Sunday, July 16, 2006

You Must Be Born Again

Jn.3:3 - ...Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.

A definite and non-compromising statement straight from the lips of the Incarnate Word of God Himself. Jesus did not say you must be white, or you must be black, or you must be red, or you must be yellow. He did not say you must be intelligent, or you must be uneducated, or you must be heavy, or you must be skinny. The Lord did not say you must be Baptist, or you must be Catholic, or you must be Hindu, or you must be Muslim. He did not insist that you must be rich, or you must be poor, or you must be successful, or you must have a great heritage, or you must have a humble beginning. Jesus did not insist that you must be an American, or you must be an African, or you must be a Jew, or you must be a Gentile. He did not say you must be a Democrat, or you must be a Republican, or you must be an independent. He did not say you must be good, or you must follow the law, or you must have a good heart. He didn't say you must know Greek, or you must know Hebrew, or you must be a Biblical scholar. He did not say any of those things as an indispensable qualification for seeing the kingdom of God.

But He DID say that you MUST be BORN AGAIN. He did not say that being born again is the best way, or the easiest way, or the hardest way. It is the only way to see the kingdom of God. Of course Nicodemus asked in disbelief, "How can a man be born when he is old?". Jesus then makes the distinction between the fleshly, earthly birth and the Spiritual, heavenly birth. The sinful and prideful heart of man has a hard time understanding the difference between the works of man and the work of God. The church over the last two millennia has attempted to mesh and blend the two. Some have said, "You must be baptized to be saved". Others, "You must speak in tongues to be saved". "You must be good to be saved". "You must join the church to be saved". And on and on go the list of grave clothes disguised as "good works" that man has used to try and please God enough to let us into the kingdom of God, all of which are nothing more than outward proofs of our sinful depravity that have kept us from entering God's kingdom since the moment Adam put the forbidden fruit to his lips. Feed the poor, assist the sick, care for the widows, take in the orphans, and all the other stereotypical boy scout badge achievements not only do not qualify anyone to enter the glorious kingdom of Almighty God, they do not even help in any way. There are NO good works of man at all when it comes to pleasing God. You cannot go around what the Savior Himself proclaimed, "You must be born again.".

So, if we must be born again to get to heaven, the kingdom of God, would it not seem imperative that the followers of Jesus Christ, who have been born again, teach and preach this truth boldly, clearly, and without compromise? Then why has this term and teaching been relegated as a fringe issue in ecclesiastical circles? Ask the average church member what does "born again" mean and listen to what people will tell you. You will get a array of earthly answers that usually center on "accepting" Jesus as Savior, and usually the "sinner's prayer" is the vehicle that people will claim got them born again. OK, now I recognize that by God's grace He can and does sometimes use less than theologically perfect presentations of the gospel message, and there are people who do get born again when responding to an "accept Jesus into your life" invitation. Nowadays He almost has to since the born again message is a Biblical museum piece, outdated and non-relevant. But there is something that should concern us all that is in concert with the continuing slide of the clear gospel message, and that is the incredible changeless and fruitless professions that are routinely accepted as genuine "born again" experiences.

The Biblical models of the born again conversions are people like Peter, John, Matthew, and Paul. Sinners whose eternities were miraculously changed, and the change was substantiated by the outward revolutionary changes that happened to their outward lives. And what was the reason for these changes? When a person is convinced that they are sinful and will not see God's kingdom, and when by the Spirit of God they are awakened to the fact the Jesus paid for their sins upon a cross, and through God's gift they believe that Jesus is their Lord and Savior and they set out to follow, obey, and worship Him forever, they are at that moment inhabited by God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. Now usually this new born believer does not understand all the theological truths of what has happened to him, but one thing he does know is that "once I was blind but now I see!". When I was born again in 1975 I could not have explained to you in precise Biblical terms what had happened, but I knew that Jesus was my Lord and Savior and that I would never be the same again. Yes, I knew that I was going to heaven one day, but the immediate reality was that I was not the same, I was changed. I was not going to a church at that time. I had become a follower watching television and subsequently committing to follow Christ on a mountain overlooking New York City.

I suddenly wanted to read the Bible, and since I had no guide I bought a King James Bible and would read the words in red because I knew they were the words of Jesus. I started to pray and especially for the lost relatives I lived with. I wanted to listen to Christian radio, and back then I would listen to a man just read the Scriptures. I wanted to know other Christians and find a church. Not long after my conversion I gave up smoking, I stopped going to the movies(can you imagine?), no cursing, of course no drugs or immorality, and I became consumed with testifying about Jesus and what had happened to me. I was by no means perfect, just as I am far from perfect now, but what I am saying is I was changed, I was born again.

Someone once asked D.L. Moody if he could only preach on one verse what would it be? He replied, "You must be born again". They asked him why and he said "Because you must be born again!". Where is the desire for God's Word in the lives of people that claim they are saved. It has to be an organized, creative, relevant, and an exciting discussion of a part of the Bible for some to even stay awake. The days of people reading and meditating on His precious Word in private are for the most part in the past. And the church has to have a big, widespread "Baptism Day" in order to entice people to come and be baptized camouflaged by a host of others so they won't feel embarrassed. Prayer? The average church doesn't even have a weekly prayer meeting but they have a class on finances. Most of the new "converts" hardly pass the "turn over a new leaf" test, much less being born again. Oh there was a time in the church when a person's life was dramatically changed when he became a follower of Jesus Christ. There was a time when a preacher would call for a person to "forsake all and follow Christ".

The numbers are growing, the commitment is dwindling. I can only say to those "evangelical" mobs that live in pleasure, love questionable entertainment, enjoy the upbeat, flesh stroking "messages", but never weep, never read, never pray, never witness, never sacrifice, never fast, and whose lives are absolutely consumed with being an American earthling -




luvvom said...

Very convicting message, Rick! Jesus talked about the blind leading the blind and that is what we have in the churches today. Pastors who either think they are saved trying to teach others how to be saved, or Christians who haven't taken steps to "clean house" when it comes to their conduct and they are trying to lead other to salvation. It was refreshing to see your list of sins that you identified as sins and laid an ax to. My favorite one was movies...a very touchy subject with most Christians I talk to. Our desires should represent those of God's not the ones that we have always had. If one doesn't see the kind of change that you are talking about, then that person needs to evaluate whether they are really saved. Keep up the good work of up holding truth!

carla said...

Your last two posts are so good Rick!

Once in a while you hear of men who've been born again and transformed drastically overnight, because of the fasting and prayers of a wife.

And I happen to be married to one.