Sunday, March 9, 2014

Born Again losing significance

I have been conversing with Roman Catholics on a Christian apologetics web site regarding whether a person needs to be "born again".  The term is used in two different ways by Christians depending on whether the church is liturgical (Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran, etc.) or non-liturgical (Baptist, non-denominational, Pentecostal).

Jesus, when talking to Nicodemus in the gospel of John, said it was necessary to be born again.
3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"
5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'  8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?"
10 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?  11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.  12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.  14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
(John 3:3-18 NKJV)

I already know the Roman Catholic sacramental position. One is born again when he/she is baptized. That includes babies. This position is at odds with scripture that says a person must repent of sin, acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9-10) and then live as a changed person. It is not an easy decision if made correctly.

My Catholic friends and folks I debate with do not see it that way. In the sacramental understanding, one can be baptized as an infant and be regarded as a Christian. I was that way and believed I was a Christian according to what my church taught. However, I was nothing more than a baptized pagan. There was no evidence I was a biblical born again Christian who had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My life certainly didn't reflect it, but I thought I was in the club of believers. My church said I was.

I could have easily walked into a garage and announced I was a BMW and that would have been as true and accurate as proclaiming I was a Christian.

Now we come to the non-liturgical church positions, primarily in the evangelical and Pentecostal persuasions. I can honestly say in the church I have attended,  I have not heard the phrase "you must be born again" and an exposition of that phrase from the pulpit in years.  Churches like I have attended are becoming more and more "seeker friendly". The terms "born again", "sin" , "repentance", "conversion" and "holiness" are rarely mentioned. Churches don't want to offend and so we get a Gospel lite approach.

Church preachers ask a question if someone wants a better life or to have Jesus work in them and to raise their hands. It is easy believeism. Fire insurance if you will.  No repentance required.  And it is not scriptural.

The church universal  needs to get back to  preaching the born again Gospel and living a changed life.
That will produce real fruit in the individual. It is not an easy road. Jesus said:

14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
(Matthew 7:14 KJV)

Jesus also promised:

 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'  23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
(Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV)

These people called Him Lord, yet were not approved. Jesus did not know them although they professed to know Jesus.

We need to pay attention and  get back to Gospel fundamentals.