Truly, Truly I say to You
One day my friend called, said she hadn’t talked to me in a long time and asked what I had been up to. I told her the usual – work, trips, what’s going on with the family, and that I spend a lot of time working on my website. (www.passiontoknowmore.com) She didn’t know I had a website and asked what it was about. I explained it started out to get the word out about the Bible classes I teach, but led to blogging about things I teach about and think about. That led to setting up a Facebook page, and Twitter and Instagram accounts where I share Bible trivia, songs I like, interesting facts on the Bible, and quotes. I told her the website and linked social media sites are meant to encourage people to read the Bible.
She abruptly with a snarky accusing tone asked, “You aren’t one of those born again Christians are you?”
Long pause on my end of the phone. I mean, LONG pause.
How do I answer that? I could tell she did not mean the terminology “born again Christian” as a good thing.
A million things ran through my head. I was thinking how to respond. I was wondering why she asked that question in that way. I was confused. This is a woman I thought believed in Jesus. She was raised in the church and was married in the church. I’ve been to church with her. Maybe she didn’t get it? Was she a Christian?
What is her definition of a “born again Christian”? Why the derogatory tone?
And so I paused. A bit defensive I might add.
I suspected she and I had different definitions of what it means to be born again.
I’m guessing my friend thinks of a born again Christian as someone who talks about Jesus a lot. A really lot. Maybe she thinks it is that person on the street corner screaming, “Repent! Or you will go to hell.” Maybe someone who shouts “Amen!” and “You’re my sister” or “Praise the Lord!”
Mark Fackler writes: ..., the term has taken on popular meanings remote from the biblical phrase, and in some places is considered synonymous with arrogance and narrowness. Nothing could be less biblical. All Christians are born again, according to the Bible, since without that positive change, one is not admitted to the kingdom of God.
(Big Ideas of the Bible by Mark Fackler, copyright 2010, The Livingstone Corp., page 28)
Ironically (it really isn’t ironic, I know it is “a God thing”), I had just finished reading the Gospel of John again. It was fresh in my thoughts and the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3:1-21 came to my mind. (Probably the most memorable Scripture verse ever, John 3:16, is in this passage.)
Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
I thought about reading these verses to her. I decided against it.
I’d like to say I came up with some profound reply that rocked her world. No. That’s not my standard operating procedure. I don’t think fast. You have no idea how many times in my life I have afterwards thought, “I should have said this or that!”
I replied something to the effect, “I believe Jesus is my Lord and Savior.”
Silence from her end. Awkward.
The subject was changed.
Most likely I missed an opportunity to have a meaningful discussion with my friend.
Regretfully, I miss a lot of those opportunities it seems.
Since that conversation I’ve thought a lot about the label born again Christian.
I believe to be “born again” I had to:
Realize I am a sinner – I did (and I know I still am)
Ask for forgiveness of my sins – I did (and still do confess my sins)
Believe Jesus died as an atoning sacrifice for my sins - I do
Believe Jesus rose from the dead and is Christ – I do
Have faith and ask Jesus into my life as my Lord and Savior – I did
Receive the Holy Spirit – I did
Surrender my life to the Lord – I did
I have been born again spiritually.
My eternity is sealed.
I am a child of God.
His adopted heir.
I’m a new person.
I’m smiling as I type those things.
For those of you who want it put in a deeper more spiritual way - Charles Hodge in his Systematic Theology Volume III wrote:
The subjective change wrought in the soul by the grace of God, is variously designated in Scripture. It is called a new birth, a resurrection, a new life, a new creature, a renewing of the mind, a dying to sin and living to righteousness, a translation from darkness to light, etc. In theological language, it is called regeneration, renovation, conversion. These terms are often used interchangeably.
Well doesn’t that sound fancy?
1 Peter 1:23
for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.
Being born again. It’s a good thing! I hope my friend figures that out.
Yeah, I’m a born again Christian. And so very thankful I am.