THE NEW BIRTH
A medical intern saw ads for the Billy Graham, Columbia, South Carolina Crusade, attended and responded to the invitation to accept Christ. He said, "I'm tired of the life I have been living. I want to get things right with God."
An attorney said that he and his wife are both alcoholics and that their home is breaking up. He said that he wanted Christ to save him: "I've tried everything else; this is my last chance." Carolina Evenings: The Blessing of God—Special Moments with God; Decision Magazine, July/Aug 1987, pp.8-9.
"Why, Mr. Whitefield," inquired a friend one day, "why do you so often peach on Ye must be born again?"
"Because," replied Mr. Whitefield, solemnly, looking full into the face of his questioner, "because ye must be born again!"
The novel The Great Gatsby ends with Nick Carraway, the narrator, musing on what he calls "the last and greatest of all human dreams." It is that, certainly, the last and greatest, as F. Scott Fitzgerald writes; but it is also the first and foremost, the primary dream. Anthropologists and students of myth recognize it as such; even casual readers of the Bible find this same dream tracing its way from Eden to Mount Ararat and beyond to a midnight conversation between a Pharisee named Nicodemus and an itinerant teacher from Nazareth. This "last and greatest of all human dreams," the first and foremost aspiration, is the dream of starting all over again."—D. Bruce Lockerbie, "A Call for Christian Humanism", Biblitheca Sacra, August/Sept. 1986, p. 195.
In his story, "The Happy Hypocrite," Max Beerbohm told of a debauched and unvirtuous man named lord George Hell who fell in love with an innocent and saintly young woman. In order to woo and win her he covered his bloated features with the mask of a saint. The trick worked and the two were married. Years later a wicked lady from Lord George Hell's past showed up and sought to expose him for the scoundrel and fake she knew him to be. Confronting him in front of his wife, she dared him to take off his mask. Sadly he took it off—and to their great amazement discovered that beneath the mask of a saint was now the face of the saint he had become in wearing it. —H.Stephen Shoemaker, The Jekyll & Hyde Syndrome (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1987).
THE NEW BIRTH
Jerry Lillehei's picture made the Associated Press Wire service recently and sent his well-groomed face across the nation's teleprinters for all to wake up to one morning when they turned a few pages into the first section of their paper. At first glance he could be a model, or maybe an actor. A permed and neatly cropped black head of hair, an all-American grin, and a rugby sweater—the guy looks straight out of Lands End.
But that's not what makes Jerry Lillehei's picture newsworthy. It's the second picture in the photograph—a smaller one he has in front of hi, It's a picture of, of all things, some bum, staring with a Budweiser glare off into space, cheeks gaunt and clothing rumpled and soiled. So what do the well groomed Lands End model and the street drunk have in common?
They are the same guy.
The drunk is Jerry five years ago, living as he lived for thirty years. He hadn't planned on spending nearly two-thirds of his life drunk. He was a well-liked frat man at the University of Washington in the 1950s, had an inheritance of $50,000 coming to him, and a good future in the family's restaurant business. But Jerry didn't bounce back the next morning from the college drinking bouts like the other guys did.
It was a thirty year hangover that ended at a Lutheran agency called the Compass Center. Jerry would regularly wander into the center for a meal. After a while, he began to wonder why they refused to give up on him. "After a while," he says, "I did begin to trust them. From seeing myself as hopeless I started thinking maybe there was hope."
A new faith in God and some good people helping him through recovery programs landed Jerry back on the other side of the tracks again. Today he is a computer manager at the Compass Center and a night counselor. The next time you stroll past a down-and-outer passed out on the sidewalk, remember the guy straight out of Lands End.The Knoxville News Sentinel Wednesday, Nov. 4, 1987
There is an old story about a confirmed alcoholic who was converted and began giving glowing testimonies to his conversion. At one meeting he said that God had taken even the desire for liquor from him. A physician who had long treated the man called him aside and advised him not to make such extravagant statements. He said: "Why, man, God would have to give you a new stomach for you not to want liquor." Whereupon the new convert began to shout, saying, "Praise the Lord.
I knew that he had given me a new heart, but I didn't know he had given me a new stomach."