Sermon Illustrations - Search: mercy
Posted by Douglas on Jan 30, 2013

In Matthew 18:3, Jesus said: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Saturday night is bath time for our little son. It's a big production, in which both of his parents are involved. Laura draws the bath water and makes sure it's the right temperature, and then I bring the little guy in and set him down into his tub.

Then, while Laura scrubs him, I hold him to make sure he doesn't flop over (a job which is getting easier and easier by the week!).

And how much of the work does our boy do? None. His primary concern in all of this is to kick his little legs as much as possible to see how big a splash he can make, and how wet he can get his mommy.

But he doesn't do any of the cleaning. It occurred to me that we as adults ought to take this to heart when we think of Jesus's words in Matthew 18. Those who enter the kingdom of heaven are not the ones who -- like a grown-up -- got themselves all cleaned up. It is those who -- with no ability of their own to do anything -- relied on the work of God to do the cleaning.

In the Old Testament, after his sin with Bathsheba, David didn't say, "Let me get myself cleaned up, God." Instead, acknowledging his own inability to cleanse his own sin, he said, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Psalms 51:7.

"Do for me what I cannot do for myself."

It's part of the great beauty of the Christian faith, that we are not a fellowship of people who made ourselves clean enough for God; we are helpless children who relied on God to do the cleaning.

Don't ever fool yourself into thinking, "I can do it myself," or "I did it myself!" Always remember the humility with which you came to God, helpless, and unable to clean yourself. The moment we forget about the cross, and the cleansing power of the blood of Christ, the moment we stop coming back to that cross with gratitude and humility, that is the moment we cease to be "like little children," and let pride take over. And when pride takes over, judgment of others is quick to follow.

A Song to Sing:

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus; What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

A Verse to Remember:

3:4But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,5he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,Titus 3:4-5 (ESV)

Posted by Douglas on Oct 31, 2012

Whenever I hear the word "regeneration," I always think of starfish. After all, a starfish has the ability to regenerate a limb. If a starfish loses a limb, it will begin growing a new one, and sometimes in as little as a few months, it will have a brand new leg, and you might not know it had ever been injured.

But I learned something recently that I never knew about starfish: some species of starfish have the ability to regrow an entire starfish from the limb that is broken off!.

Sound crazy? It sure sounded crazy to me. Since the limb doesn't have a mouth, it lives off stored nutrients within itself, and uses that energy to begin growing a new disk. And eventually, if it survives long enough, it'll grow a whole new mouth, and then it can start eating again, while it continues regrowing the rest of its limbs.

Suddenly, I had a whole new perpsective on Titus 3:5:

3:5he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,Titus 3:5 (ESV)

What is regeneration? Perhaps my original picture of regeneration is no longer sufficient. Regeneration is not me growing new spiritual limbs; regeneration is God taking something as dead and useless as a lump of starfish leg, and -- impossible as it might seem -- making it into something alive and useful -- a brand new spiritually living person.

And if that's regeneration, then perhaps renewing is what I always pictured as regeneration: God taking something that he has already made alive, and repairing the damage that it receives throughout the day-to-day living in this world.

I'm so glad that my God is powerful enough to make me alive when I was dead, and I'm so grateful that he's willing to repair and renew me day by day!

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