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InkMan's Favorite Illustrations (by topics)
Authority / Communication / Congregational Singing / Conversion / Covenants / Death
Grace and Works / Influence / Jesus' Humanity / Leadership / Parenting / Predestination / Priorities / Repentance
Salvation: The Need for It / Salvation: Instructions for It / Satan's Tactics
Sinning after Becoming a Christian
Authority [ Top ]
A bicycle blueprint: Bicycles have certain key features: Two wheels, a seat, handle bars, brakes. Making changes in the basic design is similar to making changes in God's pattern (for salvation, for the church, etc.). Adding to God's word is like adding a third wheel. Taking away is like removing a wheel. Acting when the Bible is silent is like adding a motor. You may still have a vehicle of sorts, but you don't have a bicycle, anymore!
The Change of Covenants [ Top ]
A change in the speed limit: Imagine a stretch of road that used to have a 45 mph limit being changed to 35 mph. If you drive 45 and get stopped, what will be your defense to the police officer? "But, it used to be 45 along here"? So it is when we pull elements of the Old Covenant with Israel and pretend we have authority for them under the New Covenant of Christ.
Communication (Especially in Marriage) [ Top ]
The bad gardener: "I have a plant that just won't grow. I really don't understand. After all, I pour vinegar on it every day, stomp on the dirt, rough up the leaves, and keep it away from the sun....."
Conversion [ Top ]
Metamorphosis: The transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly is similar to a sinner's change into a Christian. He no longer has the same appetites or companions. He no longer is limited to crawling or dragging himself along the ground. He now drinks nectar from the sweetest flowers and can fly! Also, he is no longer the object of disgust and hatred. He is admired by awe-struck observers. (Note that the Greek word from which we get "metamorphosis" is found in Romans 12:2.)
Death [ Top ]
A plucked flower: Adam and Eve were told, "You shall surely die!" They did not appear to die immediately. However, they died spiritually at that moment. Death is basically a separation. James 26, " as the body without the spirit is dead : A plucked flower (Satan STILL wants us to believe you shall NOT)
Grace and Works [ Top ]
Bingo: 95 points!: A man dies and wants to enter heaven. He is told by the angel guarding the gate that he must tell what he's done in his life; the angel will assign points according to the merit of the deeds; when the man reaches 100 points, he will be granted entrance. The man confidently states, "I stayed married to the same woman for 48 years and never cheated on her once, not even in my heart." The angel says, "Very good - that's worth 2 points." The man had expected more and now grows nervous. He boasts, "I went to church all my life and always gave of my time, energy, and money... ALL MY LIFE." The angel smiles, "Excellent. That's worth one point." The man now scrambles to think of something worthy: "I gave a donation to the disabled veterans one time!" "Good. One more point," says the angel. "And I served in a soup kitchen over Thanksgiving once." "Fine; another point," says the angel.
The man realizes his cause is hopeless and states in despair, "The only way I'm going to get into heaven at THIS rated is by the grace of God!" "Bingo," says the angel. "95 points; in you go!"
Instructions about Salvation [ Top ]
How far to Birmingham?: Instructions vary depending on where you are when you ask. This explains why people such as the Philippian jailer (Acts 16) who knew almost nothing about Jesus were told to believe, while those who already believed (such as the Jews on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2) were told to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, while someone who already believed and had been praying with fasting for three days ( Saul in Acts chapters 9 and 22) was simply told to be baptized to wash away his sins.
Would you become a dog?: All dogs in the world are infected with a rare disease. They will all die unless you help. You must allow yourself to be genetically altered so that you will become part dog. Then scientists could use your blood to create a serum to save all dogs. Would you let yourself be changed? This is, in a crude and incomplete way, similar to what Jesus did for us when He emptied Himself, left heaven's glory and bliss, took on human form, and came to "this low land of sin and sorrow" -- all in order to save us.
(I heard this illustration used by Steve Klein. InkMan)
"Who's Got Who(m)?"
Stand facing someone, preferably someone much bigger than you, with your elbows pointing toward them and your fists pointing straight up (offering them your wrists, in other words).
Say, "Grab hold of my wrists. I'm going to pull you off balance."
When he grabs your wrists, push and pull and throw him off balance.
Each time, ASK: "Did I CONTROL you, or INFLUENCE you?!"
Continue to take all challengers until someone figures out to simply let go of your wrists so as not to be influenced by you.
Mickey in the Tub: Influence is the combination of INdirect forces we bring to bear on those around us in order to change another person's thoughts or behaviors. Contrast "influence" and "control" as follows: Float a toy Mickey Mouse at the far end of the tub, away from the drain. Pull the plug. Mickey starts getting sucked toward the drain. How can we rescue him? Controlling his position would involve picking him up and moving him back to a safe distance from the drain. But God does not control us in that way. So, swirl the water around Mickey so that it creates a force opposing the "whirlpool" effect of the drain. In this way, you can move Mickey safely away from the drain without directly controlling him. God sometimes uses the influence of those around us to rescue us from temptation.
Mountain Climbers: They, like the church - create bonds between one another so that in case any should slip, the others can help them get back on the path. This is a help and a positive influence, but stops short of carrying the other person up the mountain (i.e., control).
Jesus' life is a compass, pointing the way. A compass can have a great guiding influence to hikers and explorers, if allowed to do its work. Don't close your eyes to God's compass by not reading His word!
God's love is a magnet, drawing us to Himself. A magnet has great influence. even on a rusty nail! Don't be a "toothpick," immune or indifferent to His love.
The Spirit's work is a battery, energizing those who come into contact with Him (but not forcing anyone against his/her will - 1 Cor. 14:32 ). A battery has great power, giving "life" to inanimate objects likes toys and machines, cars and clocks. Don't resist spiritual impulses just because, for example, you're young, or you're used to using your brain. And don't be "all negative." We must touch both the negative and positive poles (sin and forgiveness) in order to receive the Spirit's life.
Leadership, esp. in Marriage [ Top ]
The factory worker's arm: A man has a terrible accident while working around heavy machinery, and his arm is cut off and falls to the ground. He scoffs and ridicules and orders his arm: "You stupid, worthless arm! Get back on my body this instant! I'm waiting....." So it is with the husband -- who is given the leadership role in his family by God -- who has a part in his wife's unhappiness but has no compassion on her when the relationship is severed and takes no action to reconcile himself to her. The HEAD is responsible for the well-being of the body. See Ephesians 5.
Need for Salvation [ Top ]
A hole in a piece of paper: God gives us a soul, pure and innocent. We make our mark on it, establishing our identity. This is like taking a blank piece of paper and writing my name on it. With time and choices, we sin. This is like putting a hole in the paper with the same pencil with which we wrote our name. Repentance is like pulling out the pencil. But all the good works, sorrow for sin, etc. will never heal the hole. Only God can give us a clean sheet of paper. The New Testament is very clear about God's requirements for seeking mercy and forgiveness.
Parenting [ Top ]
"King of the Hill": The stronger person has the advantage in the game "King of the Hill." And so it is with parenting. How ironic and sadly twisted that in many homes the children are on top of the hill!
Predestination [ Top ]
Asparagus Party: I'm throwing an asparagus party. I've made all the preparations, and I know who will be there, before I even tell anyone about the party. How? By the specific, narrow purpose of my party, I have predetermined that some people will come, while many will not. I don't know the names of the ones who will come, but I know something about them - they like asparagus! Everyone is "predestined" to come (or not) based on his or her love for asparagus. So, I have predestined a category of people, rather than selecting individuals' names, and all are free to attend, or not, and to change their minds, as they choose.
So it is with God. He's having a "Let's-Worship-The-Son" party. Everyone is invited, but only those who love the Son will come. We are predestined, not based on our works, but according to our faith - according to our decision to believe in Him. As our spiritual blessings are described in Ephesians 1, we read that "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. [and] predestined us to adoption as sons .." (Ephesians 1:3-5) Whoever will believe in Him and live for Him will belong to a special category - "in Him" - and will be adopted by Him, and will be conformed to the image of the Son.
In short, He has chosen those who will choose Him.
Priorities [ Top ]
Big things/little things: Take a container with a set amount of the following items: Dry beans, three or four nuts, and a ball (or items roughly the same size). The beans represent all the little activities of life such our day-to-day chores. The nuts represent work, recreation, health, and family. The largest item represents God. The container represents the time we have each day. When the illustration is prepared correctly with the right amount of items, you can put in the beans (filling about 2/3 or the container), then put in the nuts, but the ball won't fit. This is the way many people live, filling their days with little things and leaving no room for important things. Empty the container and start again, putting "God" first. Then put in "work" and "family", etc., then the beans accommodate themselves in the spaces, and everything fits in the container! (Watch video.)
Repentance [ Top ]
Tempting a dead man: Imagine an immoral woman trying to seduce a dead man in a coffin. She won't have much luck, will she? Christians -- those who have been baptized into Christ's death -- are dead to sin. This speaks to the change in our appetites, the change in our mind and our understanding, and to the fact that Christ now controls us by the Spirit of God. (See Romans 6; Galatians 2:20) May we adopt the dead man's response to temptation!
(I heard this illustration used by Steve Klein. InkMan)
Sinning after Becoming a Christian [ Top ]
Hitting chug-holes (The "Again Sin"): Becoming a Christian changes our standing before God and begins a lifetime of transformation ("newness of life" - Romans 6:4). It does not, however, instantly free us from temptation and make us incapable of sinning. (1 John 1) Human nature demonstrates that we tend to be tempted AFTER our conversion by the same things that tempted us BEFORE our conversion. It's like driving in town and hitting THAT SAME chug-hole day after day. Sometimes it takes a lot of practice and a lot of thinking ahead and concentrating while we drive in order to avoid hitting that chug-hole.
As a Bible example of this phenomenon, notice Simon the magician in Acts 8, always driven by an apparent ego and desire to be admired for doing something spectacular, both before and after his baptism.
Notice Peter warming himself at the campfire while Jesus was on "trial," denying his Master, at least in part, out of fear of those around him. (Luke 22) Even after the ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter later sinned out of an apparently similar fear of the Judaizing teachers. (Galatians 2)
Notice, also, Abraham, who repeated his ugly practice of deception with regards to Sarai's relationship to him first before Pharaoh, and later before Abimelech, in spite of God's promises and reassurances. (Genesis 12 and 20)
Satan's Tactics [ Top ]
Also, see above, under "Influence."
2 Car Salesmen (Will Satan Make Another Sale?): Half truths and out-right lies. Dishonesty and deception. Charisma and pressure. Enticement and impressive sounding (but empty!) offers. Sadly, these things characterize some sales people. More to be noted, though, is that Satan uses the same tactics. He uses flat lies, half-truths, twisted Scriptures with an appearance of truth, persecution, persistence, enticement, temptation to filthy things, distraction by wholesome things, death, chronic illness, sorrow, "sheep's clothing" and "angel-of-light" garb, family pressure, stubborn pride, and on goes the list. May we ever be able to say, "We are not ignorant of his devices." (2 Corinthians 2:11) Let the buyer beware!
Congregational Singing [ Top ]
Gathering a bunch of sticks: Some sticks may be quite crooked (i.e., some voices may be out of tune, musically speaking), but when gathered all together, they make a straight bundle. (I.e., when we sing together, it ends up sounding okay, musically).
Note that there are limits to any illustration, and that especially this one is in no way an argument for or against the practice of congregational singing versus instrumental music. After all, the same problems with tune and melody occur with those playing mechanical instruments, too! It's simply a nice way to comfort the less musically-inclined as they make melody in their hearts to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)
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