You must be born again has been said so many times; does it still have meaning?
I had a dream last night. I was sitting next to a small van, and a black man in uniform pinned up a poster saying "You must be born again." There were crowds of people, but I was only vaguely aware of them. Then I heard a voice cry out: "Bernard Preston will now preach on the text."
'Who me?' I said turning around to see who spoke. 'I've nothing prepared,' I gasped, knowing in my heart there was no escape.
So, this will not be a long prepared sermon, detailed with quotes and mellifluous words. Rather it will be more like a sermon given by a poorly educated black preacher in America on the same subject. Impassioned, but poorly scripted and presented, only one convert came forward and dedicated his life to Jesus Christ. History tells us his name was Billy Graham.
So, I stood up and turned to the large crowd, with no prepared notes and simply said:
Jesus once said to a deeply religious man, "Nicodemus, you must be born again. Otherwise you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven."
The Kingdom of Heaven interests me, as I expect it does you. We all want to go there. Or do we? Right now, at this moment, someone close to me is dying. He has spent his life poo-pooing the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven. Rather, he has chosen the God-less place. Such is his right.
But you, is your desire to spend eternity in the Godless place? We're really aren't sure whether all the imagery of pools of burning sulphur is to be taken literally, but one thing we do know: It's the place where Jesus won't be. God won't be there either. And God is love, so love won't be there either.
You must be born again.
You must be born again.
Ah, the Kingdom of Heaven. It's the only phrase mentioned twice by Jesus in the great prayer he taught his disciples.
The Kingdom of Heaven is the place where Jesus rules. Governs. Leads. Heals and wipes away every tear. I want to be there, but my friend has no desire to be governed by King Jesus.
Jesus is a different sort of king. Not the nepotism that we are familiar with from kings and governors, prime ministers and presidents. He is a king who says: "No longer do I call you servants, but brothers and sisters." A king who bends to wash our feet. A king who went to the cross for our sins.
You too can enter that kingdom, but Jesus said "You must be born again" to get there. It's the passport so to speak. No passport, no entry.
So what did he mean? Simply, that the old self has to die. Die to self, to our desires, our wants, our greed. Die to the old kingdom where we reign, where we are the kings. And why should we do that, give up our most precious right? Because Jesus makes a much better king for my life, that I can be myself.
The Peter principle states that a person rises to his or her level of incompetency. If we are very honest, we very quickly realise that we are incompetent to rule our lives. Time and again, we screw it up. But King Jesus won't. He will guide us to making the right decisions. If we're listening. "Be still, and know that I am God ...". Stillness is a vital part of the Christian faith.
How can I say that with such assurance? Because it's now forty-two years since I made that decision as a young man. And I can testify that Jesus has made a far better king of my life, than I ever could have.
So, like a grain of wheat, I have to fall into the ground - every day, it doesn't just happen once and then everything is hunky-dorey - die to myself, and then for the first time I can say: My Father, who is in heaven ...
The first time? Yes, because God only gives the privilege of being his children to those who do two things. Believe in His son Jesus, and receive him into our hearts. Two very important steps. Only then can you meaningfully say, Our Father ...
Believing - that he, Jesus, is the Son of God, or as the Bible says, the only-begotten son. Old words we don't use any more. Beget, begotten simply means of the same nature . A cow begets a calf - it's fully cow. A man and woman beget a baby human. And God the Father, begot an only son, who is God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God - religious words. All we have to do is believe that Jesus is the only divine Son of God.
And then receive him into our hearts by faith, thus joining the great family of God, his adopted children. In some mysterious way the very Spirit of God will enter your person, change you. Slowly day by day like that grain of wheat the old self dies, and create a beautiful new person. A person who can confidently say, I am a child of God. I belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. I have been born again. I will spend eternity with God where there is light and love.
You must be born again.
One caution, one that Jesus gave. Before going to war, a wise President would first count his troops and battle ships, visit Fort Knox and open the war chest, and figure out what going to war would do to his economy not to mention his election prospects in the next election. Before building or buying a new house, a person should calculate whether he can pay the mortgage, and make sure that his bank is not going to go belly up. So too, we should count the cost ... and what is that? Enough for one day - see you next week for Counting the Cost!
In the meantime, how about spending today, or the next week, reading one of the Gospels. Gospel means Good News . It is, believe you me. The Gospel of Mark is the shortest, and you can read it quickly, without stopping to ponder, get an overview, in a couple hours. Get a new translation, the old "Ye must be born again" is a bit heavy. Rather You must be born again.
This is a lovely story written by a gynaecologist. Enjoy you must be born.
It's not easy for Christians to write inspirational books that speak to the truth, but also in all honesty to the darker, inner side of their selves and their pondering.
Such is A Family Affair. I wrote it in new search of meaning and whilst some things are clearer, like if God gives us freedom to do stuff, perhaps we too should give each other that freedom, yet other parts remain equally mysterious.
You be the judge. One thing I can promise you; you will read A Family Affair from cover to cover. And quickly, it's easy reading, though the content thought provoking and probably disturbing; it disturbed me.
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