WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE
There are only two kingdoms in this universe. For many, many years the western church has rejected the invisible kingdom of God and has instead lived and practiced within the kingdom of this world, or in other word, the kingdom of darkness. Now the kingdom of darkness is not dressed in gothic attire and reciting druid chants. No, the kingdom of darkness is cloaked in morality, religion, and an obsession with the temporal. It can and does appear to be moral and compassionate and has even adopted some Biblical words that make it appear what it is not. Yes, the kingdom of darkness is a chameleon like entity that has many alluring elements. It can even appear as an angel of light, and even boasts that it is the kingdom of God.
And in the midst of this deception there are literally millions of seemingly well meaning people who believe in one God and who even attend a gathering where the name of Jesus or Christ is used, but who still live in their sins without the redemption of Christ applied to their lives. They are religious and have a sense of right and wrong, many are baptized church members, and many are law abiding citizens of this present world. But they are satisfied and content in their religious lives but are deeply deceived as well. They are religious to be sure but they have never been born again.
Centuries after the Day of Pentecost the visible church descended into apostasy. Good works and indulgences became the pathway to eternal life and the church became a ceremonial as well as political institution which imprisoned the masses through hollow superstitions.
But God graciously gave the church a new birth during the Reformation even though Luther and Calvin and Zwingli were flawed men. But during those trying years the truth that only through faith can a sinner be saved, and that no man can be saved unless he is born again of the Spirit, was revived. But after the Industrial Revolution the church became infiltrated with materialism and hedonism and intellectualism. Through many decades of compromise the church succumbed to the dictates of the culture and discovered it could incorporate the principles of the culture into the beliefs and practices of the church.
And eventually the church became a well organized system which openly appealed to the masses and provided a place where even unsaved sinners could find religious and domestic fulfillment. Like an amusement park the church branched out into almost every area of cultural enjoyment as well as political activism and by those and many other means it found that sinners could be draw into its community. The evangelical community grew in numbers and gave birth to a wide variety of different church genres which were designed basically to draw sinners and once drawn minister to their temporal and religions desires. It was an ingenious plane which continues to bear much numerical and monetary fruit.
And now, after decades upon decades of that kind of system the evangelical churches are filled with people and large edifices have been built to accommodate the growth. In fact a growing church is now recognized as the divine stamp of approval. Like a restaurant that is always packed it is assumed that a large church has something to offer. And many times they do have much to offer in the way of activities, age group ministries, wonderful music, exciting sermons, and a sense of community. And I suspect these kinds of churches will continue to grow and prosper.
Now in the midst of this evangelical explosion the phrase “born again” is rarely uttered. And if it is it is used within the context of being a baptized church member. The “church member” construct, another western idea stolen from the culture, has given millions false spiritual comfort because the local church decrees a person to be saved when they accept him into that particular fellowship. It is quite the spiritual sleight of hand and it has cast a religious fog upon much of the evangelical world. A sinner can now be completely unregenerate and still be received as a member because the church declares him to be a believer. It all smacks of Romanism.
Jn.3: 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
What a statement. It seems so legalistic and intransigent, does it not? Inflexible. Ask the average pew dweller what it means to be born again and you may well get several different answers as well as some honest church members who admit they have no idea. How can a preacher call out to his church members that they must be born again? He might lose members who help pay his salary as well as the church debt. And perhaps many preachers themselves are ignorant of what it means to be born again, and what authentic saving faith means as well. The entire evangelical community wallows in a spiritual conundrum while still claiming to be alive and growing. To say the current situation is sad is to minimize what has happened.
So given the directness and clarity and spiritual importance of the words spoken by our Lord and Savior, would you not expect the issue of being born again to be a paramount issue within the true church? If no man can see the kingdom of God without being born again, wouldn’t that be a gospel imperative? And given the eternal implications shouldn’t the phrase “born again” and the teachings on the subject be so consistent within the church that we must guard against being so redundant that it brings complacency? But that is not what has happened. The phrase and teaching and even the theology has been ignored to the extent that millions have been welcomed into God’s kingdom by the decree of man without the decree of God.
Being born again of the Spirit is a sacred event without which no sinner can inherit eternal life. In other words no one can be saved without being born again. No one. There are no exceptions and no caveats. This is no doctrinal game and there is no room for compromise. It cannot be negotiated nor can it be diluted. Without being born again you can be saturated with religion as well as evangelicalism and still be dead in your sins. Can there be any more serious situation? And when I was saved in 1975 the term was still being used but being back pedaled in favor of more modern and compatible terms.
What does it mean to be born again? Reading the words of Jesus in the third chapter of the gospel of John gives us a sacred definition. All men are born sinners. Yes they inherit Adam’s sin as well as voluntarily adding to their own inherited portfolio. But adding to it does not make sinners more or less spiritually dead. Dead is dead. The compassionate and moral church goer who has not been born again is as dead as Charles Manson. And so we are still left with that question. What does it mean to be born again?
What is born of the flesh is flesh. Those are the words of the Creator. But what is born of the Spirit is Spirit. And so there is the definitive line of demarcation. Everyone is born of the flesh, but all who are born of the flesh stand in need of the new birth in the Spirit. And this new birth is not just an accumulation of information. It is not just a doctrinal test. It has nothing to do with men’s religion. It does not come with a belief in God. And it has nothing to do with church membership or baptism or communion or doing any amount of good works here on earth. This new birth can only come with a genuine and life changing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
And when a sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ the Spirit creates a new person in Christ Jesus. This is a life changing event which translates that sinner from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Now I ask you, how can anyone have that experience and not know it or remain basically the same? Perfection will only come in heaven, however the born again person becomes a new person and exhibits all kinds of outward manifestations driven by what has happened inside his very being. Here is a sinner lost and dead in His sins and void of God’s Spirit and then the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence within His very being and yet He does not know it? I had never heard the phrase “born again” but after I became a believer I remember the first time I heard those words I said, “Yes, that is exactly what happened to me!”
And that is exactly how the Spirit bears witness inside us. When I hear someone say, “Yes. I am a Christian but I am not one of those born again people” I am astounded. What other kind is there? The church has invented all sorts of ceremonies and ecclesiastical acknowledgements that keep people from Christ. I went through three years of catechism and was confirmed and received my first communion but I was still lost. I had gained some information but I was not born again. How can we shuttle teenagers in like cattle and pronounce them saved at the same age just because they finished some denominational requirements and mumble yes to some liturgical questions?
And many evangelical churches are no better. Play some atmosphere setting music, make a well oiled appeal, and bring them forward and have them repeat a prayer. And there and then give them all sorts of assurance and pronounce them saved and ready for baptism. And what are the fruits of a true believer in the evangelical playbook? Church attendance, tithing, church involvement, and some conservative moral and political views are the required fruit. And the born again experience is completely absent in the entire equation. The ministry of Spirit has been circumvented and poured into a manipulative evangelistic procedure.
Imagine a dead man lying on the floor. He has been pronounced dead, He is not breathing and his heart has long since ceased to beat. He has no brain activity. But a doctor applies the paddles to his chest and although he had passed on long ago his eyes pop open, his heart begins to beat and he begins to breath. In reality he has been given new life. He has been born again in the flesh. But that is exactly what happens when a sinner is born again in the Spirit. He is dead. There is no spiritual knowledge. He cannot know God because he is completely lost. There he lays spiritually dead. But the Spirit comes along and miraculously draws that dead man to Christ, and that sinner suddenly but decisively believes on Jesus, and he is made alive in the Spirit.
That man realizes that he was once dead but now he lives. He knows he was once lost but now he is found. He can now learn the things of Christ and the things of the Spirit. He now has a hunger to know more of Jesus and he now knows the meaning of the gospel and the redemption of Jesus. Things that once seemed foolish are now received as spiritual food to his soul. The dead people all around him begin to notice the difference in his words and actions. He may change very fast or he may change not so fast but there is no denying he has and continues to change.
You see, no religion and no man made organization. This is being born again. And without being born again no sinner can be welcomed into the kingdom of God. This is as serious as it gets. Are you born again?