As I write these words, our daughter has just updated us on her 39-week obstetric appointment. Literally, at any moment, she could go into labor with our fourth grandchild. This precious little boy has already been named and has a beautiful nursery waiting for him, a sweet and precocious big sister who is not quite three years old, and two parents who are anxiously anticipating meeting him and showering him with kisses. He even has a boy’s best friend waiting for him (as noisy and irritating as he can be, Dobby is still part of the family), not to mention grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, and some very cute cousins.
Needless to say, our hearts are filled with expectant, indescribable joy. While we fully understand the peril and pain of childbirth, the outcome of holding this newborn baby outweighs every challenge that has and will be met in order to bring a new life into the world.
The thought occurs, does God have the same expectant joy when He thinks about the man, woman, boy, or girl, who will surrender their will and accept His free gift of salvation today? How is His heart moved by the anticipation that today will be the day of someone’s spiritual birth?
Jesus Himself taught us that salvation is a birth as He talked with a curious Pharisee in John 3. Nicodemus came at night, afraid of what his peers at the Sanhedrin would think of his coming to Jesus. He had heard the stories, and perhaps even witnessed a miracle or two (although this was early in Jesus’ ministry). He knew there was something different about Jesus. We might criticize him as fearful, but we have to give him some credit; instead of listening to what everyone else was saying about Jesus, he wanted to hear from Him personally.
Jesus wasted no time in getting directly to the point, answering the unspoken questions of Nicodemus’ heart.
John 3:3 – Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
To be born again is to be given spiritual life. Ephesians 2:1-8 tells us we are dead in trespasses and sins and must be “made alive together with Christ” and “raised up with Him.” In 1 Peter 1:3 and 23, we see that Christ has “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” and that we must be “born again not of seed which is perishable, but imperishable.”
Paul explains what Jesus meant about “water and the Spirit” in Titus 3:4-7. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Salvation is a new birth. We do not obtain salvation and become righteous in God’s eyes by adding good works to our physical life. We need a complete restart – a do-over. We must be born again, and this only happens when God’s Spirit acts on us, giving us a new heart and putting His Spirit, the Spirit of the Resurrected Christ, in us, bringing us out of death, into life.
So, to my original question, does God anticipate our spiritual birth with the same kind of joy that we anticipate the physical birth of a new baby?
I say, yes!
In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables that illustrate how the Father feels when sinners repent and are born into the kingdom. In the first, a man who has a hundred sheep leaves the ninety-nine to seek out the lost sheep. When he finds it, he invites all his friends and neighbors over to rejoice with him. Jesus says I tell you that in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (15:7).
In the second parable, a woman has ten silver coins but loses one. She searches carefully until she finds it, and again, calls her friends and neighbors together to rejoice with her. Jesus says, In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (15:10).
The last parable is a familiar one: the story of the prodigal son. After squandering his inheritance, the son comes to his senses and returns with a repentant heart. The father runs to meet him while he is still a long way off and welcomes him home. He, too, throws a party to celebrate. When the older son complains, he responds that this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found (15:32).
These parables illustrate the great joy that God has when we repent – when we are born again. Jesus says there is joy in the presence of the angels. Who is in the presence of angels, but God our Father and Jesus the Son?
Of course, God knows the day of our salvation; it is no surprise to Him. And God is transcendent and exists outside of the dimensions of our time. And yet, according to Jesus, He gets great joy when a new believer is birthed into the kingdom.
Jesus’ entire purpose in coming was to provide a way of salvation so that we could be born again as children of God. He tells us in Luke 5:31-32, It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. And again, in Luke 19:10, we see His earthly mission: For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. Once, while walking through a Samaritan village, Jesus was rejected. His disciples took offense and asked if they should “command fire to come down from heaven and consume” the people who had the audacity and nerve to reject and dishonor Him. Jesus reveals His heart when He rebukes them and reminds them the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them (Luke 9:51-56).
God is not an angry, vengeful, unfair deity who delights in punishing wickedness. His heart is broken for those who reject, and He delays judgment, leading us to repentance by His kindness (Romans 2:4). No wonder He rejoices in the presence of the angels every time a new believer is born again.
How is a new believer born?
We must confess Jesus as Lord and believe in Him. We accept His words and teaching as true. We repent of our sins and ask God’s forgiveness. And we turn away from our old life and are born again to spiritual life.
Romans 10:9-10 – That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
Acts 16:31 – They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, and your household.”
Jesus says in Luke 12:8-9, And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of God will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.
Have you confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior?
Have you been born again?
There was rejoicing in heaven, not only on the day of your salvation, but I believe an anticipated sense of expectant joy in the days leading up to your spiritual birthday! Jesus Himself went before the Father, in the presence of the angels, and claimed you as belonging to Him.
Are you still denying that Jesus is who He says He is?
Have you refused to repent and be born again?
Dear friend, please don’t wait until it’s too late. Jesus wants to rejoice over you. He is preparing a home for all who are born again and can’t wait to greet you there.