3Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4Nicodemus 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?" 5Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
- John 3:3-5
Christians are different from other people when it comes to birthdays because we have two such occasions to celebrate: One is our physical birth where we receive well wishes and gifts to commemorate the happy day we came into existence and began our physical life. The other birthday is when we are, as John says, "born again" of the water and the spirit – or our "spiritual" birthday.
This second birthday takes place on the day of our baptism when we become Christians and experience the second birth and entry into spiritual life. Now, there's a difference between these two birthdays:
- On our physical birthday we receive gifts that change from year to year.
- However, on the day of our second/spiritual birth we receive spiritual gifts that we get to keep and enjoy forever, and never change.
In this lesson I'd like to describe for you the seven gifts we receive on our spiritual birthday.
In Ephesians 1:3 Paul explains that God blesses His children with gifts – in vs. 4-14 he describes these 7 spiritual birthday gifts.
1. Purity - vs. 4
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.
One of the reasons that God chose baptism as the response of faith was that water has always represented cleansing and purity. When we are born again God purifies us, as Paul says makes us "holy and blameless".
This is a wonderful gift because it means we can come into God's presence without feeling ashamed. Imagine if everything you ever thought and did were revealed publicly to the congregation – perhaps you might feel embarrassed. At least you could say, well they're not perfect either, that might calm your discomfort.
Imagine coming before a perfect and holy God in this way?
The first gift is the ability to come forward and be with God without embarrassment or negative feelings of any kind (guilt/shame) because we have been purified – made free of any blemish.
2. Adoption - vs. 5
In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
All people have been created by God but only those who are "born again" can say that God is their Father. God's plan was that those who would be Christians would become not His servants but His sons/daughters through adoption. The gift here is that we have a relationship with God and one that gives us access to Him in an intimate way. Not only can we come forward without embarrassment, but we can eagerly run forward and jump in His lap (so to speak) as beloved sons and daughters – Romans 8:15.
3. Grace - vs. 6
to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
Grace means an unmerited favor (something you don't deserve). God's grace refers to the merciful and kind way He treats His children when they sin against Him or doubt Him. This is a most precious gift in that no good deed or amount of suffering we do has the power to force Him to offer us grace. He gives His grace freely to His children because He loves them. All people receive God's grace in that they enjoy life and its blessings here on earth to one degree or another. God's children are special because not only do they enjoy God's grace here on earth but they are also treated with grace and mercy at the judgment in the next world. Everyone else is dealt with according to the law – Rom. 6:23
That promise of grace is received on your spiritual birthday.
4. Forgiveness - vs. 7
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
Forgiveness means that we are no longer held accountable for our sins and offenses. In this verse Paul explains how God provides this gift – through redemption. Redemption simply means to "pay in full."
- Jesus buys back, redeems, pays in full the price for all of our sins.
- He does this by offering His perfect life to pay off the life we owe to God because of our sinfulness.
- Jesus does it for us because no matter how hard we tried we never could do this for ourselves.
We not only receive forgiveness at birth but as His children we know that our debt for sin is paid off in full forever – we will sin again but we'll never owe for sin!
5. Knowledge - vs. 8-10
8which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.
Natural learning is a long and painful process without end and always needing change. God's children receive an insight of the complete design of all of God's purpose in creation and the history of mankind. God's children know the who, why, what of God's plan – Jesus Christ the key to all knowledge.
Paul says that God's ultimate plan for His creation is that it will all ultimately be under the Lordship of Jesus Christ! We gain that insight from the Word!
What a wonderful gift – to know the end of the story, the reason for it all, the goal towards which all the events of human history are moving. We would never know this if God didn't reveal it to us through Jesus in His Word.
6. Inheritance - vs. 11-12
11In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.
Some gifts are to be opened now and some gifts are to be opened later. Paul says that through Christ, the children of God will inherit what has been originally set aside for them – eternal life in heaven. The promise of heaven is a tangible gift even though it is and must remain wrapped until the return of Christ.
- Now we can shake and weigh an unopened gift to get some feel for what it might be.
- We can also have some idea of what this gift of heaven will be. We will be:
- Like angels (Luke 20:36) – intelligent, communicative, powerful, ethical
- Without death, sin, illness (Revelation 7:9-12)
- Together with all the saints / fellowship (I Thessalonians 4:17-18)
- Experience joy, peace, love, wisdom, etc. (Ephesians 1:3)
- Conscious of ourselves and others (Matthew 17:13 – Moses/Elijah appearing)
- Consciously being with God and Jesus (II Timothy 2:11-12)
So we do have an idea of what our inheritance will be like even though it hasn't been fully revealed yet.
7. The Holy Spirit - vs. 13-14
13In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.
You see the gifts are divided into categories: The first two are gifts of new positions before God. Considered as saints and sons. The next two are gifts of new attitude by God. Sees us with grace and forgiveness. The last two are gifts of a new experience of God. We relate to Him with knowledge forever. But the final gift He gives is a person not a thing.
The Holy Spirit, who is God, is a gift in that He provides Christians with the POWER to enjoy and use all of the other gifts. Without the Holy Spirit all of the other gifts cannot be fully appreciated:
- Holy Spirit is the one that intercedes for the saints before God and keeps their way pure – Romans 8:26
- It is through the Holy Spirit that the sons and daughters of God are able to cry out "Abba" or "Daddy" – Romans 8:15
- It is through the Holy Spirit that God manages the creation and the kingdom – Genesis 1:2; I Corinthians 12:4
- It was by the Eternal Spirit that Jesus offered Himself as a redemptive sacrifice to obtain forgiveness – Hebrews 9:14
- It was through the direction of the Holy Spirit that men wrote down the Revelation of God that gives us wisdom and knowledge – II Peter 1:20-21
- It will be the Holy Spirit who will raise us up to dwell eternally with God in heaven when Jesus comes again – Romans 8:11
The gift of the Holy Spirit that you receive at your spiritual birth is your most precious because it is God Himself guaranteeing that all these other ones will work – and work forever! The Holy Spirit provides the POWER that makes all these others operate.
Summary / Invitation
Do you have a spiritual birthday? Have you been born again?
If you have, realize that God has showered you with incredible gifts that are beyond earthly value or comparison because:
- Your gifts come from heaven – not the mall.
- Your gifts are eternal – never wear out, out of style.
- Your gifts are safe – no one can take them away.
- Your gifts are the same as every other child of God – no need for jealousy or envy.
We don't celebrate our spiritual birthday enough. I want to teach you the Christian's birthday song that commemorates not your human birth but your spiritual birth. It's sung to the tune of Happy Birthday and the words are on the Sermon Notes:
"Happy Birthday to you
To Jesus be true
May God richly bless you
Happy Birthday to you"
If you could sing that song remembering your own spiritual birth at baptism, these gifts are all yours now and forever. If you have not been born again you don't have to be left out of the party – these gifts can be for you too. We'll sing another song – this one is to invite you to the birthday party so you can share in the wonderful spiritual birthday gifts that God has just for you.