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 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 notes. Rather it will be more like the word given by an uneducated black preacher in America on the same subject many years ago. 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 spoke from my heart.
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? At this moment, as I write someone close to me is dying. He has spent his life mocking the idea. Rather, he has chosen the godless place. Such is his right.
But you, is your desire to spend eternity in the godless place? We really are not sure whether all the imagery of pools of burning sulphur is to be taken literally, but one thing we do know; it is the place where Jesus won't be. God will not be there either.
And God is love, so it 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; he governs and leads. He heals and wipes away every tear. I want to be there, but my friend has no desire to be thus led.
Jesus is a different sort of king. Not the nepotism that we are familiar with from princes and governors; prime ministers and presidents.
He is a king who says, "No longer do I call you servants, but brothers and sisters." One who bends to wash our feet; 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; without it, no entry.
So what did he mean? Simply, that the old self has to die; no longer responsive to our desires, wants and greed.
He calls us to die to the old dominion where we reign, and call the shots. And why should we do that, giving up our most precious right? Because Jesus makes a much better centre for my being, where I can find my real self. In my old life I was a despot, weak and very twisted.
A seed must fall into the ground, and seemingly then die.
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 not able to rule our lives well. Time and again, we screw it up. But King Jesus won't. He will guide us to making the right decisions; if we are listening. "Be still, and know that I am God."
Stillness is a vital part of the Christian faith.
Mysteriously new life appears.
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-dory. I have to die to self. Then for the first time I can speak with confidence to my Father, who is in heaven.
Why the first time, you may be thinking. Yes, because God only gives the privilege of being his children to those commit to two things.
Those are the two very important steps; only then can one meaningfully say, "My Father who is in heaven."
Jesus said, "I am the bread of life."
"He who believes in me shall never perish, but have eternal life."
Believing that he, Jesus is the Son of God or as the Bible says, the only-begotten one is central. Old words we don't use any more.
Beget and begotten simply mean of the same nature.
A cow begets a calf; it's fully bovine.
A Homo-Sapiens couple beget a human baby; and God the Father begot an only son.
"One who is God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God."
- Nicene creed
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 His great family, his adopted
children, the church. In some mysterious way the very Spirit of God will enters our hearts and change us. Slowly each day, like that grain of wheat, the old
self dies and a beautiful new person is created; 'tis mystery all.
You become a person who can confidently yet never arrogantly say, "I am a child of God." I belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. I have been born again. I will spend eternity with Him where there is light and love. Eternal life is a gift, not something that can be bought or earned.
You must be born again.
There is a word of caution; one that Jesus gave. Before going to war, a wise king would first count his troops and battle ships, visit Fort Knox and open the vault; and then figure out what this little jaunt would do to his economy not to mention his prospects in the next election.
Before building or buying a new house, a person should calculate whether he can pay the mortgage. So too, we should count the cost of surrendering all to Christ.
In the meantime, how about spending today, or the next week, reading one of the Gospels? That word means Good News. It really is, believe you me.
The Gospel of Mark is the shortest, and you can read it quickly, without stopping to ponder, to get an overview in a couple of hours. Get a new translation, the old "Ye must be born again" is a bit heavy.
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 some things are clearer; like if God grants us freedom to do stuff, perhaps we too should give each other that liberty.
Yet other parts remain equally mysterious.
You be the judge. One thing I can promise you; you will devour A Family Affair from beginning to end. And quickly, it's easy reading, though the content thought-provoking and probably disturbing; it unsettled me.
Read my latest trilogy? Only $1.14 each. Hold onto your hat. Find it at Amazon.
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