MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
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Years ago, when our children were small, I learned a lot about being a parent. But then, as they got older, I began to forget what it was like to have young children around the house. But now, with grandchildren & even great-grandchildren, I have begun learning those lessons all over again.
A. How easy it is, sometimes, to be proud of our great-grandchildren. We see them with their little angelic faces, their bright smiles, sharing their toys & saying "please" & "thank you."
When you go visiting & they see you they come running, throwing their arms around you. You pick them up, & they hug you, & tell you how much they love you. Those are precious moments, when you wish you could stop the clock & cherish them like that forever & ever.
In such moments, Ethel & I look at each other & think, "They're just like little angels, aren't they?" And we notice similarities between them & us, traits that we recognize in one another. We say, "Why, that is just like you," or "Yep, another chip off the old block."
B. But there are other moments, moments when they have temper tantrums & go marching across the floor saying, "No!" & "Mine!" defying discipline; moments when they're angry & selfish & won't share with anybody at all.
In moments like that, we look at each other & think, "They're just like little devils, aren't they?" And we note the similarities between them & some of our other relatives.
The point is, in each little precious child there is both a devil & an angel. And they're not alone. Everybody has those same two natures.
C. Everyone of us has the capability of displaying a spirit of generosity & kindness & goodness. There are moments when we would climb the highest mountain & wade the deepest streams & go to the ends of the world to help each other. There are moments when we are almost like angels.
Then there are other moments when we are hateful & hostile & greedy. There are moments when it is hard to find anything good in us; when we look like, & sound like, & act like devils. And in each of us are those 2 diverse natures.
ILL. Anne Frank wrote in her "Dairy of Anne Frank," "The problem with me is, I am two different people."
ILL. And one of the great literary classics of the late 19th Century, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," written by Robert Louis Stevenson, dramatizes the battle between good & evil in our lives.
But long before that novel was ever written, the Apostle Paul wrote about that same inward conflict in Romans 7:18-19, "I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do this I keep on doing."
Then in vs. 24 he cries out, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"
ILL. Well, let's go back for a moment to the story of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. You may remember that in the book Jekyll was a doctor, a scientist who was concerned about what caused seemingly good, normal people to have sudden bursts of terrible anger, uncontrollable rage, & to be capable of the worst types of depravity.
Dr. Jekyll believed that there were two different natures - one good & one evil constantly battling each other - in everyone. And with that I agree. In addition to that, he was sure that, as a doctor, he could develop some formula that could separate out that bad nature & control it.
Experimenting on himself, he succeeded in developing a formula that, when he drank it, would cause his evil nature to appear. Then when he drank it again, the evil nature would disappear.
Dr. Jekyll felt that he had done a wonderful thing until one day he realized that his evil nature was becoming more & more powerful & more evil every day. No longer did the formula control it. Now this evil nature was appearing whenever it wished, & Dr. Jekyll was powerless to stop it.
You know the tragic end to the story of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, don't you? So I don't think I need to go any further with it.
Now if the apostle Paul is right, & if there are the two natures of good & evil battling within us, the crucial question is, "Which one is in control of our life? Which nature makes the decisions the angellic or the devilish?"
Well, the answer to that is simple. Whichever one is being fed the most, whichever one is being nourished the most, usually is the one that controls our life.
I. THERE IS A DEVIL INSIDE
A. So here is the problem we face. Almost everything we see with our eyes, & hear with our ears, & experience with our senses feeds the evil in us. The world is all geared up to feed that bad side of us, & to place it in control of our life.
ILL. Almost every commercial on TV is designed to excite our materialistic instincts, to teach us that it is all right to be greedy & self centered. Almost every movie, & many of our TV programs appeal to the sensual & immoral desires that we have in life.
ILL. Several years ago, a friend told about a movie he saw, titled "Three Men & A Baby." He had heard that it was a good movie. So he rented it, & on a rainy night he & his wife sat down to watch it, thinking that they were going to see a wonderful, wholesome movie. But it wasn't that at all.
Tell me, in a movie about a baby & 3 men who are trying to take care of it, why do they have to talk the way they did? Why does there have to be an undertone about drug usage? Why do men have to be jumping into bed with a different woman each night?
B. Why? Because our culture has feasted so long on that kind of junk that it is not satisfied unless it is getting more & more. And the world tells us, "That's the way everybody lives."
And the devil nature in us says, "Yeah, this is the way everybody lives. This is what everybody does. This is the way everybody talks today, & we're going to be just like everybody else."
ILL. Even the churches have been so pressured to conform to the ways of the world that many have watered down the message, compromised the truth, & now endorse almost anything that appeals to the self centered nature of man.
Some even say, "You can live any lifestyle you want to live, & still be all right with God." But that's the devil's message, not God's.
SUM. It is so easy, you see, to allow the devil part of us to take over because that is what the world keeps feeding. Therefore it gains more & more power, & more & more influence over our lives.
II. THERE IS ALSO AN ANGEL INSIDE
A. But that doesn't have to be the case, & that is why I like to read about Jesus calling the disciples to follow Him. Do you remember? The first ones He called were fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James & John.
Luke 5:10 says that Jesus told Peter, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." And vs. 11 says, "So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything & followed Him."
How about Matthew, the tax collector? Do you realize that being a tax-collector meant that Matthew had sold out to the Romans conquerors, & his own people considered him a traitor?
It meant that Matthew had bought his job from the Romans, & now was in a position to oppress his own people. The more money he collected, the more money he could put into his own pocket. And most tax collectors were out to get all that they could get.
It could be from a friend or a relative or a neighbor, it didn't matter. They all considered tax collectors the scum of the earth. They hated him. Nobody liked the tax collector, except maybe other tax collectors.
Probably even Matthew didn't like Matthew. He didn't like the way people treated him, & Matthew may have wanted to change, but the world keeps saying, "You can't change. You are who you are." That is the way of the world, & that's how the devil keeps control of our life.
B. But when Jesus saw Matthew, He saw something that the world didn't see. Now, I'm not trying to tell you that Jesus looked through rose colored glasses. The Bible says that Jesus knew what people were thinking. He saw what was on the outside, but He also saw what was on the inside.
To the woman at the well He said, "The man you are living with is not your husband." He didn't compromise. He didn't try to overlook sin. It was there, & He called it for what it was. But at the same time, He saw qualities that others missed.
He saw in Matthew not just a tax collector, but an apostle. He saw in Matthew one who could write a gospel that would influence millions of people down through the ages until Jesus came again.
So he said, "Matthew, follow Me." And for the first time, Matthew started to see himself in a different light. Matthew started to realize that there were capabilities in him that the whole world had missed, & that he had even missed himself. But Jesus saw them & said. "Come, follow me."
C. Saul was on the road to Damascus with authority to arrest & bring back to Jerusalem any followers of Jesus that he could find to stand trial for their faith.
But Jesus saw in him a champion, to be known as the apostle Paul, who would spend the rest of his life earnestly proclaiming Jesus as his Savior & Lord.
Yes, this Paul was the one who cried out, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" But he is also the one who later wrote in Romans 8:35-39, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
"As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
D. Jesus said to them all, "Follow Me," & they followed, no questions asked. They didn't ask about the road that they would travel. The only thing they cared about was that Jesus was leading.
Is the road rough? Yes! Will there be disappointments along the way? Yes! Are there problems to be solved? Sure! But the point is, Jesus has called us to follow Him.
And as long as He is leading, & we're following, then that is all that is really necessary. If Jesus is leading, it doesn't matter what kind of terrain we're traveling on as long as Jesus is leading.
ILL. John Beck used to be a football star for the Univ. of KY. Later on he became a preacher & was chosen to be a Chaplain to travel with the U.S. Olympic Teams.
For a number of years he traveled with our Olympic Teams all over the world, leading in their devotions, counseling & praying with many of the athletes.
As he watched these young men & women train for the events in which they competed, he decided that this was a picture of what Christianity really ought to be. Here were people who were sincere & fervent & dedicated to the task before them.
They were willing to pay any price, regardless of how much suffering or pain they had to endure. They were willing to pay any price to be #1, to win.
Then one day John Beck was invited to visit the Special Olympics. Special Olympics, as you know, are made up of special athletes. All of them suffer from some kind of mental or physical disability.
He watched them as 8 runners lined up for the 100 yard dash. They all took off when the starting gun fired, & he was amazed at how good they actually were. But as they reached halfway in the race, one of the boys fell down, skinned his knee on the track, & started to cry.
He said that what happened next was both beautiful & amazing. All 7 of the other runners stopped, & all 7 of them turned around & went to the boy who had fallen. One girl went over to him & brushed the cinders off his knee, kissed it & said, "There, that will make it feel better."
Then all of them together helped him up to his feet again. And all 8 went across the finish line together. Beck said that he then realized that he had seen the real spirit of Christianity, not in the Olympics, but in the Special Olympics.
SUM: Our highly competitive world seems always to be saying that the only thing that counts is if you are #1, if you can beat everybody else. But I wonder if that is really a picture of what God wants us to be?
It seems to me that the true picture is that when a brother falls, we are all there to help pick him up, & to brush him off, & then to all cross the finish line together.
As we offer the invitation of God's love this morning, we pray that you will respond as we stand & sing together.