Billy Graham tells the story of a group of barbers at a convention who decided to demonstrate what their profession could do to change a
man. They went to skid row and found an alcoholic who was the true picture of a derelict. With his cooperation they bathed him, styled his
hair, and bought him a completely new wardrobe. When they had completed their work of remodeling the fellow, it was difficult to believe
that the transformed man standing before the convention was the same man they had found on skid row.
He looked, smelled, and acted differently. However, two days later the man was back on skid row, drunk again. Pawning his new clothes
and using the money to buy liquor, he had returned to his old ways.
While the barbers had changed the looks, they had not been able to change his nature. As someone has said, "You can take a pig, scrub
him clean, sprinkle him with perfume, put a ribbon on his tail, but when you turn your back he will be rolling in the mud. He's still a pig!" His
nature has not been changed.
Through His prophet, God said that by nature man cannot do that which is good. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his
spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil" (Jeremiah 13:23).
Have you felt this struggle in your life? You want to do what is right, but you seem almost compelled to do the opposite, Jesus said, "The
spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41). As you accept Christ as your Saviour from past sins you will need special
help in living for Christ in the days ahead. We will see in this lesson that it is only as we allow Christ to save us from our sinful nature that
we can have the power to live victoriously in this world.
1. What problem did Paul say he had in living the life that he desired? Romans 7:18, 19
2. What was there in Paul that caused him to do wrong? Verse 20
3. Why does Paul say that man in his carnal, or natural, condition cannot do right? Romans 8:7, 8
"Man was originally endowed with noble powers and a well balanced mind. He was perfect in his being, and in harmony with God. His
thoughts were pure, his aims were holy. But through disobedience, his powers were perverted, and selfishness took the place of love. His
nature became so weakened through transgression that it was impossible for him, in his own strength, to resist the power of the evil. He
was made captive by Satan, and would have remained so forever had not God specially interposed. . . .
"It is impossible for us, of ourselves, to escape from the pit of sin in which we are sunken. Our hearts are evil, and we cannot change them.
. . . Education, culture, the exercise of the will, human effort, all have their proper sphere, but here they are powerless. They may produce an
outward correctness of behavior, but they cannot change the heart; they cannot purify the springs of life" (Steps to Christ, pp. 17, 18).
4. What will result if we are controlled by the carnal, or sinful, nature? Verse 6
"There must be a power working from within, a new life from above, before men can be changed from sin to holiness. That power is Christ.
His grace alone can quicken the lifeless faculties of the soul, and attract it to God, to holiness. . . . To all, there is but one answer, "Behold
the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29)" (Ibid., pp. 18, 19).
6. What did Paul say was in him that helped him live the Christian life? Galatians 2:20
7. How only did Jesus say a man could be prepared to inherit the eternal kingdom? Matthew 18:3
To be converted means "to be changed." The Saviour said, 'Except a man be born from above,' unless he shall receive a new heart, new
desires, purposes, and motives, leading to a new life, 'he cannot see the kingdom of God' (John 3:3, margin)" (Ibid., p. 18).
Unconverted men would not be safe to save! With their selfish, sinful nature, the problem of sin would once again manifest itself in heaven
if they did not allow the transformation to take place in them.
8. What change in man did Jesus tell Nicodemus would have to take place if he were to see the kingdom of God? John 3:1-3
"The figure of the new birth, which Jesus used, was not wholly unfamiliar to Nicodemus. Converts from heathenism to the faith of Israel
were often compared to children just born. Therefore he must have perceived that the words of Christ were not to be taken in a literal
sense. But by virtue of his birth as an Israelite he regarded himself as sure of a place in the kingdom of God. He felt that he needed no
change. Hence his surprise at the Saviour's words. He was irritated by their close application to himself. The pride of the Pharisee was
struggling against the honest desire of the seeker after truth. He wondered that Christ should speak to him as He did, not respecting his
position as ruler in Israel" (The Desire of Ages, p. 171).
10. How did Jesus tell Nicodemus that he could be born again? Verses 5-7
"No human invention can find a remedy for the sinning soul. 'The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God,
neither indeed can be.' . . . The fountain of the heart must be purified before the streams can become pure. He who is trying to reach
heaven by his own works in keeping the law is attempting an impossibility. There is no safety for one who has merely a legal religion, a for
of godliness. The Christian's life is not a modification or improvement of the old, but a transformation of nature. There is a death to self and
sin, and a new life altogether. This change can be brought about only by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit" (Ibid., 172).
11. By what power does God accomplish this change in us? Verse 8
"The wind is heard among the branches of the trees, rustling the leaves and flowers; yet it is invisible, and no man knows whence it comes
or whither it goes. So the work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart. . . . When the Spirit of God takes possession of the heart, it transforms the
life. Sinful thoughts are put away, evil deeds are renounced; love, humility, and peace take the place of anger, envy, and strife. Joy takes the
place of sadness, and the countenance reflects the light of heaven. No one sees the hand that lifts the burden, or beholds the light
descend from the courts above. The blessing comes when by faith the soul surrenders itself to God. Then that power which no human eye
can see creates a new being in the image of God" ( Ibid., pp. 172, 173).
12. What is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit? Romans 5:5
14. Who is it that creates the desire and power in us to do God's will? Philippians 2:13
"You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your
will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of
the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him. . . . By yielding up your will to
Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers" (Steps to Christ, pp. 47, 48).
15. How does God describe the means by which He will give us both the knowledge and desire to obey Him? Hebrews 10:16
As God blots out our sin he writes His laws in our minds that we might develop a character like His. He also writes His laws in our hearts,
that we might be willing to do His will. He changes our old nature by means of the new birth. The rebellious nature dies, and we long to do
that which pleases God.
16. What kind of life will the new Christian live? Romans 6:1-4
"Love to Christ will be the spring of action. Those who feel the constraining love of God do not ask how little may be given to meet the
requirements of God; they do not ask for the lowest standard, but aim at perfect conformity to the will of their Redeemer. With earnest desire
they yield all and manifest an interest proportionate to the value of the object which they seek. A profession of Christ without this deep love
is mere talk, dry formality, and heavy drudgery" (Steps to Christ, pp. 45).
"We shall often have to bow down and weep at the feet of Jesus because of our shortcomings and mistakes, but we are not to be
discouraged. Even if we are overcome by the enemy, we are not cast off, not forsaken and rejected of God. no; Christ is at the right hand of
God, who also maketh intercession for us. . . . He desires to restore you to Himself, to see His own purity and holiness reflected in you. And
if you will but yield yourself to Him, He that hath begun a good work in you will carry it forward to the day of Jesus Christ. Pray more fervently;
believe more fully. As we come to distrust our own power, let us trust the power of our Redeemer" (Ibid., p. 64)
"Though a man turns his face toward the Holy City, it does not mean that he is already at journey's end. There are mountains and swamps
to cross, searing heat and numbing cold to endure. . . . Conversion implies a change of direction in the life. When a sinner turns about, he
is forced to retrace his steps. Quite often there will be mistakes to make right, faults to confess, restitution to make, errors to correct. These
are the visible evidences of repentance, and they show the direction in which we are traveling. We have not reached heaven yet, but at least
we are on our way. . . . Conversion is the beginning of a process which is intended to continue during a person's life" (The Golden Chain,
pp. 52, 53).
"He whose trust is in God will with Paul be able to say, 'I can do all things through Him that strengtheneth me.' Whatever the mistakes or
failures of the past, we may, with the help of God, rise above them. With the apostle we may say:
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto
those things which are before," (Philippians 3:13) (The Ministry of Healing, p. 516).
19. After you study of this lesson, is it your desire to have this new-birth experience that Christ has promised?