Few experiences can devastate a woman more than giving birth to a dead infant. Early reports of fetal distress can be erroneous. Even the absence of a prenatal heartbeat doesn’t necessarily mean the preborn baby is dead. The baby’s birth, however, erases any question; all indicators of life are absent. It doesn’t breathe life-giving oxygen. It has no desire for its mother’s milk. It neither cries nor giggles. Its little hands fail to reach out to explore its new world.
Would a sane mother attempt to suckle the lifeless body or prop it up in a highchair and place fresh food before it? Of course not.
Would she expect it to grow, to begin talking, or walking? Hardly.
In fact such a topic is entirely distasteful, and discussing it could lead to depression or discouragement. And any woman who has experienced such a tragedy will likely storm away from the discussion in tears.
Throughout the Bible’s New Testament we find examples of those who hear the gospel of Christ and seem to respond to the call of God’s Holy Spirit, only to fall far short of the christlikeness to which they were called. Such examples abound even today, filling church pews with the rotting spiritual corpses of those who responded to Christ’s upward calling, not by crucifying self to be reborn in His Spirit, but to simply adopt the religious lifestyle customary for those professing Christ.
The analogy is clear. Just as a preborn infant’s life is not viable outside its mother’s womb, all human beings are born with a life of sorts, but that life can never sustain them into eternity without rebirth in Christ Jesus’ Holy Spirit. The difference between the two is the physically stillborn can never fake the growth and achievements of the live-born, while the spiritually stillborn often do.
Is recovery from such living-dead pretense possible? The easy answer is, “But he said, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God.’” (Luke 18:27 ESV)
That wonderful promise, however, comes with a caveat. Jesus said those words to His disciples after delivering some bad news to a wealthy man. The bad news wasn’t that the stock market had just crashed. Neither was it that his entire estate had fallen into the sea. The bad news Jesus gave this wealthy man came in response to his question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
In response to the man’s litany of good works and religious faithfulness, Jesus said “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:18 & 22)
To complete this teaching we must look to another of Jesus’ hard statements. When the crowds followed the Miracle Worker to a hillside He began His teaching with the basics: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
We need to ask ourselves who Jesus meant by “the poor in spirit.” He certainly didn’t mean those who are spiritually poverty stricken. That group would include everyone who was ever born—save one. It is the natural human condition. Jesus meant the heavenly realm belongs to those who live in a spirit of poverty, as if they possess no material riches, regardless how affluent they are. In application, followers of Jesus who are wealthy must not jealously embrace their worldly possessions, but live as if they had a subsistence income.
Are the “poor in spirit” limited to those with healthy attitudes toward money and possessions? Hardly! Jesus’ followers easily fall into the trap of religious pride, looking down their pharisaical noses upon those who haven’t attained to their elevated level of spiritual maturity. And how do such mature saints judge others’ spirituality? Why, by their actions, of course … including their worship style, their political affiliations, their dress and hair style, their recreational activities, and anything else that deviates from the religiously acceptable.
But have such judgmental folks never heard of Jesus prohibitions on judging others? (Matt. 7:1; Luke 6:37; John 7:24) Of course they have, and they will be the first to condemn those who judge others.
So, how does all this apply to the subject of the spiritually stillborn? The tragic truth is where religious pride and judgmental attitudes abound, God’s Spirit does not.
This hook, however, has a rather nasty barb; God’s spiritual fruit-bearers will not be the ones pointing fingers at the prideful and judgmental.
Holy mackerel! Does that mean we who are spiritual cannot get away with sniggering at the sanctimonious? O ye sanctimonious brethren, yes it does.