Jesus answered, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless someone is born of water and Spirit, he or she will not be able to enter the Kingdom of God. What is born of flesh is flesh; and what is born of Spirit is spirit. You should not be shocked at my saying to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:5-7).
Getting-to-know-one-another questions are pretty predictable: Where are you from? Do you have siblings? Career plans? Favorite food? That’s the kind of thing I was expecting to hear while Scott and I were cooling down after running laps around the Havelock High School track. Since Scott was a 6’8” scholarship-bound senior on the basketball team, I was humbled that he would befriend a lowly freshman like me. We were both active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), and he knew my Dad was a pastor. Nevertheless, as we crossed the 200 meter mark on the track, he asked me a question I will never forget: “Have you been born again?”
Some of us might consider that question to be too personal and bordering on intrusive. We consider “are you a Christian?” or “where do you go to church?” to be far safer questions. Our fear of confrontation makes us shy away from Scott’s pointedness. But lately the Spirit has impressed upon my heart both the indispensability and the urgency of this question. It is, after all, the key thing Jesus said to Nicodemus.
Using the “good person” index, Nicodemus ranked highly. He was a man who sought to do right by God and people. As a Pharisee, he not only knew God’s Word, he devoted his life to upholding its commands in scrupulous detail. He even recognized Jesus as a unique teacher from God (John 3:1-2). Yet Jesus told him the primary issue was whether or not the Spirit had brought about a new birth in him. Without embarrassment or apology Jesus said there is no access to God’s Kingdom without being born again.
Despite the distance of nearly two thousand years, the basis of entry hasn’t changed. Nothing short of new birth will suffice. To make it personal, I might say, “Jesus, I’ve given my utmost to ‘rightly divide the Word of truth.’ I’ve faithfully called people to repent and believe the gospel. I’ve been ready ‘in season and out of season.’ Surely that shows how much I love you.” In response, I hear the same response Nicodemus received, “Unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God…”
I pray the Holy Spirit would lead Tabernacle to become a church where being born again is seen for what it is, namely, the most critical issue any person will ever face. Likewise, may the Lord save us from becoming a church of Nicodemuses—merely filling the pews and going through the motions of religion.
What does it mean to be born again, you ask? To be continued…