment the Lord demands. He offers all that he has on his own terms, expecting the Lord to bless him for his magnanimity.
All to Jesus I surrender; Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken; Take me, Jesus, take me now.
· His progress has brought him to a more meaningful place of worship, and he bows at the feet of Jesus in mock humility. No longer do the attractions of the world have the appeal they once had. But his ego is yet manifest as he cries out, “Look, I’ve forsaken worldly pleasures so that I may worship You.” He senses that his relationship with Jesus Christ is still incomplete, but he cannot fathom what he still lacks. He knows he is closer to the Lord than before. But in spite of the progress he has made, he can only stand before the Master simultaneously begging and demanding, “Take me, Jesus, take me now.”
All to Jesus I surrender; Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit, Truly know that Thou art mine.
· Now his soul is in anguish, and he is not even sure of his own salvation. The emotional impact of his regeneration has deserted him, and he can no longer sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life. He cannot reconcile what he knows to be true with what he thinks he should feel. So he demands of the Lord, “You do it! You make me what I’m supposed to be!” He rebukes the Lord for His lack of decisive action, blaming Him for the void in his spiritual life. All the while, the Lord patiently waits for him to come to his senses.
All to Jesus I surrender; Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power; Let Thy blessing fall on me.
· He has now reached the moment of truth, and he understands fully that his only enemy in this process has been himself. He sees how foolish he was to think that the Lord would make him surrender against his own will. What he wanted Jesus to take by force, he now willingly gives ...
Regeneration is neither crucifixion, the baptism of fire, nor destruction; it is a birth and life. To make the matter plainer, we use a simple illustration.
A boy starts to roll up a big ball of snow, by taking a large rock or chunk of wood to begin with.
In a little while it becomes huge with its additions and accumulations.
Now put this ball under the sudden dash of a waterfall, and the snow all at once disappears, but the original rock or chunk is left.
So it is with inbred sin.
There once was a brier growing in a ditch when a gardener came along with his spade and dug it up. He dug around it and gently lifted it out of the ground, bringing the brier to ask itself, “What is he doing? Doesn’t he know I’m a worthless brier?” But the gardener took it and placed it in his garden anyway. He planted it among his most prized and beautiful roses, prompting the brier to think once more, “What is this guy doing? What a mistake he’s made.” But then the gardener did an even more unusual thing in the brier’s mind. He came once more and made a slit in the brier with his knife. He grafted it with a rose and when the summer came to close there were lovely flowers blooming from the brier that previously had none. Then the gardener said, “Your beauty is not due to what came out of you, but to what I put in.”
“Your beauty is not due to what came out of you, but to what I put in.” Now everyone knows, of course, that plants don’t speak or have minds of their own; but this personified account of a well-known, readily accepted and often practiced procedure called grafting is quite apropos for us to reflect on today as we broach the subject of conversion, regeneration, new birth (or as some call it, being born again). It’s especially applicable when one considers how many speak of this conversion to Christ or this “being born again” as “their” coming to Christ, “their” decision to follow him. For the new birth is an inner recreation of our fallen human nature by th...