Today is mother’s day, and some people view it as a day when they have to be nice to their moms. Let’s face it, mothers often don’t get the respect they deserve. They are expected to play all sorts of roles, and we often don’t notice the things they do unless they fail to do them. So, today, I would encourage you to recognize the things your mother does or has done for you, and thank her for them—do it not just because it’s a day set aside for that, but because she deserves it.
Motherhood is kind of like a club. If you ever get a group of women together, those who are mothers seem to share a certain bond with one another. I suspect it comes from having each endured the process of carrying and giving birth to a baby, and subsequently raising that child. But as you talk to most mothers, (with the possible exception of new mothers) they generally don’t talk about their child’s birth in terms of how bad the delivery was, but rather how joyous of a time it was.
But, it’s interesting to ask, what is it that makes the birth of a child so joyous? Is it that the pregnancy and the labor are finally over? Is the woman just glad to have the “hard part” over with? Certainly not! No, we celebrate because of what birth really is—it is the beginning of new life. We are excited to see what is in store for our child. We have great plans for it. I always have to laugh when I go to visit a baby in the hospital, and the baby already has a little football in his hands—the father has big plans for that child. Or at just a couple weeks old, the little girl has bows in her hair and a pretty dress and pretty shoes—she’s mommy’s princess. We look at this new life and we are excited to see this child grow into an adult. We look forward to seeing what will happen in this child’s life.
Now, motherhood is a club that not everyone belongs to, but there is one club that all of us belong to, and that is the club of people who have been born. I would venture to say that everyone in this room has experienced physical birth of some kind. That may be the reason that the Bible uses the illustration of a baby being born so frequently—because it’s something that all of us can relate to.
This morning, I’d like to focus on that—not so much on our physical birth, but on the spiritual birth that comes through Christ.
Being Born Again
This is a concept that can be difficult for us to understand. Earlier we read about the story of Nicodemus from John chapter 3. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a theologian in the Jewish community, but he just didn’t seem to get it when Jesus tried to explain to him that he must be “born again.” In the story we read in John, it seems like this exchange happened rapidly, but I think there may have been long pauses as Nicodemus tried to grasp what Jesus said. I can almost picture Nicodemus’ face as he tried to imagine just how being born again as a grown man might be possible, and I can imagine his face as he thought about his poor mother. He asked Jesus, “How can I go into my mother’s womb a second time?” If I were Jesus, I would have rolled my eyes and banged my head against the table, then looked up and said, “I’m not being literal here!” But Jesus isn’t like me, and his response was a little different. He took the time to explain that to be born again means to receive a new life from God. He compares it to the physical birth, telling him that flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to Spirit. Basically, Jesus is telling Nicodemus that his mother gave him his physical life, but his spiritual life must come from God. He must be born again of God to receive spiritual life.
In Romans 8, Paul seeks to explain why this second birth is so joyous.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:13–17)
This new birth is joyous in a different way from our physical birth,
- Our physical birth was joyous for our parents but we were largely unaware, in the new birth we have a greater sense of the change that is taking place.
- Our first birth led us into a life of sin and the second birth leads us out of that life of sin.
- In our first birth we are helpless and in the second birth we find help
- In the first birth our family responded with joy; in the new birth our spiritual family as well as all of Heaven rejoices.
Let me pose a question to those of you who are mothers. When you gave birth to your child, what was the one thing you were waiting to hear? Were you waiting to hear the doctor say, “Keep pushing! One more contraction!” Were you waiting for your husband to say, “You did good.” Were you waiting to hear the doctor say, “It’s a boy,” or “It’s a girl!” Probably not. I would venture to guess that the one thing you were waiting for was the baby’s first cry. Why? Well, all of those other things are great, and you want to hear them, but the only way that you know that the baby has been born and is healthy is if he or she cries out. If you don’t hear the baby cry, you begin to worry that something is wrong.
Imagine the hustle and bustle of a delivery room. There are doctors and nurses standing around, waiting for the baby to be born. Everyone’s talking, making sure that everything is going just as it should be. The doctors and the nurses are talking to the mother-to-be and the father-to-be, telling them what’s happening and what to expect next. Finally, the doctor says that the baby’s out, but suddenly the room gets quiet, and all of the doctors and nurses rush to the other side of the room with the baby, now speaking to each other in somewhat hushed tones. In an instant, you have gone from relief and elation to fear. This is because you are now worried that the baby isn’t healthy, or worse, may not even survive. You’re waiting to hear that your child is healthy; you’re waiting for that cry to let you know that they’re ok.
Notice what Paul says in Romans 8:15.
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
The crying out that we expect after physical birth should also be expected with our spiritual birth. If we have been born again, then we have received the Spirit, and our response should be to cry out to God. If we don’t cry out to God, something is wrong, we aren’t healthy; we should be concerned. I think there are at least three ways in which we will cry out.
First, we will cry out to God and ask for his help. This is actually a prerequisite for our birth. Before we can be born again, we have to cry out to God, acknowledging that we need His forgiveness, because we stand condemned before him. We must cry out to Him, asking Him to save us and set us free.
Second, after we have been born, we will cry out in praise to God. Newborn babies don’t recognize the pain and suffering that their mother had to go through to give them life, but as believers, we should recognize the sacrifice of our heavenly Father. Jesus told the Pharisees in Luke 19 that if the people didn’t cry out to praise him, then the stones would. If we understand even a little bit of what we’ve been given through Christ, we will praise him. As we grow in our understanding and in our faith, we will gain a greater understanding of what God has done for us, and a greater desire to cry out in praise.
Third, we should cry out about the truth of Jesus Christ. This isn’t so much a crying out to God, but crying out for God. In our Wednesday night bible study, we are going through the book of Acts, which is the account of how the church started after Jesus left the earth. In it, there are numerous accounts of people being born again. What is interesting is that they all hold one thing in common. It isn’t that they prayed a specific prayer, or were baptized in a certain way, or spoke in tongues, or anything like that. What all of these people held in common was that after they believed in Christ and received the Holy Spirit, they spoke boldly for Him.
It’s interesting to note that most of these people were not pastors or apostles or anything like that. They were just healthy, new believers who cried out about what God had done in their lives—they grasped what God had done and so they desired to tell others.
It doesn’t end there though. Just like babies, once we are born again and cry out, we should start growing up. We should begin to grow up in the way that we act and in the way that we think. A baby crying because he or she wants something is acceptable to us, because he or she is a baby. A ten year-old crying because he or she wants something is a little less acceptable to us, because they should have learned by now that you can’t always get what you want—and hopefully the difference between wants and needs. Similarly, you expect children to grow in their understanding of how things work.
If a young child asks you how the car works, you probably don’t go into all of the details of the internal combustion engine, explaining spark plugs, cylinders, and pistons. More likely, you say, well, I turn this key and the engine starts. Then I press this pedal and the car goes, and the other pedal makes it stop. I turn this wheel and it makes us change direction. The child isn’t ready to understand it fully, so we just give them the basics.
You hope though, that as your child grows up, they begin to understand things on a little bit deeper level—although I’m sure if you talk to a mechanic, they can tell you that a lot of people never progress beyond that basic level of understanding. You don’t want your grown up child going to their mechanic, saying, “I don’t know what’s wrong! I step on the stop pedal and nothing happens!” You hope that they begin to look at things differently, understanding that some of the simplistic answers they’ve learned in the past aren’t the whole story.
As Christians, the same thing should happen to us. As new believers, we will understand things at a pretty basic level, and that’s ok, but we should be expected to grow up. In Hebrews 5:11–14, which we read earlier, the writer of Hebrews chastises his audience, because they have lagged in their spiritual growth.
11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Babies aren’t ready for solid food, they must still drink milk. But, there does come a point where children really need to start eating solid food. You’d be concerned for the child who goes to kindergarten and needs to be nursed at lunchtime! We say such a child needs to be weaned. They need to learn how to handle solid food and begin feeding themselves.
When I taught swimming, I found that most people wanted to stay in the shallow water as much as they could. They wanted to learn how to swim with their feet safely on the ground. What they found was that it was exceedingly difficult to learn how to swim with their feet on the ground. They needed to go into the deep end, where they couldn’t rely on their ability to stand—only then would they grow in their swimming abilities. They needed to trust that even though they were in deep water, I wouldn’t let them “get in over their heads.” I was going to let them struggle, but I wouldn’t let them drown—I was going to help them learn.
Many believers are what I would call ankle deep Christians—they still want to be nursed by the Pastor, TV Preacher, or Christian counselor. They want to stay in shallow water. They not only need to learn to eat on their own, they need to learn to go into the deep end of life. We need to trust God not to let us get in over our heads. We need to do the things he’s called us to do:
- To interact with the Bible, asking tough questions
- To give at least a tenth of our income back to Him
- To tell others about His sacrifice
- To make serving Him a priority
- To serve in a way that is beyond what we’re comfortable doing
If we do the things God has called us to do—no matter how scary—he will take care of us and help us grow. He will probably let us struggle along the way, but that’s part of the process of growing up.
Becoming Your Father/Mother
As you have gotten older as adults, many of you have stumbled onto a startling truth—you have become your parents. You catch yourself saying the things they said, doing things the way they did them. For many of you, there are a number of traits your parents possessed that you try with all your might to avoid developing. Some of you may succeed, others of you may not. Hopefully, there are also traits that you work hard to develop.
God is the perfect parent—He lavishes us with love, He disciplines us when necessary, and He tells us what we need to know to succeed in life. He knows exactly what we need and when we need it, and he makes sure every need we have is met. Our goal should be to become more and more like our heavenly Father. We should be constantly seeking to develop the traits that he possesses. Wouldn’t it be great to do certain things and realize, wow, I’m becoming like Jesus? That should be the goal. We don’t have to worry about developing God’s undesirable traits, because he doesn’t have any. We need to work at desiring the traits that Jesus possessed. We should work at:
- Showing compassion for others
- Being humble
- Being a servant to God and others
- Teaching the truth of sin and God’s plan for salvation
- Making time for others
- Knowing the Bible
- Making prayer a priority
We can’t do these things on our own—we need God’s help. The more time you spend with your parents, the more you become like them. The more time we spend with God, the more we’ll become like Him. I encourage you to pray to God, telling Him one of the phrases that parents love to hear from their children, “When I grow up, I want to be just like you.”
Today is mother’s day—the national reminder to show our appreciation to the woman who brought us into the world and helped to raise us. There are all sorts of things that moms should be praised for—not the least of which is giving birth to us.
My hope this morning is not that you overlook mom but that you expand this day of celebration. I hope you will also celebrate the one who made your second or new birth possible. As you think about mom’s love; remember Christ’s love for you. As you consider mom’s sacrifice, remember also the sacrifice of the Savior. As you wonder where you would be without your mother, I hope you will also consider where you would be without your Savior. There is plenty of evidence that you have been born physically; is there any evidence that you have been born spiritually? If you aren’t sure, then ask yourself if you have trusted Christ. Look at your life and see if you have cried out to God, asking Him to forgive your sins, praising Him for what he’s done, and telling others about His love. If not, make sure of it today.
If you have been born again, then I hope you’re growing up. I would encourage you to look for ways to celebrate your second birth. You could start by adapting some of the most common things we do for Mother’s Day.
- Give God a gift of love (give or do something that tangibly shows your love)
- Call Him up through prayer and don’t ask for anything—just tell Him how much He means to you.
- Take some time to recall the “labor pains” of your second birth by reading through the Biblical accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
- Tell someone else about your awesome Savior
Most moms really don’t care what you get them, or if you get them anything for Mother’s Day; they simply enjoy being remembered. It’s much the same with the Lord, it’s not the gift that matters, but the heart that is behind it.
Whether you are the one giving praise today or receiving it, I hope that you will take the time to praise the Father. I hope you will praise Him not just today and not just on Sundays, the day that we set aside for that purpose—but that you’ll praise him tomorrow, and every day after that. You’ve been born again! It’s a joyous day, you’ve been given new life and hope for tomorrow.