“Brother, are you born again?”

 

To our surprise, all those who raised their hands were herded into a room where there were some other people waiting. After a few friendly questions about who we are and where we came from, they asked us, “Are you born again?” I was shocked and offended, and wanted to retort back, “What is it that you mean by ‘born again’”?

Ezekiel 36:24-29 a; John 3:1-8 (text)
August 21, 2011

jesus_nicodemus_tissot
Interview Between Jesus and Nicodemus by James Tissot (1886-94) (click to enlarge)

R. C. Sproul tells of an incident in his life when he was walking on the campus of Temple University in Philadelphia. He was alone on the way to the School of Theology, when suddenly a man stood in front of him blocking his way. Then, the man asked him, “Brother, are you saved?” Sproul, probably annoyed and offended, snapped back, “Saved from what?” The man, not knowing how to answer, hurriedly left him, probably thinking that he should have picked an easier target.

I had a similar experience when we visited a Baptist church in the Philippines. Right before the end of the worship service, the pastor asked all the first time visitors to raise their hands to be acknowledged. Being polite, my whole family did, and to our surprise, all those who raised their hands were herded into a room where there were some other people waiting. We were seated at the tables, and after a few friendly questions about who we are and where we came from, they asked us, “Are you born again?” Like R. C. Sproul, I was also shocked and offended, and wanted to retort back, “What is it that you mean by ‘born again’”?

Rick Ritchie, in an article for Modern Reformation magazine, asked, “Was Martin Luther a born-again Christian?” Yes! Jesus said in our text that no one can enter the kingdom of God if he is not born again. No! Not if Luther is a “born-again” Christian the way evangelicals today conceive of Jesus’ words.

In recent surveys, almost half of Americans identified themselves as “born again.” But when asked if they regularly attended church, only about half of these “born again” people said yes! In the Philippines, the word “born again” has also become trivialized, even a derogatory term for televangelist hucksters and people who go to churches where there is loud music, extreme emotions, and humorous sermons. It has also become one of the choices as to religion when filling up forms: Catholic, Protestant, or Born Again.

The term “born again” has become a cheap buzzword among evangelicals so that its true meaning and significance have been lost. Because evangelicalism is so shallow, I suspect that most evangelicals will answer yes to the question, “Are you born again?”, but not many will be dumbfounded if asked what being “born again” means and how one is “born again.” For many, being born again means that they walked to the front, raised their hands, prayed the “sinner’s prayer,” signed a commitment card, or shed buckets of a sinner’s tears. But is this really how a person is “born again”?

Today, we will consider the theme: “Brother, Are You Born Again?” under three headings: (1) Necessary for Entering the Kingdom of God; (2) God-Centered; and (3) The Spirit as Sole Agent.

To read the rest of this sermon, click here.

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