Sermon delivered May 3, 1997

by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

The Butterfly and the Spider

Earlier this week I drove to a home in this area to conduct a Bible Study. As I came to the person's house I passed a beautiful fenced-in lush green pasture. Inside this lush green field were two goats standing knee deep in clover. Both goats however had their heads thrust through the fence. And I looked to what was on the other side of the fence. It was just the woods with dry weeds. It hadn't been fertilized or anything. They were straining to eat brown weeds growing on the other side of the fence when they were standing in clover! I just stopped and looked. I thought, that's a sermon illustration. They had an intense hunger for what was off limits. The farmer had put that fence there. That was out of the boundary.

Farmers are pretty smart. They know how to get rid of spoiled hay. The cows won't eat it if the hay becomes damp or mouldy. But they will shove and push to eat every scrap of that musty stuff if the farmer dumps it just on the other side of the fence.

Christians are a lot like cows and goats. Some Christians are like old goats. But we shove and we push toe eat every scrap of that musty stuff over there on the other side of the fence. We seem to have a built in desire for what is off limits. We want it! Merely the fact that the fence is there makes us want what is on the other side of the fence. We know we shouldn't have that stuff. The ten commandments put a fence between us and sin. The devil puts his junk food just across the fence. We hunger for what is forbidden. We hunger for another man's wife, or another wife's husband. We hunger for that. It's no better. God has provided us with a wife. And yet we are attracted to sin like flies are to garbage. Why does sin entice us so much? We know better. We want to live the Christian life. We pray earnestly that we might live the Christian life, and that God will deliver us from the pit of sin and yet eventually we slip back into the depths of that same pit.

Now, I have heard preachers stand up in pulpits and say that victory over sin is so easy. All you have to do is surrender your all to Jesus. Come and fall on the rock. Kneel before the foot of the cross and be broken. Those words sound nice but when you get home nothing seems to work. The junk food of Satan looks so appetizing. The first thing we know, we have our head thrust through the fence gorging on what will eventually starve out our spiritual nature. We seem to be unable to resist. You may think that you are as helpless against sin as a dove caught in the coils of a snake. You may give up. You may think you will never be perfect. My righteousness is just not there. I'm helpless. I try and try to give up my habit of sin but it always wins. I want victory, but how do I get victory?

Well, let's go to the Bible. Actually, here in the truth is, we are all doomed. We need to recognize that. Without Jesus Christ we're dead in the water. We're the dove in the coils of the snake. Here in Romans 6:23 it says, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

The wages of sin is eternal death. We are lost. Like an old goat we are daily surrounded with God's rich deep clover but yet we are hungering for that which we should not have. We can't help looking longingly at the fresh load of poison the devil dumped on the other side of the fence. We sin and sin and fail and fail. And we get discouraged.

Look at Romans 3:10-12. "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

Lets face it, we're all sinners. We're all goats. Our efforts are so weak. Occasionally we can keep our eyes off the allurements there on the other side of the fence but we fail God more often than we would like to admit. We attend church and read the Bible and pray but we know we are not perfect. Our wife knows we're not perfect. Your mother knows that you're not perfect.

Paul had the same problem. In ROMANS 7.... Paul was a Christian better than many of us. He wrote of his own personal experience here in Romans 7:14-20 "We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (Do you feel a little bit like Paul, here? Just can't perform it. You know what's right, but you can't do it.) 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. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."

Paul had the same problem a lot of us have. He hungered for sin. All Christians have that problem. Paul had the problem. We hunger for the things that we should not have. That sour stale hay on the other side of the fence smells good! Sin is attractive to us. We love it. We're drawn to it. Our old nature and our new nature are in constant conflict. And we do pretty good until the breeze comes across that pile of hay and we smell that wonderful odor. And then the first thing you know we're right there with our heads through the fence. You know, for some the problem might be an uncontrolled temper. For other Christians it could even be alcohol or sex or drugs or pornography or abuse in the home or any number of things. We all have problems.

The law of God pulls us toward heaven and the law of our old nature pulls us down toward death. At times Christians are well nigh pulled apart. The law demands perfect behavior and our weak flesh fails to perform it.

Look at ROMANS 7:24. "What a wretched man I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death?"

Paul may have been referring to a terrible Roman method of punishment. If a criminal murdered somebody, that criminal, when he was found, was sometimes given a choice of the cross or the corpse. The cross is what Jesus had. Many were tied to a corpse: leg to leg, arm to arm, body to body, and face to face. Tied to that corpse, facing it. Often with the very person he himself had killed. He was staked with a chain out there in the hot Palestinian sun. As the corpse decayed, it's death would penetrate into the flesh of the living man. As that death penetrated his body he would die. It was literally his body of death.

That's a horrible way to go and yet that's what Paul described the Christian who is battling with the old nature, with the flesh. Our new spiritual nature is somehow still connected and tied to our old sinful human nature. What our spiritual life desires we find very hard to accomplish.

Let's suppose, to illustrate this further, that we have an expert in Gene Splicing, and that this geneticist able to somehow splice together the genes of a butterfly with the genes of a spider. They become one. And so you have this hideous monster. Thus a strange creature would be born. A butterfly and a spider together. This weird insect grows to maturity. Imagine the clash of instincts and desires it would face.

While the butterfly part of its nature would long for the sunshine and blue skies and flowers and the beautiful things of life, the spider part of its nature would crave the dark corners of old buildings. One part would try to feed on a diet of nectar and honey while the other craved blood. One part would want to build a web of entrapment while the other part would desire to fly off into the fine arts of beauty and color and space. It would be torn as to how it would act and what it would do.

That's similar to what happened in the Garden of Eden. The devil, the master geneticist performed surgery on the human race and splice the sin gene into the human race. We desire sin. We want to sin. What is forbidden is what we want to do. The Bible calls it the flesh. There is only one thing that God can do with the flesh and that is to put it to death. You can't modify it. You can't rearrange it. All the human efforts in the world will not change us into perfect creatures. All you can do is put it to death. That's what God wants to do. In order to change us into a perfect creature He must give us a brand new nature. Only Jesus can do that. He can give our nature a brand new heart. That's the only cure. The leopard can't change his spots, but God can. The flesh must be put to death. Paul said, "I die daily." And only Jesus can put the flesh to death. Jesus is the master scientist. He can take care of that problem if you place yourself in His hands in His laboratory. Only then will we be able to live the life that we desire to live. ROMANS 7:25 is the answer to Paul's cry for Who could provide deliverance from the body of death. He says here: "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Jesus can give us the victory. He gives deliverance.

Romans 8:1, 2: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

I want to illustrate to you how this works. Imagine a baseball falling down toward the ground. Just imagine that this baseball is coming down toward the ground at a high rate of speed. It is under the influence of gravity. Of itself that poor baseball is helpless to overcome the downward pull of gravity. It is unable to resist the law of sin and death. It can't overcome of its own power. It is the nature of all objects to fall.

But, just before that baseball hits the ground someone reaches out an expert arm and catches the falling baseball in mid-air. He holds that ball firmly and lifts it up high for all to see. Do you know who the catcher is? It's Jesus Christ. Without Jesus, what are we going to do? We're going to fall all the way to the bottom. But Jesus holds that ball firmly in His hand. As long as that ball is in Jesus' hand that ball is safe. It is no longer under the influence of gravity because it has come under the influence of a higher law. The One who caught the ball did not do away with the law of gravity. The law of gravity was overcome by a third party. A higher power came into play. The ball was helpless. Christians sin because it is in the nature of fallen mortals to sin. I think we need to have faith in the "Divine Catcher". That's what we need. We need to pray as we're falling down that Jesus will catch us and will hold us in the palm of His hand. We are delivered from falling by a Person and not by personal effort. Victory does not come from our own feeble efforts.

Romans 8:3: "For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man... "

We are saved by Jesus. We are powerless to live the Christian life on our own. But with Jesus in our heart we can have beautiful victory. We do not fall because Jesus holds us in His hand. So we are saved apart from our efforts.

Romans 3:21-24: "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

We falling baseballs are not saved by our efforts but by faith in the divine catcher. We need the hand of Jesus in our life. We need to have faith in the Divine Catcher. He never misses.

Romans 4:5: "However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." That's how we're saved.

Jesus lived the only perfect life that has ever been lived. His perfect Righteousness can be your righteousness if you have faith in Him, if you believe in Him. It will be given to us if we accept Him as our Saviour. We must trust Him to catch us. He will prevent us from falling. God justifies wicked people, sinners, if they TRUST in Him.

Every sin can be forgiven. Our sins are forgiven. We are totally saved. The law of gravity cannot have any power over Christians who are being held in the hand of Jesus.

Ask Jesus to save you, and give you a new heart. Pray that He will keep you from falling. He will. Die daily to the old nature. Keep trusting in God. We are saved by Jesus. We live the victorious life not by trying but by dying. That's how we're saved. Not by our personal efforts but by dying to self and trusting completely in Jesus.

ROMANS 5:1 "Therefore since we have been Justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Let us pray together.

Dear Father, slay the old spider-like nature that lurks in the darkness of my heart. Give me a new heart right now. Hold me in the palm of your nail pierced hand. Cover me with your free righteousness. Help me to rejoice in you and have real peace in my heart.

Dear Lord, you are my shepherd, I lack nothing. You make me to lie down in green pastures. Yet, we are all like goats standing in the lush deep tasty clover that you have provided for us. Help us to keep our eyes fixed on you so that the things across the fence of this old earth will grow strangely dim in the light of Jesus glory and grace. AMEN

Opening Hymn  83-- O Worship the King
Scripture Reading--  Romans 5:1-5
Closing Hymn 462--blessed assurance, Jesus is mine

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