In the late 1800’s a travelling minister took lodgings in the home of a wealthy family. He was scheduled to preach in the local churches and this was to be his base for a couple of weeks. Upon arrival he was warmly greeted and shown to his room. Next to his room was a library which was available to him should he wish to make use of its many books. Later that evening he went to investigate the library but before lighting the lamps decided to sit and pray. He asked God to reveal to him what text he should preach from on the following Sunday. To his shock a squeaky voice pierced the darkness, “you must be born again”; then once more “you must be born again”; then a third time.
The preacher began to chuckle to himself. He struck a match and lit the lamps while surveying the room. No one was to be seen. He knew the culprit was hiding somewhere. Behind a shelf unit he discovered the answer to his prayer – a colourful parrot in a cage. The bird had been trained to quote passages of scripture. Although not the voice of God, he believed that God had answered.
The title of his sermon was not “you must be born again” but “parrot religion”. The preacher explained that there is a kind of religion whereby people can say the right things, without really understanding or having any heart for the truths they utter. The parrot had declared truth, but of course it could have been saying anything. The Bible is clear, there are people who repeat what they hear and imitate what they see, yet there is no real work of grace in the heart. Matt 15:8, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.”
The antidote to parrot religion came from the bird itself, “you must be born again”. Without spiritual regeneration, religion will only ever be a performance. We can say and do the right things but not in a heartfelt way. Have you been born again? The work of God in the new birth may be mysterious but the evidence is not. Do you have a heart for the scriptures; do you have a heart for the truths you sing; do you have a heart for practical godliness; do you have a heart for prayer; do you have a heart for the people you rub shoulders with.
We may come to church every week and go through the motions, but if we do not have a heart for the things of the Lord we are religious parrots. If that is the case we need to repent, trust in Christ and pray that He would energise us with a truly robust and earnest faith.