(November 21, 1990)
Ever heard of nettling? My sociology professor tells of this practice discovered by a young doctor making his first house call where a baby was about to be born. Apparently the doctor was quite apprehensive so when he arrived and found a midwife on the scene, he decided to let her do her thing and he would watch, and hopefully learn something.
Imagine his bewilderment when the midwife rolled a piece of paper into a cone and stuck it into the laboring patient’s nostril. Imagine his concern when she poured ground pepper into the cone. What happened isn’t too difficult to picture... at the appropriate moment, the midwife blew into the cone, sending pepper up into the sinuses of the expectant mother, she let out a colossal sneeze, and baby shot out like a cannonball and had to actually be caught before it flew off the end of the bed!
That folk lore is called nettling.
Amusing or not, birth is the most necessary part of being alive. No one can remain in the womb forever. Living depends on being born.
Jesus talked about eternal life using the imagery of birth. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
The term “born again” has been picked up by the media and everyone else who wants to signify something new, and is over-used so much that it has almost become meaningless. However, it is still a biblical concept that carries just as much importance now as it did then. Jesus went on to say that no one can “enter the kingdom of God” without being reborn.
This new birth is the result of a conception of sorts. The Holy Spirit at work in a receptive heart equals new life. The Spirit’s work includes: convincing that person of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment... sin because they do not believe in Christ; righteousness because the only One who was sinless no longer walks before them as an example of what they should be; and judgment because Satan (who tells us lies about these things) has been judged — and they will too if they do not respond.
The person’s heart is receptive only if they agree with the Holy Spirit’s evaluation of their condition and agree that their only way out of condemnation before God is through faith in His Son... not just believing the facts about Jesus but believing with such wholeheartedness that they eagerly turn from sin and spend the rest of their physical life living for Christ.
To be sure, new life in the spiritual realm begins with babyhood and continues to maturity just as physical life does, but it is a process that cannot be stopped, (stunted maybe); full-growth is the promise of God to everyone who becomes His child. He feeds and nourishes us by the “milk” found in His Word; the “meat” of obeying what it says; and through the work of the Spirit as He changes us to be more like Jesus. He also uses other, more mature Christians gifted for that purpose until someday “we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13)
Nettling might be one human effort that works to bring forth babies but God says no human effort can result in a spiritual birth. John 1:12 and 13 say: “But as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the sons of God, even to those who believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, BUT OF GOD.”
We cannot will ourselves to spiritual life, but we can respond to Him — and it will happen.