The greatest gift of all is not about the pretty paper or the pretty ribbon. It’s really all about what’s on the inside. Jesus once confronted the religious leaders by condemning them for 04 starkweathercleaning up the outside and ignoring what mattered most. They dressed in flashy clothes. They performed many religious rituals. The offered many sacrifices, but they didn’t address their own sinful hearts. Jesus called them white-washed tombs. The outsides were all painted neat and clean, yet corruption and death lived on the inside. Paul stressed this same idea in Galatians 6:15. He writes, “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”

Paul says some similar things in Romans 14 about eating and not eating, drinking and not drinking. Neither of them are really important in the overall scheme of themes. Each one should be free to follow his or her own conscience. But it’s very simply, as Jesus told Nicodemus in John Chapter 3, you must be born again. It is all about a “new creation” that God makes of us through faith in Jesus. The UBS handbook says, “…this verse may be translated as ‘but being a new creature is important,’ ‘but being a new kind of person is what matters,’ or ‘… does make a difference.’ In some instances a new creature may be rendered as ‘being created new by God,’ or ‘being made over again by God.’”

I was 11 years old when Caril Fugate was fourteen. She joined Charles Starkweather on a murder spree across the state of Nebraska leaving 10 people dead. She and Charles were apprehended and Starkweather was executed 17 months later. Caril however went to prison. According to Leroy Lawson, “When she became eligible for parole at thirty-two, Caril had spent more than half her life in prison. It was not lost time. There she gave her life to Christ, affiliating with the Nazarene Church. She worked in the church nursery on Sunday mornings, taught Vacation Bible School, and even preached some sermons to the congregation. She underwent training as a geriatric aid and became involved in the work-release program in a nursing home on Sundays. She calls herself a new creation. She couldn’t have done this herself, but in the depths of her disgrace in prison, she was recreated by Jesus. It’s all about the “new creation” Richison sums this up, “Religious rites do not impress God. Church membership or baptism does not impress God. The central factor that impresses God is the cross and the new standing that it affords the person who trusts the cross for salvation. The Law is powerless to bring about this new transformation. This is the fundamental error of legalism.”