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Page 172

Why is it wrong to assume, presume, or teach that people are regenerated before the marks and fruits of spiritual life are present in their lives?

What dangerous, misleading results stem from these beliefs or practices?

In the following verse, Jesus seriously reproves church people of His day:

Matthew 23:27

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.

What was a "whited sepulchre"? Why did Jesus refer to the scribes and harisees as "whited sepulchres"?

    To illustrate the difference between exterior appearance and inward life, a teacher brought a stuffed fox to school and placed it on the front table in his classroom.

    "This is a real fox," he informed his class. "You can see that from its appearance; it has all the characteristics of a fox. You agree with me that it is real, do you not?"

    "No, it's not alive," several responded.

    "How can you tell?" he asked.

    The class exploded with answers. "It would not just stand there - it would move! It would look around. It would run and jump. It would try to escape from this room. It would want food and water..." and several other responses were heard.

    "I brought this stuffed animal here today to teach you an important lesson," the teacher continued, quieting the class, "a'lesson regarding church people. From the outside, all look the same - all are churchgoers. But if I asked you are they all real church people, what would you answer?"

    "No," a student responded.

    "Why not?"

    "They're not all alive - spiritually alive."

    "Excellent answer. Now, how can a person tell if he is alive spiritually, if he is a real church member, or not? What are the characteristics of regeneration, of possessing spiritual life?"

    How would you answer this question? What are the scriptural marks and fruits of spiritual life?

The doctrines of man's total depravity and his spiritual deadness sound very depressing and pessimistic, and they are - from man's side. But, the doctrine of regeneration testifies of man's not being limited to his own possibilities. It speaks of new spiritual life from an almighty Source. "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26b). Regeneration testifies of God's grace conquering man's sin, Christ's redemption transcending man's fall, and the Holy Spirit's light overpowering man's darkness.

While God's regenerating grace testifies of His sovereign, gracious work - of God's work, and not man's - yet it is God's normal way to work through means. Therefore we must actively place ourselves under, and use, God's means of grace; asking God to graciously bless them in our hearts and lives.

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