Calvary Road Baptist Church

“A MOTHER’S LIMITATIONS”

Matthew 20.20-23

It was in the early part of the last century that an American woman, motivated by the love and respect she had for her own mother, began to campaign for an annual day of recognition for mothers throughout the nation. Her vision caught hold and quickly spread throughout the country, resulting in our present day annual observance of Mothers Day. I know of no other country in the world today that annually recognizes the contributions of mothers to society, to culture, to a nation’s well-being, and to individuals and families, as does the United States of America. That does not mean the USA was the first country to ever honor, regularly and routinely, mothers.

The first people to honor mothers were the Israelites. When God gave the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, He etched in rock for all time the command to honor mothers, and not to honor them annually but to honor them constantly.[1] When God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage with a strong right arm, He brought them to the foot of Sinai and there laid the foundation for building a nation, starting with what we refer to as the Ten Commandments, ten commands written on two small tablets of stone. With the first four commands governing and dictating the relationship of the nation’s citizens to God, the last six commands governed and dictated the proper relationship that was to exist between the nation’s citizens and others of that same nation. Not surprisingly, the first command given to the Israelites to govern their behavior toward others in their nation included the demand that each and every one honor his mother, with severe penalties to be suffered by even children who failed in one way or the other to show the proper respect, and deference, and obedience, to mom.

Therefore, it was God’s will for His covenant people Israel to honor their mothers. God knows a nation that does not honor mothers is a nation that is already crumbling, as is in evidence in our own country with the wholesale slaughter of the innocents that results from the propaganda war waged against pregnant young women who are persuaded their unborn babies are disposable. As well, it is God’s will for His people today to honor their mothers, with Ephesians 6.2 commanding every child of God to honor his mother. However, even if God did not direct us, in the Old Testament as well as the New, to honor mothers, it would still be both appropriate and necessary to do so. I say this because no society can last long without duly and properly acknowledging the contributions and heroism of its members, especially those whose labors build and strengthen the society, as mothers for the most part certainly do.

Think about it my friends. Who among us more consistently and insistently performs unrecognized and unrewarded acts of courage and heroism than the mothers in our midst? Who stays up in the middle of the night nursing a sick child back to health? Who have we seen exhibit almost superhuman strength and astounding acts of daring to rescue and to keep her children safe? Whose shoulder and bosom is always there to comfort and cry on, to rest on and seek as a place of refuge? During times of wrenching disappointment and heartbreaking betrayal, it is mothers who are known for their determination, it is mothers who are known for their dedication, it is mothers who are known for their sacrifice of sleep and opportunity and society, for their children. However, as heroic as even the most ordinary mother is, as tenacious as she is to seek the health, welfare, and advancement of her child, and as effective as she may be in training, molding, making the personality of that human being she carried and bore, and finally nursed, there are limitations to what a mother can do.

Someone has rightly observed that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, and the book I have given to you moms provides Biblical examples showing the dramatic and astonishing impact a genuinely spiritual mom can have on her child over the first four or five years of a kid’s life.[2] However, moms are not invincible. Moms are not infallible. Moms cannot do everything. In our text for today, Matthew 20.20-23, we read of a successful and well-intentioned mother who discovered that there are certain things a mom just cannot do. Turn to that passage and stand for the reading of God’s Word, if you will:

20     Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.

21     And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.

22     But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.

23     And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

On this Mother’s Day 2013, let us consider four things related to mothers:

First, LET US CONSIDER THE THINGS A MOTHER CAN DO

If you are a mother, particularly if you are a Christian mom, though you cannot do everything for your child, there are things you can do:

First, you can prepare yourself. When Apostle Paul met with the Ephesian church leaders for the last time, he left them with a charge that everyone who has responsibility in the lives of others would do well to pay attention to. In Acts 20.28, Paul said, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves.” What followed in Paul’s instructions were instructions of benefit to those Paul’s audience ministered to, which surprises some, who think taking heed to yourself first is selfish. However, recognize that the pastor, or the mother, who does not tend to her own spiritual needs first, will simply be of no good use to others. Spiritual health and vitality must be properly maintained. The mother who does not regularly and faithfully attend church, the mother who does not faithfully tend to her daily devotions, the mother who does not spend some time each and every day meditating on and contemplating the things of God, is a mother who is not consecrated, a mother who is not separated to God’s use, who will not be used by God in her child’s life. “Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth” needs to be the watch phrase of every mother, because you can prepare yourself to be useful to God.[3] Successful moms are those who are so used, by first becoming a Christian through faith in the crucified and resurrection Savior, Jesus Christ, and by faithfulness as a Christian in the manner I have described.

Second, you can pray yourself. Your fervent and effectual prayers avail much.[4] Your presence before God’s throne of grace is your privilege.[5] Therefore, you Christian mothers need to exercise your priestly duties of interceding on behalf of your children, asking God to work wonderfully in their lives.[6] Is not the heart of the king in the hand of the LORD? Does He not turn it withersoever He will?[7] Therefore, is not the heart of your child in the hand of the LORD? How, then, can a Christian mother let a day pass without her pleas for her child’s conversion being sent heavenward? How can she not plead with God for His protection of her baby? Remember, mom, that it is communion with you that God wants. It was that He might dwell with them that moved God to direct the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness and then the Temple in Jerusalem.[8] And it is for communion through prayer with you that He has dispatched the Holy Spirit to live in your heart.[9] Therefore, pray yourself, and do not depend upon someone else to pray for you. The things you need, pray for. The things you want, pray for. The desires of your heart, pray for. Nothing should tug at your heart more, nothing should command your attention more when you wake up in the morning or when you pillow your head at night, than the salvation of your children. You should need the conversion of your child. You should want the conversion of your child. You should desire the conversion of your child. No woman, and particularly no Christian woman, wants the fruit of her body to spend an eternity suffering God’s never-ending wrath. Dare you depend upon someone else to pray for your child? No. You pray yourself. Ask others to pray as well, but never depend on others. If they pray, that is fine. However, you make sure you pray for your child to come to Christ.

You can prepare yourself. You can pray yourself. Third, you can preach your message. We live in a strange time in Christian history, when large segments of scriptural truth are virtually ignored. There are few people who can afford to ignore these scriptural truths less than godly mothers. Think about this: The Bible teaches us that foolishness is bound up in the heart of the child. However, it also teaches us that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Psalm 34.11 declares that the fear of the LORD can be taught to children. Further, we know that God commands us all to fear Him.[10] Yet how many mothers conscientiously teach their children to fear God? Not many that I have observed. Some would comfort themselves by saying, “I present the gospel to my children.” I would respond, what about the Law of God? Solomon declared that his son should not forsake the Law of his mother.[11] As well, Paul correctly observed that by the law is the knowledge of sin.[12] So, how will you effectively present the gospel of God’s grace to a child who has no real awareness of sinfulness in the sight of God? Mothers, preach the message to your children that you are best able to preach. Do not preach just a portion of the truth your children need to hear. Preach it all. Not just that God loves your child, but also that God is angry with your child because of his sin.[13] Not just that your child is invited to come to Christ, but also that your child is warned to flee the fearful wrath of an angry God.[14] Oh, that moms would train up their children in the way they should go, rather than letting them go their own way.[15] Oh, that moms would teach their children to fear God. Oh, that moms would keep before their little ones their responsibility for sin and the terrible fate that awaits those who die without Jesus Christ. Oh, that moms would realize that law must come before grace. Preach your message, mom, but make sure you preach it rightly. Make sure you preach it timely. Make sure you preach it accurately. However, you cannot only preach to your kids, mom. If you only preach to your kids they will not listen to you. You must communicate effectively so that when it is time to preach you will have their ear. So, be a listener. Be a talker. So that when it is time for you to preach to your kids, when it is time to lay down to them the law, they will pay attention to what you are saying to them.

Finally, of those things you can do, mom, you can punish your child. Actually, I like the word correct better than punish, because a mother’s resort to the rod of correction is never to be punitive in nature, but always corrective and instructive. If foolishness is bound up in your child’s heart and only the rod of correction can drive it far from him, how do you plan on raising a child who is not a fool without resorting to spanking good and hard when it is called for by rebellion and foolishness?[16] Is your plan to reason with an unreasonable child? God commands children to fear their mother.[17] Please do not be so obtuse as to intentionally misunderstand what is meant by this. However, how do you plan on persuading your child to properly fear disobeying you when she has no concern for those consequences of disobedience that you level against her? Mom? Unless you are some sort of a derelict as a mom, I admit that you are nothing short of heroic by any measure of heroism. You recognize more than those who are not mothers that the means at your disposal to raise a child to walk worthy of God are limited. There are only four things you can do, and you cannot really do anything more than these four things with any expectation of effectiveness. You can prepare yourself spiritually. Doing this, you position yourself to be in the spiritual place of God’s blessings. You can pray yourself. This is how you actually ask God, specifically, to do things in your life and in your child’s life. You can preach your message. Only make sure it is the right message for the young sinner and not a premature message of grace that is wrongly delivered too soon before the message of law is properly understood. Finally, be sure to correct your child. God has given you the rod to correct misbehavior, to bring your child to tears of repentance and sorrow. Do not throw away that necessary and important child rearing tool because you have listened to the unsaved of this world, who know nothing about raising children to walk worthy of God. If you do you will only be brought to shame for it.[18]

Next, LET US CONSIDER THE THINGS A MOTHER CANNOT DO

I respectfully submit to you that there are some things you cannot, as a mother, do for your child:

First, no mother can convict her child of sin. I have seen mothers attempting to make their children feel badly about sinning. But it is not your job to make your child feel bad, mom. Reprove, rebuke, and exhort, if you must. However, do not guilt-trip your child. No. Your job is to deal with the sins you observe by verbally rebuking and physically spanking if you must. Conviction of sin is a work done on the human heart, which you do not have the power to influence or control. Be very careful not to go beyond the authority God has given you as a mother, even though most mothers in our culture fall far short of exercising the parental authority God has given them.

Second, no mother can convert her child to Christ. I have had children come to me and say, “Pastor, I want to be saved.” When they do that I will invariably sit the child down and discuss with them seriously about sin and salvation and the Savior. On occasion I have asked a child, whose words seemed unnatural and stilted, “Did your mommy tell you to say this if I asked you that?” And the child said, “Yes.” I even know a pastor who has no memory of being converted, but indicates that when he felt unsure about his conversion his mother will reassure him of what she claims to have witnessed when he was too young to remember. I remember that even my own mom was profoundly mistaken about my spiritual state when I informed her of my conversion. Mom, you cannot convert your child to Christ. Conversion is a supernatural work of God that cannot be accomplished by any human being, not even the most well-intentioned mother. Jonah was absolutely right when he cried out from the belly of the whale, “Salvation is of the LORD.” It is given to us by inspiration of God in John 1.13 that salvation is “of God.”

Third, no mother can consecrate her child for service. In our text, a spiritually successful mother has just gone too far. Who could ask for more as a mother? Two sons and both of them apostles of Jesus Christ. Yet she wants more. The problem was not her desire for greater usefulness to Christ for her boys, but the proud ambition she displayed. There were two faults that led to that mother’s wrong-headed request that only earned the scorn of the other apostles for her sons. First, she was asking for something for her sons that could only be bestowed by God, as the Savior clearly pointed out to her.[19] Second, and this is somewhat more subtle, she was trying to live their lives for them. There are very few mothers who know precisely when to release their children to adulthood. Oftentimes children are released to adulthood too early in their lives, before they are mature or prepared. There are also times when a mother continues to exercise parental authority and influence when she needs to restrain her impulses and allow her child to deal with God directly. This is true even when your child is a Christian. Is God not really God? Of course, He is. Therefore, let God work in that child’s life as only He can, as James and John’s mother should have done. How many missionary’s children are missionaries only because their parents wanted them to be? How many preachers are momma-called preachers? I had an uncle who entered the ministry only because my grandmother so powerfully desired it of her youngest son. Leave such things to God. Mom, be careful. There are only so many things you can do in your child’s life. When your child reaches adulthood you can do even less, since your ability to chasten and correct has all but ended. Of those few things you can do, none of them includes convicting your child of sin, converting your child to Christ, or consecrating your child for service.

Third, LET US CONSIDER THE THINGS THAT ONLY GOD CAN DO

We live in a time when so many who claim to be Christians try to act like God. In our desire to submit to God, let us be very careful we do not subvert a role in the lives of children that belongs only to God.

First, only God can convince you that He is. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” The Bible teaches us that children are born foolish.[20] So, each and every child is born with an innate disinclination to recognize and acknowledge the existence of God, or the authority of God in his life. Oh, your child may love nice stories about Jesus. He may find comfort in the assuring stories he is told that convince him he has nothing to fear from God. However, watch what happens to that same little child when he grows to adolescence. He begins to flex his muscles and question in his mind not only the authority of God to rule over him, but also the very existence of this God he has never seen and Who so many “experts” tell him does not exist. This presents a real problem, since Hebrews 11.6 informs us that your child cannot come to God unless he believes that God is, that God exists, that God is real. But how will anyone know that God is real when He cannot be seen, despite the evidence of God’s handiwork in nature, Psalm 19.1-3? Listen carefully. You will never have proven to you that God exists. God, Who deals with people through the means of faith, has not given to us the capacity to prove His existence. Understand that God has done this purposely, having decided to deal with His creatures through faith and not by sight. Therefore, since neither you nor I, nor anyone else, will ever be able to prove that God is, you must acknowledge that becoming convinced that He is is something only God Himself can do. Is it wrong to discuss things about creation? Is it wrong to contend with atheists concerning the existence of God? Not at all. Just remember that you will not be able to prove what you say, either to the atheist teaching a college class, or to your own child. For a person to believe that God really and truly is, he must be convinced by the invisible God Himself. Forever tormented will be that sad soul who is not so convinced by God.

Next, only God can convict you of your sins. Perhaps your mother tried to convict you of your sins. If she did she made an honest mistake, since no human being can so affect the heart of another human being. Oh, she may have tugged at your heart strings and made you cry over your insensitivity. Or she may have properly rebuked you and you later rightly felt shame of conscience for your sins. Just remember, conviction, real conviction, is the work of the Holy Spirit in the sinner’s life. Perhaps your mom did rebuke you and speak sternly to you. However, if you were convicted in your heart of sinning against God, or of God’s impending judgment for your sins, then the Holy Spirit has been at work. As I reminded you a few moments ago, the hearts of both the king and the kid are in the hand of the LORD. Therefore, though He uses means to accomplish His ends, in the end it must be God Who brings a heart to sorrow for sin. It must be God Who brings a heart to terror for fear of God’s wrath.

Third, only God can call you to His Son, Jesus Christ. In John 5.40 Jesus said, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” In John 6.44, Jesus told His listeners why they would not come to Him: “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Because of stubbornness, no sinner will come to Jesus that he might have eternal life. Indeed, no sinner can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him to Jesus Christ, unless the Father calls him, Romans 8.29-30:

29     For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

30     Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

By what means does God accomplish these various things? A few verses settle the matter once and for all:

Romans 10.14: “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”

First Corinthians 1.18: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

First Corinthians 1.21: “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

Whether or not you are convinced that God is, whether or not you are convicted of your sins, whether or not you have been called to His Son, God’s will is still that you sit under the preaching of God’s Word, for it is by means of preaching that God chooses to bring these things about that will result in the salvation of your soul.

Finally, LET US CONSIDER THE THINGS THAT ONLY YOU CAN DO

Three things that are your responsibility as a sinner. Three things that your mother cannot and should not attempt to do for you. Three things that I cannot do for you. Three things that refusing to do will almost certainly guarantee that you remain lost in your sins.

First thing. Only you can search the scriptures for you. My friend, if you would be saved you must read God’s Word. You must read it and read it and read it. It was the late John Gerstner who once said, “Who was ever converted reading what the sinner liked to read, but sinners were known to be converted forcing themselves to read the Word they hated.” You simply must read the Word of God. “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth,” James 1.18. In this verse James is informing his readers that God uses His precious Word to give eternal life to sinners. What insanity it would be, then, for a lost man to refuse to read and study God’s Word, searching not for doctrines but for Jesus Christ. We have a great deal of evidence that the scribes and Pharisees who opposed Jesus Christ were wonderful students of the Bible, though they somehow overlooked the chief topic and subject of the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ. Concerning their error, my Lord Jesus said these words in John 5.39: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” A command to the lost to study God’s Word in searching for Him. Do not think there is salvation and eternal life in the Bible. Study all you want and you will not find salvation in this book. But you will find Christ in this book, and you will find salvation in Christ.

Second thing. Only you can strive for you to enter in at the strait gate. Luke 13.24: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” Another command Jesus gave to the lost. Everyone wants to go to heaven. But who wants to strive to enter in? Who wants to wrestle with the reality of his own sinfulness? Who wants to agonize over sin? However, you must strive, for Jesus has commanded it. You must agonize with sin, because it is His will. As Jesus groaned on the cross, so you must groan under the burden and weight of your sins. Not that it will merit salvation for you, since it is only by grace that sinners are saved. Neither is it by works of righteousness which we have done which results in sinners being saved.[21] So, why strive to enter in at the strait gate? Because the Master commanded that it be done, that is why.

Third thing. Only you can seek the LORD while He may be found. “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near,” Isaiah 55.6. Yet another command that has been given to the lost. Dare any of you think you have no responsibility to obey God while you are lost? Think you that you have no obligation while you are yet unsaved? Dear sinner, the God Who is holy and who hates sin, Who will certainly punish sin with everlasting damnation, but Who sent His own beloved Son to save you from your sin, desires your salvation. Why else would He send His Son, if not to save you from your sins?

Do not fail to search the scriptures because you do not feel the compulsion to study the Bible in your heart. Search the scriptures because the Savior has commanded that you search the scriptures.

Do not fail to strive to enter in because you have no feel for striving, for almost all those in Hell also failed to strive.

Finally, do not delay in seeking the LORD while He may be found, for you do not know that by such efforts He will graciously choose to convince you that He is, and then convict you of your sins, and then call you to His Son Jesus for salvation.

Every heroic mother in this room would do these things for you if she could. However, while there are things a mom can do, there are other things she cannot do. Therefore, you do what you can do, and we will see what God does.



[1] Exodus 20.12

[2] John Stormer, Growing Up God’s Way, (Florissant, MO: Liberty Bell Press, 1984)

[3] 1 Samuel 3.9

[4] James 5.16

[5] Hebrews 4.16

[6] Luke 6.28; John 17.9; Colossians 1.9; 1 Thessalonians 5.25; 2 Thessalonians 3.1; Hebrews 13.18

[7] Proverbs 21.1

[8] Exodus 25.8; 29.45-46

[9] Romans 8.26

[10] Ecclesiastes 12.13

[11] Proverbs 1.8

[12] Romans 3.20

[13] Psalm 7.11

[14] Matthew 3.7

[15] Proverbs 22.6

[16] Proverbs 22.15

[17] Leviticus 19.3

[18] Proverbs 29.15

[19] Matthew 20.23

[20] Proverbs 22.15

[21] Titus 3.5



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org